Lewis: The Mere Christian Message

On this Good Friday/Easter weekend, the Christian message of sacrificial death and resurrection may be brought more to the forefront of minds that normally think little of such things. The message is the same at all times, but this weekend sharpens the focus.

To the natural mind, death is finality. There is no comprehension of how it can be of any good. Yet C. S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, shows us how:

On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more.

On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it.

We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call “ambivalent.” It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.

Death has led to life, which runs counter to what people normally believe. Lewis notes in Mere Christianity, “The central Christian belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start.”

A fresh start. What a glorious concept. I know, personally, how much I needed a fresh start at one point in my life. My sins were forgiven; God treats them as if they never happened. That truth has led me to a constant state of gratitude for His mercy and has pointed the way forward. Lewis again in Mere Christianity:

Now the Christian belief is that if we somehow share the humility and suffering of Christ we shall also share in His conquest of death and find a new life after we have died and in it become perfect, and perfectly happy, creatures. . . .

In Christ a new kind of man appeared: and the new kind of life which began in Him is to be put into us.

Eternal life really begins in this earthly existence if we humbly receive Christ’s sacrifice as our own; death is merely a transfer of that life into a new and heavenly realm.

That is what Good Friday and Easter/Resurrection Day are all about. Let your gratitude for what God has done show in your life today.

Lewis: On Honorable Wrinkles

C. S. Lewis 5C. S. Lewis’s letters to his American correspondents cover the gamut of topics. Sometimes, he goes into deeply Biblical issues, offering advice from his well of knowledge. Other times, he is more whimsical, but also with an air of wisdom that is hard to miss.

To one of his regular correspondents going through some physical trials, he ruminates on the process of getting older. Maybe I’m drawn to this because of my own advancing years, but, for whatever reason, I think his insights are worth sharing today.

Here’s what he had to say (cobbled together from two separate letters):

I also have been in the hands of the dentist but much less unpleasantly than you: I know a “dry socket” after an extraction can be the very devil and all. We must both, I’m afraid, recognise that, as we grow older, we become like old cars—more and more repairs and replacements are necessary. We must just look forward to the fine new machines (latest Resurrection model) which are waiting for us, we hope, in the Divine garage! . . .

I suppose living from day to day (“take no thought for the morrow”) is precisely what we have to learn—though the Old Adam in me sometimes murmurs that if God wanted me to live like the lilies of the field, I wonder He didn’t give me the same lack of nerves and imagination as they enjoy! Or is that just the point, the precise purpose of this Divine paradox and audacity called Man—to do with a mind what other organisms do without it?

As for wrinkles—pshaw! Why shouldn’t we have wrinkles? Honorable insignia of long service in this warfare.

So don’t mind the increasing wrinkles–they speak of the long road one has traveled. If it is traveled well, those wrinkles are simply signs of having had the honor of serving the Lord for many years.

And keep looking forward to the Day when we lay aside this earthly frame and take up the latest Resurrection model to be found in the Divine Garage.

This world is passing; the New World awaits.

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

The words of this song by Twila Paris, combined with the haunting beauty of the melody, have always affected me greatly. While some may think this is more appropriate for Good Friday, I think it is a proper Easter offering as well, as we consider the new life Jesus promises through His sacrifice. Easter celebrates what He did two days before. Please read these words carefully, meditatively, then play the short video of this song that follows. It should lead you from deep grief over sin to an even deeper appreciation of what God has done for you. May this be your most blessed Easter ever.

Your only Son, no sin to hide
But You have sent Him from Your side
To walk upon this guilty sod
And to become the Lamb of God

Your gift of love, they crucified
They laughed and scorned Him as He died
The humble King, they named a fraud
And sacrificed the Lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

I was so lost, I should have died
But You have brought me to Your side
To be led by Your staff and rod
And to be called a lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

C. S. Lewis: The Resurrection

On this Resurrection [Easter] Sunday, here is some insight from C. S. Lewis from his book Miracles:

The Resurrection is the central theme in every Christian sermon reported in the Acts. The Resurrection, and its consequences, were the “gospel” or good news which the Christians brought: what we call the “gospels,” the narratives of Our Lord’s life and death, were composed later for the benefit of those who had already accepted the gospel. They were in no sense the basis of Christianity: they were written for those already converted. The miracle of the Resurrection, and the theology of that miracle, comes first: the biography comes later as a comment on it. Nothing could be more unhistorical than to pick out selected sayings of Christ from the gospels and to regard those as the datum and the rest of the New Testament as a construction upon it. The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who say they have seen the Resurrection.

Jefferson’s Definition of “Christian”

Yesterday I pointed out false quotations attributed to Washington, Henry, and Madison with respect to their linkage to the Christian faith. Now, that doesn’t mean they weren’t Christians. My only purpose in highlighting those false quotes was to caution us to be careful, and to be sure we are accurate when we show how America was founded on Biblical principles.

I have another example today of how well-meaning Christians can convey a false impression—well, actually it borders on an outright lie. This one relates to Thomas Jefferson. In a letter to Benjamin Rush, another signer of the Declaration of Independence, written in 1803 during Jefferson’s presidency, Jefferson explained his religious views. Some Christians have referenced this letter to “prove” that our third president was in fact a Christian. Let me give you the first part of that letter, make a few comments, then provide the rest of the letter, which clarifies his language.

Jefferson wrote to Rush about conversations they had carried on earlier in life:

The Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you that one day or other I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian.

Now, that sounds pretty good to the untrained ear. But notice this: he says he is opposed to the “corruptions of Christianity.” What is meant by that? Jefferson thought that later generations added to the gospel accounts by inserting stories of miracles and the resurrection of Jesus. He liked the “genuine precepts of Jesus,” the moral teachings, but he rejected the essence of the gospel message of the atonement and resurrection.

But doesn’t he say “I am a Christian”? Shouldn’t that be taken at face value? Well, throughout history, and today also, you will find a lot of people claiming identification with Christ who were by no stretch of the imagination real Christians. We can’t simply take Jefferson’s declaration and not investigate further. In fact, all we have to do is finish the paragraph in the letter.

You see, his sentence was incomplete in the quote above. Let me give you the rest of it:

I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.

In other words, Jesus never claimed to be anything but a human being. He never claimed to be divinity. He was just a man.

If that’s one’s view of Jesus, stripped of the very nature of God, one doesn’t believe the gospel message, and doesn’t consider Jesus to be the Savior. Jesus’ divinity is so crucial to the entire fabric of the Christian faith, that denial of it is to deny the faith itself. Jefferson was not a Christian. He respected the moral teachings of Jesus, but rejected the main message.

One Christian group that strives to showcase the Biblical origins of America put out a newsletter that used Jefferson’s letter to Rush to prove the Christian faith of this founder. What the group did, though, was inexcusable. It stopped the excerpt from the letter with the phrase “I am a Christian,” thereby omitting the rest of the sentence and the fuller explanation of how Jefferson defined the term “Christian.” No one who names the name of Christ should ever promote this kind of fraud on the public. It demeans the faith and makes the job much harder for those of us who know the truth of America’s Biblical foundations, but who seek to lay out the case on solid grounds.

To mislead in this way is the same as outright lying. As I said already, it is inexcusable. I urge all who read this to be forthright and honest in these matters. That’s God’s way.

Resurrection Day: The Significance

No one who was present on that first Good Friday would have given it that name, not even the Pharisees and Sadducees who sought Jesus’ death. The earthquake and the veil of the Temple being torn in two probably put a damper on their celebration.

Dismal Saturday was, if possible, even worse for the disciples than the day before. It was a day without hope.

But hope was coming sooner than they knew.

Resurrection Day made the two previous days fade into the background. Startled by the Risen Christ, they now began to understand the significance of it all. The resurrection was the cornerstone. As the apostle Paul later put it:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. … If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

And then there is this promise:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. … Then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is our hope. That is the victory. That is the significance of this Resurrection Day.

The Resurrection

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.”

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Resurrection Day (not Easter) is the most meaningful day of the year, surpassing Christmas. Yes, Christmas is spectacular, but without the Resurrection, it has no significance. Jesus came not just to be a man, but to voluntarily give His life that we might live. The suffering of Good Friday was followed by the splendor of the Resurrection. As a result, we can receive forgiveness and live in fellowship with the One who gave His all.