helping to ignite your imagination, creativity and passion for following God…

Posts tagged ‘cs lewis’

WOW Factor of Jesus

sermon.jpg

The WOW factor of Jesus

Right mouse click here to download as a MP3 audio file

Lets open our bibles to Matthew 16v24-26!

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16v24-26)

The Jesus I hear about today from some people outside the church, as well as inside the Church, bears no resemblance to the Jesus who said those words. They are comfortable with a Jesus who is at their mercy and who doesn’t ask too much of them! They like putting Jesus in a box and only opening the box to let Him out when required! That Jesus is an insipid, nodding head, Jesus – worthy only of being on the back shelf of a car and that’s about all.

But that is exactly the opposite of the Jesus who said those words from Matthew – the Jesus who commands obedience and sacrifice! As I look through the Old Testament, I read about how the world fell out of a living, dynamic relationship with God! But I also read how a Messiah, a saviour or rescuer if you like, was to be sent by God, in order to restore the world back into an intimate, living relationship with God Himself! I read the Gospels in the New Testament and I see this Messiah as the God-man, Jesus Christ.

As I read the rest of the Bible’s New Testament and the history of the followers of Jesus Christ and the spread of his followers, the church, through its birth and early life, I get a WOW factor about Him. But for a lot of people today, including those who would call themselves a Christian, their view or vision of Jesus is still too small. So I wonder, is your Jesus too small?

1. Who is my Jesus?

As I regularly read the Bible, I see at least a six-sided portrait of Him! There are many more, but we don’t have time for that today, you might be thankful to hear!

a. Unique : The first word I would use for Jesus is Jesus is unique – totally unique! Never before and never to be repeated ever – Jesus Christ is the standout person from all of history! Indeed, history is divided into BC and AD – ‘Before Christ’ and ‘After Christ’. In all of history, Jesus Christ is incomparable and totally unique!

Yet in human form, we read that during his earthly ministry he had no physical beauty that would draw people to him. We read that Jesus’ body on the cross was disfigured and tortured beyond that of human likeness. His perfect life, His salvation work on the cross and His subsequent rising from the dead, is what makes Jesus Christ unique – a once and for all lifetime Messiah or Saviour for the entire world! WOW!!

b. Majestic: Then the Jesus I see is full of majesty and awe! He is not simply a king with a crown on his head. He is the King of all Kings! This Jesus Christ did not decay in the grave – He overcame death in the grave and was raised again majestically! Paul writes in Colossians 2v3, that in Jesus Christ, all the majestic treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden. Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who with unparalleled majesty is the head of the church.

c. Tender : Next I go to look into his eyes – his tender eyes! Jesus looks upon people with love, adoration, justice, tenderness and compassion. Eyes filled with the tears of mercy, grace, love and compassion. Eyes that are also filled with rage at injustices! His penetrating eyes that can separate flesh and spirit!!

This Jesus is kind and sympathetic – his look of love on a world that is separated from God, and a world He is calling back into an active relationship with God. The love Jesus had when he wept in the garden as he sweated drops of blood, before he was betrayed and crucified.

d. Wise: Then there is Jesus the wise man! When Jesus spoke words, people were amazed! They were astounded that He spoke with elegance and yet with authority. They had never heard anyone speak like He did – with both grace and authority. The same is true today, if we are listening. That is why we read the Bible to find out what He would say to us. That is why we seek to hear Him speak to us and why we speak to Him. That is why preaching is to be seen as an act of worship – by both the preacher and the listener!

e. Strong: Jesus is strong enough and capable enough, to carry any burden that we can lay upon Him. Jesus Christ gives a solid and sure foundation for all aspects of life. If something has a solid foundation, it will not fall and cannot be destroyed. Indeed Jesus Christ will never fall or decay such is His imperishability as the everlasting God. He is solid, dependable and strong; nobody and nothing can stand against Him. If we are truly His, then we ought not to fear or worry about anything, for we will be under his protection, forever!

f. Lovely: finally, my Jesus oozes loveliness! He gives out a sense of exaltation and joy. Joy is not always externalized loudly as some people think but also internalized quietly! So if somebody is filled with joy, don’t always expect it be seen! Jesus is altogether lovely and lovely altogether! Jesus is beyond compare for the things He has done and the things He will do. He is altogether lovely in regard to his person, humanity, birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, exultation, glorification, grace, protection, tenderness, power, wisdom, vengeance, judgment, majesty, redemption and pardon. I could go on and on!

That is my Jesus -unique, majestic, tender, wise, strong and lovely. Is this your Jesus?

2. Jesus – So what?

That is my Jesus, whom I seek to serve and obey every second of every day. This Jesus I seek to obey in every facet of life. And it is this Jesus whom I depend upon and personally know to be totally reliable in every way. But so what, you may say – those outside the church certainly ask it! All through each day, I know He has been dependable, going ahead of me! Amazing! This is the Jesus who commands self-sacrifice and obedience. This Jesus who commands His followers to rely solely on His sacrifice and have dependence on Him for all things. Jesus Christ who commands all His followers to a life of total obedience to Him and Him alone. This Jesus who died on a Roman cross two thousand years ago was the same Jesus who was raised from the dead, without decay, into newness of life and ascended to the right hand of the Father.

There is only one Saviour for the world and there will never be another. Despite the bleating of other religions and faiths! Jesus never said, “I am a true vine; a way, a truth and a life”. Just as He did not say “I am a shepherd, a door, a light or a bread of life.

No – Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. Jesus is the only great shepherd and the only door to life with God. Jesus is the only light of the world and the only bread of life. Jesus calls everyone to partake of the nourishment and shelter only He can provide. Sadly only a few respond: “Yes!” Are you one of those?

3. Jesus! WOW!

Jesus WOW! What does WOW stand for, I hear you asking yourself? It means “Worthy Of Worship!” Jesus Christ most certainly is that! The Jesus WOW factor involves Jesus being radical and relevant! Even a brief look of the Gospels will reveal that about Jesus! Some people even back then didn’t get Jesus, and people still don’t get Him two thousand years later! And whose fault is that? Its not Jesus’ fault that people today still don’t respond to Him! It’s a result of the church and Christians down through the ages, including today, not following Jesus and obeying His commands as closely as they could or should!

People out there are looking at the Church and Christians – looking at how we behave, how we speak, how we drive our cars and looking to see if we are any different to them and looking to see what difference Jesus Christ has made in our lives!

That’s why my parents thought churches were dangerous places and Christians brainwashed and deluded people. They did not hesitate to tell me that that is what they thought about Christianity! But I responded to the call of Jesus, rebelled against my parents and became a follower of him 30 years ago next year. You could say I am the white sheep of my family – so far anyway!

4. We are to be little Jesus’

The word Christian, means little Jesus. When living in London, after church each Sunday, we would go to this one particular Chinese restaurant for lunch each time. Often as a group of us entered and walked up the stairs to take our seats, they would say: “There go the little Jesuses!” They would mean it mockingly but we took it as a compliment!

That’s what being a Christian is to be – a little Jesus! In our local community, wherever we happen to live, work or be! We are to live lives worthy of Jesus Christ, being transformed by the Holy Spirit who lives inside each one of us if we are His, and being totally and willingly obedient to Him! Loving God and loving others – by, showing compassion, helping others and being the voice of Jesus Christ to a community out there, which is rapidly decaying.

The world out there and this community will know you and I are Jesus’ followers, if we are obedient to Him, practically showing love to all! Oh that we as the church would love each other instead of fighting with each other!

Imagine this community transformed for Jesus Christ, having got the WOW factor! Imagine this community filled with people seeking to know about our Jesus, because the Christians were sacrificing their time and possessions, wanting in every aspect of life to give Jesus the glory and honour that is worthy of His name alone – just as they did in Acts 2!

Loving God and loving each other as He commanded would spread the WOW factor through our local communities, both large and small! Transformed communities of people devoted to Jesus and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in bringing people back to God the Father! The WOW factor is not always an exuberant experience but also covers the silent, contemplative and gob-smacking experiences! Jesus Christ doesn’t just live in the loud, as some would proclaim, but also in the quiet where the small, still voice of God is whispered.

Don’t be like the only man who left Jesus’ presence in sorrow. Let me read about him to you. Matthew 19v16-30 from The Message:

Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”

The man asked, “What in particular?”

Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”

The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”

“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”

That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.

As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”

The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

Then Peter chimed in, “We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields-whatever-because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.”

Now riches aren’t necessarily a problem but they were for that man because nothing could take precedence over them – they were his ‘god’ as it were, and he was placing all his trust in them, even if he didn’t realise it at the time! What are you placing your trust in, over and above, Jesus Christ?

Conclusion!

If you are already in a relationship with Him, He wants to give you freedom, true independence on this Independence Day, to live a life worthy of Him. Is Jesus your whole life and your whole life Jesus? That means does He have total authority over every aspect of your life. All aspects of life such as relationships, family, work, bank accounts, possessions, worries and troubles? By authority, I mean power!

Following Him and carrying your own cross means that – a life sacrificed for Him and obedience to Him alone! Jesus wants to influence every area of your life – not just certain parts you are willing to give up but all aspects of life! Jesus came to earth to give comfort to the uncomfortable and we are to do the same – give comfort to those in need.

Maybe you are feeling the desolation and loneliness because of decisions made in the past. Give it up willingly to Jesus and don’t keep trying to take it back like a security blanket! If you have something even partially blocking your relationship with Jesus, get rid of it – ask Him to take it away!

Finally, you may not yet be a follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t know. If that is you, then accept His call upon you. For He is calling you, urging you to return to a relationship with God through Him and Him alone. You may not get another chance. Usually, with a small still beckoning voice, Jesus whispers: “Come! Come and follow me alone!” This Jesus wants to connect with you in an intimate, dynamic, active and spiritual relationship – remember His eyes wander the earth looking for those wanting to submit themselves willingly to Him. If that is you, then please do speak to somebody today about finding out how you can start this relationship with the Living God, Jesus Christ. He calls you by name.

Jesus says to all here “Come! Let me get in the driving seat and you hold on to Me! Follow me and follow me wholeheartedly and with all aspects of your life, obey Me alone! I will take all your burdens, give you true freedom and independence and help you in all aspects of life! Come! Follow me!”

As I conclude, let me read to you something CS Lewis wrote in his book, Mere Christianity, about my Jesus.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

I ask again: Is your vision of Jesus too small?

Right mouse click here to download as a MP3 audio file

Paypal Donate If you have found this resource helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation. You can do this by clicking on the PayPal image to the left. Thank you

Click on the appropriate link to subscribe to this website

Subscribe via iTunes

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Advertisements

Scriptural Delight 25

Partake_SD.jpg

Conclusion

G’day! Welcome to Partake and the last in our series “Scriptural Delights!” As a way of concluding, let us take a look at what some people have said about this Psalm. We are going to engage with the minds of Augustine, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon and CS Lewis: and they will give us some insight into this magnificent Psalm.

Augustine – “You will not labour long in listening to it, nor will the labour you devote to practicing it be without fruit. As its title indicates, it is a “song of steps.” Steps are either of ascent or descent, but as used in these Psalms, steps signify an ascent. Let us understand them, therefore, as ascending steps, and let us not seek to ascend with our feet and in a carnal manner but as suggested in another Psalm: “He has prepared ascents in his heart, in this valley of tears, in the place which He has fixed” (Psalm 83:6-7). Where then are these ascents? In the heart. From what should we ascend? From the valley of tears. In designating the place, the human tongue somehow fails us; one knows not how to speak of it nor even to think of it. You have previously heard this passage of St. Paul, that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and that it has not entered into the heart of man” (1 Corinthians 2:9). If it has not entered into the heart of man, then the heart of man ascends to it. There- fore, if “eye has not seen, if ear has not heard, if it has not entered into the heart of man,” how are we to say where we should ascend? So in his powerlessness to say where, the Prophet says to us: “To the place fixed.”

John Calvin – “Two things which the prophet mainly aims at; the exhorting of the children of God to follow godliness and a holy life; and the prescribing of the rule, and pointing out the form of the true worship of God, so that the faithful may devote themselves wholly to the study of the Law. Along with these he frequently blends promises for the purpose of animating the worshippers of God to live more justly and piously; and, at the same time, he introduces complaints respecting the impious contempt of the Law, lest they should become tainted by bad examples.”

Charles Spurgeon – “This psalm is a wonderful composition. Its expressions are many as the waves, but its testimony is one as the sea. It deals all along with one subject only; but although it consists of a considerable number of verses, some of which are very similar to others, yet throughout its one hundred and seventy-six stanzas the self-same thought is not repeated: there is always a shade of difference, even when the color of the. thought appears to be the same”. He then goes on to say “I admire in this psalm the singular commingling of testimony, prayer, and praise. In one verse the Psalmist bears witness; in a second verse he praises; in a third verse he prays. It is an incense made up of many spices; but they are wonderfully compounded and worked together, so as to form one perfect sweetness. The blending greatly increases the value of the whole. You would not like to have one-third of the psalm composed of prayer – marked up to the sixtieth verse, for instance; and then another part made up exclusively of praise; and yet a third portion of unmixed testimony. It is best to have all these divinely-sweet ingredients intermixed, and wrought into a sacred unity, as you have them in this thrice-hallowed psalm. Its prayers bear testimony, and its testimonies are fragrant with praise.”

CS Lewis : “Everyone has probably noticed that from the literary or technical point of view, it is the most formal and elaborate of them all. The technique consists in taking a series of words which are all, for purposes of this poem, more or less synonyms, and ringing the changes on them through each of its eight-verse sections – which themselves correspond to the letter of the alphabet. In other words, this poem is not, and does not pretend to be, a sudden outpouring of the heart like, say, Psalm 18. It is a pattern, a thing done like embroidery, stitch by stitch, through long, quiet hours, for love of the subject and for the delight in leisurely, disciplined craftsmanship. Now this, in itself, seems to me very important because it lets us into the mind and mood of the poet. We can guess at once that he felt about the Law somewhat as he felt about his poetry; both involved exact and loving conformity to an intricate pattern.”

A friend of mine, Sharona, commented to me about Psalm 119! This is her memory of the great Psalm! Years ago, I gave my boss a Bible. He had been telling me that he had never owned anything but a KJV and didn’t understand it at all. I gave him a hardback NIV pew Bible. He put it in his desk drawer but never looked at it.

One day I went into his office to find him shuffling through the pages of the Bible, clearly looking for something. I asked if I could help and he told me he had been watching a football game and someone held up a sign that said “John 3:16” so he was trying to find out what it said. I helped him find the verse.

Then he closed the Bible, opened it at random and read aloud, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” and I said “Psalm 119:105 !”. He looked at me in shock, and with sheer admiration in his voice said, “Oh, you’re good!”.

Then he closed the Bible, opened it at random and said “Let’s try again!”. Then he read a verse I had no idea where it came from, but it sounded a bit like it could have been Isaiah. I said tentatively, “Isaiah?”. He said, “No, think bullfrog…” And I said “Oh, Jeremiah!” and we both had a laugh about that.

OK, it’s random, but I have a laugh about that every time I think of that happening, him thinking I was such a brilliant biblical scholar, because I knew a verse from Psalm 119.

Thanks for that, Sharona – terrific story!

So lets sum up what each of these witnesses for Psalm 119 offer us in the 21st century.

For Augustine, the Psalm is like a staircase for ascending to a fixed place where God reigns!

For Calvin, the Psalm encourages followers of God to follow godliness, live and study diligently what God has revealed. He also notes how the Psalmist frequently blends promises in order to animate worshippers of God to live more justly and humbly.

For Spurgeon, It is portrays a sacred unity, whereby prayers, testimony and praise intermingle, intermix and form a sweet incense! Psalm 119’s prayers bear testimony, and its testimonies are fragrant with praise.

For CS Lewis it was like an intricate embroidery, patterned, cunningly weaved and a labour of love for Almighty God and His Law.

What is it for you? Have you considered scripture as being like an elaborately intricate staircase to ascend, so that you can get to know your God more, in order to live a life worthy of him as your prayers bear testimony and your testimonies of God’s goodness bear the fruit of praise?

Hopefully as we are now at the end of these series of studies, you will have found a new delight in reading your Bible: all 66 books of it including perhaps some that you have never read before. Ask yourself how you view the Bible, how you read it, why you read it and do you listen to God speaking to you as you do so? Has your attitude and feelings changed towards the Bible as a whole? Do certain parts of the Bible now captivate you more than they did before?

Right mouse click here to save this Podcast as a MP3.

Click on the appropriate link to subscribe to this website

I heart FeedBurnerAdd to Google Reader or Homepage

Glimpses 41

glimpses5.jpg

CS Lewis – Atheist to Theist to Christian

Right mouse click here to download as a MP3 audio file

G’day and welcome to Partake Glimpses Stories. Today we take a step back to recent history, to the 20th century and a glimpse at why and how CS Lewis started his own Christian journey and the relevancy of Jesus Christ to his life! It may not be what you have heard it said to be!

Beginnings

g41_1.jpg

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Northern Ireland in 1898. If he ever had any christian faith at all during is childhood, he soon lost it and was an avowed atheist during those formative years. The story we tell here is from his autobiographical book “Surprised by Joy” (1982 Fount Paperback), which tells of his journey of, and to, faith. He relates of his search for God, and that eventually he discovered, that in actual fact, God was reaching out for him through human reason, human experience and intellectual honesty. Because of this, the only possible conclusion is the existence of a God or Gods.

Atheism

We start his story in the chapter “Check” on page 136 “… as a schoolboy, I had destroyed my religious life by a vicious subjectivism which made ‘realisations’ the aim of prayer; turning away from God to seek states of mind, and trying to produce those states of my ‘maistry’ “

He continues in the chapter “Checkmate” on page 180: “Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side. You must not do, you must not even try to do, the will of the Father unless you are prepared to ‘know of the doctrine.’ All my acts, desires, and thoughts were to be brought into harmony with universal Spirit. For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose. And there I found what appalled me; a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a hareem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.

He continues on page 181: “If Shakespeare and Hamlet could ever meet, it must be Shakespeare’s doing. Hamlet could do nothing.” God was pursuing Lewis and it was all on the initiative of God. “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God.’ To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.

Theism

Now we come to page 182: “Doubtless, by definition, God must be reason itself. But would He also be ‘reasonable’ in that other more comfortable sense? Not the slightest assurance was offered me. Total surrender, the absolute leap in the dark were demanded. … Now, this demand was simply ‘All!’ You must picture me alone in my room at Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England. … The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.

Many writers and speakers, conclude that this is Lewis’s conversion to Christianity. But it is not – it was his conversion from atheism to theism! On the very next line, in the very next chapter “The Beginning” on the very next page, page 184, Lewis writes “It must be understood that the conversion recorded in the last chapter was only a conversion to Theism, pure and simple, not to Christianity. … The God to whom I surrendered was sheerly non-human.” He continues “My conversion involved as yet no belief in a future life. I now number it among my great mercies that I was permitted for several months, perhaps for a year, to know God and to attempt obedience without even raising the question.

He continues on Page 186 “As soon as I became a Theist I started attending my parish church on Sundays and my college chapel on weekdays; not because I believed in Christianity, nor because I thought the difference between it and simple Theism a small one, but because I thought one ought to ‘fly one’s flag’ by some unmistakable overt sign. I was acting in obedience to a sense of honour.. … Thus my churchgoing was a merely symbolical and provisional practice. If it in fact helped to move me in the Christian direction, I was and am unaware of this.

Christianity

g41_2.jpg

Then, ultimately, we come to CS Lewis’ conversion from theism to Christianity. Writing in the final chapter of this book, on page 188-189 “I was by now too experienced in literary criticism to regard the Gospels as myths. They had not the mythical taste. … As I drew near the conclusion, I felt a resistance almost as strong, but shorter-lived, for I understood it better. Every step I had taken, from the Absolute to ‘Spirit’ and from ‘Spirit’ to ‘God’ had been a step towards the more concrete, the more imminent, the more compulsive. At each step one had less chance ‘to call one’s soul one’s own’ to accept the Incarnation was a further step in the same direction. It brings God nearer, or in a new way. And this, I found, was something I had not wanted. … I know very well, when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade Zoo one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spend the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion.

In this story, CS Lewis has moved from atheism, to theism, to Christianity. Each a natural stage in the development of his faith and christian journey. We get a glimpse of a great God calling people to see Himself as He truly is: a God of unmistakable joy. If this story has helped you, please do make a comment and let us know! Thank you!

Links to more about CS Lewis

CS Lewis on the BBC CS Lewis Foundation

Right mouse click here to download as a MP3 audio file

Paypal Donate If you have found this resource helpful to you, please do prayerfully consider making a donation.

You can do that by clicking on the Paypal image to the left.

Thank you

Click on the appropriate link to subscribe to this website

Subscribe via iTunes

Add to Google Reader or Homepage

Tag Cloud