Lewis on Choices

“I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”

From Mere Christianity, as quoted in Rueben P. Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants (Nashville: Upper Room, 1983), 125-126.

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Thoughts for Teens: A Prophet and More Than a Prophet

Jesus in the Temple

Read Mark 11:12-25

There are many people today that have tamed Jesus. They have turned him into “Jesus, meek and mild.” They have proposed that Jesus was really the original hippie, the first tree-loving, shaggy-faced, rainbow child.

In this passage we see Jesus for who he really was: a prophet and more than a prophet. Now, Jesus is a man who wears many hats. Jesus was a carpenter, a teacher, a rabbi, a king, a missionary, and a priest, among other roles. But perhaps his most central job was that of a prophet.

The prophets in the Old Testament were eccentric people. They often lived very difficult lives. They were commissioned by God to call the people of Israel, and other nations, back to obedience. They were God’s mouthpieces. They spoke on behalf of God himself. In some cases they even acted out messages for God – Hosea married a prostitute to show how Israel acted like a prostitute to God, their faithful husband. Isaiah went naked for a time to show how Cush and Egypt’s disobedience was shameful and naked (Isaiah 20). Ezekiel likewise did crazy things like lying on his side and cooking a meal over cow dung. In all this the prophets were giving people a visual lesson (Ezekiel 4).

In many ways, the prophets were a lot like lawyers – the argued with people based on God’s requirements in his law, which, if you follow the lawyer parallel, was the equivalent of their constitution. When things were going poorly because the people disobeyed God, they would point out sin. That meant that people didn’t generally like them. They have harsh warnings of future misery, pain, and destruction if God’s law was disobeyed, and at the same time the gave promises of future blessing and hope if God was obeyed. So their job was to speak the truth, stir the pot, and take many hits for doing so.

Here in Mark 11 we see that Jesus is a prophet. He spoke the truth. He visibly acted out the truth. He stirred the pot. He pushed back against the corrupt establishment. He called people to repentance.

The main point of this passage is that the people of God are supposed to extend the grace of God to other peoples and nations. Israel had failed in this. The temple was supposed to have room for the gentiles, indeed, the temple was supposed to extend God’s presence and blessing towards the gentiles, but by the time of Jesus we see that the Gentiles had been excluded from worship and replaced with a market were goods were bought and sold.

So here we learn that, like Israel, if we are going to be faithful, we also need to extend the light of Christ to others. We need to learn to be prophets too. So we have to look to Jesus for an example.

Three lessons from Jesus’ behavior:

  • Speak and teach in a way that connects with people. Jesus used the fig tree as a visual to teach the importance of bearing fruit. He also turned over tables to point to the temple’s destruction. How do you give people visuals? Actions speak louder than words, and what do your actions proclaim? Likewise, how do you, like Jesus and the prophets, use your actions to send messages that people can understand? What do your actions say?
  • Get on the offensive, not the defensive – start picking some fights. Notice that Jesus is the one who starts this encounter in the temple. Then the chief priests and teachers of the law react to him, and seek to kill him (v.18). How often do we stir the pot? Why are we so afraid to? Why does the church always tend to be reactive instead of proactive? We need to realize that in spreading the light of Christ we have some fights to pick. We are much too quick to apologize as Christians. Non-Christians often manipulate us for this: “Oh you hurt my feelings – oh – you offend my sensibilities!” And then we quickly retract all that we have said. No – there is a time to apologize. There is also a time not to. Apologizing when you aren’t actually sorry is never a good idea.
  • Do all things with faith. Do all things with prayer. Do all things in forgiveness. Jesus makes it very clear that we need to be people of faith – mountain-moving faith. Do we really believe we might take this city for Jesus? Do we really believe we might take our schools? With God all things are possible. Pray with that boldness. Then Jesus reminds us – make sure you let go of your bitterness – forgive people. The whole work in spreading the light of Christ will be darkened by your bitterness. So process your hurts, your pains, your offenses – forgive others and do so by realizing that you likewise need forgiveness.

Tigertorch the Glacier

Lighter Fireworks

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:12-14 ESV)

Over the last few months as a church we have been receiving some great teaching on two ideas that seem to be opposites: first, that Christians will suffer persecution; and second, that the gospel, and specifically the resurrection, is a triumphal victory that must inform our hope, our attitudes, and our emotions. So which is it? Is the Church advancing as the gospel of the kingdom spreads or is it dying as persecution and the “increase of lawlessness” makes everyone cold? How should we feel about the advance of the gospel? Optimism? Pessimism? Fear? Excitement?

In Matthew 24, above, Jesus says that our world is going to get colder, not hotter. As time goes by, people love God and one another less – love grows cold as sin increases. The cold snap is coming and the northern, glacier chill is heading our way. This is very much what we are experiencing in Canada today. Persecution is on its way and in many ways is already here. Suffering for Christ (and with Christ!) is inescapable, as we have learned from 1 Peter.

So what should our attitude be in the midst of this?

Simple – Jesus gives us our marching order in verse 14: “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

My dad is a high school music teacher – a band teacher. And he’s a good one. One thing I have learned about band teachers is that they are eccentric creatures. You need to possess a certain wildness to inflict yourself daily to roomfuls of teenagers with instruments. My dad’s good friend, Rick, is also one of these strange animals. Dad and Rick were music-teaching buddies and our family and Rick’s family spent a lot of time together and often in the summer we would go camping. And whoever has camped on the West Coast knows that rain and damp wood means starting a fire is always a bit of a challenge.

Rick had a solution for this wet-wood-worriment.

Rick had a tigertorch.

Forget kindling and newspaper – just get a big, old tank of propane and a tigertorch. That’ll start a fire! Rick would just start blazing away until that wet wood burned on its own.

So then, as John Piper once said, our job is to “torch the glacier with the gospel.”

Take your can of propane, grab you tigertorch, and have at ‘er!

If we believe Jesus, then there is every reason for hope even as things get a little chilly – the Church is growing around the world, even as things for us appear to be heading downhill. That happens. North Africa was once a bastion of righteousness. Not so anymore.

So we ought to have an optimistic realism about these things. We are in a spiritual war. We will take casualties. It will hurt. Following our Leader, we will need to bear the cross before we wear the crown. Yet we should expect to see the kingdom of God being realized here and around the world. So we have to maintain a gospel-fueled hope even in the face of opposition, persecution, and frostbite.

I need to ask you some hard questions:

In your view of the end times, as things start to come to a close, just how far do you expect the kingdom to advance? How “Christianized” might our country become? Would a return to “Christendom” be all that bad? Are we afraid of that?

Dream a little bigger O ye Baptists of little faith.

Can we really take this city for Jesus? There is nothing in my view of the end times that says we can’t.

Why not try?