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C. S. Lewis and How the Gospel Changes our Jobs

In thinking about how the gospel changes our jobs in secular workplaces, I found this quote from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity interesting:

[A] continual looking forward to the eternal world is not, as some modern people think, a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you will get neither.

Lewis’ quote begins by mentioning a common trap I see my Christian colleagues falling into: since we are saved and have our eternal lives secured, what we do now does not matter. Or: since we believe that Jesus is coming back soon to make all things new, we don’t need seek the flourishing of the secular company or institution I work for. Or: Since what my company does is not directly relating to saving souls, it does not need my full, earnest effort.

If you’ve got eyes and ears, you’ve heard or seen the fruits of this kind of thinking. God hasn’t left us without help with this problem–the letters to the Thessalonians are all about living fruitful lives in light of what we believe about the Second Coming of Christ and the world to come.

And then there are authors like Lewis who, in light of the gospel, see the obvious error in viewing heaven as an excuse for poor effort at secular jobs.

Let the truth of the new heavens and new earth change our approach to our jobs, God! May the hope that we have shape our work ethic–we know that we can pour ourselves out for excellence in our careers, for services and products that promote human flourishing, because we know that the world you’re going to give us in the end–the “other world” Lewis mentions–is going to be nothing but flourishing.

Let’s seek the flourishing of our companies and our colleagues today.

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Are You an Advanced Christian?

It’s so easy to think, “I’m past the basic stuff.” And, surely, we are encouraged in the Scriptures to grow after our salvation, not merely to live a stagnant, lifeless Christian life that subsists of calling ourselves Christians and little else. Yet, intellectual types who become Christians can often find themselves, like I sometimes do, falling into a way of thinking that assumes the basics of the Christian faith–our catechisms and creeds–are merely beginner’s material. Logically, this doesn’t make sense–we know that the centerpoint of all of cosmic and human history is Christ’s love for us on a cross. The cross is the beginning of our lives as believers, but it is also the essential whole of it. Its significance is bottomless.

Awhile ago I was perusing Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church; this book of essays by really smart guys definitely intimidated me. But, in a bit of wisdom, Carl Trueman in his introduction shares a quotation from Martin Luther (talk about a gifted intellectual) that exemplifies what I’m getting at. I’ve shared it below–enjoy:

As for myself, let me say that I, too, am a doctor and a preacher–yes, and as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly. These dainty, fastidious fellows would like quickly, with one reading, to become doctors above all doctors, to know all there is to be known. Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the people’s souls, yes, even God and his Word. They need not fear a fall, for they have already fallen all too horribly. What they need is to become children and begin learning their ABC’s, which they think they have outgrown long ago. Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints, for God’s sake, to get it into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think. I implore them not to imagine that they have learned these parts of the Catechism perfectly, or at least sufficiently, even though they think they know them ever so well. Even if their knowledge of Catechism were perfect (though that is impossible in this life), yet it is highly profitable and fruitful daily to read it and make it the subject of meditation and conversation. In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy
Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly. This is according to Christ’s promise in Matt. 18:30: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

–Martin Luther (Tappert, Theodore G.: The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church)

May we be as children in our lives at home and at work. Amen.

Sheldon Vanauken on the Eternality of God

I came across this quotation this morning:

In writing to [C. S.] Lewis of my understanding of this astonishing phenomenon, I used the analogy of reading a novel like David Copperfield that covers many years. In that book one follows the boy David running away to his Aunt Betsey Trotwood, the youth David loving Dora, the mature David with Agnes. While one reads, chapter by chapter, even as one lives one’s own life week by week, David is what he is at that particular point in the book’s time. But then, when one shuts the book at the end, all the Davids–small boy, youth, man–are equally close: and, indeed, are one. The whole David. One is then, with reference to the book’s created time, in an eternity, seeing it all in one’s own Now, even as God in His eternal Now sees the whole of history that was and is and will be. But if, as the result of death, I was now seeing the whole Davy at once, I was having a heavenly or eternal vision of her. Only, in heaven I would have not vision only but her–whole.

–Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, pp.185-6

Martin Luther on the Cross

The news that brings joy–the Gospel–is out of this world, because, the more you explore it, the more you are simultaneously taken in two directions:

1. Into the knowledge of how loved you are by God.

2. Into the knowledge of how terrible you are.

I want you to know that both of those things are equally important in the Gospel. However, since our culture tends to major on how loved we are and minor on how bad we are, I thought these words from Martin Luther might be helpful:

You must be overwhelmed by the frightful wrath of God who so hated sin that he spared not his only begotten Son…. Take this to heart and doubt not that you are the one who killed Christ. Your sins certainly did, and when you see the nails driven through his hands, be sure that you are pounding, and when the thorns pierce his brow, know that they are your evil thoughts.

–Martin Luther

(I came across this quote in Tim Chester’s book Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free, which I would highly recommend to everyone and anyone as the best book I’ve yet read on the topic)

J. C. Ryle on Youth

This was quoted in Alex and Brett Harris’ Do Hard Things. I pray that it will encourage parents and teacher

s to not give up on the youths in their lives–what they will become later in life largely depends on what they become as teens.

“Youth is the seed-time of full age, the molding season in the little space of human life, the turning point in the history of [a] man’s mind.”

–J. C. Ryle

Sheldon Vanauken on Comparing Ourselves to Others

If you haven’t read A Severe Mercy yet, you’ve got to. I’m not a guy who craves chick-flicks at all, but this is a love story about a man and a woman (told from the man’s point of view) and of a God and his children. It is also the story of how Vanauken befriended C. S. Lewis. There’s lots of interest here, and it’s all well-written. Do check it out.

There is a point in the story where Vanauken is contemplating the differences in the devotions of himself, his wife (Davy), and a mutual friend of theirs (Julian):

“Davy, whom I saw as far ahead of me on the Way as she saw Julian to be ahead of her, fell far short, in her own eyes, of the glory of God, as of course Julian, in his own eyes, fell short. To me, both were holy. The distance is infinity, and position is relative. Even I perhaps may have seemed holy to somebody. Some penitent villain” (p. 145).

–Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, p. 145

Martin Luther on the book of Romans

The other night in a Bible Survey class, our professor was overviewing the book of Romans, and he shared this quotation from Martin Luther’s preface to Romans:

“This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Therefore I want to carry out my service and, with this preface, provide an introduction to the letter, insofar as God gives me the ability, so that every one can gain the fullest possible understanding of it. Up to now it has been darkened by glosses [explanatory notes and comments which accompany a text] and by many a useless comment, but it is in itself a bright light, almost bright enough to illumine the entire Scripture” (Complete preface located here.)