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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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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

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

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #6: Hope for the Church

Sermon preached on November 1, 2009.

The teaching is based on Hebrews 10:19-25.

Tim Keller preached this message. Dr. Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is also an author of the books Ministries of MercyThe Reason for GodProdigal GodCounterfeit GodsGospel in LifeGenerous Justice, and King’s Cross.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction: The purpose of the 10-year plan that we are embarking on is to train, equip, and send–this hasn’t been Redeemer so much.

 

Outline:

I. The Irreplacability of Christian Community

II. The Character of Christian Community

III. The Secret of Christian Community

 

I. Irreplacability

  • an aggregation is like a bag of marbles; a congregation is like a cluster of grapes, organically connected
    • church is not a place to come and get taught and counseled
    • v. 25 Pastors have used this to say, “Come to church!”–but the spurring on of one another doesn’t happen during worship services
    • v. 21-22–the presence of God is what changes us–so then how do we draw near?
      • We spur one another on! We access the presence of God through each other
  • C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “Christ works on us… above all else through each other. We are carriers of Him…”
  • Wesley: the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion

II. The Character of Christian Community–what does it mean to be in community?

1. Considering 2. Spurring 3. Encouraging 4. Working

1) Considering: As a counselor, you take notes because you’re being careful, deliberate; your purpose is to see them grow.

2) Spurring: This is the Greek word “irritate.” It means to sharply contend for someone to make them better.

  • Illustration from Homer: As Odysseus approaches the Sirens, he tells his men to ignore him and row. “Give me what I need, not what I want.” So the question is, have you given this kind of permission to some people in your life? People who you’ve told your sins and who you’ve told to check on you? A covenant is a promise to live in community and make yourself accountable to others.

3) Encouraging: This is the opposite of spurring. You’ve got to have both together. In Greek, encourage means to give assurance, to get in their shoes.

4) Good deeds: In Greek, “beautiful works.” These are practical; as a Christian, you’re not above little things, like making a casserole. Also do these toward the marginal; love those who the world has taught you not to like. No matter where you’re from, the world has taught you to despise some group.

III. What’s the secret of this community?

  • Our mouth waters to think of a church like the one I’ve been describing.
  • The secret, by this text (Hebrews 10:19-25), is the assurance of your salvation
    • v. 19: Confidence is not how you feel at a job interview; look at a little 8 year old coming to tell you something. He doesn’t think of how to do it.
    • In v. 19, we have confidence: we can speak freely to God, like 8 year olds; we can open up.
    • Objectively, you know you’re accepted, you know you’re in
    • Subjectively, draw near, actually experience it
  • J. C. Ryle: “Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage, and thus ministers mightily to his comfort. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small…” (this quote at greater length)
  • C. S. Lewis, “The Inner Ring,” from The Weight of Glory: People don’t realize to what degree they are motivated to be on the inside.
    • You want to hang out with people that make you feel good about yourself. It’s why you disdain some people.
      • It means, finally, that you’ll be serving people for their sake! You won’t be creating cliques any more.
  • Tony Campolo once threw a birthday party for a Honolulu prostitute at 3:30 in the morning–in response, the owner of the dive that hosted the party said, “If there was a church that did this kind of thing, I’d join that church.” (fully story here).

The secret of the secret: Jesus Christ was the high priest who opened the way. The immediate wages of sin is utter aloneness. Jesus on the Cross was getting cosmic aloneness, so that we never have to be alone. We can belong to the church.

Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Honors of the King”

In a March 2011 newsletter article for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller continues the discussion he began last month (“Backlash and Civility”). His writing addresses the question, “How does the Gospel interact with politics and the public sphere?” It’s a quick read, so do check it out here. Some notes:

  • Winston Churchill once offered to nominate C. S. Lewis for quite an honor–no less than the honorary title, “Commander of the British Empire.” However, Lewis turned the offer down. Why?
  • Though Lewis admitted in a letter to Churchill that the honor suited his personal feelings, he “knew that if Churchill, a Conservative politician, recommended him for the [honor] it would only lend credence to what people believed about the Christian faith, namely, that it was not really about truth, but was rather a tool for non-progressive political interests. Lewis refused to let a political entity reward him for Christian service, fearing it would identify Christianity too closely with one political system” (Keller).
    • That last line deserves repeating, because in any workplace where there are politics involved, Lewis’ example merits consideration: “Lewis refused to let a political entity reward him for Christian service, fearing it would identify Christianity too closely with one political system.”
    • Essentially, Lewis eschewed a coveted national honor for the sake of clearly communicating about God.
  • Because Christianity is filled with many truth claims, there is plenty for any political party to pick and choose from, which means that just about any political party can claim to be the “Christian” party.
  • Therefore, any alliance between churches and political parties should be avoided.
  • Yet “the gospel shapes all areas of life. Christians can and should be involved in government, and their Christian faith will be the driving force behind how they engage in politics as well as how they evaluate many policy issues. Also, [we believe] God’s word and often what the Bible says will have public policy implications that are direct and/or indirect. But Christians must not implicitly or explicitly identify their Christianity with political figures and parties” (Keller).

 

Anne Lamott on Finding Time

I admit that I don’t know much about Anne Lamott (that probably makes me a criminal, since I’m an English teacher and a bibliophile). However, in a recent Teachers as Writers class I participated in, we were given “Time Lost and Found,” an article of musings on how we use our time.

I took a few things away from Anne’s article:

  • “manic forms of connectivity” — I like that angle of looking at things like texting, email, twitter, facebook, etc. Whenever I feel like I must respond to these communications immediately so that I have a clean inbox or a phone free of notification icons, aren’t I just being obsessive-compulsive in a socially normal way?
  • “no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor” — I just found that line humorous; with news, I err on the other side of the spectrum, and probably should pay attention to it more
  • “there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder” — who can disagree with this? Tim Keller loves to use a great C. S. Lewis quote that refers to this concept. Lamott calls this her core belief and the foundation for almost all wisdom traditions
  • “they are absolutely sincere, and they are delusional” — referring to folks who say they’ll do X as soon as they retire or get a job or have kids or the kids move out
  • “at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did?” — how piercing. At 80, will I be happy to have spent my time at home thinking of and working on work, or picking away at my book review stack, or writing a blog post? No.

There is a lot of great food for thought (and action) here, provided you can avoid the suggested deification of the capital-S “Self” in the closing paragraph of the article. I highly recommend reading it.

Scott Sauls Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #4: Hope for the Family

Sermon preached on October 18, 2009.

The teaching is based on Ephesians 5:21-33.

Scott Sauls preached this message. Rev. Sauls is a Lead Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City; his preaching style is very similar to that of his Senior Pastor, Tim Keller.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction:

  • Why are there so many singles in NYC? Lack of time, abundance of cynicism, and fear.
  • Ephesians 5 suggests a different purpose for marriage than the ones commonly thought of: two broken sinners enter into an other-centered covenant
  • Paul is suggesting that marriage is about personal transformation

Outline:

I. Exposure

II. Embrace

I. Exposure

  • Paul quotes Genesis, when man and woman were naked; it’s much more than physical to be naked; scripturally, it means to become vulnerable, to be seen beneath who you are, beneath your Facebook or resume.
    • The nature of the human heart is to hide our blemishes behind a persona; Adam and Eve do everything they can to control their persona after the fall–they dress up, they blame shift
  • We don’t want people to know that we probably wouldn’t want to be friends with ourselves
  • [Rev Sauls shares a funny story involving him and his wife studying the Bible together early in their marriage; she had married him partly because of how impressive he was as a speaker and small group leader, how deep his insight was; when the young couple studied the Bible together, however, Rev Sauls’ wife quickly discovered that “I married a pompous know-it-all.”]
  • Sartre: Hell is to be looked at, to be unable to stop or control what someone else sees when they look at us
  • two people deserve access to our private parts: our spouse and our doctor
  • With doctors, why do we allow probing, the invading of our bodies?
    • Because we want to live! to flourish, to survive
    • Why do we allow this probing into our bodies, but not into our character?
  • “Restore” in Galatians 6:1-2 is a Greek word that elsewhere is only used as a medical term for resetting a bone
  • We do whatever we can to turn a limp into a dance
  • At the end of New York Magazine, there are 3 pages of ads for rich men to find hot women; we walk into a gym and immediately eliminate 95% of the people there as potential spouses before we even meet them; we want perfection now–is this what Jesus did for us?
  • Jesus: “My vision is to heal, so I’m looking for a bride with spots, wrinkles, blemishes.”
  • In the film As Good as It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s  response to Helen Hunt: “You make me want to be a better man
    • That’s what you look for in a mate; that’s your selection criteria

II. Embrace

  • Both parties need to know that the marriage is sinner-safe
  • The goal is to be fully known (naked) and without shame (loved, respected, honored), just like in Genesis before the fall
  • The film Beautiful Mind is a great marriage movie
  • C. S. Lewis married a woman knowing she had terminal cancer
  • you know you love someone when you continue to serve them even though you’ve fallen out of love with them
  • “Workmanship” is the Greek word poema; you are the poem of God
  • If you throw random words in a hat and mix them up, you’ve got chaos, but those same words can become a Shakespearean sonnet
  • On one side of extremes is co-dependent enabling; on the other is bullying
    • Gospel love is in the middle of these two things, and far away from each
  • Trying to build a resume or a career or be cool as a reason for coming to New York City can’t be your main reason, because what happens when you walk outside and see your windshield bashed in? What happens when the City treats you like an enemy?
    • Will you love her?
    • When she’s acting pschizo, will you divorce her in your heart, or continue to serve her?
    • When she only takes, will you still give?

Conclusion:

Jesus never considers divorce. He sees us in bed with  our mistresses of money, love, power, and he determines to continue loving us.