The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

81EDnN1NR2L.jpg

Screwtape is a demon and he is writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood.  The letters are meant to help Wormwood, who is fresh out of Tempter’s College, in his endeavors to prevent people from becoming Christians.  In the end Wormwood fails and is eaten by the more successful demons.

The advice given by Screwtape was potentially effective, but it was also subtle.

  • Church members can be used to keep people away from the Gospel, especially if they behave rudely or practice immorality.
  • Family discord, lack of self-examination, and critical thoughts toward others will promote a self-righteous attitude.
  • Keep people away from prayer or have them use memorized superficial prayers that can be repeated without meaning.
  • Keep people focused on themselves and their own problems to promote selfishness and prevent charitable behavior.
  • Keep people focused on personal feelings.
  • Teach people to reverence religious objects, so the object replaces God.
  • Teach people to view the past as happy and peaceful.  Teach them to view the future with dread and hopelessness, so they will believe not even God can save them from certain destruction.
  • Create anxiety to prevent people from focusing on God.
  • Promote hatred for those who are different from them and hatred for enemies.
  • Promote malice towards the people around them and keep benevolence out of their minds.
  • Increase temptation during times of struggle, so sin appears to be the best way to elevate depression and inner turmoil.
  • If people desire to attend church, help them find one that focuses solely on friendship and self-help topics.
  • Teach people to live two parallel lives.  Sunday is for church, but during the rest of the week there is no thought of God.  This will allow them to live in sin, but still feel self-righteous.
  • Lull people into the path of wickedness, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
  • Don’t allow people to be rooted in a church, “if a man can’t be cured of church going, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”
  • Promote discord in the church, so the members are arguing over petty things, then they will be unable to teach the gospel with any effectiveness.
  • Encourage false spirituality among the people.

 

What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

witg_medium.e3byr2evkap3xl5fvsh7pp3j7eabq3fz.jpg

I live in an area known as the Bible Belt.  The majority of the population identifies as Christian and has some exposure to basic Bible principles (regardless of church attendance or religious practices).

However, some Christian leaders fear this may work in a negative way.  People are comfortable with their limited knowledge and never truly seek to understand the gospel message.

I was talking with a friend about such issues and he recommend this book.  It’s just over a hundred pages and easy to read.  However, it is full of useful information and puts the gospel message in a whole new light.

There are four main aspects to the gospel (God, man, Christ, response).

God – God is the creator of all things, he is righteous and just, he will not tolerate sin, and will punish the guilty

Man – All of us are guilty.  Sin isn’t just something we do, it is who we are, it is are very nature.  Because of our sin nature, we will be held accountable to God.

Christ – Christ provides hope for mankind.  He was both fully God and fully man, so he is the only one capable of paying the penalty for our sins.  The author sums it up by saying, “He died for me.  They were my transgressions, but his wounds.  My iniquities, but his chastisement.  My sin, his sorrow,  And his punishment bought my peace.  His stripes won my healing.  His grief, my joy.  His death, my life.”

Response – The gospel tells us that faith (reliance) on Christ is required for salvation.  We are also called to repent (ask forgiveness and turn away) of our sins.  Perfection isn’t possible, so repentance is demonstrated by our attitude toward sin.  We can no longer live in peace with our sin.

If you desire to gain a better understanding of the Bible and the gospel message, I highly recommend this book.

 

The Unforgivable Sin

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:30-31 (ESV))

new-piktochart_22347285_0defe9d5f2412faf735350be28dbf6e0c1370983

What is the unforgivable sin?  What does “blasphemy against the Spirit” really mean?

The first word in Matthew 12:31 is “Therefore.”  That word is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as, “for that reason” or “because of that.”  It’s an extremely important word in this verse of Scripture.  It tells us the unforgivable sin is because of what is being described in the previous verse.

In the previous verse, Jesus is talking about people that are against him. He is talking about people that are not followers.

Therefore, the unforgivable sin is to reject Jesus and refuse to follow him.

Become the Greatest of All

FullSizeRender-4.jpg

In Matthew 20:26-28, Jesus was telling his disciples how to be great in His kingdom.  Jesus defines greatness and leadership in a way that is contrary to what we normally see in the world.

According to Jesus, having power or privilege is not what makes you great.  Being able to force others to obey you and serve you, does not make you great.

What makes a person great in the Kingdom of God?  Jesus tells us that to be great, to be a leader in His Kingdom, we must be willing to serve.  We must also have an attitude of humility.

It’s our willingness to humble ourselves and serve others that will make us great people and great leaders in this world and in the Kingdom of God.

 

Forgiveness Brings Healing

In Matthew 18:15-35, Jesus teaches his followers about forgiveness.  When I was reading this passage I thought of Dylan Roof.

The family members of those murdered by Dylan Roof, spoke of their hurt and the pain he caused by taking away their loved ones.  However, they also offered forgiveness.

This is a great example of how forgiveness works in the real world.  Dylan Roof was forgiven, but he will still pay for his crimes.  He still owes a debt to society and will be punished.

Dylan Roof may never feel remorse for his actions, but the willingness to forgive still benefits the family members.  It allows them to let go of the hate and anger they feel inside of them.  The family members are free to heal, because of their willingness to forgive.

Forgiveness can be difficult, but it can also bring healing.

The Sower and the Seed

The parable of the sower and the seed is found in Matthew 13:1-23.  It is about a sower who went out to spread seeds.  In the parable the seeds represent the word of God.

Some of the seeds fell on the path and was eaten by the birds.  When someone hears the word and doesn’t understand it, the word is snatched away from them.

Some of the seeds fell on rocky ground.  The plants grew, but without soil the roots were weak and the plants died.  Sometimes people hear the word and accept it.  However, they have no roots, so when times are hard they fall away from the word.

Other seeds fell among thrones which destroyed the plants as they tried to grow.  People that hear the word, but are more concerned with the priorities of the world are lost to the worries of the world.

Lastly, some seeds fell on good soil and they produced a harvest.  The good soil represents people that hear the word, understand it, and follow the teaches of it.  They bear good fruit and live as disciples of Jesus Christ.

FullSizeRender-4.jpg

One thing I have noticed in my life and in the lives of others, is we are not destined to remain in one of those locations.  We can change how we receive the word of God.

If you lack understanding, spend time studying the Bible.

If you lack a good root system, spend time with other disciples and get involved with a church that prioritizes the making of disciples, so your root system can grow stronger.

If you tend to prioritize the worries of the world above your spiritual life, then spend time considering what is truly important to you and how your priorities effect your life.

If you are the good soil, don’t get comfortable.  Continue to spend time studying the Bible, so you can continue to grow and produce more fruit.

 

Positive Character Traits

In Matthew 12:22-50, Jesus has a lot to say about character.  For example,

  • A tree is known by its fruit
  • Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks

Webster defines character as the mental and ethical traits of a person.  Those traits could be positive or negative.

Positive character traits that I try to incorporate into my life include:

  • Humility
  • Kindness
  • Loyalty
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Generosity
  • Gratitude
  • Patience
  • Compassion
  • Friendliness
  • Dedication

I don’t always live up to my goal, but I learn from my mistakes and try again.

medical-bore-boredom-boring-personalities-character_traits-jkon834_low.jpg