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.

 

The Walk by Stephen Smallman

81XYHADiCUL.jpg

I just finished reading “The Walk” by Stephen Smallman.  The book was easy read, yet full of valuable information.  It is designed to help people learn how to be a disciple of Christ.

A few of the main points:

  • A disciple is a follower of Jesus, not just in word, but in action as well.
  • The local church is essential for spiritual support, education, and direction for serving others.
  • Salvation comes when we repent and have faith in Jesus.  We turn away from our sin and turn toward Jesus.
  • We are justified or declared righteous by God and our sins are forgiven.
  • Sanctification is the work of God in us.  We are renewed in the image of God and strive to reject sin in favor of righteousness.

This book is a great resources for new believers or those who want to know more about Christianity.

Be Good Inwardly and Outwardly (Matthew 5:21-6:4)

Yesterday, I talked about living a life of righteousness which involves more than just following a set of rules and checking off a list of requirements.  A life of righteousness comes from a pure heart.

When I read Matthew 5:21-6:4, I see that idea continuing and advice on how it should be played out in our life.

The law teaches us to not murder and it teaches an eye for an eye when seeking retribution for a wrong done to us.  However, Jesus wants more from us.  Jesus teaches us not to be hateful, angry, or insulting.  Instead, we should seek reconciliation and forgiveness.  This applies to our friends and to our enemies.

The law forbids adultery, but Jesus teaches a lustful heart is evil.  We should avoid things that lead to lust, if we want to live a righteous life and have a pure heart.

Jesus also condemned those who practice spirituality and charity to impress others.  Doing good to bolster your sense of self-pride, will not win any points with God.  Jesus wants us to do good out of a sense of love and compassion.

Living a life of righteousness is more than behaving a certain way when others can see us and it is more than just following a list of requirements.  Living a life of righteousness starts in the person’s heart and then it is demonstrated through their actions.

good.jpg

Jesus Fulfills the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)

In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus is talking to a crowd.  Jesus tells them, he did not come to abolish or do away with the law.  Jesus came to fulfill or complete the law.

Jesus also tells the people, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  (ESV)

This section ends with Jesus saying, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (ESV)

If Jesus came to fulfill the law and Christians are not under the law, do they have to follow the law?  Also, Jesus said our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

The scribes and Pharisees were religious leaders and they made a point to live out the law.  They wanted to follow the law to the letter, but they often failed to follow the spirit of the law.

When I read this passage, I think about some of the legalistic churches in my area.  They are concerned with outward appearances and they judge a person’s spirituality based on those outward appearances.  They may talk about the importance of a heart that is holy or righteous; however, it is not what they are truly focusing on and practicing in their lives.

I also think about some of the churches with an anything goes attitude.  They never want to appear judgmental, so they just ignore the importance of righteousness.

I think Jesus wants us to live a holy life and to be an example to the world around us; however, I think Jesus is looking for more than just following a bunch of rules that make us look like good people.  I think Jesus wants our hearts to be pure and that is a harder goal to achieve than just checking off a list of rules.

FullSizeRender.jpg

 

Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17)

In Matthew 3:13-17, we read about the baptism of Jesus.  When Jesus went to John to be baptized, John was reluctant.  John the Baptist felt unworthy of such a task and said he should be the one getting baptized.

Jesus told John, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  (ESV)

John agreed and baptized Jesus.  As Jesus was coming out of the water, “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'” (ESV)

Baptism is a sign of repentance and a desire to follow God.  Why would Jesus, the perfect and sinless Son of God, need to be baptized?

Jesus gives us the answer to that question, “to fulfill all righteousness.”  Jesus was willing to obey all of God’s commands and to live the perfect life that we could never live.

new-piktochart_548_f911cdfb21378da0c3b4987542a5fe17acb732b5.png