Friday, May 18, 2007

Desiring Change


Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is a Christian classic. Every page inspires and challenges me.

In book 3, chapter 5 Lewis writes about sexual morality. He covers many principles that apply to morality in general. Here are three good quotes from the chapter.

“Before we can be cured we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even the wish is difficult. It is easy to think that we want something when we do not really want it.”

Have you ever prayed to God asking for him to change you, but really there is a side of you that still desires the sin? Examples: relief from conflict with a sibling, but still possess hatred towards him or her; lose weight, but still indulging in certain treats; overcoming lust, but still harboring lustful desires.

We need to truly want to change at the heart level. When we look to God to help us change at this level, we will experience real change.

“After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God firsts helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue may be this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God. We learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments. And, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.”

It is easy to see how God helps us to change in a particular area. We ask him to help us stop being angry and start being patient, or we plead with him to help us resist pride and practice humility. We can often overlook the significant grace God shows us in forgiving us when we sin and enabling us to begin anew in the battle against our flesh. We have the Holy Spirit helping us, guiding us, and giving us strength to continue on even after we fail.

“That is way a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

It is possible to attend church regularly and not be a Christian. The danger is that most individuals in this situation think they are Christians. Attending church, reading the Bible, and having Christian friends gives some a false confidence that they are Christians. Having knowledge of God and the things of God, but not having a personal faith in Jesus Christ is extremely dangerous. In many ways it would be better to not be involved in the church at all. But, as Lewis states, it is better to be neither.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Unbelief


In Mark chapter 6, Jesus traveled to his hometown of Nazareth. There the people saw him as the person who grew up among them, and they rejected him as the Messiah. Verses 5 and 6 summarize his time there, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.”

When I read this passage, I feel a deep sense of sadness. Nazareth had among them the Lord of the universe, the Savior of the world, and the Messiah they longed for, but they never even knew it. A little boy grew up in their town, matured into a man, and began to work wonders throughout the nation. Then, when he returned home, they did not believe he was the Christ, the Messiah.

The section closes with Jesus marveling at their unbelief. That is, Jesus saw their clear lack of faith in him and who he was.

We can look down on the people of Nazareth and how they missed it completely, but the reality is we are very much like them. In our everyday living we can demonstrate the same unbelief. When we get a low test grade, we can doubt God’s faithfulness. When we have an extremely busy week ahead of us, we can question God’s ability to help us accomplish all we need to do. When we suffer physical trials, we can complain to God. When all is well and we are prospering, we can think we are successful and forget God controls all.

I suspect God looks down and marvels at our unbelief too.

Are there any areas of your life where you tend to struggle in your faith in God and your confidence in him? Confess this to God, and ask him to strengthen your faith in him. Repent of placing your confidence in yourself, your gifts, and your wisdom and lean on him. Turn from trusting others and begin to trust God as he works through others.

Let’s learn from the mistakes of the people of Nazareth, apply this lesson to our lives today, and believe in Christ for salvation and for strength in our Christian walk.