Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Jesus’ Unfair Advantage

It’s fascinating that Jesus was born with His will surrendered to God. He was born obedient. Hebrews 10:7 says that He said, “I have come to do your will, O God.” In other words, His only purpose for existence was to do God’s will, to be obedient to Him. He turned His will over to the Father before He left Heaven to come to Earth to be a human. (See the Thursday lesson from last week.)

Comparing Jesus Sinning to Crashing a Bike

We’re each born with a will that is turned away from God in rebellion, but Jesus was born with a will that was turned toward God. Of course, He still had a free will so He freely chose to obey God and could have chosen to turn away from God if He wanted.

But it would have taken a special effort for Jesus to turn toward sin, whereas each of us is born with a natural tendency to turn to sin. For Jesus, His life was like a man riding down the street on a bicycle who could choose to suddenly wrench the handlebars to the side and go flying off his bike, but he has his balance and has no desire to injure himself.

Jesus’ Unfair Advantage is Good News for Us

I think C.S. Lewis wrote that analogy. He also wrote that some people say Jesus had an unfair advantage, that He wasn’t on a level playing field with us. Well, Lewis writes that if you’re drowning, flailing around in some white water rapids and you can’t reach the shore under your own power and someone on the shore who is standing on a solid rock throws you a rope, you wouldn’t want to refuse their help because they have an advantage over you.

If everything were fair and equal they would be flailing in the water themselves and not be able to help you. If you’re going to be helped, you need someone who has a special advantage. It’s not about fairness.

Jesus’ Life Wasn’t a Test Run

Some people who don’t understand Christianity very well say that Jesus came to Earth to test if it were possible to live a good life. But Moses, Elijah, Joseph, and people in other cultures had already lived good lives.

The infinite, all-powerful God didn’t set aside all His powers and come to Earth and get tortured to death as an experiment! He wasn’t unsure about it; He didn’t think, “Well, this might not work out — oh, well, I’ll try it anyway.”

No. Philippians 2:8 says He only came to Earth to be obedient and to die on the Cross in order to do something new, to do more than just teach morality.

He was protected by angels. He had the Holy Spirit in His life at His conception, at the start of His ministry and throughout every single day. As we discussed before, He was perfectly obedient because He gave His will over to His Father before being born. But He was on a mission! He was doing all of it to redeem humans — you and me — not to give life a test drive.

The Danger of Treating Jesus Only as a Moral Example

If people think Jesus came to Earth just to try to live a good life, that encourages them to try to be good in their own strength without relying on God. But that’s impossible. Even just to repent of sins, we need a special act of Divine power — just to ask for forgiveness and for help! The prideful heart of a natural human doesn’t want to ask for help or to admit to being wrong.

Our repentance is not our own virtue shining through; no, it’s actually a miracle from God that is made possible through Jesus’ life. We also need His power to be born again, to be a new creation, as the Bible promises, and to keep growing every day.

So it doesn’t make sense to think that Jesus is just a guy who lived a good life and is a good example to us. No, through His blood and His grace, which are imparted to us through the Holy Spirit, we get the power to live a new type of life. His mission to Earth, His perfect obedience, was to accomplish that.

We don’t know exactly how it works — the Bible says even angels are interested in studying that mystery — but all Christians agree that it does work.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

 

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Feeling Confident Reading the Bible (Part 1)

Imagine sitting down and reading the Bible for, say, a whole hour. Someone has asked you to study it and understand it and really get something out of it. How does that make you feel? If you rate your feeling on a scale of 1, reluctance, to 10, excitement, what is it?

I’m at a 4 sometimes, scared to read the Bible. Part of why reading the Bible doesn’t seem appealing is we don’t totally understand it and so are not confident that it’s worth spending time on.

Passion Comes After Learning

I heard an author, Cal Newport, last week explain that people who are really passionate about their jobs often get that way because of long experience in which they developed rare and valuable skills that they then enjoy exercising.

They didn’t start out with great passion — they weren’t good at their jobs at first — but they had just enough of a seed of interest that it could grow into great skill and then passion later.

Remember that point when you think about reading the Bible. Don’t expect to have great passion and amazing positive emotions right away. That takes time and growth in certain Bible-reading skills. But if you start with at least a small seed of interest, that can grow if you give it time.

It Takes Time To Learn

How much time? Well, some research says it takes 1,000 hours of practice to get pretty good at something. For example, if you work at a job for eight hours per day for six months, that gets you to 1,000 hours.

But in reading the Bible we might read for ten minutes per day. Getting to 1,000 hours could take years at that rate. So we need some special techniques to get better at understanding the Bible as soon as possible. And I’ll reveal some of those tricks a little later.

In the meantime, cut yourself some slack. It’s not realistic to expect to be a Bible expert if you’ve only read the Bible for a few hours total. But also remember that God is patient; in His grace, He gives us time to grow instead of expecting instant excitement and perfection.

Be Like Mike: Coaches Focus on What’s Most Important

Also, people have found that you can cut 1,000 hours down to 100 to 200 hours if you learn shortcuts — even to 20 hours, in some cases. The Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 Rule, says that 80% of results come from only 20% of the effort, from focusing on the best, most important parts of any skill and ignoring the rest.

How do you learn what to focus on? Well, you need coaches — people who have gone before you and done the trial-and-error work to find out what works and what doesn’t so you don’t have to. Even great sports stars still use coaches.

For you, coaches can be books, online Bible commentaries, pastors, Bible teachers, and YouTube sermons, as long as they are trustworthy: they need to express the ideas of the whole Bible, not just their pet part of it.

Two of my favorite authors of this type are C.S. Lewis and Graham Maxwell. Maxwell’s book Servants or Friends? is powerful; Lewis’ book Mere Christianity is another good one.

In the next post, I’ll reveal more of what I shared with the class last weekend when we discussed this lesson: some key ideas about how to understand the Bible much better that you can practice for just a few minutes per day.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

Prayer: Power or Person? (Part 2)

So this idea in Sunday’s lesson that we should pray because we’ll receive power from it just doesn’t seem that great to me. There are a lot of people out there — and I have been one of them — who pray just because they’re told they are supposed to, even if they don’t think very highly of God or think much about Him at all.

They don’t have a picture of Him as their Love and their Friend; they see Him as a distant King Who can grant gifts. And they are told to speak to Him because it’s their duty and because they can make requests and ask for miraculous healings and the like.

Obligation Implies an Impatient God

I think that type of prayer distorts their picture of God even more. It’s prayer out of obligation, which implies that He is a demanding, impatient person with very little understanding of how relationships work. But real prayer is a joyous sharing of the self with the only Person Who will ever understand you fully.

It’s a privilege. It’s delicious. I used to relish my times of prayer because I could feel myself growing and gaining new thoughts and new mental pathways. When I had painful times in my day, I got excited because I knew I would talk with God about it that night. So I know it’s possible to anticipate prayer like a rich dessert, and yet people command us to pray, rather than motivating us to want to do it.

Working to Express God’s Love in Every Medium

I think we as teachers and evangelists should be doing everything possible to express, through every mode of communication, through every art form, an absolutely amazing love coming from God that just makes you tear up and weak at the knees and makes you automatically want to cry out to God.

People need to see Someone Who is so friendly that they just want to chat with Him and tell Him everything. We as teachers and evangelists — as Christians — need to express an atmosphere of such peace and delicious love people want to be inside that experience.

It reminds me of how C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia makes you feel like you really want to be in Narnia with the Christ-like Lion Aslan. Or how a great preacher tells stories God’s love and faithfulness that touch your heart.

But maybe there’s something I’m missing. Maybe even if someone doesn’t really think highly of God, they could still pray in a trite formula and that would be better than no prayer at all. We all start somewhere. I know that’s where I started.

Well, what I know for sure is that if people were so excited about God that they could hardly wait to spend time with Him, that would be the best of all. And so I want to put energy and hard work into expressing a God Who is so loving that people catch that desire.

Prayer Formulas are Training Wheels

To be fair, in the later days, the lesson explains some of the prayer habits of Jesus and the apostles and highlights principles of prayer that seem all right — Jesus going out early in the morning to pray, for example. It also gives a general outline of prayer: starting with praise and thankfulness, moving into confession, and finally making requests.

I just don’t want to pray in formulas, I guess. Prayer for me is just opening up about my life to a Friend. It’s not about meditating on a verse from the Psalms, as the lesson suggests, because for me it’s about sharing my actual, real life, not something David wrote.

Well, there’s probably nothing wrong with using formulas sometimes. But I would hope they’re only the first step in a learning process. With practice, you can eventually talk to God as a Friend, if you trust Him to accept you, if you catch a vision of His love. And I recommend never pretending to feel more for Him than you really do; instead, ask Him to reveal Himself to you in the way that you need.

And finally, after many conversations with God, every breath seems to be a prayer as you realize that you want to have the atmosphere of Heaven with you everywhere you go, in every situation of life.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)