Don’t Let Them Fool You…Doctrine Does Lead to Joy

For  my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others.  I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.

– C.S. Lewis, On the Reading of Old Books

Life Theology

What Love is, and What Love is Not

Here’s some of my notes from studying 1 Corinthians 13:4-5:

In addition to telling us two things love is, Paul tells us seven things that love is not. Love is not envious or boastful.  Love is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own agenda.   Love doesn’t get irritable or resentful.

At this point, it’s necessary to point out that just because we love people does not mean we cannot act for our own benefit or joy. When Paul says that love “does not insist on its own way” it means, as Jonathan Edwards points out, its own selfish, private gain.  This passage is not aimed solely at a marriage, but it is applicable to a marriage.  When a husband loves his wife in the way he should, he is seeking her good as well as his. No husband ever loved his wife so he could be unhappy. No (good) husband ever loved his wife dutifully.  He loves his wife so that she will be joyful and so that he will be joyful.  Picture this: A husband comes home to his wife with flowers and she says, “Oh, I love them!  You didn’t need to get these!”  He replies, “Well, I know I’m supposed to sacrifice and it’s my duty as a husband to get these for you.  They were even on sale.”  He would need grab his cup before he said that.  Instead, imagine this: The same husband comes home to his wife with flowers and says, “Call the babysitter.  I’ve made reservations at your favorite restaurant and then we’ll come back here for a wonderfully romantic night.”  The wife will probably cover her mouth in utter joy.  She’ll say, “Why?”  He will reply, “Because nothing gives me more joy in this world than loving you and making you happy.”  I think every woman would rather hear the latter.  That response shows a heart’s desire to please and love a wife, as well as seeking good, godly joy for himself.

Also, we must say that love is not making much of people. That is idolatry. Love is making much of Christ and pointing people to him. In our American culture, we have defined love as making other people feel good about themselves. C.S. Lewis wrote, “Love is something more splendid and stern than mere kindness.” Lewis is not overstepping Scripture by saying love is more than kindness. After all, Paul said, “Love is…kind.” What Lewis means is that love is not mere kindness. It is a supernatural, divine kindness that is able to be humble, gracious, merciful, truthful, and just all in one. If Scripture is used for teaching, correction, rebuking, and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17), then making people feel good about themselves is a contradiction and, most of the time, impossible. Sometimes love is harsh and hurtful. But we know that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6).  The wounds of a true friend are usually always helpful and prosperous. People who appear to be friends but only butter you up and make you feel good about yourself are not true friends. The Bible, and the gospel itself, is wounding. It shows us our brokenness and need for a Savior and makes much of the God who sent his Son to die for us.  The Bible was not written to make much of people.  It was written to make much of Jesus.  Anyone who read Scripture and feels better about themselves is not a Christian.  The gospel should cause us to fall on our faces in humble repentance because of the disgusting nature of our hearts.  The good news in all this is that Jesus came to love perfectly and save us through the ultimate act of love: willingly and joyfully dying for our sins (Heb. 12:1-2).


Quotable Lewis

Here are some C.S. Lewis gems that I thought you’d like to delight in:

Eros will have naked bodies; Friendship naked personalities.

Let’s pray that the human race never escapes from Earth to spread its iniquity elsewhere.

You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.

Thirty was so strange for me. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult

There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”

The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.

And, one of my favorites, just for fun:

Long before history began we men have got together apart from the women and done things. We had time.


Pie in the Sky?

During this Lenten season, I’ve been reading meditations by C.S. Lewis from various writings of his in a booklet called A Clean Heart Create in Me. Over the past two days, I’ve been in an e-mail debate with a student over the existence of God, the reliability of Scripture, and things of that nature. It’s sad to see someone who is so violent against the reality that a powerful God reigns over this world. In today’s meditation from Lewis, the reason for this student’s disbelief became clear.

We are afraid of the jeer about ‘”pie in the sky,” and of being told that we are trying to “escape” from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is a ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced, whether it is useful at political meetings or no. Again, we are afraid that Heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that the mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.

May we see that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:8 are so true, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Truly only the ones whom God has given mercy to in order to be pure want to see God. Why would a godless, wicked person want to meet God? That would be foolish! In fact, in Luke 12:20, Jesus told the story of a man who did not fear God and who stored up his treasures on earth and when he died, he met God and God said, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Those are words I never want to hear out of God’s mouth.

There are godless people all over the world–as close as across the street. So, let us pray fervently and with perseverance that God will put people in our lives who are not pure, so that he can use us as instruments of righteousness to lead them to the table where we eat and drink from.