You asked for a Loving God?

Problem
In The Chronicles of Narnia, by C S Lewis, Lucy and the others are surprised to hear that the Great Lion, Aslan, is not a tame lion. ‘Of course he isn’t safe’, says one character, ‘but he’s good.’ And it is Aslan’s wildness, as much as his goodness, that sees them through. Aslan’s love is big enough to include his ferocious care for his loved ones (and even his anger at times). This final brief post on the theme of Love and pain also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C S Lewis wrote: “When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love.

“You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

“How this should be, I do not know: it passes reason to explain why any creatures, not to say creatures such as we, should have a value so prodigious in their Creator’s eyes. It is certainly a burden of glory not only beyond our deserts but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring…”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

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Cruel to be kind?

Problem
“The real trouble” (says C. S. Lewis) “is that ‘kindness’ is a quality fatally easy to attribute to ourselves on quite inadequate grounds. Everyone feels benevolent if nothing happens to be annoying him at the moment. Thus a man easily comes to console himself for all his other vices by a conviction that ‘his heart’s in the right place’ … though in fact he has never made the slightest sacrifice for a fellow creature.” This
second of three brief posts on the theme of Love and pain also comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: “There is kindness in Love: but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness [in the sense given above] is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it. Kindness consents very readily to the removal of its object – we have all met people whose kindness to animals is constantly leading them to kill animals lest they should suffer.

Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled: the legitimate sons, who are to carry on the family tradition, are punished [Hebrews 12:8].

“It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms: with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes.

If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Love hurts?

Problem
‘Love hurts’ sang the Everly Brothers in 1960, a sentiment taken up by others (Roy Orbison, Nazareth (named for the town in Pennsylvania USA), Jim Capaldi and Cher to name a few). ‘Love is just a lie, made to make you blue’, they sang, ‘I know it isn’t true, no it isn’t true’. Well, that’s not true, though it may sometimes feel like it. It’s certainly not true that the Love of God is a lie; though we find that even with Him, Love is never without pain. This first of three brief posts on the theme of Love and pain comes from C. S. Lewis…

C. S. Lewis wrote: By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy.

“What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven – a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’.

“Not many people, I admit, would formulate a theology in precisely those terms: but a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds. I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction.”

From C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Fear-less Grace?

God's Words
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15 ESV

By Grace, through faith in Christ, we may live free from all hopeless attempts to justify ourselves in God’s eyes; we may live free from all hopeless addiction to sin; and we may live free from all hopeless anxiety and fear. This final brief post on the theme of living under grace also comes from J. I. Packer…

Dr. Packer wrote:Finally, the Christian living under grace is free from bondage to fear (Romans 8:15 ff.; cf. 1 John 4:17 f.) – fear, that is, of the unknown future, or of meeting God (as one day we all must do), or of being destroyed by hostile forces or horrific experiences of one sort or another. He knows himself to be God’s child, adopted, beloved, secure, with his inheritance awaiting him and eternal joy guaranteed.

“He knows that nothing can separate him from the love of God in Christ, nor dash him from his Saviour’s hand, and that nothing can happen to him which is not for his long-term good, making him more like Jesus and bringing him ultimately closer to his God.

“So when fears flood his soul, as they do the soul of every normal person from time to time, he drives them back by reminding himself of these things, moving to and fro within the sequence of thoughts which the honest, homespun Christian verse of John Newton put (in Newton’s original):

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved; …

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

And how can fear stand in the face of that?”

From J. I. Packer in God’s Words.

Why not sin?

God's Words
As well as being freed from the (hopeless) task of making ourselves acceptable to God, we Christians, living now, in Christ, not under the Law but ‘under Grace’ find that we are freed also from the ‘dominion’ of sin. ‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.’ Romans 6:14f. This second of three brief posts on the theme of living under grace also comes from J. I. Packer…

J. I. Packer wrote: “Paul succinctly spells this out in Romans 6:1- 8:14 arranging his thoughts as an answer to the question, ‘why should not those who are justified by faith cause grace to abound (pardoning grace, that is) by going on sinning as before?’

“Paul’s reply, in brief, is: not only is righteousness (law-keeping) both possible and prescribed for Christians, but it is also a fact that no Christian can go on sinning as before, for union with Christ has changed his nature so that now his heart (his inner man) desires righteousness as before it desired sin, and only obedience to God can satisfy his deepest inner craving.

“(A Christian) hates the sin that he finds in himself, and gets no pleasure from lapsing into it. Such is the state of mind of the man who is freed from sin’s dominion; he loves holiness because he loves his Saviour-God, and would not contemplate reverting to the days when, as sin’s slave, he loved neither. He knows that his freedom has ennobled him and brought him both the desire and the strength for right living, and for this he is endlessly thankful.”

From J. I. Packer in God’s Words.

‘Every-day’ Grace?

God's Words

‘For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.’ as Paul wrote in Romans 6:14f. So, what does it mean for us, as Christians, to live, every day, ‘under grace’? This first of three brief posts on the theme of living under grace comes from J. I. Packer…

J. I. Packer wrote: “The life of grace is a life of freedom… the Christian under grace is freed from the hopeless necessity of trying to commend himself to God by perfect law-keeping. Now he lives by being forgiven, and so is free at every point in his life to fail (as inevitably he does in fact, again and again) – and, having failed, to pick himself up where he fell, to seek and find God’s pardon, and to start again.

“Pride, our natural disposition, which is self-protective, self-righteous and vainglorious, will either refuse to admit failure at all or refuse to try again, lest the trauma of failing be repeated; but the humility of the man who lives by being forgiven knows no such inhibitions.

“The Christian’s experience of daily failures, along with his inside knowledge of his own false motives and his tally of shameful memories, make him constantly want to claim for himself Paul’s end-of-life description, ‘the foremost of sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15); daily, however, his shortcomings are forgiven and his joy restored.

“One reason why, as Jesus taught, we must be ready to forgive our fellow-Christians countless times is that our own life with God is a matter of being forgiven countless times, too.”

From J. I. Packer in God’s Words.

A World of Choice?

Jerry Bridges

 

As a boy I would spend hours looking at colorful catalogues of model trains; the engines, carriages, miniature mountains, trees, buildings (and people) that might make up little worlds for me to control. I am sorry to admit that this very ‘worldly’ attitude has not altogether left me yet. What hope is there for someone like me? This final brief post on the theme of worldliness comes from Jerry Bridges.

 

Jerry Bridges wrote: “How then can we deal with our tendencies toward worldliness? It is not by determining that we will not be worldly but by committing ourselves to becoming more godly. We need to grow in our relationship with Him and begin to view all aspects of life through the lens of His glory. In the nineteenth century, a Scottish minister, Thomas Chalmers, preached a sermon called, ‘The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.’ That’s what we need to combat our worldliness. We need an increased affection for God that will expel from our hearts our affections for the things of this world.”
From Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins – Confronting the Sins We Tolerate.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.   Colossians 3:1-2 ESV