Thoughts on God, Faith and Transformation: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader part 3


In this final part I will discuss a third theme that stood out for me when looking at “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” and reflecting on my own life: transformation.

You can read the previous parts here part 1 >>> and part 2 >>>

Transformation

If there is anything I can relate to personally, I guess it must have been the transformation of Eustace, first from a self-righteous little boy into the dragon he actually was and than back into a boy but a different one. The past forty five years I have lived a life turned away from God, thinking that secular humanism was the answer, that we did not need God if he existed at all. Very much like Eustace I guess I had turned into a dragon, that wanted to change for the better but no matter how hard I tried I just could not seem to “undragon” myself. Running around in circles, trying out the different self-help motivational stuff that market is bombarded with, looking at all the different belief systems, the new age thing to at least fill up the spiritual gap. All to no avail. I have had to learned the hard way what “The Secret” is. It has nothing to do with all the new agey stuff that is being presented in this best seller. THE SECRET IS THAT GOD WORKS FROM THE INSIDE OUT while all the self help stuff is based on the concept of from the outside in.  I guess very much like Eustace, the change comes when you first learn to see who you really are and believe me you do when God’s at work in you. And I guess that with my conversion the process of “undragoning” really started.

The boy that resulted from the undragoning by Aslan was different, yes it was Eustace again but a different Eustace. When asked what it was like Eustace describes the pain “but is was a good sort of pain.” Again I can relate to that, it hurts when you see yourself as who you really were and if you have to give up the  things that were so typical for your life. And that is what happened when I handed over the wheel to Jesus, when God and God’s became center of my life and focus.

In Matthew 6 we find the Lord’s Prayer:

 

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us the wrong we have done
as we forgive those who wrong us.
Subject us not to the trial
but deliver us from the evil one.

 

Now there are different translations of this prayer but why I am putting it out here is for that one sentence that keeps on going through my head: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Transformation so it appears to me now comes from the peace that comes from the freedom that is associated with a life in Christ and Christ in you. It is in doing His will, instead of your own that we find this true freedom. And Jesus was of course the best illustration of this truth.

If we look at Jesus, we see total freedom but at the same time in total dependence not of his own strength but of his Father. Free from sin, could not be tempted, free of death, free of the laws of nature (gravity, death, sickness), able to override nature (calm the storms, heal the sick, raise the dead), yet in all of his life Jesus focus was on his Father and His will and plan.

I have said it on many an occasion I seem to be better at failing to do God’s will than doing it. At the same time so it seems, the chance of heart we know as repentance does set in motion substantial change and while I regularly fail, I seem to be getting better at not failing. In the book “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” we read how after the undragoning, Eustace was different and although there were relapses, A PROCESS OF HEALING WAS STARTED.

Sometimes I think salvation is not just about being forgiven for our sins but most of all about being saved from the illusion of sin: beginning to see past the self-centered and destructive pleasure and recognizing things for what they really are and what the real price is. Temptation does not tell you what the costs are, it just tells you about the benefits. Through God, we are learning to see and resist.

We are not left to our own devices: God left us a Holy Spirit to guide us through it all just like Lucy here in the picture above. He will show us what it is we are really doing. He loves us enough to not let us live out our mistakes.

In “Mere Christianity” Christianity C.S. Lewis presents God’s radical invitation to each of us:

“Make no mistake. If you let me I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in my hand, that is what you are in for, nothing less or other than that. You have free will and if you choose you can push me away. But if you do not push me away, understand that I am going to see this job through.

It is with this in mind that I understand Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians:

16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

We are full circle in that through Aslan we are presented a highly balanced image of Jesus as being NOT SAFE BUT GOOD. It takes faith to embark on the journey, and it is through faith that we persevere in what He set out for us. It becomes all about His plan and will for us as opposed to our plans and will for Him. In all this I find that we are not just saved but actually taken by the hand to be transformed to become no longer the person we want to be (whether or not for God) but the person He wants us to be. Praise God for making His changes.

 

C. S. Lewis Bible to be Released


Friday, September 17, 2010

C. S. Lewis Bible to be Released

The first Bible pairing Lewis’ spiritual writings with corresponding Bible passages

By Jeremy Reynalds

Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (ANS) — The C.S. Lewis Bible is slated to be released in Oct. 2010.

C.S. Lewis

A news release from the publishers said the Lewis Bible offers one of the most respected Christian thinkers as a companion to a reader’s reflection and study of scripture.

The news release said Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century, and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University. That was a position he held until his retirement.

Lewis’ contributions in literary criticism, children’s literature, fantasy literature, and popular theology brought him international acclaim. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience. His works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year.

“The C.S. Lewis Bible offers a unique way for readers to reflect upon important Biblical passages,” said Mark Tauber, senior vice president of Harper One, publisher of the C.S. Lewis Bible, speaking in a news release.

He added, “By pairing Lewis’ writing with scripture, this Bible offers readers the opportunity to gain fresh insight into Lewis’s writings, his own spiritual journey, and to the scriptures themselves.”

Rea the rest of the article via C. S. Lewis Bible to be Released.

Nicodemus meets Jesus: Some Thoughts of a Chaotic Mind


Without a doubt this is one of the stories (probably together with doubting Thomas) that really appealed to me.

Jesus Teaches Nicodemus

1Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”3In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.[a]

4“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”

5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[e]

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.[g]

Footnotes:

  1. John 3:3 Or born from above; also in verse 7
  2. John 3:6 Or but spirit
  3. John 3:7 The Greek is plural.
  4. John 3:13 Some manuscripts Man, who is in heaven
  5. John 3:15 Or believes may have eternal life in him
  6. John 3:16 Or his only begotten Son
  7. John 3:18 Or God’s only begotten Son

Some further thoughts

Now I know that this story has been used probably a thousand times in many different sermons and commentaries. The emphasis seems to be on the rebirth part (v 5-7) and to illustrate the love of God (v 16) as well as your belief so as gain eternal life and if you do not believe in him you stand condemned (v18).


Inadequate Faith?

For me the appealing part of this story is about something else: daring to question your own beliefs. Here’s a guy, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish Ruling Council, “at night” meeting Jesus; the enemy, the leader of the opposite camp. And not only that, he actually acknowledges that Jesu is a teacher “who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs that he is (“you”) are doing if God is not with him.”

No it may be a small word but Nicodemus does not say “I know you are a great teacher” but “we” know. I can’t help but being curious about whom the “we” is he is speaking about. Was he speaking on behalf of a number of Pharisees that have already confessed their faith in Jesus?

From Acts 15:5 we learn that there were believers who belonged to the party of Pharisees.  Or was he maybe referring to a larger group? And what did John try to tell us here in these first verses? Personally, this story reminds me of my own post about the story of Doubting Thomas. From what I have been gathering so far especially it seems from reading John, is that the statement of Nicodemus is actually a statement of faith in the wrong way. Throughout John we read about miracles but it seems that that is not what it is all about as such. Faith based on the miracles is immature, inadequate. In the story of doubting Thomas Jesus advises that (John 20:29):

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Jesus =God

The miracles it seems according to the Gospel of John are a way to point to Jesus, however the story of Nicodemus and others in John appear to be pointing towards a belief, a faith that goes beyond that which is evidence based: faith based on the miracles. It seems significant that John does not speak of miracles, but of “signs.” Whilst Nicodemus recognizes Jesus as a teacher and a whom is with God, that is not how John portrays Jesus, Jesus is much more:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1)
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

He is the Word who was in the beginning with God and was God and who became flesh and lived among us. That is ‘slightly’ more than just a great teacher, a Rabbi. God was also with Moses and with Jeremiah and other prophets, but from John we learn that Jesus an God are one (John 10:38 “the father is in me and I am in the father”, also John 14: 10).

I and the Father are one (John 10:30)

A Story of Humility

For me however this story is all about daring to challenge one’s own beliefs. Daring to admit that you may have been wrong on what you believed to be right all the time. Don’t get me wrong, in essence, Jesus’ teachings were the crisis for the Pharisees, as Jesus outlines as far as I understand it that all the the religion and rituals in the world, all the works you may have been doing and perhaps are still doing can not make up or compensate for the the relation. It is in this understanding that I can imagine how indeed the law becomes a promise.

But I am wandering off again. Just imagine how courageous it was of Nicodemus to do just that, challenging everything he stood for and ultimately admitting to have been wrong. This is what appeals to me, and that is perhaps because it is so recognizable for me personally. How many of you out there are ready and wiling to admit that you may have been wrong at times. I know that many will have trouble doing so for just marginal little things let alone as in the case of Nicodemus where it concerns everything you are supposed to stand for, everything you believed, no know to be true, everything he lived for. And while Nicodemus may not be a prominent figure in the New Testament, I think he only appears in John, from his subsequent actions it could be inferred that he did indeed admit he was wrong. In that sense, the story of Nicodemus is also a story of humility.

Religion, Relation and the Worldview Test

In my testimony,  spoke about the difference between religion and relation and it seems that this subject (at least with me) keeps on popping up. Perhaps it is because I have taken so much time to build my ultimate case against religion. I started the testimony with this CS Lewis quote:

“THE MOMENT A MAN SERIOUSLY ACCEPTS A DEITY, HIS INTEREST IN RELIGION IS AT AN END. HE’S GOT SOMETHING ELSE TO THINK ABOUT.” (CS LEWIS)

I guess the thrust of my testimony and subsequent experiences have been that indeed it is in the relationship that you’ll find that the becomes a promise. Lewis may have meant something different but for me this speaks like it does. In daily practice this meant for me that it is not about doing things right, but about accepting what God has already done for you, following him with all your heart an soul and lives and guess what? Many of the things  once called “religious”, the “law” indeed becomes a promise because the Holy Spirit will guide you there: love, kindness, self control (although that may be the hardest part for this night owl),  or let me say where the Holy Spirit leads me. Who am I to talk for anyone else? What I have learned is that in the end it is not in the doing good that a relationship is allowed (old covenants) but in the relationship.It simply isn’t about you (me) but about what God has in mind for you, and how better to find than by being in constant communication.

Rick Warren in his TED talk about his bestseller “A Purpose Driven Life” says that the ultimate test of your worldview is how you act on and I would add just before you die, and not in the good times.

You could ask yourself: why should I be admitted in heaven? And many will tell you:

I always lived a good life

I always tied to follow the law or ten commandments

I always did what the church said  should do.

In a way, I think most of us can relate to these answers to some extent. But in the same way this is actually the answer you might expect from a Pharisee. And in the end is this really what it is about?I bring back the final verses of the Nicodemus story:

16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

Later in John we read:

47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. (John 6:47)

and in John 14: 6 we read:

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

In another way this is beautifully filmed in the movie “The Gospel” I will share this youtube clip with you if only because it is probably one of my favorite worship songs. The important part of the clip is this conversation between a pastor and his intended successor about the involvement of the pastors ‘lost’ son and secular artist in the upcoming service with the music. Here’s the quote that for me relates back to Nicodemus as a Pharisee, and to the worldview question of Rick Warren. The pastor says:

I am of the mindset that we should spend a little less time looking good and a little more time actually being good.”

Do stick around after the quote for the great performance and try to not be touched by it.

Finally

As said in my testimony, I am still trying to get to grips wit the magnitude of all this and at the same time simplicity seems to be the answer here. There was a lot of doing good without necessarily being good. And where this relates to church practices. Please do not start judging straight away as this is not how meant this: there is no perfect church, there is however a perfect God.

And the Wordle of this post to close off.

I’ be keen to see your comments and ready to learn.  What is your worldview?

What is your answer to the question why you should be in heaven?

What have I missed!?!

In the words of Jay Deragon:

WHAT SAY YOU?

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