Thursday, March 12, 2020

On Living in the Age of Corona Virus

C.S. Lewis perhaps can help us a bit to navigate this moment of “health crisis.” In reading what he wrote below in 1948 (from On Living in an Atomic Age), substitute “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus.” It seems this is how we should be known, not only during this crisis, but through our everyday lives. 

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. "How are we to live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to reply: "Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents."

“In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors - anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.”

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things - praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts - not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Danger of Mixing Faith and Works

“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” - Galatians 2:16
If you mix faith and works, if you say, “Yes, I have to have faith in what Jesus has done for me, but I also have to add this or this or this, or I’m not saved,” then you’re saying that what actually saves you is not what Jesus has done, but what you add. It makes you your own savior. 

This illustration might help. Mr. A asked Mr. B to make him a wooden cabinet because Mr. B was a great cabinetmaker. Mr. B and Mr. A were friends, and therefore Mr. B said, “Well, I better make this really good . . . perfect.” So he worked and worked and worked on the cabinet till he got it to the place where it had been buffed and polished to perfection. He brought Mr. A into the workshop to see it, and Mr. A picked up a piece of sandpaper and said, “Let me just add one little stroke.” Mr. B said, “No! It is finished. It’s perfect. And there’s no way to add to it without subtracting from it.” 

It’s the same with Jesus Christ’s work. Because when Jesus died, he said, “It is finished.” There is nothing else to add to it. It’s perfect. And if you add to it, you subtract from it. If you say, “He did this but I have to add this,” anything you add becomes the real basis of your salvation and makes you your own savior. 

The Protestant Reformers made strong biblical arguments that you cannot mix faith and works, that justification and righteousness and salvation must be through faith alone. I won’t make any more of those arguments; I’ll just say this: Personally, I couldn’t live if that wasn’t the case. I don’t have any hope unless I can get up every day and stand on the bedrock knowledge that: 

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

That’s my only hope. 

[by Tim Keller - The New City Catechism]

One and Only God, keep us from trusting in good works or living in such a way that we imply they are the grounds of our salvation. Let us glorify your grace by leaning our whole weight upon it, staking our lives on the promise that you are the beginning and the end of our salvation. Amen.