home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > August > WANTED, NEEDED, WELCOMED, APPRECIATED

A 'Mere Christianity' Mansion with Hallway and roomsIn C.S. (Jack) Lewis’s best-selling book, Mere Christianity, he described Christianity as being like a great house with a large hallway. Off the vast hallway there are many doors. Behind each door there is an even larger area where a set dining table awaits in front of an inviting open fire-place which complements the aroma of the just cooked roast dinner about to be served. Behind each of these doors in the hallway there are similar rooms yet each with their distinctive differences. God calls, Lewis states, each of His children not to linger unnecessarily long in the hallway, but to actively seek the door that they are meant to enter through into the room where they belong. In that particular room is the place where each believer is wanted, needed, welcomed, and appreciated. Lewis wrote-

“In plain language, the question should never be: ‘Do I like that kind of service?’ but ‘Are these doctrines true: Is holiness here? Does my conscience move me towards this? Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular doorkeeper?’ When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still In the hall. If they are wrong they need. your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”, Harper-Collins

Each of these rooms follows what Lewis referred to as “the rules which are common to the whole house” yet each has its particularly ways of worship, leadership, and organisation. The rules which are common to the whole house are the means by which a believer lives a holy, Christ-honouring, God-pleasing life. (Keeping rules, by the way, is not what many mistakenly refer to as legalism — which is the false belief that a person can be saved by keeping rules.)

¶ Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another,
agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Second Corinthians 13:11

Although raised as a nominal Christian in Northern Ireland, when CS Lewis was 9 years old, his mother, Flora, died at the age of 42 of cancer. As a young adult, C.S. Lewis enrolled to serve as a British soldier in WWI and was injured in the Battle of Arras, in France. He was sent back to England and discharged from the army in 1919. By this time after the tragic death of his mother and witnessing the horrors of war, Lewis had become an atheist. After completing his studies at Oxford, he became a Don at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1925. He tutored in philosophy and English and went on to specialise in classical literature. But Lewis was increasingly troubled by his atheism. If atheism was an accurate way of understanding the world, then why was there so much evidence undermining it? Lewis’s understanding of philosophy and language led him to seriously consider the claims of Jesus of Nazareth. Then, in 1929, he announced to his brother, Warnie, that he was now a theist (someone who believed there was a God). It would be some time after this announcement that he professed his conversion to Christianity, describing what happened in his book, Surprised By Joy, “In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God … perhaps the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.” Lewis knew from his understanding of the teachings of Jesus just how integral to living the Christian life it was for a believer to then be committed to a local church. Once someone had accepted the teaching of Christ and His apostles, Lewis reasoned, they were ushered into the hallway of the great house of God’s Kingdom. It was their duty then to knock on the various doors leading off that hallway to find where they were wanted, needed, welcomed, and belonged. 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with
the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the
apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the
whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
Ephesians 2:19-21

Lewis developed a keen awareness of the spiritual realm and the intense spiritual battle that was taking place over every human soul. His later book, The Screwtape Letters, is a masterful insight into how the Enemy tries to hinder people from coming Christ. It is the story of a senior demon, Screwtape, writing to a junior demon, Wormwood, on how to undermine the attempts of their Enemy (God) from snatching a soul out of their grasp. The things these demons feared most was when a non-believer came in contact with a Christian because the light of Christ would shine so brightly through them that their captured soul (the unbeliever) might be enticed and attracted to turn to the Saviour. But worse than this, these demons were terrified when one of their non-believing captives accepted an invitation to go to a believer’s church. For it was the intense presence of Christ in the midst of His gathered redeemed followers that did the most damage to their evil schemes for their deluded captive because when Christ’s church gathered their worship and the attention they gave to God’s Word brought the clearest vision of the Saviour to those gathered. Even if they should lose a previously deluded soul to the ‘Enemy’ (God), Screwtape writes to Wormwood, hope is not lost. Do all you can, Screwtape tells Wormwood, to keep this believer from associating with Christians — especially when they meet as the church! And most of all, do all you can to hinder him from enjoying the Enemy’s pleasures such as enjoyable walks, good meals, fine company, and even sunshine. What Lewis exposed to millions of readers was just how central the local church was to the great spiritual conquest which God has assigned to the church to defeat the forces of darkness by leading a soul to Christ. This was, the apostle Paul earlier wrote, God’s “manifold wisdom” to “the rulers and authorities in the spiritual realm” (Eph. 3:10).  

So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might
now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 3:10

It is still the Enemy’s strategy to keep Christ’s followers from gathering together. And little wonder! The Enemy of God and His Church knows full well that there is great damage done to the forces of darkness when God’s people assemble to worship Christ, be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit, and give attention to the life-giving Word of Christ. The Enemy will use condemnation, trickery, deceit, delusion, lies, and offence from keeping a child of God from being washed, strengthened, and renewed by Spirit led worship, Spirit anointed ministry, and Spirit inspired preaching of God’s Word.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

God has chosen in His wisdom to entrust the penultimate conquest of evil in the world to His Church. It seems that God loves to work with others in community. He is, after all, the Triune God. He has always worked in community. When He created the heavenly creatures in their various ranks, Archangels, Seraphim, Cherubim, Messengers, Watchers, Recorders, Guardians, they formed His heavenly family with whom He chose to rule. But when He created mankind, He created unique beings who bore His image and uniquely reflected His glory. God would be their father, and they would be His children. But then they rebelled against their Heavenly Father. As impossible and hopeless as it looked, God had a plan to redeem and rescue mankind through the ministry of His eternal Son becoming one of us who was then uniquely able to atone for our sins since He was now both God and Man. It was through Christ that God’s plan to rule the world with His children was re-instigated. A major part of this plan was for the church to learn that we are better together. This is why God places believers together whom He desires to cooperate with each other and pool their gifts, talents, and efforts to enact Christ’s triumph over evil. This is done every time a soul is rescued from the Enemy’s domain of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of Christ.   

Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance
of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and
transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:12-14

This is why God has designed for every believer to be wanted, needed, welcomed, and appreciated in a local church — and why our Enemy does all he can to keep us from realising this. It’s also why every local church would do all they could to ensure that behind their door off the hallway every visitor would discover that they are wanted, needed, welcomed, and appreciated as a new member of their new church family, where, as C.S. Lewis said, they will find true doctrines, the means of holiness, the antidote to pride, and an opportunity to become who God has created them to be. This is why you are wanted, needed, welcomed, and appreciated by your church!     

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God
was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses
against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
Second Corinthians 5:18-19

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

4 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    Many years ago I bought that book, the Screwtape Letters and was planning to read it but left it on the plane as I disembarked. Then I bought another copy and that disappeared! Here on this island of Tasmania I found one in an op shop! Well I had it made, but then I discovered Youtube had an audio version so I listened to that instead. Never truer words spoken. I enjoyed the ‘reading’ of Screwtape and Wormwood, how they thought to try this tactic or that one, distract and confuse the person, ANYTHING to keep a person from going to church, to wanting to put God first in their lives and serving Him within their Church Family. Anything to ruffle feathers or put obstacles in the way, or putting spanners in the works… anything to undermine God’s purposes! His book is so cleverly written that you can just see it all happening before your eyes… It’s an excellent example of what it means to belong to the Lord, what it will cost you, the results of this choice. True surrender and from that results fruitfulness. Thank you Andrew, I really appreciated reading your Pastor’s Desk spiel just now. It woke me up to the true realities once again.

    Reply
  2. Michael Sladden

    Thanks Pastor Andrew, an excellent epistle. Never ceases to amaze me how the lies of the enemy can be so subtle and so close to the truth. Amongst other things, our Church family helps us to be on guard. Blessings, Brother Mike

    Reply
  3. Gordie

    Fascinating. After reading Out of the Silent Planet and Perilandria in my teens I thought C S Lewis was “just” a science fiction author. I’ll now rediscover his works in a new light. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Alan

    Excellent teaching, Andrew, and reinforces what Tony shared yesterday about things that decrease our “spiritual efficiency”.

    Reply

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.