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 a moody church.
¶ Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
There are three things essential for any Christian to have in their spiritual foundation with Christ as their cornerstone <(Acts 4:11; Eph. 2:20). Firstly, a devotion to know, understand, and apply God’s Word. Secondly, a devotion to prayer – to know, obey, and love God. Thirdly, a devotion to a Christ-centred, Spirit-filled, Word-based, church. The enemy of our soul continually seeks to undermine each of these foundational sources of our spiritual strength. This undermining is nearly always done subtly and barely without the believer even noticing what is happening.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.
First Peter 5:8-9a
THE ROLE OF FAITH FOR A CHRISTIAN
The Apostle Peter told the young Christians of Bithynia to “stand firm in your faith” (1Pet. 5:9a). Some critics of Christianity assert that faith is “believing things that are not true.” You either have facts or you must have faith, they claim. But this is not true. Faith, including the Christian faith, is not mere wishful or fanciful thinking. As if J.M. Barry’s famous line from Peter Pan – “I do believe in fairies” – could ever make the existence of fairies reasonable.
Faith is always grounded in reasonable evidence. Faith is trusting that evidence. Life is therefore not possible without faith. We have faith that the road we have driven over hundreds of times – or on the road we have never driven over but others have driven over hundreds of times – will not collapse under us as we drive over it. We have faith that when we sit on our favourite chair it will hold us. This functional faith is grounded in good reasons and so is Christian faith.
The Apostle Paul described Christian faith as being based on facts and good evidence – particularly for the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ. If Christ was not raised from the dead then there is no salvation from sin for anyone. If this was the case, then life itself would be meaningless (“vain”). This is how he stated it:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
First Corinthians 15:13-17
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, that if someone was not persuaded by the evidence for Christ and His resurrection, then they should not accept Christianity:
“Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in.”
Mere Christianity 2017 (1942), pg. 140
Perhaps surprisingly, C.S. Lewis states that even the person who has become convinced by the evidence for the truthfulness of the Christian message is still susceptible to fall away if something separates them from the three essential faith-sustainers. You would be forgiven for thinking that he is referring to the devil. After all, Lewis was very aware of the devil and his schemes to undermine the believer’s faith because he wrote a book about it, The Screwtape Letters. But he is not talking about the devil’s direct attacks as the most dangerous peril to be faced. Rather, Lewis describes our moods as our greatest peril to being established and flourishing in our faith in Christ.
But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true.
Lewis was not dismissing the inevitable doubts that creep into a believer’s mind. He wrote, “Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments when a mere mood rises up against it ” (140). He goes on to say that the way to tame our moods so that the enemy can not exploit them, is to tame them by disciplining them in the three essentials for the Christian journey: God’s Word, godly praying, and commitment to God’s House.
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes…That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.
This is why a commitment to attending church is essential for maintaining a vibrant faith in Christ. Is it necessary for a Christian to attend church? When we understand just how influential our moods are to our walk with Christ, we might phrase this question differently. How does neglecting church effect our mood to continue in the three essentials for Christian growth? Lewis states:
“The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life.”
For any church to grow and be healthy, it needs members who have learned to tame their moods, which Lewis describes as telling them “where to get off”! He states in very straightforward language why the believer needs to tell their mood to get used to the idea that they would now be going to church, rain, hail, or shine. “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed” (141).
A MOODY CHURCH
A church is comprised of those believers who have tamed their moods to delight in the things that Christ says are good for their souls. It is in the regular devotion to God’s Word that we are reminded of the truth. It is in regular devotion to praying that we are reminded of God’s presence. It is in regular devotion to church that we, encouraged by our worship, the ordinances of communion and baptism, and the ministry of God’s preached word that we are taught and encouraged in our understanding of and walk with Christ. This is what I mean by building a moody church. (And I apologise to all my brothers and sisters in Chicago who already attend “Moody Church” in honour of the great evangelist D.L. Moody.)
¶ Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
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