Saturday, December 09, 2006

the power of Jesus

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life - only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. - John 10vv17-18.

One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today." -
Luke 5vv17-26

In thinking about these passages, and about other ones like the raising of Lazarus from the dead, I can't help thinking about my own response to the power of Christ. If Christ can raise dead men and cure paralytics and rise from the dead himself - how then can I question my own saved-ness? (Okay, so that's not a word!) So often I find myself doing or thinking something disgusting and wrong and I can't see how I am possibly allowed to get away with it if I ask for forgiveness. But as Christ said in the second passage quoted above, he has proved his authority, his enormous power to forgive sins, so if he says he has forgiven me, who am I to doubt it?

Not so easy to get into my head sometimes, but it helps me when I really sit down and think about it. Being forgiven goes against almost everything you learn in life in this world. It is sometimes very hard to accept a gift like it; a crucial part of the accepting of the gift is your acknowledgement of your own unworthiness. But I have a feeling if there comes a time when I never doubt my own acceptance into God's family, the power of Christ will be able to flow so much more fully that I could really do some amazing things.

My brother-in-law was telling me once about a girl he was talking to at his work. She said, "I could never be a Christian because I hate all the don't-do-this stuff." He replied (and he thinks that the Holy Spirit really must have been talking through him as he couldn't come up with this sort of stuff on his own) that it's not so much about what you don't do, it's more about what you can do when you have God in your life. I really like that story.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I have been three weeks in a summer English course at uni, on New Zealand Literature. The thing that is starting to annoy me a little (or sometimes a lot) about it is that the lecturer seems to have very strong opinions on the nature of truth and to always read the poetry and prose we read in a way that affirms his ideas. It's like on one hand he's saying, there is no such thing as truth, and a whole lot of external factors influence what we think we see. Truth is relative and unknowable. On the other, the way he says things makes you feel like an anti-intellectual if you don't agree with him. Which cancels out all his ideas to begin with.

In some ways I agree with him. Humans are so blinkered by various things about us; our culture, our time period, our genetic makeup, our experiences, our emotions... We cannot trust ourselves to come up with an absolute and all-encompassing truth.

However, what he refuses to acknowledge, or allow the possibility of, is the existence of a being or beings who could reveal truth to us. This is what Christians believe. Sometimes we are accused of being blinded or hiding away from reality or being brainwashed, because we are prepared to accept some things on authority. It seems to me, however, that people, like my lecturer, who advance opinions like this are blatantly contradicting themselves. To explain: My lecturer says a) that human beings cannot possibly come up with an objective truth; but he also says b) that if we consider accepting truth from someone who can, we are not being reasonable or logical. If it's impossible, how can you discern truth at all except on authority? How can you "logically" come up with an argument against God if you have already admitted yourself incapable of seeing things properly?

I have a very high regard for logic and for reason. I do think, however, that they can only take you so far. No one is objective all the time. At some point, you have to accept someone else's judgement, or lose your mind in a morass of contradictory arguments.

Ahhh, postmodernism. What lengths we could go to in discussing it. But it is time for me to go to bed. Goodnight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

bad words

Here's a quote from Tony Campolo that got me thinking - how compassionate am I really?

"The United Nations reports that over ten thousand people starve to death each day, and most of you don't give a shit. However, what is even more tragic is that most of you are more concerned about the fact that I just said a bad word than you are about the fact that ten thousand people are going to die today."

I am a very idealistic person and I would like to think that I have compassion for the starving and attempt to do practical things to help them.

This really made me think about myself, however, because what stood out for me about the first sentence of this was not that ten thousand people die of starvation every day.

the future

One verse has been sticking in my head the last few weeks:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. - 1 John 3:2

1) We're going to be like him. Hooray! No more fighting, fighting, fighting against myself. No more battling myself to be the person I want to be. When I think about heaven like that I can almost start to catch a glimpse of what it perhaps means, in part, to be there, to feel that my sinful nature has no hold over me anymore, and the fighting is done with.

2) But even more interesting to me is that we are going to be like him, because we will see him as he really is. When I think about this, it makes me wonder... just setting eyes on Christ (figuratively speaking as I have no idea whether we have eyes or not in heaven) is apparently enough to stop us even considering sin ever again. In the past I've sometimes had an experience that has made me think, "Phew. I am never doing that again." But it's never been enough to stop me. The sight of Christ has got to be pretty amazing to make me become like him. The mind boggles. Also, what sort of scales are over my eyes now so that I can't see Jesus as he really is? What's stopping me?


I'm a firm believer in being absolutely honest when it comes to spiritual matters - although I may fall short on my own principle many times. So it embarrasses me to admit it, but sometimes I feel very, very scared about the future. Not just my future on this world, but I start thinking, what if I'm wrong about what happens after death? What if? What if?

Somewhere in Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis talks about this, and what he said helped me a lot. I've just been looking for the quote but can't find it, so I will paraphrase it as best I can: Everyone has moments of panic or disbelief, or a feeling of abandonment. This does not change the fact that you have made a choice and a decision to follow Christ. The moments of disbelief are a matter of moods; but the choice is a choice with a foundation.

In fact, Lewis also writes, in The Screwtape Letters:
Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the most faint and mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. ... He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs - to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. ... He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there, He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks around upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

I find these particular quotes very empowering. They are part of the reason I don't want to tell lies about my spiritual state. Sometimes it can feel, when you are with other Christians, that everyone else is a spiritual giant, in hourly communion with God, while you are a weak miserable little imposter who needs to pretend to be like them. If, however, we are more honest about our feelings, perhaps we will intimidate less people, and be able to personally face up to our feelings, and as Lewis says, still obey.

Besides, the fact that someone like C. S. Lewis, one of the most famous Christians of the twentieth century, felt like this at numerous times makes me feel a lot more relaxed about my own spiritual state.