Prayer Is a Conversation

By    •   June 30, 2019

Prayer is a two-way conversation; it is our talking to God, and His talking to us. As a Christian, you have a heavenly Father who hears and answers prayer. Jesus said, “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Every man or woman whose life has counted for the church and the Kingdom of God has been a person of prayer. You cannot afford to be too busy to pray. A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian. Jesus Christ spent many hours in prayer. Sometimes He spent the night on a mountaintop in solitary communion with God the Father. If He felt that He had to pray, how much more do we need to pray!

Wondering how to pray? Or why God isn’t answering? Read Prayer 101.

Prayer for the day

There is an inexpressible joy as I come to You in prayer, my heavenly Father.

The Weight of Glory

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C.S. Lewis emerged as a twentieth-century icon in the world of Christian literature. His prodigious work combining acute intellectual reasoning with unparalleled creative imagination made him a popular figure not only in the Christian world but in the secular world as well. The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy, though rife with dramatic Christian symbolism, were devoured by those who had no interest in Christianity at all, but were enjoyed for the sheer force of the drama of the stories themselves. An expert in English literature, C.S. Lewis functioned also as a Christian intellectual. He had a passion to reach out to the intellectual world of his day in behalf of Christianity. Through his own personal struggles with doubt and pain, he was able to hammer out a solid intellectual foundation for his own faith. C.S. Lewis had no interest in a mystical leap of faith devoid of rational scrutiny. He abhorred those who would leave their minds in the parking lot when they went into church. He was convinced that Christianity was at heart rational and defensible with sound argumentation. His work showed a marriage of art and science, a marriage of reason and creative imagination that was unparalleled. His gift of creative writing was matched by few of his twentieth-century contemporaries. His was indeed a literary genius in which he was able to express profound Christian truth through art, in a manner similar to that conveyed by Bach in his music and Rembrandt in his painting. Even today his introductory book on the Christian faith — Mere Christianity — remains a perennial best seller.

We have to note that although a literary expert, C.S. Lewis remained a layman theologically speaking. Indeed, he was a well-read and studied layman, but he did not benefit from the skills of technical training in theology. Some of his theological musings will indicate a certain lack of technical understanding, for which he may certainly be excused. His book Mere Christianity has been the single most important volume of popular apologetics that the Christian world witnessed in the twentieth century. Again, in his incomparable style, Lewis was able to get to the nitty-gritty of the core essentials of the Christian faith without distorting them into simplistic categories.

His reasoning, though strong, was not always technically sound. For example, in his defense of the resurrection, he used an argument that has impressed many despite its invalidity. He follows an age-old argument that the truth claims of the writers of the New Testament concerning the resurrection of Jesus are verified by their willingness to die for the truths that they espoused. And the question is asked: Which is easier to believe — that these men created a false myth and then died for that falsehood or that Jesus really returned from the grave? On the surface, the answer to that question is easy. It is far easier to believe that men would be deluded into a falsehood, in which they really believed, and be willing to give their lives for it, than to believe that somebody actually came back from the dead. There has to be other reasons to support the truth claim of the resurrection other than that people were willing to die for it. One might look at the violence in the Middle East and see 50,000 people so persuaded of the truths of Islam that they are willing to sacrifice themselves as human suicide bombs. History is replete with the examples of deluded people who have died for their delusions. History is not filled with examples of resurrections. However, despite the weakness of that particular argument, Lewis nevertheless made a great impact on people who were involved in their initial explorations of the truth claims of Christianity.

To this day, people who won’t read a Bible or won’t read other Christian literature will pick up Mere Christianity and find themselves engaged by the acute mental processes of C.S. Lewis. The church owes an enormous debt to this man for his unwillingness to capitulate to the irrationalism that marked so much of Christian thought in the twentieth century — irrationalism that produced what many describe as a “mindless Christianity.”

The Christianity of C.S. Lewis is a mindful Christianity where there is a marvelous union between head and heart. Lewis was a man of profound sensitivity to the pain of human beings. He himself experienced the crucible of sanctification through personal pain and anguish. It was from such experiences that his sensitivity developed and his ability to communicate it sharply honed. To be creative is the mark of profundity. To be creative without distortion is rare indeed, and yet in the stories that C.S. Lewis spun, the powers of creativity reached levels that were rarely reached before or since. Aslan, the lion in The Chronicles of Narnia, so captures the character and personality of Jesus; it is nothing short of amazing. Every generation, I believe, will continue to benefit from the insights put on paper by this amazing personality.

 

Faith Alone

“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” (v. 16).

 Galatians 2:15-16

In 1 Timothy, Paul often calls us to hold fast to “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness” (6:3). He is referring to the gospel, which can be summarized in the five solas of the Reformation: sola fidesola gratiasolus Christussola Scriptura, and soli Deo gloria. This week we will survey these truths using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series God Alone.

Sola fide, that is, faith alone, is familiar to us from our study of Galatians and is a key difference between Roman Catholic and Protestant theology. Faith alone is tied to the doctrine of justification, which answers the question: How can a sinful human being be set right before the holy God? Our Creator is perfectly righteous and only those with clean hands and pure hearts may stand in His holy place (Ps. 24:3–4), but we are polluted by sin and something must change if we are to live in his presence forever, not under eternal condemnation.

Contrary to what many Protestants think, Roman Catholicism affirms that we are justified or accounted as right before the Lord by faith in Christ and that no one is saved apart from Him. However, Roman Catholic theologians deny that faith is sufficient for justification. Instead, good works of obedience must be added to faith in order for God to declare us righteous. Justification comes first through the sacraments — justifying grace is poured into the soul at baptism, lost through mortal sin, and restored through confession and works of penance. Rome argues works cooperate with grace to make us righteous, and we are justified only if we have actually become righteous through our faith and works.

The Protestant (and biblical) doctrine of justification also affirms the necessity of faith, grace, and Christ, but it adds the important term alone. No one keeps God’s law perfectly and our good works are “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6KJV); therefore, our works can in no way be the ground of our acceptance before God. Only the merit of Christ can set us right with God, and we access this merit by trusting in Christ alone. God does not wait for us to become righteous before He justifies us, otherwise we would never be justified. While still sinners He counts us as righteous in His sight through faith apart from any good we do.

Coram Deo

The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is the ultimate basis for our justification, a teaching we will explore in a few days. Today what we must remember is that good works do not set us right before God, although they do prove that He has declared us righteous in Christ (James 2:14–26). If we have to trust in our works at all, even if only a little bit, we can never be assured of our justification. None of us can do enough good to stand in God’s presence.