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The Whole of Christianity is Jesus Christ

One of our elders has a daughter who lives with her family in Las Vegas. Since grandkids are involved, you know where this elder and his wife will be whenever possible. This past week, he sent several of us an email about his use of time in Las Vegas … and it wasn’t at the casinos! He spent time reading one of my favorite books, Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis.


I know I’ve shared recently about The Great Divorce also by C. S. Lewis, and I try not to get stuck on any one author or topic for too long, but Lewis is worth more than one measly blog post. The quote forwarded to me by this particular elder needs a little marinating in the mind. Lewis wrote:


May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is so easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects—education, building, missions, holding services. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects—military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden— that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time. In the same way the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Harper Collins: 1952, 2001, p. 199).


What is the “whole of Christianity”? The apostle Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23a). Later in the same letter, he stated, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (2:2). Going further into Paul’s letter, we read, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (3:11). The whole of Christianity is Jesus Christ: who He is (the Son of God, John 20:31), what He has done (was crucified, buried, and rose again, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4), and why He has done this (to reconcile us to God, Colossians 1:19-20).


So then, what is the “whole of the church”? As Lewis points out, “the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs.” East 91st Street Christian Church, and all churches for that matter, exist to lead people to Jesus Christ, plain and simple. Everything else in the church hinges on that one central claim. Discipleship ministry exists, because we are helping people become “little Christs.” Small group ministry exists, because we are forming into smaller discipleship communities of “little Christs.” Worship ministry exists, because we are gathering together as “little Christs” to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ. Children’s ministry exists, because we are developing little, “little Christs.” And on and on I could go. As Lewis points out, it is very easy for us to get muddled about this and make the church about different objects—“education, building, missions, holding services.”


I encourage you to reflect on your role as a “little Christ.” What are you doing for the advancement of the “whole of Christianity”? What are you doing for the advancement of the “whole of the church,” wherever you call church home? May we all be about the Lord’s work, which is a “work of faith and labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a rewarding work done “in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1:5) and which ultimately leads to joy (1:6).


“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3-5).


And what a partnership it’s turning out to be!

Do your words have weight, or only a tickle?

I ran across a story awhile back about a blind man sitting on the steps of a building with a sign by his feet that read: "I am blind, please help." A creative publicist was walking by the blind man and stopped to observe that the man only had a few coins in his hat. He put a few of his own coins in the hat, and without stopping to ask for permission, took the sign, turned it around, and wrote a new message. He then placed the sign by the feet of the blind man, and left. Later that afternoon the creative publicist returned by the blind man and noticed that his hat was almost completely full of bills and coins. The blind man recognized his footsteps and asked if it was him who had changed his sign. He also wanted to know what the man wrote on it. The publicist replied: "I just changed your message so people could relate to it." He wished the man well, said goodbye, and went on his way. The blind man didn't know it, but his new sign now read:


"TODAY IS SPRING AND I CANNOT SEE IT."


It’s amazing how simple words arranged in coherency according to proper rules of syntax and grammar can move our hearts and draw us to action. Both messages on the blind man’s sign were true, but one created awareness, empathy, and action while the other was blurred by the overstimulation of messages thrust upon those passing by.


Jesus was like that. He was a Master at arranging words in such a way that eternity was thrust into moments of time. He saw what others couldn’t, and He opened the heavens to the eyes of the spiritually blind. He took an act of radical devotion (Mark 14:3-9) and used it as a foreshadowing of His burial. He spoke rigorous words of commitment (Mark 8:34-38) and comforting words of peace (Matthew 11:28-30). He connected historical events to the message of His life (Matthew 12:40), and He used activities common in an agrarian society as expressions of uncommon truth (Luke 8:4-15).


I was at the Indiana Prayer Breakfast a couple of weeks ago and had the opportunity to hear Ravi Zacharias speak. Dr. Zacharias is perhaps the premier Christian apologist of the late 20th-early 21st centuries. I was spellbound when he said, “Eternity's anvil was provided against which the hammers of time must find their meaning.” I mean, who talks that way? The richness, poetry, and imagery take us to newer heights of understanding.


For those of you, like me, who need to read a Ravi Zacharias quote four times before it starts to sink in, don’t despair. The issue is not making the simple complex but the complex simple. The issue is making the bland tasteful and the dark winter give way to the freshness of spring. When you combine the power of words and the power of the Spirit, hearts are opened, the blind see, and the oppressed are set free.


So the next time you’re engaging a friend in a conversation, think how your words, empowered by the Spirit, can bring life, hope, and healing. There’s nothing wrong with talking about sports or the weather, but try to paint a picture with your friend that brings life to a blank or broken canvas.


Remember, the key is not how much knowledge you have in your head but how much of Jesus you have in your heart. Aspire to grow in knowledge, especially wisdom, but not in contrast from a heart yielded to Christ. Jesus quoted from Psalm 8:2 when He said, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matthew 21:16). Solomon wrote, “The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off” (Proverbs 10:31).


As the old adage goes, “Watch your tongue!” But more importantly, “Watch your heart,” “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

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