Five Points Blog

How Big is our Need for God?

It isn’t hard to feel guilty before God. Most people, even unbelievers, will agree that they have done bad things. God has a right to be angry with us and we are in the doghouse.

While that is true, it doesn’t even come close to our deepest need. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins…even when we were dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1, 5). One great preacher said, “With God we’re not just in the doghouse, we’re in the morgue!”

We dare not think that our spiritual deadness excuses our sinful deeds, as if our bad deeds were somehow not our fault or we can’t help doing them. Jesus teaches that our inner deadness makes our bad acts more blameworthy, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28). The depth of our inability to fulfill God’s commands stems from the depth of our hatred of God’s commands. We can’t please God because we don’t want to please God.

We need a new heart. That’s what happens when we are saved. Paul writes, “[God] made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:5). When God breaks into our sin-loving deadness, he makes us alive by giving us new values. Now we treasure him and his ways and we despise what we once loved—sin, hypocrisy and rebellion.

Has this new birth happened in your life? If so, rejoice. If not, cry out to God swiftly and intensely. This new birth from death to life is both your biggest need before God and your greatest need of him.

Live Like a Narnian

What would it look like if we read the Chronicles not to go on a snipe hunt for every Christian allusion but rather as stories, being immersed in the imagery, the smells, and the tastes of this other world? How might such stories shape us such that when we retreat back into our world, we do so changed?

In the introduction to Live Like a Narnian, Rigney quotes Lewis’ conception of the benefit of writing fairy tales like the Chronicles. Lewis understood such stories to be able to have an impact on a life that could perhaps be greater at times than that of non-fiction prose. Lewis writes:

I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which paralyzed much of my own religion since childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But suppose casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past the watchful dragons? I thought one could.

Rigney goes on to explain how this shifts the way in which we read and understand the Chronicles:

This paragraph [quoted above] can give us great insight in how we ought to read the Narnian stories. We ought not begin by trying to identify every Christian correspondence or layer of meaning. We must not short-circuit the shaping process. Instead (and this is especially important when introducing children to the stories) we ought to first immerse ourselves in the stories as stories. We must learn to trek across the Narnian countryside, swim in the Narnian seas, distinguish Calormenes from Archenlanders, and navigate the etiquette of centaurs (it’s a very serious thing to invite a centaur to dinner; they have two stomachs after all). Indeed, we must learn to breath Narnian air, a metaphor that Lewis uses elsewhere to describe what it means to come to know God. Then, having learned our Narnian stars and feasted at Cair Paravel—in other words, once we’ve stolen past the watchful dragons—we can then turn our attention to the deeper, Christian layers of meaning, the textures of the story that have bubbled up from Lewis’s mind. 

Indeed, as Aslan says to Lucy on one occasion, “This was the very reason you were brought into Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you might know me better there.”

I hope you join us on this voyage as we learn to live like Narnians so that we might walk in this world in the image of the Great Lion and High King Above All Kings.

Join us for part one of “A Voyage into Narnia” with Dr. Michael Ward, author of The Narnia Code, on Wednesday, May 28, at 7pm and for part two with Joe Rigney, author of Live Like a Narnian, on Saturday, May 31, at 9am. Nursery and refreshments will be provided. Register for free tickets here.

Christ Fills All By You

It may surprise us to find that we, the blood-bought Church of Jesus Christ, are called “the fullness of him who fills all in all” in Ephesians 1:23. Christ is so united with his beloved people, his world-wide body of Christ, that by this society of believers, the living Christ fills all things. The continents of the world will never be filled with Christ apart from joyfully obedient believers going there.

Christ fills all in all. Christ means to be the centerpiece of all he has made. He fills every sphere, every dimension, every place of created reality with as much of himself as he deems wise. Jesus Christ fills all things with the exertion of his kingly rule in the lives of real believers bowing before his throne. Christ’s mighty power will be experienced by every person in every place as he deems wise.

What stuns the careful reader of Ephesians 1:23 is that this fullness and authority will be applied by Christ’s beloved body, the Church. He is a king over a wide dominion with many rebellious territories. In his authority he could trounce every rebellious corner of his kingdom. But he does not. In patience and mercy he extends overtures of reconciliation to his disloyal subjects. In his wisdom he sends forth ambassadors, emissaries, and heralds to proclaim his royal offer of amnesty. That is the gospel of the kingdom.

Christ’s body is the fullness by which he fills all things. Those breathtaking words signal the high and holy role for redeemed sinners like us to play in God’s global plan! What power and grace we need from him to obey him. 

O reigning Christ, supply what you command!

Join us this Sunday for Bible Study Hour at 9:30am and for our morning worship service at 10:45am as we revel in the fullness of Christ.

Narnia—What’s It All About?

As we draw closer to the “Voyage into Narnia” seminars (May 28 & 31), it may be advisable to give a brief highlight of the upcoming topics. The Chronicles of Narnia may have been written for children, but they are anything but simplistic surface stories.

The tales’ underlying theme is the battle of disputed sovereignty. It is the battle of rebellion against God. Lewis commented about his hope for the Chronicles, “I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood.” Lewis was hoping that the imaginary world could strip away the impersonal sterility of typical church education and make the truths of God appear, for the first time, in their real potency. To accomplish this, Lewis drew from the medieval worldview of God-centered cosmology, which he knew so well, being a professor of medieval literature at Oxford.

In his book, Planet Narnia, Dr. Michael Ward demonstrates that Lewis wove the characteristic traits of one of the seven planets of medieval cosmology into each Narnia story. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe embodies the jovial, festive, and kindly spirit of Jupiter; Price Caspian includes the warlike character of Mars; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader moves always toward the golden shining Sun; The Silver Chair, with the moon whose metal is silver; The Horse and His Boy is ruled by the shifting metal of Mercury; The Magician’s Nephew, all about creative love is governed by Venus; and The Last Battle is presided over by Father Time, the image of ancient Saturn. Thus, Dr. Ward has revealed to us the deep structure of the Narnia tales, which once again, reinforces the theme of sovereignty.

For children, the Chronicles of Narnia are enjoyable fairytales. For adults, they are much more. When our children spend time reading well-written stories embedded with Christian virtue, layered with themes of sovereignty, written by a Christian Oxford scholar, we can rest easy. There are so many quality books available to us today—let’s steer clear of the shallow and dive deep into the creative genius of Lewis.

Join us for an event that will help you understand and appreciate more of C. S. Lewis and his world of Narnia. Dr. Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, and The Narnia Code, will be with us on Wednesday, May 28, at 7:00 pm to discuss the imagery of Narnia that C.S. Lewis uses to speak to our souls and draw us God-ward. Stay tuned for a post giving an overview of what Joe Rigney, author of Live Like a Narnian, will speak on at part two of the “Voyage into Narnia” seminars on Saturday, May 31.

Marked by His Power

Imagine the power it took to raise Jesus Christ from the dead. When the Apostle Peter preached in Jerusalem, mere weeks after Christ rose, he said, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24). The grave terrorizes all who reject Jesus Christ. For them, no enemy exists stronger than death. But in Christ, and Christ alone, death was defeated; the grave’s grip could not hold him. It was impossible for the Lord of Life to remain dead.

As mind-stretching as Christ’s resurrection is, it is only the beginning. We who cherish him will join him!

          If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give
          life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11).

  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power (1 Corinthians 6:14).

We will die. And if we die in Christ, we will be raised by the same power that raised him from the dead. This is what Paul means in Ephesians 1:19 when he speaks of, “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”

How does that power exert itself in your life? The main way God’s power works in you is by causing you to be born again. The Apostle Peter explains, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). When you are called by God to his glory, it is his divine power at work in you.

This Lord’s day we will exult in the power of God at work in all who cherish his Son. Pray for such power to be present in both our worship together and your life this day.

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