The Sorrow of Sin; the Happiness of Holiness
Rector’s Letter to the Congregation (Week of January 27, 2019)
January has rolled on. This is the last Sunday of it, the third after Epiphany.
Kudos to all who took the pledge to read their Bible from cover to cover. Keep on keeping on. And plan on starting from the beginning again when you arrive at the end. It is a never-ending endeavor. You will see rewards in your life as you get to comprehend more and more God’s general strategy and plan of action to save our sin infected world.
We are starting the book of Exodus. You saw how Jacob and his entourage was received in Egypt with pomp and fanfare. They were a total of 70 persons of his family members. They were given an exclusive area to live in, in Egypt. That was good because it helped them to protect their distinctiveness and not to intermingle with the Egyptians to corrupt their own ways.
However, whereas the going into Egypt was celebrated with jubilation, escaping a devastating famine in Canaan and going into the land of plenty, the going out could not be affected except by the mighty hand of God. God had to raise his hand against Egypt in way of plagues before the pharaoh of Egypt would let the Israelites leave his country. They were handy cheap labor to work on pharaoh’s building projects to bring fame to Egypt.
That is a great lesson for us. Going into sin can feel sweet to start with. Your mind can tell you that you have at last gotten what you wanted. But I tell you going out of that sinful lifestyle will require gigantic effort which is not worthy putting oneself into. Satan is a liar. He knows how unpleasant your life will become, but for now he shows you a carrot to attract you to your doom.
Do not do it. It will not give you what you want. It’s a lie. It is only a camouflage. The enemy is after you. You will cause nothing but shame to yourself and to the cause of God. You will be disappointed huge in the end, and you could perhaps not be able to erase the consequences. You will make negative history for yourself. Do not destroy your testimony of many years. You will please Satan and cause him to taunt your savior saying, “See the one you died for what he/she is doing, ha ha ha.” You don’t want that. You want instead to shame Satan and make a public statement to him and his fellow rebel angels that you belong to Jesus. Sin never pays in the long run. Holiness is what you, a human being, were created for. And we have the direct command from God, “Be holy as I am holy” Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16. Pursue that which is holy, always, and enjoy it.
This week’s challenge:
The cowardly thing is also the most dangerous thing.
It is like that here. The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.
And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.
That’s why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter, life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussing and fretting; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.
He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, “Be perfect,” He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
From Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (First Touchstone Edition 1996, pages 170- 171)