Persuading Sexual Purity

In the spring of 1955, a teacher in New Zealand (Rhona Bodle) wrote C.S. Lewis. She was now expected to warn students against the dangers of premarital sex, but forbidden to use any religious arguments in the classroom. Is this possible? She asked and Lewis sent his reply 12,000 miles back to her. Here’s what he said [Collected Letters, 3:600]:

It certainly seems very hard that you should be told to arm the young against Venus without calling in Christ. What do they want? I suppose the usual twaddle about bees and orchids (as if approaching a subject by that devious route would make any possible difference either good or bad). And indeed now that contraceptives have removed the most disastrous consequence for girls, and medicine has largely defeated the worst horrors of syphilis, what argument against promiscuity is there left which will influence the young unless one brings in the whole supernatural and sacramental view of man?

Rejoicing in Christ

reevesAs a selection in my list of books of the year in 2014, I chose Michael Reeves’s excellent book, Christ Our Life (Paternoster, UK). That same book was released today in the States under the title Rejoicing in Christ (IVP, US).

I read everything by Reeves, and this book proves again why. It’s loaded with Tweetable statements, pithy, wise, and mature thoughts that will offer you a lifetime of meditation.

Here’s my favorite excerpt:

Anyone can use the word, of course, but without Christ *holiness tends to have all the charm of an ingrown toenail. For, very simply, if holiness is not first and foremost about knowing Christ, it will be about self-produced morality and religiosity. But such incurved self-dependence is quite the opposite of what pleases God, or what is actually beautiful.

God is not interested in our manufactured virtue; he does not want any external obedience or morality if it does not flow from true love for him. He wants us to share his pleasure in his Son. What is the greatest commandment, after all? “Love the Lord your God” (Mt 22:36–37). That is the root of true God-likeness. Nothing is more holy than a heartfelt delight in Christ. Nothing is so powerful to transform lives. (86–87)

Preach Christ or Stop Preaching

spurgeonSteam shot from Charles Spurgeon’s ears at the mention of a preacher who neglected Christ. Christless sermons aggravated the Prince of Preachers as much as anything, and on this topic he produced some choice quotes for the ages.

Here are six of my favorites.

The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching. [Exposition of Acts 13:13-49 (1904)]

Leave Christ out? O my brethren, better leave the pulpit out altogether. If a man can preach one sermon without mentioning Christ’s name in it, it ought to be his last, certainly the last that any Christian ought to go to hear him preach. [Sermon, “A Prayer for the Church” (1867)]

Leave Christ out of the preaching and you shall do nothing. Only advertize it all over London, Mr. Baker, that you are making bread without flour; put it in every paper, “Bread without flour” and you may soon shut up your shop, for your customers will hurry off to other tradesmen. … A sermon without Christ as its beginning, middle, and end is a mistake in conception and a crime in execution. However grand the language it will be merely much-ado-about-nothing if Christ be not there. And I mean by Christ not merely his example and the ethical precepts of his teaching, but his atoning blood, his wondrous satisfaction made for human sin, and the grand doctrine of “believe and live.” [Sermon, “Christ the Glory of His People” (1868)]

Sooner by far would I go to a bare table, and eat from a wooden porringer something that would appease my appetite, than I would go to a well-spread table on which there was nothing to eat. Yes, it is Christ, Christ, Christ whom we have to preach; and if we leave him out, we leave out the very soul of the gospel. Christless sermons make merriment for hell. Christless preachers, Christless Sunday school teachers, Christless class leaders, Christless tract distributors—what are all these doing? They are simply setting the mill to grind without putting any grist into the hopper, all their labor is in vain. If you leave Jesus Christ out, you are simply beating the air, or going to war without any weapon with which you can smite the foe. [Sermon, “Why the Gospel is Hidden” (1866)]

I know one who said I was always on the old string, and he would come and hear me no more; but if I preached a sermon without Christ in it, he would come. Ah, he will never come while this tongue moves, for a sermon without Christ in it—a Christless sermon! A brook without water; a cloud without rain; a well which mocks the traveler; a tree twice dead, plucked up by the root; a sky without a sun; a night without a star. It were a realm of death—a place of mourning for angels and laughter for devils. O Christian, we must have Christ! Do see to it that every day when you wake you give a fresh savor of Christ upon you by contemplating his person. Live all the day, trying as much as lieth in you, to season your hearts with him, and then at night, lie down with him upon your tongue. [Sermon, “A Bundle of Myrrh” (1864)]

What was the subject? What was Peter preaching upon? He was preaching Christ and him crucified. No other subject ever does produce such effects as this. The Spirit of God bears no witness to Christless sermons. Leave Jesus out of your preaching, and the Holy Spirit will never come upon you. Why should he? Has he not come on purpose that he may testify of Christ? Did not Jesus say, “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you”? Yes, the subject was Christ, and nothing but Christ, and such is the teaching which the Spirit of God will own. Be it ours never to wander from this central point: may we determine to know nothing among men but Christ and his cross. [Sermon, “The Mediator, Judge, and Savior” (1880)]