Two Kinds of People

C.S. Lewis says there are only two types of people in the world.

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. ”

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Seriousness is the ground of humor

C.S. Lewis brilliantly describes how taking one another seriously in friendship forms a solid foundation for humor.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

Own It

Repentance is ownership. We own our sin. We own our failure before God. We own our rebellion. We own our iniquity. We own our transgression. We agree with God, we have fallen short of his glory. We take full responsibility. Repentance was the launching point of Luther’s 95 Theses. Thesis 1: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Repentance is a life-style, a posture, a way of being—the life of the Christian.

Faith is ownership. We grasp onto forgiveness. We hold fast to an imputed righteousness that comes to us from Christ. We trust that condemnation is no longer for us and has been settled at the cross. We lean on the certainty of a future, unending, resurrected existence. We embrace being heirs of the world. We agree with God’s verdict on us. We own his promises to us. We take our seat at the table he has prepared for us. Luther said that faith is “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.”

The Christian is called to own it. We own our sin. We embrace God’s provision for our sin in Christ. Repentance takes full responsibility for sin. Faith takes hold of Christ’s righteousness and trusts fully in his substitutionary work. Repentance and faith are two expressions of radical ownership.

 

The Freedom of Being a Creature

Luther loved to speak about the great privilege of being a creature fashioned by God. The first true thing about us is that we are creatures of God. We do not determine our existence. We are fundamentally dependent. Creation establishes God as the ultimate giver and us as the ultimate receivers.

This relationship never changes—though sin would lead us to believe that these roles can be reversed. In fact, sin is an attempt to transgress the creature/creator boundary. To be a creature is to be wonderfully free. Our life is not up to us. Think for a moment on the vocation of a creature. What does it entail to be God’s image-bearing creatures? What are the benefits?

  • We receive our initial existence
  • We receive our ongoing existence
  • We depend upon him for all that we need
  • We are made to do all that he asks
  • Privilege and grace is at the core of our existence
  • We are free to be creatures and to let God be God
  • Creatureliness provides a boundary that proves to be our freedom

In the story line of Scripture, we can see the purpose and freedom of being a creature given, lost, and then restored in Christ. The fall was a giant leap upward. It was the first human attempt to transgress creaturely boundaries. The result was the fall, which left us less than the creatures God intended.

All sin is of this same nature—it is a rejection of our creatureliness. Viewing sin through this lens helps us better understand our refusal to receive from God and our incessant endeavor to become him. In our sin, we grasp at omnipotence and omniscience. We try to operate as though we are omnipresent and all wise. We interact with others as though we are sovereign and worthy of worship.

In short, our sin always betrays the fact that we are trying to be someone and something that we are not. We are trying to be God. This is idolatry. We seek to dethrone God and place ourselves in his rightful position. Such rebellion is worthy of death. In this graphic, sin would look like pushing past the boundaries of the box into the realm of the creator.

We were made with good limits. Physical exhaustion may be an attempt at omnipresence. Sinful independence and arrogance toward God could well be grasping for his self-sufficiency. Believing you call the shots and striving to control everything is attempted theft of God’s sovereignty.

Trusting your own wisdom above all others transgresses the creature boundary, it is a striving for foreknowledge and omniscience. Every aspect of the divine being becomes the battle-ground of the sinful creature. We want to wipe out God and be him. The cross of Jesus Christ says at least this much.

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The gospel is the good news of God becoming a creature to take the punishment for rebellious creatures in order to restore them back to their appropriate creatureliness. It is the most amazing story ever told. The Son reveals Creator and creature. In him, we see who God is and who we were intended to be. We behold in him a humble God who refuses to take advantage of his deity using it instead to serve humanity.

In him we see a creature that loves God, trusts God, obeys God, loves people, and goes about his daily tasks with joy and purpose. It is through his perfect life and his perfect death that our punishment is removed and we are restored. Through the justifying and cleansing work of the cross we stand in the right before the Trinity.

Through the indwelling Spirit and his mighty work, we are being remade into the creatures we were intended to be. God is in the business of making us human once again. The glory of the gospel is that it is powerful enough to make us creatures.

Through the gospel, we are liberated from our endless strivings for deity. We are relieved of thrones too large for us. We are freed from thoughts too high for us. We are released from trying to know all things and control all things.

The weight of trying to be God is lifted from our shoulders. In other words, our sin is put to death. We are free to be who we are: creatures. By the gospel, we take our rightful place as recipients. We move from subject to object. We move from standing to kneeling. We move from running to resting.

The Heart of Paul’s Mission Methodology

When you look at the missionary practices of the apostle Paul he seems to be all over the place. He receives support and he refuses support, he circumcises his converts and he abominates the idea of circumcising his converts, he lives like he’s under the law and he lives like it doesn’t exist, he eats certain foods and abstains from certain foods.

And there are many other tensions in his missionary service. It appears at times that his methodology is haphazard and inconsistent. The diversity of his approach warns us against building strategies on one facet of his missionary service. The driving force in his methodology is the gospel. His mantra was: I do all things for the purpose of the gospel (1 Cor 9:23).

His burning passion was to see the gospel advanced to all the nations. This drove his every decision. What is most beneficial for the movement of the gospel? Because every context was different and because he faced diverse circumstances, the answer to this question always varied. The reason he received support at certain times and not others is because refraining and receiving in these various scenarios furthered the gospel.

The reason he circumcised Timothy and not Titus was for the advance and protection of the gospel. The reason he becomes all things to all men, which inevitably changes the way he engages different people, is for the sake of the gospel.

There is a lot of freedom in how we go about building strategy and mission methodology. If we keep the gospel at the center of it all our methods will inevitably be very fluid. We will be more sensitive to our context and more willing to shift and move according the circumstances in front of us.

The number one problem with every mission methodology is that it is built off one portion of Scripture and it fails to take the rest into consideration. It is paradigm driven rather than principle driven. We get locked into a certain methodology that appears to be bearing fruit and we then believe it is the only or the most effective way to reach people.

This principle of “all things for the gospel” liberates us from the slavery of missionary methods and enables us to engage people in fresh ways. There is much to draw from in Scripture regarding various strategies for going about mission. At the heart of them all is the principle of gospel advancement.

But if we would be well rounded we need to sit at the table with all the various missionary voices. We must not restrict ourselves to Paul. We must sit down at the table with Jesus, Peter, Timothy, Titus, Epaphras, James, Silas, Stephen, Phillip, Apollos, Priscilla, Aquilla, Silvanus, and Barnabas among others.

We need to hear the perspective of married couples as they have engaged mission. We need the voice of the single man. We need the voice of the church planter, encourager, preacher, evangelist, and apprentice. Each of these missionaries will give us a fresh perspective.

We may utilize the various strategies implemented by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Barnabas at various times in our ministry. As we are driven by the gospel, we will find that fluidity between the various methods is most appropriate rather than rigidity and dogmatism. If we weave all our methodological thinking through the gospel we will be just fine. We will be free and equipped to do what is best in any given context.

Moving Toward Hope

As we begin our transition from hopelessness to hope, recall research that kicked off this exploration. We saw the significant impact of hopelessness on every facet of our existence. Let’s take a look on research regarding hope.

Researchers have identified significant benefits of hope. Studies have shown that hope leads to life satisfaction, positive mental health, purpose, harm avoidance, confidence, productivity and resilience.[1] The positive outcomes related to hope stretch into inter-personal relationships, social health, psychological adjustment, academic achievement and human flourishing.[2]

The wellness effect of hope does not stop there. Research has shown shocking physical health outcomes related to hope. Higher levels of hope have been shown to have positive effects on adjustment from brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, breast cancer and even pain tolerance.[3]

Once again, the research highlights the importance of hope. This intangible reality is critical in our lives. Hopelessness must be combatted with hope. Who would not want the outcomes listed here? This body of research also pushes us toward a more nuanced discussion of hope. It begs a number of questions that will serve our forward progression.

Is there an overlap in biblical and psychological discussions of hope? Should we make distinctions between hope as a fixed reality and hope as wanting a certain outcome? Is there such a thing as false hope? Is there such a thing as temporal hope? Should we distinguish between our experiences of hope and hope as an object? Is there any hope apart from saving hope? Does biblical hope contain the benefits claimed in this research?

If our assessment of hopelessness is accurate, hope is far more than a human benefit. It is a saving need. If hopelessness is directly tied to the fall and our painful inheritance as sons and daughters of Adam, it follows that hope would be connected to redemption and rescue. Hope alone can unravel the effects of hopelessness and heal the rupture of despair.

As we explore the biblical data on hope, the questions above will find answers and our grasp of this theme will expand and deepen.

[1] Dedova, “Meaning in Life and Hope as Predictors of Positive Mental Health,” 193.

[2] Katherine Kandaris, “The Moderating Effect of Hope on the Relationship Between Emotional Approach Coping and Flourishing in College Students.” College of Education (DePaul University, 2013), 23.

[3] Kandaris, “The Moderating Effect of Hope…” 23.

Hopelessness compels us toward Hope

Hopelessness is a mighty force. We reject the promise of God for peace, hope and salvation and exhaust ourselves trying to relieve our hopelessness. We devise our own plans for getting hope. I will find hope in a relationship. I will find it in a job. I will find it in possessions. I will find it in power. I will find it in pleasure. I will scour the earth. I will use every resource in my power to rid myself of hopelessness. I know this road, it’s a dead end. From what we have seen, this posture is the root of our problem not the solution. We know the ache for hope, but as we stiff-arm the God of Hope it remains evasive.

In despair, we reject the promise of God for joy, purpose and an eternal future. Such promises are too good to be true. Such promises are simply not true. Despair retreats from God and lives without grasping for hope. “Despair, too, presupposes hope. ‘What we do not long for, can be the object neither of our hope nor of our despair’ (Augustine). The pain of despair surely lies in the fact that a hope is there, but no way opens up towards its fulfillment.”[6]

God’s Word cuts through the noise. He speaks clearly and authoritatively about our hopelessness. He defines it for us. Does God’s four-fold description of hopelessness speak to you? Are you without Jesus? Do you know his people? Are his promises yours? Do you have God in this world? Do you recognize hopelessness in your active rebellion or in your passive despair?

Hopelessness should drive us to hope. But we must know where to find it. Empty promises of hope abound. God’s Word gives us the path. It points us the right way. It directs us to the Triune God. Amid despair, there is hope; a certain, fixed, unfailing hope that will anchor your soul. This is good news. I need an anchor. If such stabilizing news existed, would you not long to hear it?

Hopelessness creates an appetite for hope. It makes us ache for relief. Embracing our brokenness, owning our sin and facing the fact that life is desperately messy is foundational to receiving the gift of hope. We must start here, but we cannot stay here. Hope awaits. We have spent ample time outside of Eden. We must press forward to Bethlehem and onto Jerusalem.

[6] Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 7.