Dear Church Family
Greetings in the Name of the One who creates, sanctifies, questions and fulfills…our desires.
Where is this letter going, with such an opening? It is a greeting crafted – born out of – two famous quotes, both by C.S. Lewis. See if you can discern its meaning as you read them:
Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or to be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that country and to help others to do the same.
Without taking the time to make every possible qualification that might be needed, let the main point stand. As human beings we have been created with desires which may be normal, healthy, and even good. Sin corrupts those same desires, and redirects them away from God and His righteousness, so that they fall exclusively or disproportionately upon the created things (hence, idolatry in all its forms ancient or modern). When we are converted, it is because the Spirit changes the orientation of our wills, desires, affections, hopes, faith…back towards our Creator; by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. But so deceptive is this world, and so affected have been our desires, that we might find ourselves more enamored by the ‘mud pies’ than we are by the hope of glory; at least until sorrow of some kind helps us see their inherent emptiness, and makes us long for something….more. To be clear, Lewis was in no way suggesting that those desires, first created and then sanctified, are wrongly expressed in this world (as if living as ascetic hermits in a desert was the essence of true spirituality). His point was simply that they are too easily satisfied by this world’s tinsel and offerings; and that our greatest longing should be for something about the world to come. The Triune God Himself is held out to us; the One who alone can fulfill our desires not in the provision of more ‘things’, but in the provision of Himself. And in the world to come….He shall. Not to the exclusion of other things, but over and through them in a new creation (Heaven). Desire, once created, now being sanctified, then fully satisfied. All that is left then is the question.
Do we have spiritual desires? Is there a sincere hunger for the Almighty and Sovereign God, whose glory eclipses the entire universe? Do good gifts, received from Heaven, have the effect of making us thirst for the Giver? Do we imagine Heaven as the self-centred place of fulfilled worldly desires through ‘more stuff’….or as the place of perfect, unhampered union with the eternal Spirit who is our God (who then delights to give good gifts to His children)? Do we desire to be where Christ is (Phil 1)…because Christ is there? Is there a restlessness in us; a frustration with our present ‘limitations’ to fellowship with God (in that we cannot see Him, and are plagued still be indwelling sin)? Have we acknowledged that we are strangers and exiles on the earth, and so desired a better country, that is, a heavenly one? Do we love God, and are we confessing such coldness that might creep upon us from time to time? Do we love that which He loves? Seek that which He seeks? Is that precious bride, for which He shed His blood, beloved by us? Do we desire the body of Christ – the church? Are we arresting the gravitation of our sinful hearts, as they seek to drift each day into idolatry (as expressed most often by our use of time)? Do we abide in Christ, knowing and believing our utter impotency apart from His strength? Do we see each soul in this fallen creation as a soul that will last forever, and very, very soon to stand before the Judge of the living and that dead? Does that make us pray…and speak the words of eternal life? Or are we satisfied with mud pies…and content for others to choke on them? What do our heart’s desires say about us? Or to borrow the words of Jesus Christ to Simon Peter…. “Do you love Me?”
Understand, we do not suggest answers to those questions. Each must ask and answer for themselves, and do so while maintaining a clear conscience before God, who sees hidden things. And let us acknowledge at once the imperfection of all our spiritual longings, even as He Himself remembers that we are ‘only dust’. This is not to create unwarranted guilt in the sincere believer; nor to suggest the eradication of all earthly joys in a misguided attempt at medieval godliness. God gives such gifts, to be received with thanksgiving, within the parameters of His commandments. Only let us not forget the infinite joys that yet remain; the ultimate satisfaction that comes from knowing God in Person, both now, and most consummately, in eternity. Beloved, delight yourselves in Him.
We move now to some updates around the life of the church, two of which relate to funerals/memorials. Firstly, many of you would have known Thelma Knights, a former member of Goodwood Baptist, and who attended frequently when she relocated to live closer to the church. Thelma passed away this week at the age of 92, and is now with the Lord. A memorial service will be held at the church (details are still forthcoming). Secondly, our premises will also be the venue for an ‘outside’ funeral service, this Thursday @11am, at the rest of another church. They require a venue that will allow for social distancing, as their own building cannot safely accommodate fifty people. Both the above services are subject to the same governmental safety requirements as our Sunday services, and are being managed accordingly.
We can also give notice that the Friday “Student Group” is recommencing, with careful social distancing standards. They will be meeting at the church premises. Please contact Andrew for more information. Please note that other Friday ministries (Youth) have not re-started at this stage.
We may also soon move towards holding a second Sunday worship service, owing to the growing numbers of those attending. This past weekend around 45 people were physically present, while a number of regulars (meaning, those who have been attending physically in the last few weeks) were absent. What’s more, still others have indicated an intention to come along in the weeks ahead. Thus another Sunday service may soon be on the cards. Please note that we have yet to determine the nature of any such second service, and cannot at this time give dates/confirmations. It is merely an expectation for the present. One possibility lies in re-commencing the evening service, before we consider a second morning service. The reason for this being threefold. Firstly, it moves church life in the right direction, towards normality. Secondly, it allows for alternate sermon series’ (Titus/other) to gain & keep momentum. And thirdly, it relieves the burden on those parties that would otherwise have to commit to two back-to-back services in a morning (preaching, worship leaders, technical, sanitizing etc). If those attending services alternate from week to week, it may represent the best next step forward. Having said all that, we will still have to review both needs and options going forward.
Please also note that the next installment of Pilgrim’s Progress will be available on the church website, on Wednesday, in time for HFG should you be following along.
As we bring this letter to a close, we want to keep encouraging the church to seek God, in earnest; and to be diligent in your covenantal obligations towards one another. Please pray for one another, and call one another. And pursue all spiritual disciplines, for the sake of conscience, and because our God is worthy. In knowing Him, and journeying with Him, the greatest pleasures of all are to be found.
May the God who creates desire, sanctifies desires, and fulfill the desires of the redeemed….draws you nearer to Himself this week.