C.S. Lewis: The Choice is Ours
October 28, 2014 | Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church
I’m grateful for the privilege, first of all, of just being able to be a part of this incredible church and then to have the privilege of speaking to you at an ungodly hour in the morning. But God is present in spite of that, and so I would ask you, please, to join me in prayer. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest. Just give me Jesus. Amen. Amen.
The life and teachings of Jesus confront us with a choice. It is the single most important choice we ever make. And as Jesus says to us, there are certain things in life that you cannot control, but there is one thing in life that you can control, and that is where you will spend eternity. That choice is ours to make. Jesus makes that plain in a number of places but certainly, in Matthew 7 where Jesus, in just a few words, speaks about that choice as being like choosing a particular gate or a particular road. He says there are gates that are narrow, and there are gates that are wide. There are roads that are hard, and there are roads that are easy. The wide gate, the easy road, He says, leads to destruction. It’s the narrow gate, the hard road, that leads to eternity. It’s a choice. Life or death. Heaven or hell. That choice is ours to make.
Today, I want to spend some time telling you a story. A story about a man who made that choice and then spent the bulk of his adult life calling others to make the same choice. If you were alive at the time, you know exactly where you were and what you were doing on November 22nd, 1963. That was the day when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It thunderstruck the whole world. And all of us, who were alive at the time—no, we can remember exactly. Even to this moment, we can remember where we were and what we were doing. Something else occurred on that day. Something which, quite frankly, was infinitely more significant than the death of President Kennedy. Something you may not be aware of. I’ll come to that later.
I wish to tell you the story of a man named Clive Staples Lewis, C. S. Lewis. He hated his name. He insisted, from early childhood, that he simply be called Jack. Everyone who knew him always, from that point on, called him Jack. He did ultimately have books published, and the publishers always insisted that they use his proper name, and he responded by saying, “I never wish to have anything published under the name Clive Staples Lewis. Simply use the initials, C. S. Lewis.” He was an amazing man in every sense of the word.
There ought to be a picture up there. There we go. Thank you. What you have there is a picture of C. S. Lewis and the most amazing character he ever created, the lion Aslan. We come to know Aslan through a series of books written by Lewis for children but which carry an extraordinarily powerful message, even for adults. In fact, if you read The Chronicles of Narnia, the seven books in that series—they’re children’s books. And if you’re a dad, by the way, let me encourage you to have your children read The Chronicles of Narnia. Better yet, read it with them because when you take The Chronicles of Narnia from beginning to end, you get the full picture of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The primary character in The Chronicles of Narnia is a lion. His name is Aslan, A-S-L-A-N. Aslan is a Turkish word which means lion. And therefore, C. S. Lewis chose that name for the lion not only because the lion is the king of beasts but because in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the Lion of Judah. And so Aslan is the Christ figure in The Chronicles of Narnia. And when you begin to see how all of that unfolds from the first of the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to the final of the series, The Last Battle, it’s an amazing journey through the power of the Christian Gospel.
C. S. Lewis loved to write letters, and he loved to receive letters. He received countless numbers of letters in his lifetime. He particularly loved receiving letters from children. He answered every letter he ever received. Once a child wrote to him and simply said to him, “What do you look like?” He wrote back, “I am tall, somewhat overweight, rather balding. I have a double chin. I have to wear glasses to read. My hair is dark, and my voice is deep.” If he had been honest, he would have gone on to say, “My shirts are always wrinkled. My coats are always threadbare. My shoes are never shined; in fact, frequently, they have holes in the soles.” He was completely casual and careless about the material things of life, but he was incredibly careful and precise about the words he used and the faith he claimed. Clive Staples Jack Lewis, a man who chose Christ, and a man who then spent his life calling others to make the same choice.
I can divide his life up into three chapters and that’s appropriate. He was a writer, and so it’s appropriate to divide his life into chapters, I think. And I hope that as I work with you through those three chapters—the first chapter I call The Tough Years, from his birth to 1929; the second chapter, The Transforming Years, from 1929 to 1950; and then The Tender Years, the years from 1950 until his death. I hope that you come to appreciate a man whom Christianity Today recently labeled the single most influential figure in the Christian faith in the last 100 years. I would not dispute the designation. And further, I would say to you, he is a man who has exercised an incredible influence and impact on my own life.
Chapter One, The Tough Years
He was born in November 29th, 1898 in Belfast, Ireland. He was born into a family that was not wealthy, but at least they were comfortable. His father Albert was a prosecuting attorney. He was a nominal Christian—he would occasionally go to church—but he was a voracious reader. He read everything he could get his hands on, and it was his desire that his two sons follow him in that avocation. Jack Lewis’s mother was named Florence. She was an exquisitely beautiful lady. She was an ideal mother, and she had a passionate love for Jesus Christ.
Early on, she took pains to plant the seeds of the faith in her two sons. The older of the two was named Warren. C. S. Lewis called him Warnie. Three years younger was C. S. Lewis, Jack Lewis, known always and only by that name. The two of them had what, I suppose we could say, was a rather idyllic childhood early on. They were surrounded by the love of both parents, particularly the love of the mother. And they lived in Ireland. Lots of rain in Ireland. That meant lots of inside activity. And so under the encouragement of their father Albert, they gave themselves to reading. They read everything that he provided for them. They read way beyond their years. Another thing the two boys did was, they would frequently spend those times inside, out of the rain, playing little games. They would take animal figures, and they would vest them with human characteristics, and they would develop stories around those animals. A seed was planted.
In 1908, everything changed. Shortly before that, Albert recognized that the schools in Belfast were not adequate, and so he sent Warnie to England to a boarding school. That left Jack at home alone. He became, during that time, more devoted than ever to his mother, and he so appreciated everything that she did for him. In 1908, everything changed. His mother was stricken with cancer. Medical practice in Belfast, at that point, was really rather primitive. The doctors said surgery would be required. There were no hospitals. The surgery would take place in their home without benefit of anesthetic. She was operated on in her own bed. In the adjacent bedroom was Jack, sitting on his bed, wringing his hands with the tears streaming down his face as he heard the screams of his mother as the surgery unfolded. The surgery was not successful. His mother died.
It was a devastating event in young Jack’s life. It was complicated by the fact that his father Albert, who dearly loved his wife, never was able to recover from her loss. He withdrew into himself. He became just a shell of what he had once been. He stopped his reading. He neglected his professional life. He became resentful of the responsibility he had, now, for the young son, Jack. Finally, he decided that the best way to relieve himself of that burden was to send Jack to boarding school in England.
He sent him to a school. Not the school he had sent Warnie to but to another school called Wynyard. The headmaster at Wynyard was a tyrant. In fact, he was almost insane. Later on, he was actually declared to be insane. He beat the children mercilessly, and Jack Lewis endured that week after week, month after month, for three years. It was a horrible time. Later on, C. S. Lewis actually wrote that that experience was like going from Heaven to hell. In time, Albert, at least recognized that this was having a very negative effect upon young Jack. And so Albert had a friend in England, a retired professor named W. T. Kirkpartrick who was a brilliant man. And so Albert reached out to W. T. Kirkpatrick and asked him if he would take Jack into his own home and tutor him. Kirkpatrick agreed to do that. And so for the next three-plus years, Jack Lewis was, as we would term today, homeschooled, living every day under the tutoring of W. T. Kirkpatrick.
He was a dynamic man, and he was a relentlessly demanding teacher. He was extraordinarily brilliant, and he was determined to pass that brilliance on to young C. S. Lewis. He pounded away at him, demanding more and more and more from him. All of it was good except one part of it. W. T. Kirkpatrick was an atheist. And he believed that one of the things he needed to give to young Jack Lewis was the gift of atheism, and so he kept reminding him that, “There is no god. There couldn’t be a god. If there were a god, that god would never have allowed your mother to undergo what she underwent and would never have allowed you, then, to be left, basically, alone in life.” That seed was planted.
Jack Lewis, at that point, became, at least in his own limited understanding, an atheist. There is no god. Kirkpatrick, however, did teach Lewis eight languages including Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He could actually speak them all. He pounded into him all of the great classics of world history and literature. One after another after another. And he absorbed it. Furthermore, Kirkpartrick demanded that he learned to discipline his memory so that he would recall everything he read, and he became completely knowledgeable of everything that he read.
Years later, Kenneth Tynan, who was the drama critic of the London Times newspaper, and once upon a time, had been a student of C. S. Lewis. Tynan wrote a column in the London Times talking about the influence that Lewis had in his life. And he said, “One of the games that we would play when we were students under Lewis—we would go to his home, and the home was filled with books. They were everywhere. And one of us would go, at random, and pull a book off the shelf, open it up to a random page and read a line from the page and C. S. Lewis would then from memory recite the full paragraph that followed that line.” He remembered everything he ever read. His mind was beyond a photographic mind. He disciplined himself to such an extent that his memory was like a memory no one had ever seen or experienced before.
Kirkpatrick prepared him well for Oxford University. That was Kirkpatrick’s goal, to get him into Oxford. He was admitted to Oxford, and they were pleased to have him. He was absolutely brilliant. Understand, please, that that was in 1917. World War I was in full force. The English were losing hundreds of thousands of men in combat. It was a devastating thing. And so all kinds of methods were put into place to begin to build the troops. Oxford University approached Jack Lewis and said, “If you will enlist and go to officer training school, then when you’ve served your term, we will take you back at Oxford without any question.”
Lewis entered officer training school. 19 years old. Six weeks of training. During that six weeks, he happened to befriend another young man who was in similar circumstances. His name was Paddy Moore. Both of them recognized that they were headed into combat and weren’t sure that they would survive. And so they made a solemn pact with one another. They took a vow that if one of them survived and the other didn’t, the survivor would then look after the other’s family for as long as they lived. They both committed themselves to that vow.
C. S. Lewis, after six weeks of training, was commissioned as a second lieutenant, placed in command of a squadron, and sent into the heat of combat on the Continent. It was a horrible experience. He didn’t know what he was doing. He was leading men. He was responsible for them. They were surrounded by mud, muck, mire, death, and destruction on every hand. He was watching people that he knew be blown to bits. He could barely stand it. He had no idea of what he was doing in terms of leadership.
But there was a tough old battle-hardened sergeant in that squadron, and every day, that squadron sergeant would whisper in C. S. Lewis’s ear the things that he needed to do that day. And so, with the help of that sergeant, he managed to lead that squadron into battle. One day, that sergeant saved C. S. Lewis’s life. The two of them were leading the squadron out into combat on the battlefield and suddenly, artillery shells came screaming in. The sergeant jumped in front of C. S. Lewis. One of the shells exploded. The sergeant was blown to bits. C. S. Lewis survived because of the sergeant, but his body was filled with shrapnel from head to foot. He was grievously wounded. He was then transported, on an emergency basis, back to England, and he underwent a horrendous series of surgeries to remove that shrapnel from his body. There was one large piece of shrapnel that was lodged right against his heart. They couldn’t remove it, and so they left that piece of shrapnel in. Ultimately, that would be the cause of his death.
After a long, long, months-long series of rehabilitations and recuperation activities, he finally was recovered enough to go back to Oxford. It was then that he learned that his friend Paddy Moore had been killed in combat in France. And remembering his vow, C. S. Lewis reached out to Paddy’s mother, Mrs. Janie King Moore, and Paddy’s sister, Maureen. And he brought them to be with him, and he provided for them in everything they needed. He was a student. It meant that he had to scramble. He worked every menial job you could imagine, trying to find enough money to keep them together. The whole situation was made worse when his brother Warnie came back from the war, suffering terrible emotional problems, what we would call, today, post-traumatic stress disorder. It ultimately led to a drinking problem, and so C.S. Lewis became responsible for his brother Warnie as well. The four of them together. They moved from one rental facility to another, trying to hold things together. All the while, he was pouring himself into his education at Oxford. In four years—1920, 1921, 1922, 1923—at the end of each of those four years, he received the highest academic award Oxford ever gives. Four years in a row. A streak never equaled before or since. He managed somehow to maintain his commitment to his academic life and to his care for the Moores and for his brother.
When he graduated from Oxford, one of things that he dreamed of doing was being a teacher at Oxford. He applied. There was a long involved process, more than a year. During that year, he continued working anything he could get in order to keep them all in food, clothing, and shelter. Finally, in 1925, he received a fellowship and was named an Oxford Don. Understand, please, that at Oxford, there’s a hierarchy. The full professors are at the top. They’re the big names. They get all of the perks and the privileges. They are the ones that do the research and set the academic tone. The Dons work under them. The Dons are the ones who are engaged with the students. They do the scut work. They mess with all the students’ issues and problems. They do the teaching, they do the lecturing, they do the tutoring, they administer the tests, they grade the papers, they counsel the students when they’re having issues. They are the ones who are locked in with the students. C.S. Lewis became an Oxford Don, served in that capacity for the next 30 years. He was never promoted to full professor. I’ll come to that later.
During that time, his academic work was so profound that the Oxford Press asked him to produce several textbooks on the subjects related to English literature. He wrote four of those textbooks. They were so brilliant in content, so advanced in what they set forth, that those textbooks are actually studied to this very day in colleges and universities and graduate schools in many places. And thankfully, the publishing of those textbooks meant some income, and so things were at least a little better financially. Not in other ways.
Mrs. Moore was becoming unhinged. She had many ailments; some physical, some psychological. She was more and more demanding of Lewis. His brother Warnie would occasionally go off on benders, and Lewis would have to go find him, bring him home and sober him up and dry him out and get him back on the track again. So he was constantly in this cycle of finding income to keep them together and yet tending to the needs that that created. It was at about that time that at least Maureen had gotten old enough to where she decided that she wanted to go out and build a life of her own, and that she did. So now, just the three of them: Mrs. Moore, Warnie, and Jack Lewis.
In 1929, chapter two, The Transforming Years
The tough years were behind him. The transforming years—a couple of things happened. One, he managed to put together enough money to purchase a house. It’s a house located in a little town called Headington, about four or five miles outside the city of Oxford. The house is called The Kilns. It’s still called that today. It wasn’t a huge house, but it was more than adequate. The reason it was called the Kilns is because it was built right on top of the kilns which were a part of a huge stone quarry. You can see the remains of that stone quarry there. And so the three of them moved into the Kilns and for the first time had a permanent home. And that’s the home where C.S. Lewis remained for the rest of his life.
Second thing that happened—in 1929, he had never gotten over his conviction that there is no god, but his academic work kept pestering him with questions. One day, he was sitting in his office, his office at Magdalen College. He actually was an Oxford Don at Magdalen College. It actually spelled Magdalen. It was named Mary Magdalene, but the English were forever corrupting everything, and so they just called it Magdalen. That’s what they call it to this day. His office in Magdalen College looked out on a park, a wooded area. It was called a deer park, and deer were roaming all over the place. It’s a gorgeous place, even now.
There was a path through that park called Addison’s Walk, and he loved to take a break from his academic rigors and occasionally walk on Addison’s Walk. On one day, in 1929, it was a gorgeous day, sun was shining, the wind was blowing gently, the park was lovely. And as he was walking, suddenly, he had an overwhelming conviction. Four words: there is a god. It wasn’t a blinding light. It wasn’t a Damascus road experience. It wasn’t a full-blown conversion, but the door was cracked open. And given his diligence in his academic pursuits, he gave himself to trying to discover all he could about this god who now seemed, to him, to exist.
He reached out first to fellow members on the faculty at Oxford. They rejected him. They wanted nothing to do with the Christian faith. He then reached out to some other fellows in town, friends. Four other men. Four guys. Owen Barfield, Nevill Coghill, Charles Williams, and a man named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. The four men, together with Lewis, became an inseparable group. They met regularly together, challenged each other, encouraged each other in the faith. They made friends with a fellow who owned a pub in Oxford. The pub is called The Eagle and Child. You can still see it today. The pub owner had a room in the back, and he said to them, “You’re welcome to use that room anytime you want.” Every Tuesday afternoon, the five of them came together in that room, and they began to stretch and encourage each other in the things of the faith. In fact, it was C.S. Lewis who actually challenged and encouraged J.R.R. Tolkien to write the saga that we now know as The Lord of the Rings.
At one point, C.S. Lewis was reading his Bible. He came to Matthew 16, and he read the words where Peter said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and in that moment, the truth overwhelmed him. He was driven to his knees, and he began to weep. And he cried out to Christ. He made his choice, “I choose the Christ,” and he then became 100% surrendered to Jesus Christ. And he poured himself into the most passionate faith in Christ you could ever imagine.
And he began to write. Now, the writings were not so much academic, as they were Christian in their orientation. And he poured himself into it. He began to preach. He wrote sermons and lectures and pamphlets and books, all of them explaining and extolling the Christian faith. He became rather popular, and he began to derive significant income from that. Never kept much of it for himself. Kept only enough to keep Mrs. Moore and Warnie and himself going. The rest of it he gave away.
But he was becoming popular. And then World War II. He remembered his experiences and the horrors of the combat in World War I, and so he enlisted in the armed services as a chaplain. And he gave himself to an unusual call. He was called by the military to visit every military base in Great Britain, and, there, to preach and lecture. He never learned to drive, and so every day, he would teach at Oxford, board a train, travel to whatever military base he was headed for that day, preach and lecture that night to all of the soldiers there, get on the train, return to Oxford, arriving at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. The next morning at 8 o’clock, back in the classroom at Oxford. He did that day after day, week after week, month after month. The result was that at the end of the time, hundreds of thousands of English servicemen claimed that they managed to survive their war experiences because of the bedrock of faith C.S.Lewis had planted within them.
Second thing he did during that time. The Blitz was going on in London. Parents were worried about their children, and so they were shipping their children out to the towns around the countryside including Oxford. C.S. Lewis took on a whole raft of those children. He never had any children of his own, but he took on those kids. And he spent the time with them, paid for everything they needed. And one of the things he used to do was to tell them stories to entertain them. Stories about an old professor and four children and a mysterious wardrobe and a great lion named Aslan.
Next thing that occurred was the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, asked him to come to London once each week and to deliver a radio broadcast that would be beamed to the whole country. Every Sunday, another train trip to London and back. Every Sunday afternoon, he traveled to London at 6 o’clock on Sunday evening. He delivered a broadcast. It was beamed to the whole country. Millions of people listened every single Sunday. It was the most astonishing phenomenon of the Second World War in England. And as a result of that, hundreds and then thousands and then millions of people were won to Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, those BBC talks were edited and put in a book. The book is called Mere Christianity. Apart from the Bible, that book has influenced more people for Jesus Christ than any other book in all of human history. It was translated into virtually every language in the world, and people have been converted by the power of Mere Christianity ever since. Now the royalties were really rolling in. Millions of dollars. He kept only enough to care for himself, Mrs. Moore, and Warnie. The rest of it he gave away. There is no way to count and calculate all the individuals, churches, and Christian institutions C.S. Lewis underwrote.
1950, The Tender Years
The first thing that happened was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published. It became an instant best-seller. He then went on and published the other volumes in The Chronicles of Narnia. The next thing that happened, Mrs. Moore died. Her health had deteriorated. It had been a terribly challenging situation, but finally, in 1950, she died. And C.S. Lewis recognized that for more than 30 years, he had kept his vow. He had never swayed from his commitment to his young friend Paddy.
Also that year, he began to receive letters from all over the world, thousands and thousands of letters. He answered every letter. It became such an overwhelming task that he would have to dictate letters, and then Warnie would go off and type his responses while he was either dictating or looking at other letters or doing his writing or whatever.
He received a letter from an American woman. Her name was Joy Davidman Gresham. She wrote to him, telling him that she had been born a Jew, she had become a communist, and consequently, an atheist. And someone had put in her hands the book Mere Christianity. She read it, and she was converted to Christ. Not long thereafter, she was on vacation in England, and decided that she would try to see if she could locate the man whom God had used to bring her to Christ. So she contacted C.S. Lewis. They agreed to meet for lunch one day. They met in the Eastgate Hotel which is immediately behind Maudlen College. It had to be proper, and so C.S. Lewis brought Warnie, and Joy brought a friend.
Something happened during that lunch. He suddenly realized that he was dealing with a woman who was almost his intellectual equal. And what was more important, he was dealing with a woman who had a raw, passionate faith for Jesus Christ that was every bit as powerful as his own. And that began a great friendship, long-distance friendship. She returned to America. They engaged in a lengthy correspondence. And then, in 1952, Joy’s life at home fell apart. Her husband Bill became a Scientologist. You know about Scientology, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta. He became a terribly domineering and brutal leader of the home. He punished her severely because of her faith in Christ. Ultimately, he took up with Joy’s sister and divorced Joy. She was devastated.
She decided she wanted to make a new start in life. She remembered how pleasant she had found it in England, and so she took her two boys, David and Douglas, and went to England. She made contact with Lewis. He suggested she come to Oxford, and he rented a home where she could live. And there, they had this wonderful friendship continuing, now, a little bit closer, and the friendship grew deeper and richer. In 1956, April, the home secretary in England contacted Joy and said that her visa was expiring. She was going to be deported. C.S. Lewis said, “I know how to fix that. There’s something in England called civil marriage. I’ll just marry you. And you’ll be under my citizenship, and everything will be fine. Doesn’t mean a thing in the eyes of God, but it will take care of your problem.” And so they went to the civil authorities, and they got married. But it was a marriage in name only. They still lived completely apart.
And then, in November of 1956, Joy got up from her chair to answer the phone, and her leg collapsed under her. The bones in her leg were completely shattered. She was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with heavy cancer, cancer so prevalent that she was given only three months to live. At that point, C.S. Lewis knew down in his heart the real love that he had for this extraordinary woman, and so he asked her to marry him in the eyes of God. He went to the bishop of Oxford and asked if he would perform the ceremony. He said, “No. She’s divorced. I won’t do it.” He went to a little parish priest, a young guy. He’d actually been a student of C.S. Lewis’s at one point. His name was Peter Bide. And he asked Peter Bide if he would conduct the ceremony. Peter said, “I don’t care what the bishop says. I’ll do it.” So he came to the hospital, and with Joy in the bed and C.S. Lewis standing beside her, the two of them were married in the eyes of God.
Shortly thereafter, miraculously, the cancer went into remission. Joy moved into The Kilns and that began the most magnificent years of his life. His writing for Christ was even more prolific, constantly producing sermons and lectures and pamphlets and books. Never stopped. Nothing could stop him. And they shared wonderful times together.
In late spring, 1960, the cancer returned with a vengeance. And on July 13th, 1960, Joy Lewis went to be with the Lord in Heaven. It was a terribly difficult time for Jack Lewis. He still was so thrilled about his faith and the love that he had for her, but he was having to deal with his new reality. And he actually began to try to help himself deal with that by writing a diary, writing an entry each day. At one point along the way, one of his friends happened to pick up that diary and look at it and was so astounded that he asked if it could be published. Finally, after huge encouragement, C.S. Lewis agreed to have it published but only under a pseudonym. The name he chose was the Latin word Dimidius, which means cut in half. The message was at Joy’s death, his life was cut in half. Ultimately, the book was published under his name. It is one of the most amazing of his works. The book is entitled A Grief Observed. He continued to pour himself into delivering the message of Christ.
1962, he suffered a massive heart attack. That piece of shrapnel pierced his heart and set off this violent attack. He survived the attack, but he was left basically bedridden. That couldn’t stop him either. He kept writing in his bed. And an amazing thing began to happen. By this time, his name was known all over the world, and even though the people at Oxford on the faculties there had nothing to do with him, his name was everywhere. And people suddenly began to show up in Oxford and go out to Headington to The Kilns. Some of the great minds of the 20th century, some of the greatest leaders of the Christian faith, and then a stream of perfectly ordinary people came as a pilgrimage to the Kilns, one after another after another after another, just to visit with the great C.S. Lewis.
One afternoon, late fall, Warnie—it was his habit, every afternoon, at 4:30, to take a cup of tea into his brother. He took the tea in, and C.S. Lewis was writing in his bed. He left the tea at the bedside table, and he went back to do what he was doing. A while later, he heard a crash. He rushed back into the bedroom. C.S. Lewis had gotten up out of the bed, had collapsed, and died. It was 5:30 in the afternoon, November 22nd, 1963. It happened at 5:30 English time. It happened at almost the precise moment that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. And because the attention was all on President Kennedy, no one but those closest to him knew that C.S. Lewis had died. He was buried very quietly, without ceremony, without knowledge, just a parish priest and some friends and Warnie, buried right beside his beloved Joy.
November 22nd this year is on Saturday. As always, on November 22nd, there will be lots of mention of the death of President Kennedy. But now, you know something happened that day infinitely more important. Dare I say it, Jack Kennedy was no Jack Lewis. Jack Kennedy was a political figure, and he was popular. Jack Lewis is the single most influential figure for Christ in the modern era who won more multiple millions of people to Jesus Christ than anyone else who has ever lived. So now you know that on November 22nd, something else happened that day. And so this November 22nd, on that Saturday, will you find a few minutes to step aside and thank God for the life of Clive Staples, C.S., Jack Lewis?
He was a man in Christ. A real man. A man who lived for Christ and a man who won more people to Christ than anyone else and a man who is still winning people to Christ through his writings, a man who now lives with the Christ he so adored and with the woman who was the joy of his life. He made his choice. He chose the Christ, and he calls us to do the same.
Down at the bottom of your sheet, I have what I choose to call the Money Quote. This is C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity, “I’m trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him, ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who is merely a man and said the things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic on the level of a man who says he’s a poached egg or else, he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. The choice is yours.”
Let me tell you something. I happen to believe that one day some of you in Heaven are going to remember this day, this moment. And I believe that some of you, then, are going to say, “I’m so glad that preacher challenged me on that Tuesday morning. I’m so glad that he called me to make the choice in my life, to be sure that I am going to Heaven.” I believe that one day some of you are going to look back on this day and say, “That’s when I made sure. I chose the Christ. I chose life over death. I chose Heaven over hell. I chose Christ as my Lord and my God.”
I can’t make that choice for you. Your friends can’t make it for you. The choice is yours. You can choose to say, “Lord Jesus, I want to be yours and yours forever.” Can you say that? In the words of C.S. Lewis and in the words of Jesus Christ, “The choice is yours.”
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.