Friday, September 11, 2015

The Hungry Need Bread, Not an Essay on Hunger

Clive Staples Lewis, more commonly known as C.S. Lewis, died suddenly of a heart attack on November 22, 1963, exactly one week before his 65th birthday. The author of some of the finest literature ever written, Lewis conducted his final public interview on May 7, 1963 with reporter Sherwood Wirt. Last words -- whether public or private -- have always fascinated me. C.S. Lewis said something in his last public interview that has captivated my imagination. During a discussion of contemporary authors and books who have influenced him, C.S. Lewis mentioned G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, Edwyn Bevan’s, Symbolism and Belief, Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy, and the plays of Dorothy Sayers. In response to Lewis mentioning Chesterton, the interviewer says, "I believe it was Chesterton who was asked why he became a member of the church, and he replied, 'To get rid of my sins.'"

The interviewer would later reflect that he was  "surprised by the suddenness of Professor Lewis’ reply." Lewis had a tendency of erupting suddenly, either verbally or in writing, when strong impulses inside him needed out. Lewis even declared that his best writing came "suddenly and in a rush." Earlier in the interview Lewis reflected, "Writing is like a ‘lust,’ or like ‘scratching when you itch.’ Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.”

So when Lewis heard the interviewer opine that Chesterton had joined the church "To get rid of my sins," he released the strong impulse that arose within him. His next words to the interviewer are a brilliant verbal ejaculation on the primary objective of Christian people.
"It is not enough to want to get rid of one’s sins,” Lewis said. “We also need to believe in the One who saves us from our sins. Not only do we need to recognize that we are sinners; we need to believe in a Savior who takes away sin. Matthew Arnold once wrote, ‘Nor does the being hungry prove that we have bread.’ Because we know we are sinners, it does not follow that we are saved.”
It is my opinion that many of us who preach the word, lead churches, and seek change in people have never understood the premise of C.S. Lewis. The institutional church, particularly in evangelical conservative circles like ours, is so focused on making sure people know that they are sinners that we seem to have lost our gospel focus. Convincing others of sin gives no deliverance like telling people their hungry gives them no bread.

"Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). This verse tells us that sin itself will convince sinners of their failure. In other words, the Spirit of God has a way of "convincing the world of sin" by allowing sin to to convince the sinner of his sin. 

Do you get that? Sin will find you out. Be sure about that truth. A world full of sinners needs gospel churches - good news churches - that provide deliverance. The world, either corporately or one sinner at a time, will always experience the pain, destructiveness and shattering results of sin. It is sin 'that finds you out" and convinces you of its inherent failure. Sinful people turn to the church to find a Savior. Hungry people turn to relief centers to find bread. Why is it that when many turn into the doors of an institutional "conservative" church that allegedly "believes the Bible," they will only hear expositions on the sinful nature of man and the sinfulness of culture?

Count me in the camp of C.S. Lewis.

I'm writing this post because of an inner compulsion within me. I have an itch that I must scratch. We need more proclaiming of the glory, beauty and power of Jesus Christ! When the sweet music of Jesus plays on the strings of our hearts, the inferior music that sin sings in our heart will be drowned out by the Divine symphony of God's goodness and grace. The Bread of life satisfies the hungry heart.

This Sunday I am preaching on the Gadarene demoniac. It's not my desire so much to point out the ugliness, grossness, and nakedness of the demoniac as much as it is to promote the glorious love, power and healing of the Savior. We're all seen in the Gadarene. Whether we are convinced of our sin is only a matter of time.  "Sin will find us out" - all of us - in time.

I want to be the person who shines the light on the Person who delivers us from sin, not the person who keeps pounding people with their sin. In other words, I want to deliver the Bread of life to hungry people rather than to read an essay on the attributes of hunger to the hungry.


Pege' said...

Wade, I have been listening to many young age. They talk of how afraid they were as children of hell and the rapture coming and not knowing for sure if they were truly a believer. Night mares and real true fear. I began thinking of Sunday school curriculum for children, children s churches and preaching we have encountered as we have moved via military service and my own children's experiences. It was focused on sin..sin..sin and hell and punishment. I was wondering why it is not focused on the beauty of Jesus and who he is and the gift of his life and the GOOD NEWS? When I listen to your sermons (weekly on line) I hear and am reminded of Jesus. They are CHRIST centered. I gain so much strength and encouragement when I look at Jesus instead of other sermons that focus on man and self and sin. "SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRY GOD" sermons have their place..not not weekly and not for children and the young. I looked at the times Jesus spoke to people....I wish more preacher/teachers studied not just Jesus words but his presentation. I appreciate your devotion to showing us CHRIST...for HE IS BEAUTIFUL!!!

Pege' said...

Wade, I have a question...why are the young Sunday School lessons all based on the Old testament? Sure they make great stories and part of a catechism...I do not remember any Sunday School lesson except Easter that was in the New Testament when my children were younger...however...I am over 50 and my memory is NOT what I would like to be. Yes we need to learn the Old is a school teacher for us. How cool would it be that we began the young minds focused of Jesus instead of Noah.

Wade Burleson said...


You make an interesting observation. I memorized the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" and delivered at Phillips Theological Seminary - word for word - in 1994. It was through preparation for that event that I became utterly convinced of my New Covenant beliefs and the reasons why I could never merge (or fuse) the gospel with Old Covenant principles under which Israel lived. We are good news people through the Person and work of Christ - period! :)

Wade Burleson said...


My favorite Bible studies of ALL time are from the Old Testament - Leviticus, Daniel, etc... - but it's because I see Jesus Christ in every page of the Law, the Prophets, and history!

Pege' said...

Wade...right..If the person who is teaching is adept to pointing out Jesus in the Old Testament Scripture. When I speak to these young people and there are many of them who only remember hell , fire and condemnation from their Sunday school and youth group teachings. It would be lovely if the teachers presented Jesus and Grace. I am not including ALL S. School teachers. Many of these young people come from very fundamentalist back rounds. Parents wonder why so many young people apparently "loose the faith" or struggle when they go off to college and want to blame secular colleges and Universities for this. I think it is the very root of harsh and condemning teaching they received when growing up that make them want to run away from church. There are some who were not true believers for they were scared into their faith. Sorry...did not mean to high jack your post here....reading it today just brought all of this to my mind since I have been thinking on it. I did not see Christ in the law,the prophets and history...I learned that from being at Emmanuel.

Aussie John said...

"We need more proclaiming of the glory, beauty and power of Jesus Christ!" So right!

Christiane said...

"I want to be the person who shines the light on the Person who delivers us from sin, not the person who keeps pounding people with their sin."

Wade, in doing this, you are a part of the great tradition of the Church where proclamation of the Good News is an unremitting focus on Christ, Our Saving Lord.

In the Incarnation, He assumed our humanity, and having taken to Himself our wounded race, He gave His life in His role of priest for the sake of those in His care. To look with broken hearts upon Him Whom our sins have pierced is to come to the place of our healing.

Bob Cleveland said...

We need to lift Him up. And I don't know how we could accurately do that without focusing on His beauty, grace, wonder, mercy, and all that makes Him Savior and Lord.

If we do that, He will draw. He said so, and He hasn't got it wrong yet.

RB Kuter said...

I love that story of the demoniac. I wonder if Matthew 14:35 shows the fruit of his subsequent testimony? I'll try to tune in on your sermon Sunday.

Austin Al said...

Hi Wade, do you believe that unregenerate people are hungry for the bread of life previous to the new birth? Or, rather, that they become hungry for it as a result of the new birth? It doesn't seem to follow that a truly dead person would be hungry for anything. Thanks. Al

Victorious said...

Austin Al,

I was an unregenerate person who was hungry for the bread of life previous to the new birth.

For the first 30 yrs. or so I didn't believe in God despite having 12 yrs. of catholic education, parents who instilled in us a belief in God, and hearing testimonies of those who were absolutely positive there was a God.

However, the death of my father sent me into a dither. I determined to find out once and for all if there really was a God. The problem was for me...where do I search? How does one search for Him. Long story short, I looked and listened as best I could and after 2 yrs. found Him as the result of reading the Cross and the Switchblade which mysteriously found it's way into my mailbox.

Following my new birth, a different, deeper hunger started and resulted in buying a Bible which had never been mentioned in all the years of my catholic upbringing.

I'll never forget the first passage I read in that Bible. It was Colossians 2:13-14. I can't describe the shock I felt upon reading that. It truly was shock followed by confusion and finally great joy!

Then my hearing was very sensitive and I was invited to a prayer meeting where they were discussing the gifts of the spirit. I went to the Lord and said I wasn't sure I should believe them but I wanted everything He had for me.

That was about 40 yrs. or so ago and the hunger continues....and He has provided...and I am content.

Wade Burleson said...

Austin Al,

Dead people, spiritually, are alive physically, emotionally, psychologically, and mentally. It seems that sin destroys what is alive, and it is precisely then that the Spirit awakens what is dead - so I'm UNCONCERNED about the timing of regeneration or asking "are you regenerate" because the movement of the Spirit is as mysterious as the wind. We can't see when the Spirit is moving, nor control Him, but we dang sure can see the effects of Him moving. When the Spirit moves, there is an AWAKENING of hungry people who are looking for Bread. I want to be praying for the Spirit moving and storing up Bread for the occasion when He moves. My point is churches need to stop trying to do the job of the Holy Spirit (convince the world of sin) and start doing a better job of getting the storehouse in shape with the food hungry people need.

Wade Burleson said...


Well said. Far better than I.


Anonymous said...

I'm more into the isn't either/or, as in either we teach and preach the good news or teach and preach on sin. I'm a both/and person.

I've been in a church that focused solely on sin, and yes, it was horrible and I fled. But I have also been part of a church that NEVER defined what is sin, its penalty, or would let you know God wasn't just tickled pink with any atrocity humans can contrive. I fled there also, as week after week I "worshiped" with people who clearly not only continued to sin (don't we all?) BUT did so defiantly, with an air of celebrating the fact. Not good at all.

And I find today it is often just so not true that people are already burdened with guilt from known sin and seeking relief. They sin, and yes it has severe consequences and they suffer, but most do NOT make the connection that what they feel is guilt.

So preach on defining sin, defining its consequences, defining what guilt is, and THEN give us mega doses of the good news. Mega, mega, mega doses.


Rex Ray said...

At seven years old this poem made me scared.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
if I die before I wake,
I pray for Lord my soul to take.

(I was saved when I was ten.)

How’s this for quoting Mathew Arnold?
‘Hunger or being a sinner does not provide bread or salvation.’

Beth D said...

Well said, Wade.

Christiane said...

a favorite hymn:

"I am the Bread of life, He who comes to Me shall not hunger, He who believes in Me shall not thirst. No one can come to Me Unless the Father draw him. And I will raise him up, And I will raise him up, And I will raise him up on the last day.

The bread that I will give Is My flesh for the life of the world, And he who eats of this bread, He shall live for ever, He shall live for ever. And I will raise him up, And I will raise him up, And I will raise him up on the last day."