Sermons About or Influenced by C.S. Lewis

"Footprints of an Old Friend"

An old proverb says that "Some people come into our lives and quickly go, but others stay awhile and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same." Has that ever happened to you? Well, as a college student I was facing some serious doubts about my faith and a friend suggested that I read a book called Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Who would have thought that that advice, given some thirty-five years ago, would have left such an indelible influence upon my life? And now, many, many books later, through both his words and his life, C.S. Lewis's footprints have been left on my heart, and my life has never been the same. This morning, I want to invite you to celebrate with me a few of the ways that he has touched my life, and, as a result, helped direct me to a closer walk with Jesus Christ.

First of all, "Jack" Lewis, as he was known to his friends, was a great author who taught English literature in standing-room-only lecture halls at both Oxford and Cambridge University. From 1936 to 1963 he published about one million words of high-powered literary criticism; another million words of "imaginative literature" - poetry, novels, stories for children; and yet, another million words explaining and defending his Christian faith. (Sam Wellman, "Heroes of History" at http://www.heroesofhistory.com/page32.html) Even though he died in 1963, nearly all of his 38 books are still in print, with over 200 million having been sold in over 30 languages. Plus over 150 books have been published about him. His books sell, not only because he knew his subject, but because he wrote with both clarity and a great sense of humor, primarily for the "average intelligent layperson" on the "great subjects" that really matter. (Perry Bramlett, "Why C.S. Lewis Is Today's Most Trusted and Read Christian Author")

But not only was Jack Lewis a great author, he was also a great man. His great intellect did not stop him from being a great friend to others. In fact he considered friendship to be "the greatest of worldly goods." (C.S. Lewis. They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, p. 477.) Nor did it stop him from being a great patriot. Wounded in France during World War I, Jack also volunteered to serve in the Home Guard during World War II, speaking to the troops and giving broadcast talks over British radio. These weekly radio talks made his voice the second most recognizable voice on British radio, second only to Winston Churchill. Because of his popularity with the public, he received thousands of letters asking for his advice, spending one-and-a-half to two hours a day answering them. (TST, p. 510.)

But Jack Lewis was not only a great author and a great man; most important of all, he was a great Christian. Someone who knew Lewis describes him as "the most thoroughly converted man I ever met." (Walter Hooper. "Preface." God in the Dock. p. 12) Someone else notes that "he may have influenced more people for the cause of Jesus Christ and his church than perhaps anyone in this century." (Perry Bramlett. C.S. Lewis: Life at the Center. p. 3) Do you see why his spiritual footprints may have touched my heart? 

Yet, there is something which you may not know. Jack Lewis was not always a Christian. Although he was raised in the church, his grandfather being a preacher, early on he turned from the faith and became an atheist, which he stayed until he was nearly thirty-three. That story is a sermon all to itself. But if you want to know the details of his conversion, he tells them in his spiritual autobiography, Surprised by Joy. (C.S. Lewis. Surprised by Joy. especially chapters 14 and 15). It's a wonderful story of how God's grace keeps reaching out to any and all who are really seeking to know the truth.

What might Lewis's life say to us about our own Christian discipleship this morning? What in his Christian life might help us be drawn closer to Christ? Like all of us, Jack Lewis had his problems, his own besetting sins. His feet were made of clay, too. But, in spite of his flaws, what impresses me the most about Jack Lewis is his integrity. He was the same person at work and at home and among his friends as he was at church. He not only wrote about and talked about his faith, he lived it unashamedly before others. Often called an "apostle to the skeptics," Lewis took to heart our first scripture this morning that is found in First Peter, chapter three, verse 15. Let's read it. It applies to all of us.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:15)

You see. Lewis had been trained in philosophy as well as literature and, unlike many who have a tendency to compartmentalize their intellectual life and their spiritual life, as a philosopher he stated that he "never found any philosophical grounds" for disbelieving in miracles. Nor did he ever regard any passage of scripture as "unhistorical simply on the ground that it includes the miraculous." (C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms. p. 92)

Likewise, concerning "the hope that is within us," "a frequent theme in almost all of his books is heaven." (Bramlett, Life. p. 3) That's right. He simply realized that if he found within himself a desire which no experience in this world could satisfy, the most probable explanation was that we were made for another world. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book III, chapter 10, para. 5)

Such Christian integrity in his thinking also overflowed into his devotional life, his financial stewardship, and into his writing. While Lewis had a regular time for prayer and Bible reading each day, usually in the morning, he could be found praying and reading his Bible whenever time or place would permit it, especially as he traveled on the train to and from work. Concerning his financial giving, his lawyer has reported that Lewis "gave two-thirds of his income away" into an "Agape Fund" which anonymously went to help the needy. (Owen Barfield. Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis. p. 14) Isn't that amazing? The integrity of Lewis's faith also found expression in his willingness to share about his faith in his popular writings and talks, even though his public popularity caused jealousy among his Oxford University colleagues, leading them to pass over him several times for promotion to a full professorship. It was just an unwritten rule that Oxford teachers were just not supposed to witness about their personal faith. The integrity of Jack Lewis's faith broke that rule, and he paid dearly for it for many years, clearly acknowledging in 1958 that most of his books indeed were evangelistic. (C.S. Lewis. "Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger." in God in the Dock. p. 181)

Let's look now at some of the other special scriptures and sample quotations for which Lewis has become noted. I hope that they will speak to your heart as much as they have spoken to mine. First, from Philippians 2, verses 12 and 13. This is a life-long call to be obedient in our faith, letting God work his way and will in our life.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; {13} for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Next, we turn to Lewis's favorite book in the Bible, the Psalms, a book he read from each day. (William Griffin. C.S. Lewis: Spirituality for Mere Christians. p. 167) Let's read the first three verses of Psalm 119:

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, Who walk in the law of the LORD! {2} Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! {3} They also do no iniquity; They walk in His ways. (Psalms 119:1-3)

Another favorite from Isaiah 55 reminds us of the awesome difference between our ways and God's ways.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. {9} "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Finally, from 1 John we are reminded of God's gift-love for us and our responsibility to love others the way God loves us. This is a major theme in both Lewis and throughout the whole New Testament.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. {17} Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. {18} There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. {19} We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)

Next I want to call your attention to several short quotations from Lewis's works.

Some Short Quotations From C.S. Lewis

The Bible

The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers will bring us to Him [Christ].

Letters of C.S. Lewis, November 8, 1952

Choices

Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you ... either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature.

Mere Christianity, book III, chap. 4, para. 8

Essence of Christianity

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.

The Weight of Glory, "Is Theology Poetry?" para. 24

Eternity

All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

The Four Loves, chap. 16, para 39.

Heaven

If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.... Aim at Heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in'; aim at earth and you will get neither.

Mere Christianity, book II, chap. 10.

Hell: Self-Chosen

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.'... Without that self-choice there could be no hell.

The Great Divorce, chap. 9

The Incarnation

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.

Mere Christianity, book IV, chap. 5, para. 1.

Longing For Heaven

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.

Mere Christianity, chap. 10, para. 5

Pain

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

The Problem of Pain, chap. 6

 

So much more could be said about C.S. Lewis and his inspiring Christian life. I have just touched the tip of the lessons we can each learn from him. Let me finish with one more quote. It tells us something about his heart for the unity of the church. It tells us all about how to relate to other Christians. Even though he was an Anglican, what we in America call an Episcopalian, Lewis saw a need for all Christians to come together around what he calls "Mere Christianity," the classic Christianity of the early church where the focus is not on organization, not on denominational differences, but on Jesus Christ.

"Mere Christianity" in his books

I have always in my books been concerned simply to put forward "mere" Christianity.

Letters of C.S. Lewis, March 16, 1955

 

Yes, the footprints of C.S. Lewis have been left on my heart, and my life has never been the same. But ultimately not because he has pointed to himself, but because he has pointed us to the Christ who loves us and has come to die for us that we might become a child of God, that we might experience the joy of heaven, that we, too, might become "Mere Christians." This morning, I invite you to meet this Christ who changed C.S. Lewis's life, who gave him courage to witness for his faith and to live with integrity wherever he worked and among all with whom he lived. May such a challenge and such a life inspire each of us to a deeper commitment to Christ. To God be the glory! Amen.

 

(This message was preached on July 25, 1999 at the First Christian Church in Burkesville, KY and is dedicated to Perry Bramlett and the staff at Laity Lodge in memory of the week that was spent there on July 12-17, 1999.)

Bibliography

Barfield, Owen. Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis. ed. G. B. Tennyson. Middletown, CN: Wesleyan University Press, 1989.

Bramlett, Perry. C.S. Lewis: Life at the Center. Macon, GA: Peake Road, 1996. (Life)

___________. "Why C.S. Lewis Is Today's Most Trusted and Read Christian Author." Louisville: C.S. Lewis For the Local Church - Interstate Ministries, 1999.

Griffin, William. C.S. Lewis: Spirituality for Mere Christians. New York: Crossroad, 1998.

Hooper, Walter. "Preface." in Lewis, C.S. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. ed. Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1970.

Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves. London: Collins Fontana, 1960.

________. The Great Divorce. New York: Macmillan, 1946.

________. "Is Theology Poetry?" The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (revised and expanded). ed. with introduction by Walter Hooper. New York: Macmillan, 1980.

________. Letters of C.S. Lewis. ed. with a memoir by W.H. Lewis. revised and enlarged. ed. Walter Hooper. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1988.

________. Mere Christianity: A Revised and Enlarged Edition, with a New Introduction, of the Three Books "The Case For Christianity," "Christian Behaviour," and "Beyond Personality." New York: Collier, 1952. 1960.

________. The Problem of Pain. New York: Macmillan, 1943.1962.

________. Reflections on the Psalms. London: Collins Fontana, 1958. 1961.

________. "Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger." in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics. ed. Walter Hooper. Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1970.

________. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. London: Fontana, 1955.

________. They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963). ed. Walter Hooper. New York: Macmillan, 1979. (TST)

Wellman, Sam. "Heroes of History."  (http://www.heroesofhistory.com/page32.html)

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Last Updated: Sunday, September 02, 2001