Saturday, April 19, 2014

Book Review: The Life Of Our Lord

The Life of Our Lord: Written For His Children During the Years 1846 to 1849. Charles Dickens. 1934/1999. Simon & Schuster. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
My dear children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everybody ought to know about Him. No one ever lived, who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong, or were in anyway ill or miserable, as he was. And as he is now in Heaven, where we hope to go, and all to meet each other after we are dead, and there be happy always together, you never can think what a good place Heaven, is without knowing who he was and what he did.
He was born, a long long time ago - nearly Two Thousand years ago - at a place called Bethlehem. His father and mother lived in a city called Nazareth, but they were forced, by business to travel to Bethlehem. His father’s name was Joseph, and his mother’s name was Mary.
As a non-theological biography of Jesus Christ, Dickens children's book proves charming at times. I think my favorite was his retelling of the Christmas story itself, this is the first chapter. As the story progressed, however, I became more dissatisfied. Dissatisfied because this one misses the point, the essence. By not getting the "why" right, it falls short of what it could have been, should have been. Why did Jesus come? Why was he born? Why did he live? What was his mission or purpose while on earth? Why did he have to die? Why did he have to rise again? What did his life accomplish? What did his death accomplish? What did his resurrection accomplish? Why does it matter?

Yes, I'd probably give Dickens a B in terms of getting most of the facts--plain facts--in. But in terms of piecing together a big picture, a WHY picture, I can't be that generous. The book falls short in the what it means to be a Christian and what Christians should believe department.
Remember! - It is christianity TO DO GOOD always - even to those who do evil to us. It is christianity to love our neighbour as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them Do to us. It is christianity to be gentle, merciful, and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never make a boast of them, or of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to shew that we love Him by humbly trying to do right in everything. If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in Peace.
The stress seems to be on the wrong things. Christianity is not be good, and try your best. It is not make your best effort and if you mostly make the right choices and always say you are sorry when you make bad ones then "God will forgive us our sins and mistakes." Christianity is a DONE religion. And it is Jesus who does the doing. It is through Jesus alone that we are saved, justified, sanctified, and glorified. It is through Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and, yes, ascension that we can "confidently hope" in heaven. Dickens' conclusion has Jesus as more of our example than our actual Savior and Lord. "Remember the life and lessons" and "try to act up to them." That is NOT the message we should be walking away with.

A few weeks ago, I read God in the Whirlwind. David Wells can say it so much better than I ever can:
Christ, who made our sin his own, entered a place that should have been ours. He entered our existence and made it his own. He entered our world and made our plight his own. He took up our cause. He took up what was not properly his so that we might have that to which we have no right. He stood before God, at the cross, as our representative. He tasted death for us by dying in our place. In a strange and beautiful paradox, he who is our Judge submitted to the penalty for our sin. And in this moment, this moment of judgment, our sin was no longer ours. It became his. That righteousness which was and is his became ours by a transfer that is as mysterious as it is real. (139)
Should this message, this gospel message, be included in children's bible story books? I think so. One of my favorites--which was first published in 1938--is Catherine Vos' The Child's Story Bible.
Keeping rules does not get us into the kingdom of God at all. Unless the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, and we put our trust in Jesus who died to pay for our sins, we cannot see the kingdom of God.
It is very painful to you and me to see our beloved Lord hanging there on the cross, with His blood dripping down. But even though it is painful, we need to look, for He hangs there because of what we have done. His blood is being shed to pay for our sins. He loved us so much that He chose to die in our place.
Jesus was suffering pain from the nails in His hands and feet, but He was also suffering a much deeper kind of pain. For during these three hours God Himself turned His back on His dearly beloved Son and left Him.
All His life on earth Jesus had loved God and served Him perfectly, without any sin. But now He had taken upon Himself all the sin that ever has been done or ever will be done in the whole world - your sin, and my sin, and the sin of every single person who puts his trust in Jesus as his Saviour. God gave Him the punishment you and I deserved to suffer. God separated Himself from Jesus so that Jesus felt only God's anger against sin and no longer His love for His Son. And that is the worst punishment any person can ever suffer. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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