R. J.: That’s a wonderful thing to have a framework or perspective from which to view tragedies like that, but some people would say, “I’m glad that works for you, but it doesn’t work for me.” What would you say to somebody like that?
Charles: I would say try it. A French philosopher by the name of Pascal once said (it’s called the Pascal Wager) “…if I believe in God and in the end find there is no God, I’ve lost nothing because I’ve lived a better life, but if I do not believe in God and in the end find there is a God, I’ve lost everything.” I would say try it; it works.
R. J.: How critical is this?
Charles: Extremely! If we say we believe something about God that God doesn’t say about Himself in the Word, guess who’s wrong. We have to work constantly because a kingdom disciple is someone Jesus said must take up His cross daily and follow Him. We must die to ourselves and live to God. This is a process of learning to think God’s thoughts after Him as the Apostle Paul instructs us to do in 2 Corinthians 10:5: “Bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” All the different religions and all the different cults and occults have grown out of man thinking His thoughts about God and the supernatural rather than what God says about Himself.
R. J.: I guess we like to say, “this is what I think about God” without thinking of what God thinks! But that involves a lot of thought. What would you say to somebody who says, “I’m too old to do that kind of thinking or I’m not educated. Do I have an out? Can I say then that I don’t have to think?”
Charles: When Jesus said, and He was quoting the Old Testament, that we’re to love God with our mind, heart, body, and soul I don’t believe he gave a retirement age to that. As I was telling you earlier, God has been dealing with me as I’m getting older on how to deal with this biblically and the prayer of David in Psalm 71 has been so meaningful to me. He says, Lord, as I am getting older and my hair is turning grey, give me the strength to continue to communicate to the next generation who you are. In Western culture young people are really reaching out for a relationship with older people to help them understand life because life is very confusing and very perplexing. They need the wisdom of older people to help them and yet I find many times that older people are pushing younger people away and not reaching out to them. They need our help, teaching them the biblical perspective regarding life and reality.
R. J.: That leads us to an important question. What would be essential elements of looking at life from a biblical framework? What are some things that go into that framework? Some hooks to hang your coat on?
Charles: First, you have to start with a right view of God. If you have a wrong view of God everything else is going to be off base and this is why I say it’s very important to study the Scripture and to be in situations where you’re taught the Bible. This is what makes the church so important because one of the main roles of the church is to teach God’s people His word so they in fact can be kingdom people. Second, a right view of creation. God is the creator of all things and that includes who we are as human beings. The Bible says we are made in the image and likeness of God. John Calvin, said in his book, The Institute of the Christian Religion, that the most important thing we can know in life is God. [We also must] know ourselves, but we cannot know ourselves unless we know God. We must have a right picture of God, if we’re to understand who we are as His image bearers. A third ingredient is to understand that God’s good creation, beginning with man, fell into sin, which touched every part of God’s creation; the physical world around us, as well as our own lives. Sin not only affected our relationship to Him but our relationship to one another. The fall helps us understand why things get so mixed up and broken and why so many people are hurt with life because they don’t understand what the fall into sin did but it’s not hopeless. The fourth ingredient is to understand why Jesus Christ the Son of God came to earth to die on the cross to redeem us from sin; to begin to restore and bring healing to the broken relationship that we have with God; to reconcile us to God and to one another and to understand the world around us. The fifth is our commitment to grow in Christ, and by that I mean being transformed. If we really believe in something it will affect our lives. Oftentimes our faith in Christ doesn’t seem to change our lives the way it should because we’re not making a conscious effort to grow to think God’s thoughts after Him and we’re left [on] our own. We have to realize that being a kingdom disciple with a world and life view involves being transformed. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12: 2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that you may know the will of God.” Kingdom discipleship is aimed at transforming the way we think because the Bible says as we think, so are we. We live what we think we are. The sixth ingredient is to realize that this life has an end. Christ is coming again and He will create a new heaven and a new earth. We do not believe that presently we’re in heaven. As the writer of Hebrews says we look for better things to come and we do hope in the return of Christ who will create a new heaven and a new earth. This has to be an ingredient because we can become so attached to this world that we can really believe this is really our home when in reality this is not our home. God made us for eternity, not to just be on Earth.
R. J.: Let me go back to your book. You said that your hope in making disciples is that Christians will come to see the importance of thinking, making decisions and choices and living from an eternal perspective. Would this perspective be the kind of mentality expressed in a song like “This World Is Not My Home” or would you say there is a bit of a difference?
Charles: “This world is not my home” doesn’t mean that we can withdraw from the world or move into what we call Christian ghettos, and only talk to one another. Christ said, “go into the world,” but we need to go into the world equipped. You see, we have an enemy, the Devil, who is powerful and very deceptive. He is always trying to draw us away from God. We need to be aware of his devices so we’ll not fall into his frame of thinking. The antithesis is that we must be consciously thinking of decisions we have to make and the relationships we have. It’s about God. We have to make those decisions beginning with God so we keep those things in perspective. When we do we realize it’s important to live life to its fullest right here and now but this is not our home. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says in the closing chapters, a Christian must learn to live with eternity in his heart so we realize this is not all there is.
R. J.: Now to shift gears, you said something about falling into certain traps and that is the problem we face today. We are called to live a biblically world view but there are so many things that impact us and seek to drive us away from that perspective, if you will, crack our spectacles. Would you say then that the decisions we make and how we live need to be guided again by that framework but it’s a theological framework? You seem to be saying all of us, even though we’re not pastors or church workers, all of us need to be doing theology.
Charles: Certainly! We need to teach our young people how to think properly about God. In the States, I often work with those involved in youth ministry. They often look for books and material talking about dating, drugs, sex and all the things young people are dealing with. I tell them the first thing they need to deal with is who God is and who they are because of Him. When it comes to those relationships or drugs, they need to address those issues from the perspective that they belong to God. I can’t do with my body whatever I want to do. I can’t take drugs if it’s going to harm me. I can’t get involved in premarital sex because God says not to do that. We have to start with the youngest [children] teaching our children to think biblically and theologically.
R. J.: We can’t get away from it; we have to think. We come back to the challenge of thinking. You mentioned, apart from reading your book, which I definitely recommend to our listeners, we need to teach our young people to think. What else do we need to do? As a pastor like me, how can I teach my people not only to hold to the principle but how do I teach the principle and how do I pass it on to them? What are some things I could do concretely to pass it on?
Charles: I would say that if the younger generation does not see truths working in our lives, they’re not going to be as open to embracing those truths. “Show me” is what the young people are saying. “Show me what you say about God is real and true and makes a difference in my life or can make a difference in my life.” We need to spend time with one another and become living examples of what we believe. They need to see and the world needs to see what we believe does make a difference in our lives.
R. J.: That is why the church has been marginalized in many areas because we say one thing but we don’t live that way. In marginalizing our faith, we become marginalized.
R. J.: Any parting words?
Charles: My prayer for you in Jamaica, as well as for us in North America, that God would create a great revival of thinking about the Christian life with the challenge to be kingdom disciples committed to doing all to the glory of God.
R. J.: Thank you very much, brother. It has been a pleasure.