Summary: God prepares his people for persecution so that we will not fall away when proving that there are things in life worth dying for.
Dale Carnegie pioneered work in public speaking and was famous for helping others become successful. In 1936 he published How to Win Friends and Influence People; since then it has sold more than 15 million copies. Two of his most famous maxims are, “Believe that you will succeed, and you will,” and “Learn to love, respect and enjoy other people.”
Today’s sermon title plays on the title of Carnegie’s book. He teaches how to “win friends and influence people”; Jesus seems to tell his disciples how to lose friends and anger people! Of course, the Lord says no such thing; he does, however, warn the eleven, and with them, us, that those who follow him often end up hated. So that we will be prepared and persevere, let us give our attention to Jesus’ teaching in John 15.18-16.4.
[Read John 15.18-16.4a. Pray.]
Back in 2001, Pastor Doug Wilson made a bit of a splash when he wrote: “Within the Reformed world, a phrase which more of us should be aware of is ‘cage stage.’ Whenever someone comes into new-found truth (and this often happens with those first coming to embrace Reformed theology), there is a period of time where the new (and usually young) convert should be locked up in a cage. That period of time is usually about two years…. Ironically, they do much to make the theology they profess to love obnoxious to outsiders. Paul did teach, unambiguously, the doctrine of election. But he also told the Colossians, as the elect of God, to put on tender mercies” (Credenda/Agenda, “Hither and Yon,” vol. 13, issue 5, 2001.)
I was especially interested to find those comments in an issue defending C. S. Lewis. Wilson explains why he writes positively about Lewis: “This is said so that our TRs, the ‘truly reformed’ among us, might be encouraged to learn something they really need to learn…. Someone once made a wonderful point about Lewis: he made righteousness readable. In the same way, he made the doctrines of predestination and justification wash over a sinner with sweet relief….
“This is not to endorse every single thing C. S. Lewis may have written…. But the funny thing was that he was a gracious and edifying writer, even when he is busy arguing some of his errors…. The truths Lewis presents are readable, understandable, and altogether lovely, even when he is wrong. He loved the truths he presented, and was a man of such giftedness that he made what he loved lovely. And in this, many pastors in the orthodox Reformed tradition need to learn this particular lesson. More beauty in word-smithing does not lessen the amount of truth that words carry, but rather increases it drastically. A pearl necklace on a beautiful woman is not extraneous.” (Credenda/Agenda, “A Reformed Appreciation of C. S. Lewis” vol. 13, issue 5, 2001.)
I tell you all of that because I once attended a church with a tract on the literature table with this title: “Did C. S. Lewis go to Heaven?” (John Robbins, The Trinity Review, no. 226, November, December 2003.) The last line of that tract read: “And our answer must be: Not if he believed what he wrote in his books and letters.” In my opinion, that answer demonstrates exactly what Wilson warns of: intentionally making the theology we love offensive.