Screwtape Letters Part 9: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death. Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

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screwtape50thbChapter 12 This chapter offers a disturbing, yet enlightening look at how men can be deceived, distracted, and destroyed by Satan’s lifeless offerings. While Screwtape is writing specifically about a “lukewarm Christian,” I think the illustration is also valid for professed unbelievers who believe their own moral values sufficiently replace the “need” for God. After bringing his target to be sufficiently dull toward his relationship with God, Demon Wormwood is told that he (Wormwood) “will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations . . . [you] will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his [the target’s] wandering attention” (italics added). Screwtape continues,

“You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s newspaper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversations he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him . . . All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked‘” (italics added).

Take note of the tragedy and waste found in the last sentence: ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” Imagine: In the end that you discover that not only have you not done what you should have done, but you also realize that you didn’t even like what you had done instead. You were the ultimate sucker. Screwtape’s conclusion is that, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Beware: The gentle road is one that dulls our senses and leaves us vulnerable to Wormwood’s deceptions. To be continued . . .

Screwtape Letters Part 8: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

____________________________________________

screwtape-classicChapter 9

Uncle Screwtape says,

“Never forget that when we [demons] are dealing with any [human] pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.”

Emphasis has been added to draw your attention to the critical wording of this sentence. These three words – healthy, normal, satisfying – dramatically qualify the statement. Without these qualifiers, the sentence takes on a completely different and opposite meaning.

Take some time to let this settle into your heart.

Further to the topic of the Christian and true pleasure, I recommend John Piper’s book, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. Don’t be fooled by the title, there is nothing immoral within. Quite the opposite, in fact.

To be continued . . .

Screwtape Letters Part 7: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

____________________________________________

screwtape50thbChapter 8

“The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10 NKJV).”

In his effort to explain the essential difference between the demons and God, Screwtape captures the truth of Jesus’ words from John 10:10 when he says, “We [Satan] want to suck in, He [God] wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over.”

Isn’t it interesting how, in our day, the two parties are usually described in the opposite way? Generally, we hear God described as one who wants to take things away, when He really wants to give us real life. Unfortunately, Satan has deceived so many to buy into the lie that he, the Destroyer, has more to offer than God, when, in reality, he is the one taking way.

So many times I have heard someone say, “If I can’t do X, Y, or Z in heaven, then I would rather be in Hell doing those things with my friends.” And every time, “X,” “Y,” or “Z” was simply one of Satan’s cleverly disguised efforts to suck real life out of that person. In the end, these poor souls will only discover that “X,” “Y,” or “Z” are not just life takers, but life destroyers.

How sad that Jesus extends a hand saying, “I have come that you might have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” and so many people misunderstand that as something other than an offer of true reality – true satisfaction – TRUE LIFE. Satan is a liar; don’t be deceived.

To be continued…

Screwtape Letters Part 6: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

____________________________________________

screwtape-logo.0Chapter 7

All extremes except extreme devotion to the Enemy [God] are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep.

In this excerpt, Uncle Screwtape is teaching his nephew the art of discerning the times. What he wants Wormwood to understand is that at times it is better to direct the Christian’s attention toward absolute devotion to a cause, even a “good” cause, rather than toward God.

My observation is that usually in the beginning, the cause is justifiable because it generally fits within the framework of being a “biblical responsibility.” For example, many times I have seen Christian men become so engaged in their jobs that they eventually lose both their spiritual life and their families because of chronic absenteeism at home. They presumably devoted themselves to their job in order to fulfill their biblical responsibility of providing for their family (1 Timothy 5:8), but their devotion to their job became increasingly larger than their devotion to their family, or to God. The demands of the job grew to the point that there was no time to pray or meditate on Scripture, or spend time with the family. Next thing you know, the husband/father is hardly ever home and is trying to fill his absence with stuff. Of course, it takes more money to buy more stuff and more time on the job(s) to make more money. And the cycle starts spinning out of control.

Sadly, many pastors fall prey to this, putting their devotion to “ministry” above their devotion to God. The results of this are staggering: no prayer, no meditation, no spiritual life, and no joy – only rigorous, legalistic efforts at ministry. Unfortunately, the examples of extreme devotion to a cause being destructive to a devotion to God are legion and are not limited to dads or pastors. I’m sure that anyone reading this can think of several examples of their own. Beware, lest we too fall prey to extreme devotion to something other than God!

The second point that Uncle Screwtape makes about discerning the times is that of mediocrity. In other words, if a Christian is lukewarm about his devotion to God there is no need to spark his devotion to become extreme toward another target. From a demon’s perspective, it is sometimes better to “let a sleeping dog lie.” The dysfunctional state of popular Christianity is, I think, the result of the Wormwood & Sons of the underworld simply allowing lukewarm Christians to continue in their slumber. The Apostle John gives us a warning of the danger of staying comfortably lukewarm:

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I ill grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:14-22 NASB)”

To be continued . . .

Screwtape Letters Part 5: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

____________________________________________

screwtape-classicChapter 5

Once again, Uncle Screwtape is disappointed with the work report of his nephew Wormwood. However, in the light rebuke that he drafts, Screwtape attempts to mitigate some of the blame that he is placing upon his understudy:

“Reading between the lines in your very unbalanced account of the patient’s sleepless night, I can reconstruct your state of mind fairly accurately. For the first time in your career, you have tasted that wine which is the reward of all our labours – the anguish and bewilderment of a human soul – and it has gone to your head. I can hardly blame you. I don’t expect old heads on young shoulders.”

I have no idea if demons age or mature as illustrated here, but I think Lewis accurately points out something that would encourage a demon, if they could be encouraged: “the anguish and bewilderment of a human soul.” The reason I think that this might encourage a demon in his labors against a Christian is that an unsettled soul is the opposite of what we are supposed to have.

“O Israel, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in Lord; He is their help and their shield. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield (Psalm 115:9-11 NASB).”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:4-5 NASB).”

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB).”

Throughout the Scriptures, we are directed to trust in the Lord in all circumstances. The trouble is that the Bible doesn’t offer us wiggle room to trust the Lord when things are good and trust Him less when things appear to be bad, which, unfortunately, is a common pattern among many professing Christians.

It seems that we are often like the proverbial pouting child: happy when things appear to go our way, and pouty when they don’t. Yes, there is too much of the consumer culture’s “the customer is always right” among us. In our relationship with God, He is not a clerk and we are not customers. He is Lord and we are His servants. He is the potter, we are clay. How are you doing in this regard? Are you encouraging Wormwood & Co.?

In this regard, I was greatly encouraged when I read John Piper’s announcement that he has cancer because he is encouraged by the news. Don’t misunderstand, though. He isn’t giddy over the doctor’s findings. Instead, he is encouraged by this new avenue available to God to show His mercy, faithfulness, and strength. Piper explains this more fully in his article, “Don’t waste your cancer.” You can read it here.

To be continued . . .

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