Monday, July 24, 2006
Lessons from C.S. Lewis's Demons

An artful, old devil writing to his young, overconfident nephew about how they can win the soul of a young man using the arts of casuistry—this is the basis of C. S. Lewis’s book called The Screwtape Letters. Yet, although the text speaks in language obverse to spiritual truth, the novel has been brilliantly tailored to enlighten Christians everywhere to the reality of hell’s campaign and the need for Christians to walk circumspectly.
While the Bible instructs the Christian to take every thought captive to Christ, The Screwtape Letters makes one aware of how easy it is to become side-tracked and how even the simplest divergences can render one’s spiritual efforts ineffective. An example of this mistake was given regarding one’s prayer life. God, of course, is not visible to people; therefore one cannot really know what He like, yet people often conjure an image of Him in their minds and pray to that picture. As a result, one is not praying to the infinite, incomprehensible Being who made him but to an object or figment of his imagination. What Christians should strive for is a "real nakedness of the soul in prayer." This is primarily a personal recognition that God is beyond what one can understand, and it is an entrustment of oneself to a real, present, all-powerful Being. The goal of a demon may be to remove this trust and replace the object of one’s prayer with anything but God, but a Christian precludes the success of this scheme when he prays not to what he believes God is, but to what God knows Himself to be.
A second point to which the book gives warning is basing decisions in one’s spiritual walk on feelings. This point is illustrated in the Christian’s ignorance of the law of undulation. The law of undulation is a natural cycle that happens in both a person’s emotions and in his spiritual walk. It is a series of troughs and peaks or highs and lows that prevent the Christian from always feeling spiritually alive or always feeling spiritually numb—that is, his "mood" is always changing. The demon Screwtape attributes this phenomenon to the fact that humans, although in possession of a spirit, in habit time like animals. Screwtape writes that "while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change." Unfortunately, Christians who suddenly do not sense the Lord’s presence as strongly often panic. New Christians especially will fall away from their devotional time with the fading of their initial sensitivity or "fire." Yet Christians should know that this is not God breaking his promise to never leave his child; rather, it is His way of teaching His child to trust Him despite what he feels, to keep in prayer, keep praising, and keep obeying. The trough may involve more than a noticeable withdrawing of God’s presence. It may occur with difficult trials and testing. But it is in the trough, not the peak, that the Christian toddler learns to walk, as God, in a sense, takes away his hand, which served as an early support and incentive. It is God’s desire that His child willingly conform his own will to his Father’s, even in a state of "dryness," when blind obedience is difficult. Therefore, it is imperative that the believer understand that the trough is natural, temporary, and essential for spiritual growth; he simply needs to choose, despite the way he feels, to have faith in a God who, for His own purpose, does not always make Himself "indisputable" or "irresistible."
A third aspect regards one’s personal tenets—all of those personal beliefs that determine one’s actions. Most likely, there are always some beliefs or ideas that reside within a person that have not yet been conformed to God’s truth. For instance, Screwtape’s advice to his nephew was to give the "patient" the idea that of each day, he is "the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours"—his time is his property. While the truth stands that each moment of time is a gift to man which he can never make or possess, a mere sense of ownership causes a world of trouble. The individual would begin to feel that the time allotted to work for his employees was a severe tax on his energy and patience. He would regard the time he gave to church attendance, prayer, and Bible reading a "generous donation," and the time he spent for himself, a personal right. This is an assumption that many Christians make subconsciously before their day begins, but it must be torn down by the truth that Christians are truly committed to total service for God. He can only have one master, God or Satan. Screwtape writes, "They will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong—certainly not to them, whatever happens." It is important that Christians be on the lookout for wrong beliefs and ideas they hold above what God says is true. A surrendering of the small things can go a long way in freeing the Christian to serve God effectively.
The final element for my discussion is focus. God desires Christians to be concerned with both eternity and the present. Attending to eternity means that one is meditating on his eternal union with God. Attending to the present means avoiding unnecessary distractions from all other tenses of time and focusing on what requires attention now, whether that be obeying God, taking up the present cross, or giving thanks for the present pleasure. The object of Screwtape and his nephew is to insidiously weaken the effect of God’s power in one’s life by diverting his attention. Sometimes demons tempt Christians to live in the past, being beset with guilt from past wrongs, ceasing to move ahead in one’s spiritual walk while living off the glory of one’s past spiritual accomplishments, or feeling that all life’s joy can only be found in the past. However, demons may find it most effective to draw one’s attention to the future. Certainly, God desires Christians to be provident, looking ahead into the future in order to plan for the here and now, but he does not want them to dwell on it unnecessarily to the pint of fear or to place their hearts or their treasure in the future. No, that is a demon’s desire for humans. Screwtape wants a race of people who are in constant search of the "rainbow’s end," never allowing themselves to be content with the present. It is even better, Screwtape says, for a person to be filled with anxiety or hope—doesn’t matter which—for the future, just as long as he is not relying on God in the present. There is but one caution, however. While living in the present, one should avoid becoming complacent or satisified with their spiritual position but should continually strive for Christ-likeness.
The reality of sophistical demons and their insatiable craving for human failure should not cause the Christian undue fear, but it should make him aware of his need for solid, spiritual truth. The Screwtape Letters reveals how insensible humans can be, and it challenges them to take their thoughts, feelings, tenets, and focus captive and subject them to the truth and obedience of Christ.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Wake Up!!

I want to share some of the lessons I learned in reading the works of John Eldredge and C.S. Lewis, some I found profound and deeply impacting.
The heart is central to everything in life. It is the axis about which revolves each individual, God, and Christianity. It is the seat of emotion, identity, and personal motivation, creativity, memory, and courage. Unlike the cold calculative mind, the heart wrestles with far more bloody and beautiful realities. Hence those who live from their minds alone know a detached and hollow existence--they are as emotionally and physically available as a computer. The heart inchambers our deepest thoughts and beliefs which then produce and are manifested in our character. Thus, the heart is the essence of you and I. But what is the most important thing that the heart can do? What is the one thing that makes its consciousness worthwhile? The ability to love. Anything done in life without love is worth nothing, and everything in life done in love serves to make life worth living. No matter what it is that you love, you could not do it without the use of your heart. However, a condition that may not be evident to many people, believing and unbelieving alike, is that their hearts are not alive and free. Their ability to make life worthwhile is stunted. We might as well picture them bound and gagged in a dark dungeon. The individual is more or less sleepwalking through life, as if under a spell—neglectful, blind, unsuspecting. Still smiling complacently perhaps.
C.S. Lewis shares this perspective: "Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years." (
Weight of Glory).
One can find himself in many different kinds of spiritual bondage. Here is one test for the believer. Does the "abundant life" you’re always hearing about sound far-fetched to you? Is it something you honestly believe yourself to have found? Does the word "transformed" describe you? Or would you more readily label your experience as "forgiven." Maybe you’ve reigned in a few bad habits but more often you find yourself missing the mark. You know that you were meant to be more than you are, but the way things are going, it seems that you’ll spend the rest of your life trying and asking forgiveness for never arriving. You’ll make it to heaven, but you don’t expect to attend the awards ceremony…you never measured up anyway. You're stuck this way, and you can’t blame it on anyone but yourself.…is this how it ends? Let me say that it will be if Satan can keep you believing that this is all you’ll ever amount to—and that this is as far as Christianity goes. I hope that this isn’t the lie you’ve agreed with. I hope it’s not the spell you’re under. Because there is more to Christianity…a lot more!!
Not only did Jesus do something for you, he did something to you. His mission was to "set the captives free." Free from what? The heart that was so "deceitful and desperately wicked." The curse of sin. The part of you that always seems to sabotage your best intentions and hold you back from becoming the person God destined you to be. That part of you died with Christ. It died. It was nailed to cross with Him. "Count yourselves dead to sin."
Jesus gave you a new heart: "I will give you a new heart with new and right desires, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony heart of sin and give you a new, obedient heart." Ezekiel 36:26. Therefore "count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." Not only are you now spiritually alive, but did you know that your heart is good? Jesus couldn’t dwell inside it if it wasn’t…So if this is a new revelation, what does this mean for you? It means that you can dispose the lies. It means that you don’t have to be weighed down by discouragement and shame…Remember the Lion King? It’s a kid movie, I know, but it applies. Simba lost his sense of purpose; he fled from his destiny and from who he was meant to be because he believed the lies Scar fed him. In order to unveil the glory trapped inside him, he needed to be reminded of who he was:
SIMBA: Father?
MUFASA: Simba, you have forgotten me.
SIMBA: No! How could I?
MUFASA: You have forgotten who you are, and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba…you are more than what you have become.
SIMBA: How can I go back? I’m not who I used to be.
MUFASA: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember who you are.
Wake up from the spell. You can’t glorify God while you are dragging your feet in your failures. Don’t hide your light under the bushel anymore. Understand that your heart bears a glory, and the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection was to restore that glory. It isn’t prideful to desire this glory because it is a reflected glory…and when you shine, your Father shines—and that is essential! Excuse the use of fairytale again, but remember Aragorn? His glory was truly unveiled when he took up the sword that was reforged to assume his rightful place as defender and King of Gondor…and wasn’t it badly needed?—Yes, it was essential to the success of the fellowship’s mission and essential to restoring the kingdom Denethor had neglected. In our own Story, the restoration of your glory is just as essential. It's essential to the spread of God's glory. It's essential to effectively supporting the body of Christ. It's essential to all of the ways that your heart is supposed to function...And it may begin with remembering who you are in Christ.