Tempting times?

Screwtape cover


This second of three short posts on temptation comes from C.S.Lewis’s book The Screwtape Letters; a series of letters from a senior demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. Here Screwtape advises Wormwood

on the benefits of using time to wear down a soul.

 

 

Screwtape advises: ‘The Enemy has guarded him from you through the first great wave of temptations. But, if only he can be kept alive, you have time itself for your ally. The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it—all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. If, on the other hand, the middle years prove prosperous, our position is even stronger. Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middle- aged and the old.’

From The Screwtape Letters by C.S.Lewis

The group you’ve already joined

Spurgeon

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
1 Corinthians 10:13. ESV

 

 

Maybe one attraction of social media lies in our shared longing to believe we are not so different from our friends as we might at times feel; that they are at best no better than us, or, less flatteringly, that we are, at our best, no better than them. In this first of three posts, Charles Spurgeon says that, in respect to temptation at least, we are all together in the best of company and we are blessed to be liked by Jesus, the ‘friend of sinners’.

Spurgeon says, ‘THE CHILDREN OF GOD are all subject to temptation; some of them are tempted more than others, but I am persuaded that there is not one, except those who are too young to be conscious of evil, who will enter heaven without having endured some temptation. If any one could have escaped, surely it would have been “the firstborn among many brethren;” but you will remember how he was led of the Spirit, straight from the waters of his baptism, into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and the apostle Paul informs us that he “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Truly, the Lord Jesus might say to us who are his followers, “If I, your Master and Lord, have been tempted, you must not expect to escape temptation; for the disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord.” The fact that we are tempted ought to humble us, for it is sad evidence that there is sin still remaining in us’.

From a sermon delivered by C.H.Spurgeon, on September 27th, 1883.

 

When in doubt, Mercy…

Jude quote
God loves doubters too and he is just
as concerned with caring for them as correcting them.
The comments in this third post on the theme of doubt come form Os Guinness and C.S.Lewis.

 

 

God in the Dark“Interestingly, God’s remedy for Elijah’s depression was not a refresher course in theology but food and sleep… Before God spoke to him at all, Elijah was fed twice and given a good chance to sleep. Only then, and very gently, did God confront him with his error. This is always God’s way. Having made us as human beings, He respects our humanness and treats us with integrity. That is, He treats us true to the truth of who we are. It is human beings and not God who have made spirituality impractical.”

From Os Guinness, God in the Dark

 

Lewis LettersIt is often the devil working through some defect in our health, and in extreme cases it needs a medical as well as a spiritual cure. So don’t listen to these fears and doubts any more than you would to any obviously impure or uncharitable thoughts. . . . Of course, like other evil temptations, they will not be silenced at once. You will think you have got rid of them and then they will come back again—and again. But, with all our temptations of all sorts, we must just endure this.
Keep on, do your duty, say your prayers, make your communions, and take no notice of the tempter. He goes away in the end.

From The Collected Letters of C.S.Lewis, Volume III

 

The fault in ourselves…

SpurgeonImmediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  Mark 9:24

Perhaps it’s simply part of a generalized softening that has crept into our 21st Century lives that we disciples of the Christ, who so selflessly, for our sake, ‘set his face to go to  Jerusalem’, intent on suffering, are inclined to ‘baby’ ourselves through the trials of our discipleship, including our doubts.

This second of three posts on the theme of doubt comes from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon…

‘It is observable that this poor man did not say, “Lord, I believe, but have some doubts,” and mention it as if it were a mere matter of common intelligence which did not grieve him. Oh, no; he said it with tears; he made a sorrowful confession of it. It was not the mere statement of a fact, but it was the acknowledgment of a fault. With tears he said, “Lord, I believe,” and then acknowledged his unbelief. Learn then, dear hearer, always to look at unbelief in Christ in the light of a fault. Never say, “This is my infirmity,” but say, “This is my sin.” There has been too much in the Church of God of regarding unbelief as though it were a calamity commanding sympathy, rather than a fault demanding censure as well. I am not to say to myself, “I am unbelieving, and therefore
I am to be pitied.” No, “I am unbelieving, and therefore I must blame myself for it.”
Why should I disbelieve my God? How dare I doubt him who cannot lie? How can I mistrust the faithful promiser who has added to his promise his oath, and over and above his promise and his oath has given his own blood as a seal, that by two immutable things, wherein it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation? …. Doubts are among the worst enemies of your souls. Do not entertain them. Do not treat them as though they were poor forlorn travelers to be hospitably entertained, but as rogues and vagabonds to be chased from thy door. Fight them, slay them, and pray God to help thee to kill them, and bury them, and not even to leave a bone or a piece of a bone of a doubt above ground. Doubting and unbelief are to be abhorred, and to be confessed with tears as sins before God. We need pardon for doubting as much as for blasphemy. We ought no more to excuse doubting than lying, for doubting slanders God and makes him a liar.’

From a sermon delivered on Sunday Morning,January 28th 1872 by C.H. Spurgeon.

Do you believe this?

 

Utmost
Do you believe this?

John 11:26

Jesus didn’t question Martha’s faith for his own sake but for hers. Any shadow of doubt surrounding Martha in her grief dissolved in the light of her confession, ‘Yes Lord; I believe…’
This is the first of three posts on the theme of doubt….

 


Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest  says in the reading for November 6th…

Martha believed in the power available to Jesus Christ;
she believed that if He had been there He could have healed her brother;
she also believed that Jesus had a special intimacy with God,
and that whatever He asked of God, God would do.
But she needed a closer personal intimacy with Jesus.
Martha’s theology had its fulfillment in the future.
But Jesus continued to attract and draw her in
until her belief became an intimate possession.
It then slowly emerged into a personal inheritance
“Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ…”
John 11:27

Is the Lord dealing with you in the same way?
Is Jesus teaching you to have a personal intimacy with Himself?
Allow Him to drive His question home to you “Do you believe this?
Are you facing an area of doubt in your life?
Have you come, like Martha, to a crossroads of overwhelming circumstances
where your theology is about to become a very personal belief?

This happens only when a personal problem
brings the awareness of our personal need.

To believe is to commit.

In the area of intellectual learning I commit myself mentally,
and reject anything not related to that belief.
In the realm of personal belief I commit myself morally
to my convictions and refuse to compromise.
But in intimate personal belief I commit myself spiritually
to Jesus Christ and make a determination to be dominated by Him alone.

Then, when I stand face to face with Jesus Christ
and He says to me, “Do you believe this?”
I find that faith is as natural as breathing.
And I am staggered when I think how foolish I have been in not trusting Him earlier.

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest

Flirting with faith?

Spurgeon“Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6.

In 2014 the suggestion that we affiance or pledge ourselves irrevocably to anyone, may be met with a cynical laugh; though we do, if we stop to think about it, at least flirt with faith on a daily basis, trusting ourselves to others far less reliable than God. Perhaps that’s God’s way of preparing our hearts for the real thing when we meet Him
This third of three posts on the theme of faith comes from an 1856 sermon by C.H.Spurgeon.

“…. the chief part of faith lies in … an affiance to the truth; not the believing it merely, but the taking hold of it as being ours, and in the resting on it for salvation.
Recumbency on the truth was the word which the old preachers used. You will understand that word. Leaning on it; saying, “This is truth, I trust my salvation on it.” Now, true faith, in its very essence rests in this—a leaning upon Christ. It will not save me to know that Christ is a Saviour; but it will save me to trust him to be my Saviour.
I shall not be delivered from the wrath to come by believing that his atonement is sufficient, but I shall be saved by making that atonement my trust, my refuge, and my all. The pith, the essence of faith lies in this—a casting one-self on the promise.
It is not the (lifejacket) on board the ship that saves the man when he is drowning, nor is it his belief that it is an excellent and successful invention. No! He must have it around him, or his hand upon it, or else he will sink…. This is the faith which saves; and however unholy may have been your lives up to this hour, this faith, if given to you at this moment, will blot out all your sins, will change your nature, make you a new man in Christ Jesus, lead you to live a holy life, and make your eternal salvation as secure as if an angel should take you on his bright wings this morning, and carry you immediately to heaven.” Have you that faith?

C. H. Spurgeon