Temptation to Ashes (brothers part 2)

I read the story of another “christian” that turned away to atheism. It makes me sad. It should make us all sad. Why? Because this whole believers versus non-believers thing is not a popularity contest.  It is not even an “us” versus them, it is an “us”, every single last one of us, versus eternity. It is about the very destination of our souls.  It is about whether or not they make it into God’s presence in an active relationship or a passive one.  Rest assured they will meet God. I know the non-christian especially the atheist wants to parade these individuals as brave for leaving the oppressive system of religion.

I have read the wiki guide for how to lead a Christian away from God. The steps are so simple! I have also read Richard Dawkins’s God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’s God is not great.  These people so want to convince others that God is not there. They have so much animosity towards him and religion, why? I think Paul answers that question in Ephesians 6.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

There is a battle going on. There is war going on. Just because we may stop paying attention does not mean that the assault stops. This is similar to the wars across the world that we do not know about; unless it is fresh on the news we may be tempted to think it was resolved or no longer happening.  C.S.Lewis reminds us about this idea in the Screwtape Letters. The experienced demon Srewtape informs Wormwood just let them think that we aren’t there. I am not sure if Sun Tzu used this war tactic but it does seem easiest to fight a war if one side is completely unaware. I believe that this is our temptation, to simply just muse and wander why some people, certain people are so evil? Why do they want to destroy God and tear down people?

We have probably all heard the cry in frustration “I hate people!” If we as Christians are not careful we can fall into this trap of thinking that people are the real problem when they are in fact the mission.  Paul points out that the people are not the problem but the demons. Why do they do this? All we can do is speculate ultimately, but perhaps since they have lost, the only thing they can do is take as many people down with them. The whole not going down without a fight thing, is not so virtuous after-all.

If we forget we are in a war then the call to be strong in the Lord loses urgency. If the call to be strong loses urgency then our shield of faith gets lowered.  As this passage continues on to mention. When the shield of faith is lowered we begin to rely on our own strategies or more realistically not make any. But this is guaranteed to make us fall as the passage mentions; we get hit from the arrows of the enemy.  This is what happens if we do not realize we are in a war. We start to think that perhaps their is no fight, perhaps no faith, and perhaps no God, and perhaps nothing to hold on to. And perhaps we should just walk away, and thus another article is written about a brave soul leaving religion.

When we make this mistake for whatever reason we become a casualty of the fight that we weren’t paying attention to.  Sadly a common reasons tend to be “I wanted to stop fighting temptation”  This however has made the battle about something that Christ has already won.  Temptation is very real but we misunderstand when we seem to think that since Christ died for our sins, that holiness means we now have to strive to be perfect. Temptation will always be there, our goal is not to achieve a sinless life, that is part of the blessed hope. Our conduct is important because we are in love with Christ and we want to be like him but we have a different nature and a different advocate now.  The difference is now the Spirit aids us and Christ welcomes us when we fail. If we are doing it for any other reason than we are holding our sword backwards and swinging with the blunt end.

I really think the problem is as Christians we fail to understand balance. This passage is a good example.  It tells us that people are not the enemy but that spirits are, yet we are still to dress in the armor of God. Doesn’t the battle belong to the Lord?  Isn’t the outcome settled?  Yes and Yes, then why do I need to care about the battle?  Because the Lord calls us to join him in his kingdom. Being in God’s kingdom means being a participant.  Yes God died for our sins and we are forgiven and we need to pay attention to our conduct. But if we let one overtake the other we get in trouble. If we only focus on the grace we can slide into license, but equally if we only focus on sin management then we become discouraged and wonder what the point is.  If we can’t understand biblical theology in balance then we will always be at odds with some other passage.

This has sadly left some in a place where they walk away from the faith.  They say I was tired of being somebody I wasn’t. It’s as if Christianity is about being perfect and they were tired of being a hypocrite. They are half right.  They are hypocrites if they think they should be perfect, because they will never attain it, but the answer is to fall into Christ’s loving arms once again after we fail.  Not to walk away. They really just reveal that they did not understand the Gospel.

But…

Because if we forget who the actual enemy is, we can tend to let the story end here and it is our temptation to quote only verse 10 from Proverbs 24 when this happens.

10 If you faint in the day of adversity,
    your strength is small.

But let’s not forget the counter that God gives in verse 11.
 
11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

We are at war and so are the soldiers next to you, watch their backs. Are we going to leave our soldiers to burn or we will realize we are in a battle and Christians don’t leave men behind.

When we hear stories like this we shouldn’t shake our heads in judgement but we should return to our knees and fight the fight where the battle is.  Remember Paul’s encouragement to the Galatians.

6:1Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5For each will have to bear his own load.
6Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

This is a big part of that laying down your life for a friend thing that thing that Jesus says there is no greater love than. If this doesn’t make sense to you go and watch Saving Private Ryan. Let’s not leave our brothers to ashes.

Band of Brothers is also very good.

thanks 

 
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