What the Demons Taught Me (part 1)

C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters has functioned in my life as a mirror to my soul.  So many times upon picking up the book I have had “Ah ha!” moments in which I discover a new insight on how spiritual warfare plays into my daily living – areas in which seem to me to be so “unspiritual”  I hope some of these lessons will encourage you as you follow Christ today.

1.)  Don’t Seek Feelings, Seek the Lord

While advising Wormwood on how to keep his man from praying, Screwtape says, “Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling…” (17).  The fountain of my spiritual feelings ebbs and flows.  To base the effectiveness or the frequency of my prayers on these feelings is detrimental to praying with confidence that God hears me.  We ought to seek the Lord’s face in prayer, and not some ideal fleeting feeling that will not always console us.  Pray through the night, even if it seems you are praying to an empty sky.

2.)  Even When You Are Doubting God, Obey  Him

This is perhaps one of the most famous quotes out of The Screwtape Letters, and hangs on many refrigerators wherever the book is cherished.  Screwtape warns Wormwood that, “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” (40).  Obedience is the medicine of the soul who is sick.  Disobedience in times of doubting and spiritual dryness is one of Satan’s great weapons to keep the Christian in the feedback loop of despair and away from our Father’s best.  Even when you feel like doing nothing, be obedient.  Trust your Father.

3.)  Don’t Dress Up Your Sin In Humor

Screwtape counsels Wormwood that, “A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man’s damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke” (56).  The weightiness of sin becomes as light as a feather when laughed about for long enough.  If I find my sin becomes a joke, my sin may become reality.  Sin should be dealt with in tears and repentance, not laughter and and hand waving.

Stop Being True To Yourself

Should you be true to yourself?  When I was a child, I remember hearing this pumped through movies, music, and even sentimental old folks giving me sagely wisdom when I told them what I wanted to be when I grew up.  As a 20-something living in the American culture, there is a whole lot of fuss going around about being true to yourself, following your heart, and doing what “feels” best.  So, here’s two reasons you should stop being true to yourself:

1.)  You were made to be true to Another

You are wired as a human being to be true to Another in order to be true to yourself.  Ultimately, you were made to forget about yourself, and to find your identity by losing it in something far greater than yourself.  This is how you were made; this is how you were designed.  Why would someone think that homosexuality is wrong, or that it is a good thing to stay pure before they are married, or to not plan on getting slammed this Friday at the nearest party?  Because they don’t buy the idea that their fundamental priority should be being true to their self.  Rather, the ultimate aim and goal is to be true to Another, and find satisfaction in Him.

2.)  You were made for transformation, not stagnation  

All humans are born as broken, dead beings in a shattered, graveyard world.  The Bible teaches that humans are born thinking, acting, and feeling in wrong and sinful ways.  Our fundamental disposition coming into the world is incredibly flawed.  The Bible presents an idea of humanity as being in need of not stagnation, but transformation; not continuing in the old, but putting on the new; not in rejoicing in evil, but turning from it.  Human beings can change, not by self-help, do-it-yourself improvement plans, but by supernatural repentance and faith in Jesus, who calls all humans everywhere to turn from being true to their self to be true to him.

So, stop being true to yourself.  You will never find satisfaction in appeasing all of the titillating inclinations of your mind and body.  Instead, turn from your sins and put your trust in Jesus.  Find your identity outside of yourself.  Lose your life, and you will find it in Him.

“Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in”  C.S. Lewis


Spencer Harmon

To Know

One lazy Friday evening a few years back, my Mom and I picked up a movie called “Second Hand Lions.” Apparently, it was a story that chronicled “the comedic adventures of an introverted boy left on the doorstep of a pair of reluctant, eccentric great-uncles, whose exotic remembrances stir the boy’s spirit and re-ignite the men’s lives.” It sounded like the kind of story that my Mom and I would like, and my Dad and brother would hate. So, Mom and I, after successfully convincing ourselves that my Dad and brother might like it, rented it. At one point in the movie the two uncles and their nephew drive to a local restaurant to get some food. At the restaurant, Hub (one of the uncle’s) is harassed by a local hooligan who tries to steal some of his barbecue. Hub turns to his nephew and says, “This boy has been given everything but discipline. And now his idea of courage and manhood is to…ride around and irritate folks who are too good-natured to put a stop to it.” To which the hooligan responds, “Hey! Who do you think you are?!” Hub grabs the boy by the neck, stares him straight in the eye and says:

“Hub McCain. I fought in two world wars and countless smaller one’s on three continents. I’ve led thousands of men into battle with everything but horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I’ve seen the head waters of the nile and tribes and natives no white man had ever seen before. I’ve won and lost a dozen fortunes. Killed many men. And loved only one women with a passion that a flea like you could never begin to understand – that’s who I am.”

I remember watching this and having a rush of manly masculinity rush through my body. I dreamed of knowing myself in the way Hub knew himself. I boyishly fantasized for a brief moment about being like Hub: fighting in battles, seeing great things that no one has seen, winning many prizes, traveling to far lands, and being a amorous husband to one women and protecting her to death. But then I was sucked back to where I was, eating my chips and drinking my highly caffeinated beverage – fighting no battles, engaged in no romance, and living in a relatively small town in the middle of the cornfields of Ohio. As I sat back and thought about this brief fantasy I realized how silly it was of me to want to be able to tell people about me. When someone challenges me, I can’t answer like Hub. I’ve never been in a real fight, I’ve never traveled across an ocean, and I’ve never led thousands into battle across an ocean. For me, I can’t brag about what I’ve done. However, I can remind myself of who I know and what He’s done. The last thing a synopsis of my life would do is put a bunch of hoodlums to flight. So then, to whom shall I run when I’m challenged? Every day there awaits for me a new confrontation. Shall I look this world in the eye and say to them, “Do you know who you are messing with?! I am Spencer Harmon! I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was home schooled through the eighth grade! I lived in the same town all my life! My Dad is a truck driver! My mother is a home maker! I read books! And I…I am a Bible college student!” No. This will not do. There is a rock that is far more sturdy than any story I can give. I would much rather, when the strains and weight of this world crash in, say this:

“He is the image of the invisible God.  He upholds the universe by the word of his power.  He made propitiation for my sins by his blood on the cross.  He rose victorious over death.  In him all things hold together.  He healed the sick.  He is highly exalted.  At his name, every knee will bow.  His kingdom is everlasting.  He never sinned.  He is sovereign over all things.  He is always faithful.  He is perfectly just.  He is coming again.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

There is an old Greek aphorism that reads, “Know Thyself”  This is a good thing.  We should know ourselves; yet, the knowledge of ourselves should drive us away from ourselves to our powerful Savior.  As C.S. Lewis puts it in Mere Christianity, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”  Jesus is too powerful, too beautiful, too perfect, and too sovereign for you to try to find confidence in your own anecdotes of small victory. He is a rock, a refuge, a brother, a friend, and a champion for those who trust Him.

Spencer Harmon