Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Tempter

This week, I have been studying 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8 for my sermon on Sunday morning. There is one phrase that Paul uses in verse 5 that has stuck with me. He says that he sent to find out about their faith for fear that the Tempter had tempted them and their labor had been in vain. That concept of the enemy being a tempter has made me think. To gain some more information, I turned to the classic resource The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

I would encourage you to read this book if you have never read it. Lewis turns everything upside down in this book. It is a series of letters from an experienced demon (Screwtape) to a younger demon (Wormwood). It is important to remember that it is written from the perspective of the demons. So, when they say "the enemy" they are referring to God. When they say that someone is safely in the Father's house, it is a reference to hell.

As you think about Satan and his heavenly host being tempters, consider this quote from the book.
“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument, I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man, which I had best under my control, and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. 
The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line, for when I said, ‘Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,’ the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added ‘Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,’ he was already halfway to the door. 
Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t’ be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape, and in later years was fond of talking about ‘that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic.’ He is now safe in Our Father’s house.”[1]

[1] Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. Letter 1

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