Tag Archives: Evil

Clearing the View

I recently replaced the screen cover on my phone. The previous one had been in use for three years at least and was showing the signs of three years of wear. However, being the “utilitarian” fellow that I am, I only replaced it after it had almost completely fallen off. My proactivity (or, rather, lack thereof) aside, what struck me was the sharpness and the clarity of the screen once old protector had been removed. I had become so accustomed to seeing the screen through the scuffs, dirt, and wear of the old protector that I had forgotten what the screen actually looked like.

I think the same thing happens with our view of God, others, and the world around us. Going through life, we cannot help but be scuffed, accumulate dirt, and get worn. Life is messy. That is an inescapable fact of living in a fallen world. It is also why it is so important to take time to re-center and refocus on God. It is like the screen protector on my phone. The wear of life clouds and distorts our view of God just like the wear of use clouded the screen protector. When we take time to settle ourselves in God, be it through prayer, meditation, worship, etc. it is like changing the old screen protector for a new one: the clarity in our relationship with God is restored.

With this clarity comes a better view and appreciation of God’s glory as it is manifested in others and the world around us. Even though we live in a fallen world, we can still encounter God’s glory in various ways if we keep the eyes of our hearts open. The crispness and simple beauty of a phone screen was waiting to be revealed once I was able to focus on it again. Likewise, the glory and beauty of God is waiting to be revealed once we focus on it again.

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The Benefits of Memorizing Scripture

Growing up, one of the staples of any youth-oriented church activity was “memory verses”. We would set our little minds to engraving Bible verses on our brains, either as a part of the regular activities or in order to obtain some kind of reward. However, there were always the looming questions of “why?” and “what do I do now?” Of course, there were the immediate reasons of following directions and trying to earn prizes. One might also include the justification of it simply being what you do at church. At one time, I thought of it as memorizing a set of rules so that I would have an appropriate response ready for a given situation. The problem is that there is a lot of Scripture that doesn’t neatly fit into this schema, so I again found myself with a fist full of words that I didn’t know what to do with. Confusion and frustration aside, we may also question what benefit there is to memorizing Scripture anymore since we can have access to entire libraries at the push of a button on our phones.

 

Before proceeding into the benefits of memorizing Scripture, we must first recognize and acknowledge that the act of memorizing Scripture, in and of itself, does us no good and has no merit. In the tradition of the ancient monks, we read the story of one monk who boasted to his elder that he had memorized the entire Old and New Testaments, to which the elder replied with the observation that the monk had only filled the air with words. If we want something more definitive, we need only look as far as Jesus’ lamenting the state of the religious leaders who, despite their many religious-appearing acts, were no closer to God for them. (Matthew 23:1-36)

 

The benefits of memorizing Scripture come not from having memorized it, but from what we do with what we’ve memorized. One might think of it as laying up the written word of God in an extremely easily accessible place. Once stowed in our memory, we can easily recall it in order to ponder it and meditate upon it anytime, anywhere. Being able to regularly submerse ourselves in a passage rather than skipping along the surface is more conducive to letting it read us and soak into our hearts. Another thing that memorized Scripture can be used for is prayer. Sometimes we find ourselves spiritually or mentally out of gas and out of words to speak to God. At such times, being able to recall Scripture from memory can be helpful because it gives us words and material to pray to God. The last use for having Scripture memorized that I wish to point out is what is sometimes referred to as “talking back”. Essentially, this amounts to using the words of Scripture to rebuke the sinful thoughts and temptations that come to us. The ancient monks took this practice from the story of Christ’s temptation (Luke 4:1-13) in which He rebuked the devil each time by quoting Scripture. When we talk back to our temptations, it also helps us to move back to the straight and narrow path by refocusing on God when evil would lead us this way or that.

 

I suppose, ultimately, the core benefit of memorizing Scripture is ease of access. There are few things as mobile and easy to get to for us as our own minds and if we wish to better subsist on every word of God, we cannot ask for a better lunchbox.

Chibi Memory


A Thought for Christmas – 2

The devil is an enemy of moderation in all things, except religion. As such, he is an avid proponent of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, especially this time of year.


Heroes and Villains – Marva Munson

Prof. G.H. Dorr:  “Yes, I must confess. I often find myself more at home in these ancient volumes than I do in the hustle-bustle of the modern world. To me, paradoxically, the literature of the so-called “dead tongues” holds more currency than this morning’s newspaper. In these books, in these volumes, there is the accumulated wisdom of mankind, which succors me when the day is hard and the night lonely and long.”

Marva Munson:  “Mm. The wisdom of mankind, huh? What about the wisdom of the Lord?”

MMunson

At first glance, there is nothing particular about Mrs. Marva Munson that catches the eye.  In the 2004 film, The Ladykillers, she is a widow living alone with her cat Pickles and acts as landlord to the nefarious Professor G.H. Dorr who has rented out a room in order to use her house as a base for his scheme.  All appearances suggest that she is a typical little old lady, but her outward appearances belie a tenacity for doing what is right that puts many she encounters back on their heels.  The great battle she fights doesn’t take place in a distant location or epic landscape, nor does it contain the action we expect from such showdowns.  On the contrary, it takes place in her own living room, accompanied by a cup of tea.  When she discovers the Professor’s crime and sees through his attempts to mask it, the Professor attempts to mingle lies with smooth words in order to convince Ms. Munson to go along with their crime.  He even goes so far as to attempt to give her a cut by claiming that they are going to donate a full share of the loot to her favorite cause.  He also claims they actually caused little damage to anyone (only a penny from their pocketbooks), and suggesting that their robbery will lead to so much more good.  In the face of the Professor’s lies, she has a choice to make:  go along with the crime so that a “greater good” can be done, or turn them in, leaving all that good undone.  After much struggling and deliberation within herself, Mrs. Munson renders her answer:  stealing is just plain wrong, even if they had good intentions.  She then issues an ultimatum:  the Professor and his co-conspirators can either give back the money and accompany her to church tomorrow, or they can deal with the police.  This of course does not sit well with the robbers and sets off a series of events that unfolds throughout the remainder of the film.

The Apostle Paul writes in his first letter to the church in Corinth:  “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.  For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words or human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)  What Paul writes here may strike us as remarkable.  He says that he came to the Corinthians “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” and that his speech was “not with persuasive words or human wisdom”.  This seems like the exact opposite of what we think witnessing should look like.  Why would Paul’s witness be of any effect if he didn’t base it off of persuasive words and human wisdom?  Paul states that his work among the Corinthians was based on Christ alone, in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.  This is not to say that reason has no place in religion, but rather that it has a proper place as a help and a handmaid to queen faith.  It is by reason that we recognize and appreciate the divine wisdom of God manifest in Creation.  It is at the limits of our reason that we come realize the transcendent majesty of God which excels our ability to know.  We do well to recognize that many of the apostles were uneducated, such as Peter the fisherman, but we do better to also recognize that there were apostles such as Paul who were well-educated; thus forming a spectrum of backgrounds upon one foundation. (1 Corinthians 3:11)

Paul’s aim in placing his witness on Christ alone was that the Corinthians’ faith wouldn’t be based upon the wisdom of men but on the power of God.  This is the difference between mere intellectual assent and a living, growing faith.  If our faith is purely intellectual, it amounts to little more than agreeing to an argument.  We agree to the proposition that God wants to be in relationship with us, to fill us with the life that is in him, and to conform us to the image of Christ.  However, this is merely an argument:  an ordered collection of ideas.  It has no life in it.  What’s more, it has its foundation in our minds through reason rather than in Christ through faith.  Trusting in the mind is the same as trusting in the flesh and is subject to the same weaknesses.  Just as our bodies are buffeted by passions and desires, so our minds are buffeted by the subtle deceptions of the devil and the World.  We come face to face with the Professor in many ways, shapes, and forms with the same goal of persuading us to bend to sin.  Thus, it is important that we be bound to Christ as a lifeline while we explore and cultivate the vast expanse of the mind.

The question that remains is what to make of Paul’s statement that his witness was in demonstration of the Spirit and of power rather than persuasive words or human wisdom.  To answer this we ought to ask ourselves, what is the demonstration of the Spirit in my life?  Or, put more simply, how am I more Christ-like now than I was?  Our arguments, no matter how finely-crafted, lack the ability to show God to others.  Christ did not show us the Father by laying out a series of well-reasoned lectures.  Instead, He showed the Father through who He was. (John 14:7-11)  If we are to follow His example, we must be conformed to His image and let God be reflected in our lives and who we are.

It is in Christ that our witness truly stands and it is in Christ that we must be anchored.  It is this unyielding faith in God that is a common thread running through all the heroes of the Bible:  Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David, Elijah, Mary, and Peter are only a few of the great cloud of witnesses which surround us and urge us onward in the race of faith.  Similarly, this is the remarkable thing that we see in Mrs. Munson:  a determination to follow God despite the sundry goods and arguments laid out in all their earthly splendor before her.  Perhaps that is the thing that all heroes call us to:  to do what is right despite challenge and temptation.  Pursuing this means giving God our all and submitting to His Lordship in our lives.  This means letting God be the most important thing and guiding principle for us.

Heroes, as well as villains, come in many shapes and sizes but what doesn’t change is the choice their characters bring before us:  to pursue what is right or to give in to what is wrong.  Villains remind us of the shadows lurking in our own psyches while heroes remind us that good is still within our reach if we will but strive for it.  It is within reach of us all because it is God who calls us and equips us.  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till all come to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Food for Thought:

  1. Is Christ the foundation on which my faith is built, or is it something else?
  2. In what way do I feel threatened by relying on Christ alone?
  3. Consider the awesome greatness of God that He is our all in all and all-sufficient for us.

Heroes and Villains – Professor G. H. Dorr

“You, madam, are addressing a man, who is in fact quiet… and yet, not quiet, if I may offer you a riddle.”

– The Professor to Mrs. Munson

GHDorr2

Some villains stand out because of the threat they pose through sheer power or destructive capabilities.  Professor G.H. Dorr, on the other hand, is of a different sort.  Cutting the figure of a Southern gentleman, he seems to possess a devilish charm rather than devilish intent.  As a matter of fact, his skills seem limited to a great capacity for thought, having been “trained in the art of cogitation”, and an aptitude for speaking.  However, these tools are more than sufficient for him to manipulate others into helping him to achieve his goals.  In the 2004 film, The Ladykillers, the Professor is the mastermind behind a seemingly perfect riverboat casino heist.  Having gathered to himself the necessary personnel and skill sets, the motley crew executes his plan without a hitch, that is until the owner of the house they’ve been using as a base finds out.  The Professor then must convince the owner, one Mrs. Marva Munson not to call the police and turn them in.  When he finds that straight up lying about their actions will not work, he turns to convincing her that what they did isn’t really so bad.  He explains to her that the casino is itself little more than a den of thieves and inequity.  Not only that, but it has an insurance policy to cover such losses as being robbed and, he claims, after doing the math, their little venture will not cost anyone more than a penny.  Furthermore, he lies to Mrs. Munson, each of his accomplices and himself are going to donate a portion of their shares of the loot to charitable causes and they were going to donate a whole share to a cause particularly near and dear to her heart.  The Professor rests his case by pointing out the good that can be done the money they donate at the cost of a single cent to all those adversely affected.  When backed into a corner, Professor plays his most insidious card, trying to convince Ms. Munson that their crime is not such a bad thing and getting her to go along with it.

In the book of Jeremiah, God says that He will stretch out his hand against the Israelites “…Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely.  They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace.  Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?  No!  They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,’ says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  God calls out the prophets and priests at this time, who were supposed to lead the people back to God and to speak His word to them, for being as corrupt as the rest of the people.  Not only that, but they are unashamed of having become so.  However what is perhaps most striking is that they have healed His people slightly.  The word that gets translated as slightly carries with it the connotations of trifling or of little account.  Arguably, the prophets and priests had made little of their job to direct the people to God and therefore done little to that end.  On the contrary, they have comforted and further secured the people in their predicament by telling them that all is well when it is clearly not the case.  The prophets and priests should have been telling the people to repent and change their ways.  However, because they were also participants in the backsliding, they whitewashed the situation and lied to the people about the true state of things.

It is very tempting for us to do the same.  We try to convince ourselves and others that there is no problem or even a need to change our course when we find our way into sin.  We are all too eager to justify ourselves rather than repent and let God be our justifier.  There are many reasons why we are inclined to do this:  we shy away from admitting that we were in the wrong, or we enjoy our sin too much to let it go are just a couple of examples.  At the core, however, we find ourselves playing the role of the Professor and trying to make our vices out to be virtues.

We have readily available to us the written Word of God which is able to reveal what is in our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).  When our sinful deeds are brought to light, we are faced with the choice either to continue in the way we are going or to turn back to God.  Unfortunately, we often opt to continue on our merry way down the path of sin.  The only problem is that it requires that we become hypocrites, claiming to be in the right while doing the very things that we know from God’s Word to be wrong.  Being a hypocrite is not something that sits very well with us and so we try to rationalize the sin in our lives so that, in our minds, we aren’t doing anything wrong.  We come up with excuses about how it is a greater good than harm or how others deserve whatever harm we may be causing them (even if it is just murdering them in our hearts), or how it really isn’t that big of a deal, seeing how in the grand scheme of things it only amounts to a drop the bucket…or a single penny.

The thing that makes these lies we tell ourselves (and others for that matter) so dangerous is that they lull us right into death.  Like the prophets and priests from Jeremiah, we proclaim our peace and wellbeing when our souls are grievously wounded and rapidly bleeding out.  There are few greater harms that we can do ourselves or others than to say that we are spiritually well when we teeter on the very lip of hell.  It amounts to blinding ourselves to our real state and stopping our ears against God’s pleas to turn back while there is still time.  These lies need not be our own inventions either.  Paul writes to his protégé Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)  It is not only ourselves, but many others as well who wish to paint what is noble as wicked and what is wicked as noble.  This means that there is a large market for such lies and there are those who are all too eager to supply that market.  Thus, we cannot rely on the world at large to be our guide and teacher in matters of the soul.  Rather, our ability to stay on the straight and narrow path is a matter between God and ourselves, aided by those trustworthy souls that God brings alongside us in our pilgrimage.

What makes the Professor such an awful rogue is that he embodies that voice which gently and quietly leads us to the wrong on a daily basis.  It often comes well-dressed and expresses itself with the greatest articulation.  It is charming and seems harmless enough.  As a matter of fact, it seems to have our best interests at heart.  Nonetheless, behind the charming façade is a path that leads straight to hell.

Food for Thought:

  1. Is there a sin in my life that I have colored to be a virtue?
  2. In what ways am I tempted by the world’s lies about what is or isn’t right?
  3. Consider what a great gift it is that God has provided us with the Scriptures to be a guide and an anchor for us.

Heroes and Villains – Ryu

“Sometimes the most important battle, is the battle within…”

-Ryu

Ryu

Ryu is one of the most well known video game characters, right up with the likes of Mario and Megaman.  He made his first appearance in the 1987 arcade game “Street Fighter” and has since become something of a mascot for the Street Fighter series and the company which created it, Capcom.  Ryu is a martial artist who travels the world fighting all kinds of opponents seeking to further hone his skills.  Despite his benign goals, he is plagued by a dark power within him, the Satsui no Hado or dark hado.  The Satsui no Hado (translated as “Surge of Murderous Intent”) is a sinister power that arises within individuals when they become so consumed with rage or the desire for power that they are willing to kill for it.  In Ryu’s case, it was awakened in him when he was pushed to his absolute limit while fighting a powerful opponent.  He eventually loses control of himself and wins the bout with a single vicious attack powered by the dark hado.  Ever since that time it has threatened to consume him and take away his heart and his humanity.  Ryu’s heroics do not lie primarily in fighting villains, but in his struggle with the evil within himself.

Like Ryu’s Satsui no Hado, sin is and remains a constant threat to us during our lives here on earth.  Paul writes about our struggle against it in Romans 7:21-25:  “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”  Even though sin’s power over us has been broken, this does not mean that evil remains idle.  God’s warning to Cain back in Genesis 4:7 is every bit as applicable to us today:  “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”  Sin no longer has the last word, but that doesn’t stop it from constantly trying to coax and cajole us back into its service.  It lies at our door (“crouching” in the English Standard Version) accosting us at every opportunity.  God also wants us and seeks us at every turn, but His desire for us is very different than sin’s.  Sin wants us so that it can consume us.  God wants us so that we may be filled with Him thereby receiving life everlasting and being shaped into the person He created us to be.

With sin so persistently after us, Paul advises us to think of our Christian walk as an athletic contest.  He writes, “Do you not know that those who run a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus:  not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight:  not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)  The prize that athletes receive for winning a contest is a perishable one, one that does not last (as a matter of fact, Paul is probably here referring to the crown of laurels that was awarded in ancient Greece, a crown of leaves and branches that would wither).  Paul states, however, that in our Christian walks we are striving for a crown of eternal consequence.  The imperishable crown of which he speaks is the crown of life used as a metaphor for the eternal life with and in God that we receive. (Revalation 2:10, 3:11)  The contest of Christianity has the highest stakes and we compete, not against others, but against ourselves, sin, and the devil.

Although Christ has won the victory for us against sin, we cannot sit back and rest on our laurels, for we must follow Christ in order to cross the finish line.  Paul urges us to be deliberate in our living:  “Therefore I run thus:  not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight:  not as one who beats the air.”  The decision to follow Jesus is a deliberate setting of ourselves against our former ways and a decision that we must make many times each day (as many times as sin urges us to return to it).  Making this decision is no easy task.  Just like a martial artist (or any other athlete) we must train ourselves as we pursue our goal.  Martial artists train themselves by such means as weightlifting, practicing kata, running drills, cardiovascular exercises, etc.  Christians train themselves by meditating, reading Scripture, praying, serving, etc.  The goal is the same:  to further immerse oneself in and become more proficient at one’s art.  The Christian’s art is to rely on God alone and become ever more conformed to Christ’s image.

Ryu’s training and travels may serve as a metaphor for the kind of pilgrimage that Christians are on.  Though he is well traveled, Ryu’s destination is not a physical place, but an intangible one:  ever further mastery of his art.  Likewise Christians, no matter how far we go or how spiritually mature we become, have no physical destination.  As a matter of fact our destination cannot be found in this world, tangible or intangible.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)  Christians constantly seek the heavenly country that God has prepared for them in eternity.  The Kingdom of Heaven which grows in our hearts is a foretaste of the rest which awaits us.  Despite the constant attack of the dark hado upon him, Ryu remains dedicated to his journey.  Likewise, despite sin’s attack we ought to remain dedicated to our Christian journey.

It is worth noting that Ryu doesn’t have a perfect track record when it comes to resisting the dark hado.  There have been times that it has successfully taken over him, but he was able to come to his senses again, not due to his abilities alone but with the help of his friends who called him back to himself.  Ryu’s battle with the dark hado is not a solitary one, but one in which he is helped and supported by others.  Our battle against sin is not a solitary one either.  God is always with us and He has also created the Church in which we are able to help and support one another as fellow pilgrims.  We cannot stand alone against sin because there will be times that we stumble or lose our way and need others to help us up and to lead us back to the straight and narrow way.

Ryu shows us that being a hero isn’t always about battling villains but sometimes consists in battling the evil that dwells within us.  It is about the daily resisting of that evil and the training that helps us to resist.  For Christians, this means learning to rely on God rather than ourselves and to draw from His strength rather than our own.  “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Food for Thought:

  1. Am I actively following Christ’s call to heaven or am I sitting idle and waiting for heaven to come to me?
  2. Do I merely go through the motions and fight as one who beats the air or do I discipline myself and bring myself in subjection to Christ?
  3. Consider what a mercy it is that God helps me in my struggle to follow Him.

Heroes and Villains – The Ringwraiths

“Nine he gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them.  Long ago they fell under the dominion of the One, and they became Ringwraiths, shadows under his great Shadow, his most terrible servants.”

-Gandalf concerning the Ringwraiths

Nazgul_1

They cast a shadow far before them and seem to materialize out of the rumors whispered throughout Middle Earth.  The Ringwraiths’ sinister presence leaves an impression on any audience.  Originally humans, the Ringwraiths, or Nazgûl, were each given a ring of power by Sauron (the chief antagonist of Tolkien’s trilogy) which corrupted them and eventually led to them being enslaved to his will.  Despite their former glory and vivacity, they have been rendered mere shades that lead a nightmarish existence between worlds.  They ruthlessly and tirelessly serve their master and inspire fear and despair wherever they tread.

Dark as the Nazgûl are, their story casts light on the nature of sin in our lives.  James writes:  “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15)  James states that sin has its beginnings in desire.  This is why we cannot be right with God just by doing the right things (being a “good person”, following the Law, etc.).  Despite our outward appearance, our first loyalty is still to ourselves and sin rather than God.  Our own efforts are not able to get deep enough to reach sin’s root.  Thus, though we may chop and hack away at the branches, they will quickly grow back, tougher than ever.

In the case of the Nazgûl, their desire for greater power and prestige led them to accept the nine rings from Sauron.  It was at this point that their fates were sealed because they had given him the foothold he needed to corrupt them.  It is worth noting that we find ourselves in the same straits because our desire is already in rebellion against God, leading us away from Him and indulging our pride, greed, and base sensuality.  The difference is that we have a Savior who has broken the power of darkness over us and given us a way of escape that we may “have life and have it more abundantly”.  Part of the renewing work that God does within us is to reclaim our desires so that they are conformed to Christ.  That is to say, we come to desire the same things as God:  we are pleased by the same things which please God, we are saddened by the same things which sadden God, etc.

Sinful desire, in its due course, eventually gives rise to sinful action:  the outworking of that desire.  The rebellion that began as desire has diffused throughout our body like a poison and manifests itself as words, deeds, and thoughts.  In the Book of Romans, Paul admonishes:  “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts.  And do not present our members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:12-13)  When we fall into sin, we surrender to our sinful desires and allow them to rule over us.  As Christians, the times when we stumble ought to serve as a stark reminder that we must seek the grace of God daily and constantly strive to remain in His love, for sin only requires a small foothold to scale the walls of our heart.  The Ringwraiths did not become shades overnight, but were slowly and steadily consumed by the power of the rings they held and brought under Sauron’s dominion.  It is often said of them that they are slaves to his will.  The desire in which they took the rings led them, inevitably, to give their very beings over to serve the will of Sauron.

Sin ultimately leads to death, and not mere physical death.  The death that we die through sin is more extensive than that:  sin leads to our spiritual death.  It may be the misery that we find under the veneer of sinful pleasure or it may be the emptiness that we are left with when the moment of sinful delight is gone.  Regardless of the form, sin always leaves us less of who we are.  God creates us all to be beautiful mirrors who each reflect His likeness in a unique way.  (How else can finite creatures begin to show the likeness of the infinite Creator in the world?)  The result of sin is to warp and tarnish us so that we are no longer what we’re created to be.  We become bent upon ourselves so that we reflect nothing and take part in nothing other than our continuing destruction until sin is cast into hell to be infinitely destroyed and us as well because we cling to it.

What is perhaps most horrifying about the Ringwraiths is what they are, or rather, what they are not.  They are vacuums of existence, having been gutted and hollowed out by the power of the rings and filled with Sauron’s evil.  They really are personifications of darkness, being mere extensions of Sauron’s will.  When we allow sin to reign in us, it hollows us out and we are consumed rather than conformed.  Life becomes death to us and death, our existence.  “…when desire has conceived, it give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

The Ringwraiths provide a representation of what we become when we allow ourselves to be consumed by sin.  We lose ourselves and become a mere shadow within a greater shadow.  This is the end that awaits us and we ourselves can do nothing about it.  It appears that we are destined to be wraiths.  We cry with Paul “O wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  However, a door is open to us that we may leave our death-defined existence and enter into life.  Through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ has made a way for us.  Thus He says, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:9-10)

Food for Thought:

  1. What is the sin in my life holding me back from?  How can I better pursue those things by making Christ my top priority?
  2. What does it mean to have life in Christ and have it abundantly?
  3. Consider what an excellent thing it is to receive life in and from Christ.