Screwtape Letters #25

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June 9, 2016 by Joseph Krohn

Satan and Distractions

“My dear Wormwood, The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call ‘Christianity And.’ You know—Christianity … and the New Psychology … and the New Order … and Faith Healing … and Psychic Research … and Vegetarianism … and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the Faith itself some [current issue] with a Christian coloring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.” (p.135)

The devils goal is to get us to buy into “adding to Jesus.” 

  1. Example: Jesus + social programs; Jesus + politics; Jesus + ministry; Jesus + Pro-Life movement.
  2. The REAL math equation for us is: “Jesus + Nothing”
  3. The devil wants to distract us with things, even good things and then use them to absorb our love and focus on Jesus.

 

  • What are some things that the devil can use to distract us today? How do they act as a distraction?

 

  1. Money – Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (READ: 19-34)
  2. Media – movies, internet, games, news, papers, magazines, sports – They can act as a distraction by putting them ahead of time with God.
  3. Religion vs. Relationship – commandment keeping vs. loving obedience (i.e. Rich Young Ruler – How was he distracted by being religious? [Content to just be good enough… “Good, but not good enough”]
  4. Relationships – Every kind of relationship falls into this category: friends, parents, siblings, spouses, children, co-workers, bosses, etc. We can allow any of these relationships to distract us from God.  (1 John 3:11; 16)
  5. Work – Luke 10:38-42 – How was Martha distracted by work/cares of this world? [Jesus said: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”]
  6. Hobbies
  7. Ourselves – too busy…

CHANGE AND PERMANENCE

“The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart—an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively…. Since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end in itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made…. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same…. Just as we pick out and exaggerate the pleasure of eating to produce gluttony, so we pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty. This demand is entirely our workmanship. If we neglect our duty, men will be not only contented but transported by the mixed novelty and familiarity of snowdrops this morning, sunrise this morning, plum pudding this Christmas. Children, until we have taught them better, will be perfectly happy with a seasonal round of games… (p.135-136)

 

  • How does the devil use our human desire for change and permanence to distract us? [WORRY, Stress]

 

I’M BORED

 

“Only by our incessant efforts is the demand for infinite … change kept up. This demand is valuable in various ways.

  • In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns.
  • Continued novelty costs money, so … the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or both.
  • The more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids….
  • Finally, the desire for novelty is indispensable if we are to produce Fashions or Vogues. (p.137)
  • Why would the devil use boredom to distract us? How can it work?
  1. Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
  2. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

 

FASHIONS

 

“The use of Fashions in thought is to distract the attention of men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice … we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood….” (p137-138)

 

EXAMPLE: societies push for equality in the work place, a minimum income for everyone  (social issues), not all of them are bad, but generally at the heart of it is the vice of selfishness.

 

EXAMPLE: “Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm.” (p.138)

 

WHAT IS NORMAL?

 

“But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the Same Old Thing … so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will…. The Enemy loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men to ask very simple questions: Is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now, if we can keep men asking: ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary?’… they will neglect the relevant questions. And the questions they do ask are, of course, unanswerable; for they do not know the future, and what the future will be depends very largely on just those choices which they now invoke the future to help them to make…. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant.'” (p.139)

 

  • Do you agree that simple questions such as “Is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible?” help us in making decisions? Why?

 

  • What can we do to defeat the devil’s distractions?
  1. Know what is important – Matt. 6:33 “Seek ye first” – Everything else is less important – Luke 14:26 – “hate father, mother, etc.”
  2. Eliminate distractions – Matt. 5:29-30 – “cutting off hand… plucking out eye”
  3. Focus on Jesus – Col. 3:2 “Set your minds on things above…”

 

 

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev used to tell of a time when there was a wave of petty theft in the Soviet Union. To curtail this the authorities put up guards around the factories. At one timberworks in Leningrad, the guard knew the workers in the factory very well. The first evening, out came Pyotr Petrovich with a wheelbarrow and, on the wheelbarrow, a great bulky sack with a suspicious-looking object inside. “All right, Petrovich,” said the guard, “what have you got there?” “Oh, just sawdust and shavings,” Petrovich replied. “Come on,” the guard said, “I wasn’t born yesterday. Tip it out.” And out came nothing but sawdust and shavings. So he was allowed to put it all back again and go home. When the same thing happened every night of the week the guard became frustrated. Finally, his curiosity overcame his frustration. “Petrovich,” he said, “I know you. Tell me what you’re smuggling out of here, and I’ll let you go.” “Wheelbarrows, my friend, ” said Petrovich, “wheelbarrows.”

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