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Test the Spirits

Lent is the forty day season which commemorates Christ's forty days of fasting in the wilderness. While there our Lord was severely tempted by Satan. Those temptations were not only physical in nature, the turning of stones into bread to satisfy His hunger; but were also subtle assaults on Christ's mind, "If you are the Son of God...."

The Collect for the Second Sunday in Lent reads, "Almighty God, who Seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." Here we pray for protection from evil thoughts. This implies more than merely sinful thoughts such as lustful, covetous or hateful thoughts. It is much more subtle and extensive than that. St. John advises us, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.: (I John 4:1) The real battle in the Christian life takes place in the mind. That is the truth the collect recognizes.

The Bible does not picture Satan in a red suit with horns and a tail carring a pitchfork. Jesus said, "He was a murderer fom the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (St. John 8:44) St. Paul warns us, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness." (II Corinthians 11:13-15) Satan's only effective weapon is the lie. Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck in his book People of the Lie writes, "In fact, the only power that Satan has is through human belief in its lies." In describing mental health Dr. Peck calls it, "an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs. Satan is utterly dedicated to opposing that process. In fact, the best definition I have for Satan is that it is a real spirit of unreality."

Satan's lies are most often clever imitations of the truth. At this moment I am looking at an ad that came through the mail picturing several lovely two carat diamond rings. It's described as a "once-in-a-lifetime" offer and the rings are only $6.00 each. How could this be? Well the answer is found in the word "simulated" which appears in smaller print. The rings are cheap because they aren't real diamonds, but mere imitations of the real thing.

Satan offers us a number of imitations, which are actually lies. He offers us an imitation Christ. After warning us to watch out for false prophets St. John wrote, "By this you know the spirit of God: every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard it was coming, and now it is in the world already." (I John 4:2,3) St. John warns us about the antichrist. Anti in Greek not only means against, but also in place of. The antichrist is a substitute Christ, an imitation Savior, not the real. St. John warned believers about the antichrist of their day and there have been many substitute Christs throughout history.

Satan also offers us imitation love. Real love gives and makes commitments. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...." (St. John 3:16) A false love knows nothing of commitment and takes rather than gives. In such a relationship (marriage is usually not a part of the relationship for that brings in that nasty word commitment) the couple remain together as long as each is receiving what they want from the other. When they are no longer having their "needs" met they walk away and look for someone else who will supply what they want.

Satan offers us an imitation freedom, which is in reality slavery. We are told to gratify our desires. But desire is never satisfied and we become dominated and controlled by our passions. Countless numbers are deluded into thinking they are free when in fact they live under tyranny.

Such cheap imitations of reality are quite boring. Just as a piece of glass is boring in comparison to a diamond. That is why people who believe Satan's lies go deeper and deeper into sin whether it be drugs, illicit sex, the pursuit of money and material possessions, etc. Sin is boring because it is an imitation of reality. Hell will be a place of absolute and utter boredom.

Christianity is a commitment to reality. Therefore we must be on our guard against Satan's lies and imitations. As St. Paul advised, "...test everything; hold fast what is good, abstain form every form of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:21,22) God offers us reality. Through Christ He gives us real life, real love and friendship, real joy, happiness and peace. Let us not fall for Satan's flimsy imitations.

by Rev. Frank M. Levi

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