Honest Piety: The Difference Between Training and Combat
He [Satan] can give so many different thoughts that through it he moves you, or turns you away from the word and sets Christ away from your eyes, so that you see all the things you have done on yourself [instead of on Jesus]. Then [the devil] paints and pictures himself before you as Christ Himself in His majesty, and terrifies you as a judge, demanding that you give an account of your works, etc. Yes, he turns even your inward thoughts from Christ, and deceives your faith, so that you think that you are correct in doing so, even though it is really nothing other than your arrogance or your “exceptional devotion”.
If you then give yourself up to such thoughts and are not able to defend yourself with God’s Word, and you allow yourself to be lured from your defense [let down your guard?] so that you dispute and argue with him, he will in the end do you in and make you so confused that you don’t where Christ or His Word and your faith are at.
This is a fairly inaccurate translation, I’m pretty sure.
What strikes me about it is something absolutely true that I never really learned until I went to “Doxology” and read John Kleinig’s book on piety Grace upon Grace (which cannot be recommended highly enough–I was skeptical about it and it turned out to be life changing.)
When Satan accuses us, he impersonates Christ; he makes it so that we no longer see or feel Christ as the sin-bearer. Instead we feel our sins on ourselves. And Satan speaks to us as though he were Christ in judgment. Anyone who has experienced this knows how terrifying it can be.
Then we are prone to argue with the devil in our conscience, attempting to justify ourselves. But when you do this, you lose, because the devil is more than able to master us in our arguments and reasoning. He only flees from Christ’s Word.
The only solution is to flee to the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins.
Someone really needed to teach me this. Even at seminary knowing this would have helped me. Although I believed in Satan, I didn’t know how to recognize his attacks on me. I used to get tied up in knots by him, debating in my mind whether I had sinned in this or that area, whether I was a good person, whether I was kidding myself about being a pastor, or getting married, or ever not being a failure at life. Etc.
I had no idea that I was dealing with temptation by the devil. And I had no idea that the only defense was to say, “Whatever I am, I am redeemed by Jesus’ blood. I am baptized.”
This is practical and honest piety because it reckons with the fact that even though we may grasp doctrine it is not easy to apply it during satan’s assaults.
It’s good to know doctrine. It’s another thing to apply it to the things that happen in our lives. It’s all to easy to assume that when I am tormented by insecurities and doubts that this is just a psychological problem, when in fact it is also a spiritual problem, stemming from doubt in the Gospel. Being trained for battle (which is what catechesis is), and not freezing up when the battle begins–those are two different experiences. I think Christians, especially young ones, need practical guidance in recognizing that we are not simply wrestling with peer pressure, temptations of the flesh, etc. but ultimately with the devil’s assaults on us.
Did you ever learn–in church, catechesis, at home, in seminary–how to recognize the devil’s temptation and how to resist it? I didn’t. How do you instill this practical piety now?
- Satan Impersonates Jesus and Pretends It’s Judgment Day (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- My Mind & Temptation (six11.wordpress.com)