(Editorâ€™s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our goal is to use this classic fiction by C. S. Lewis is to excite the imaginations of our students to help them see the reality of the spiritual warfare that exists in the Christian walk described in Ephesians 6:12:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12, ESV).
If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)
- revocable: Something capable of being canceled.
- communicant: A person who receives Holy Communion. In the context of Lewis’ book this is in the Anglican church.
- roistering: The act of enjoying one’s self in a noisy or boisterous way.
- labyrinth: A complicated irregular network of pathways and passages in which it is difficult to find one’s way.
- cumulative: increasing or increased in quantity, degree, or force by successive additions
We know that we have introduced a change of direction in his course which is already carrying him out of his obit around the Enemy . . . He must not be allowed to suspect that he is now, however slowly, heading right away from the sun on a line which will carry him into the cold and dark of utmost space.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Nothing ever is, and such is the case with a growing coldness to God. This week’s lesson looks at the gradual nature of growing cold towards God.
This dim uneasiness, . . .increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy.
The more distant one travels from God the harder it is to make the turn and start heading back. It is simply the nature of mankind, kind of like intertia. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, â€œHe yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in usâ€? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, â€œGod opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.â€ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:4-10, ESV)
As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations.
Here we see the principle that is so obvious in life. The more we strive to grow in grace, the more we struggle with sin and temptation. When we are not striving, often times we are not so tempted. Dead fish float down stream with no difficulty at all. Those that would swim up stream to the source must press constantly against the flow.
The Christians describe the Enemy as one “without whom Nothing is strong.” And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, . . .
Look at the things that capture your attention, your life. It is not that so much of what we do is evil, but that just about everything we do does not have God as its center.
Murder is no better than cards if cards will do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft under foot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
What a tragic ending to this letter, much like is found in previous letters. There are people all around us in this condition, strolling calmly down the lane toward eternal death and darkness. It reminds one of Jesus warnings about Heaven and Hell, that the way to life is narrow and hard with few finding it, and the way to death and darkness is broad and easy, with many finding it.
â€œEnter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13,14, ESV)
I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
(Proverbs 24:30-34, ESV)