Once upon a time, as a child, I went backpacking with my father in New Mexico. It was an incredible experience. While there are many things I could focus on with regard to that trip, the one I will mention is my rock collection. Like most children, I went through a phase where collecting pretty and shiny rocks was a powerful passion. On that backpacking trip I discovered that The Rockies had an excellent assortment of collectible rocks. I brought back tons of rose quartz and more than a few pieces of fools gold. Until I was gently disillusioned, I was overwhelmed with “gold-fever.” I just new I was going to be rich. As I look back and try to remember what happened to “my precious” collection of rocks, I cannot help but remember my disappointment when I learned that all that glitters is not gold.
This is one of those lessons, draped in various robes, and disguised by a variety of circumstances and experiences, that we seem destined to learn repeatedly throughout life. We learn this lesson as children when we finally get that glittery toy that was all the rage only to discover it wasn’t as fun as it seemed in the television commercial, or that it wasn’t nearly as durable. We learned it again in junior-high or high-school when our “dream date” was knocked off their pedestal of perfection by shallow, hurtful, or villainous behavior. It is an unfortunate truth that we learn through constant disappointment. People are not perfect. People, our friends, family members, spouses, bosses, coworkers, and role-models, suffer and fall prey to the same temptations that have plagued humanity since the dawn of time; the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the sinful pride of life.
When Christ campaigns for a soul, He proposes sweeping changes. It is precisely at this point that, like a child enamored with fools gold, Satan offers a glittery substitute he hopes will keep us on the couch. The selfish soul within all of us, which generally likes things the way they are, answers with scorn and rebellion (Luke 19:14). If God‘s grace did not step in and override our reflexive veto, the whole world would be held in Satan’s sway. Do not doubt for a moment that Satan will hurl all his fury at you when you are desperately trying to free yourself from the morass-like magnetism of sin and sloth. Feel free to doubt your own strength. You know from intimate experience how weak you are. On the other hand, do not doubt Christ’s strength. In the midst of your most soul-sucking depression, trust Christ to bring you out of the the devils domain with a high hand, in spite of all the force and fury of hell. If you can only get only get your hand up before you are sucked under, Christ, who is waiting for you to ask for help, will see your grasping hand and pull you out of the muck and mire.
One of the greatest dangers we face, aside from the obvious distractions and temptations Satan is constantly trying to catch our eye with, is the danger of wearing “artful armor” after we think we have finally washed the muck and mire of sin off. It is not armor as armor, but as armor of God that makes the soul impregnable. Is prayer armor? Are faith, hope, and righteousness? Only if they are of God’s design and by His appointment. That which is born of God overcomes the world; a faith born of God, a hope born of God. The spurious, adulterous brook of self-seeking duties and graces with which some of us gird ourselves, having sprouted from mortal seed, cannot be divine. Satan is a wily strategist. He attacks on multiple fronts at once. If he cannot captivate our interest with an obvious glittery temptation, he will often try to subvert us with a subtle variation of the very same tactic. If he observes that we are strong in resisting temptation, he will congratulate us on our strength and make us think that we are super strong. Look closely at the label of the armor you wear, and make sure the workmanship is God’s and not your own. To most of us, a careful copy of a masterpiece looks just as good as the original. How many friends have you known who thought they were armed against Satan, death, and sin, when all along they were miserable and naked inside their glittering robe of many colors. When the storm came, they discovered, and everyone else discovered, that their house was built on shifting sand. Much to the amazement of those who thought their Christian, super hero, role-model, was impervious to fools gold, they learn, yet again, how the shimmering image of excellence gets knocked off the pedestal of perfection.
When the master himself appears, he can tell in an instant which is real and which is the imposter. It is the same with the self-righteous hypocrite. It takes the Spirit’s discerning eye to expose him, and even then it is harder to convict him because Satan has so cleverly tampered with his spiritual perceptions. Which is easier: to set a freshly broken bone, or to attempt to repair one that has already been falsely mended? Would you rather come to the altar humble, broken and ready for Christ, or would you rather have Christ break you on the rocks of reality first?
It is a fine line we walk as Christians. We are meant to grow in grace, and strength, and knowledge, as we grow in relationship with Christ. Yet, we are never meant to lose the sense of desperation and loneliness we experienced as we were about to be sucked under before Christ rescued us. The moment we begin to lose our sense of desperate need, and feel like we are close to “arriving” spiritually, we are in danger of crossing-over to the crowd of pharisees who keep both the preacher and the word of God at arm’s length with their glittering robes pseudo-righteousness.
Think about it. Let me know what you think?