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The World, the flesh and the devil

When was darkness allowed into the Church? 

The other darkness that entered the Church was down to the teachings of Aristotle, the pupil of Plato. It only took hold from the medieval Church onwards, but it held on tenaciously and it still has Christians in a tight grip. (The story of how this happened is told in my book, How the Church Lost the Truth). It gave priority to the rational mind over the exercising of faith and leads us back to the warnings presented earlier, from the book of James.

But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:14-16)

This darkness comes from the earthly wisdom that James speaks about. It is allowing ideas from the “World” to enter into the thinking of Christians. In some cases this can be harmless, but when this provides an attack on our faith, then we’re heading for big trouble. This is because the very essence of faith is that it is unreasonable to the World. For someone brought up in the secular World, the idea of a God is unreasonable, as is the virgin birth, a bodily resurrection, the afterlife, hell and the whole realm of the supernatural and the miraculous. It is because of this that we have seen the rise of so-called “liberal” Christianity, providing a compromise between faith and reason, resulting in, among other things, those who wear the cloak of philosophy – or science, or politics, or “what a thoroughly switched-on chap I am”  – but who are also Christians. We must return to the absolute centrality of faith, always.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

And what is this faith? It’s not just total faith in God, but total faith in His word the Bible, in His son Jesus and in the workings of the Holy Spirit, even when the rational mind shouts “NO!”

But this faith does not work in isolation. Out of it comes what is increasingly seen as a missing factor in the Church today; our deeds, our actions, our attitudes. James also speaks about this:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

If the good wisdom that we receive from our faith in God does not result in deeds and actions, then we have a man who has lost his reflection, who not only forgets what he looks like, but fails to reflect Jesus himself, surely the goal of every Christian.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

We must examine ourselves. Do we truly reflect the Lord’s glory? What does the World see when it looks at us Christians? One is reminded of the old cliché, that the only Bible some see is in the actions of Christians. The World often sees our words, usually in our disputes with other Christians, over worldly agendas that have sucked in the Church, such as homosexuality and women in leadership. But what of our actions? In Western Society aren’t we known more for our “outdated views”, our “judgementalism”, our “irrelevance”, than for what should be a natural consequence of the wisdom that comes from God, through faith, as we already saw:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17)

But the reason that it doesn’t is because of that unholy trinity – the World, the flesh and the devil. The temptations of the flesh and the machinations of the devil should be apparent, but what is very rarely addressed are the influences from the World, predominantly from this darkness of Greek thinking that has invaded the Church from the World. James provides us with a very timely warning about this:

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

For the previous article in this series, click here.

For the next article in this series, click here.

To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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