The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

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Screwtape is a demon and he is writing letters to his nephew, Wormwood.  The letters are meant to help Wormwood, who is fresh out of Tempter’s College, in his endeavors to prevent people from becoming Christians.  In the end Wormwood fails and is eaten by the more successful demons.

The advice given by Screwtape was potentially effective, but it was also subtle.

  • Church members can be used to keep people away from the Gospel, especially if they behave rudely or practice immorality.
  • Family discord, lack of self-examination, and critical thoughts toward others will promote a self-righteous attitude.
  • Keep people away from prayer or have them use memorized superficial prayers that can be repeated without meaning.
  • Keep people focused on themselves and their own problems to promote selfishness and prevent charitable behavior.
  • Keep people focused on personal feelings.
  • Teach people to reverence religious objects, so the object replaces God.
  • Teach people to view the past as happy and peaceful.  Teach them to view the future with dread and hopelessness, so they will believe not even God can save them from certain destruction.
  • Create anxiety to prevent people from focusing on God.
  • Promote hatred for those who are different from them and hatred for enemies.
  • Promote malice towards the people around them and keep benevolence out of their minds.
  • Increase temptation during times of struggle, so sin appears to be the best way to elevate depression and inner turmoil.
  • If people desire to attend church, help them find one that focuses solely on friendship and self-help topics.
  • Teach people to live two parallel lives.  Sunday is for church, but during the rest of the week there is no thought of God.  This will allow them to live in sin, but still feel self-righteous.
  • Lull people into the path of wickedness, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
  • Don’t allow people to be rooted in a church, “if a man can’t be cured of church going, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”
  • Promote discord in the church, so the members are arguing over petty things, then they will be unable to teach the gospel with any effectiveness.
  • Encourage false spirituality among the people.

 

How to Resist Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11)

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Jesus went into the wilderness to spend forty days fasting.  The devil waited until Jesus was at the end of his fast before trying to tempt Jesus. The devil wanted to take advantage of the weakened and weary state of Jesus.

By studying the temptation of Jesus, we can learn how to resist temptation in our own lives.

The first temptation:

The devil told Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (ESV)

Jesus replied, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (ESV)

The devil appealed to the fleshly desires of Jesus and tried to get him to break the fast by turning stones into bread.  The devil also tried to illicit a prideful spirit within Jesus, by saying, “If you are the Son of God.”

Jesus was able to resist temptation and used scripture as his strength and reasoning.

The second temptation:

For the second temptation, “the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”” (ESV)

The devil continued to question Jesus about his divinity.  He also used scripture to tempt Jesus.  However, Jesus combated the temptation by quoting scripture back to the devil, “it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” (ESV)

If we are to resist temptation and stand firm in our faith, then studying the bible is essential.  How can we proclaim to believe something if we don’t know what it teaches?  How can we stand up against false teachings, if we don’t know the truth within the scriptures?

The third temptation:

The devil tried to tempt Jesus one more time, “the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'” (ESV)

Jesus refused and told the devil, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” (ESV)

For the finial temptation, the devil promised to give Jesus earthly power and wealth.  Once again, Jesus resisted temptation and rejected the offer.

The temptation of riches, fame, and power is a hard one for most people.  All through out history, mankind (as individuals and as nations) have committed horrible acts to claim power over others or take riches from them.

We also have a tendency to place power and wealth as the priority of our lives.  People will ignore family obligations to make more money, only to find their family is gone when they finally reach their goals.

Money is used to justify treating employees badly or cheating customers.  The love of money can lead us into disastrous situations.

To resist such a powerful temptation, we need to have our priorities right.  We should seek to worship and serve God, and not power or wealth.