Mere Christianity

(Part 19 of 36)

The following is an unedited transcription of a teaching given by Dr. Ken Boa. In some cases we have an audio teaching that you can play and follow along with the text.

KEN BOA-Mere Christianity-part 19

Let us begin with a prayer. "Lord, we give you thanks for this day and for you goodness and loving kindness and your mercy toward. We pray that you would give us the spirit of wisdom and of revelation and knowledge of you so that the eyes of our hearts might be enlightened and that we might come to know you more clearly. And in knowing you more clearly to love you more dearly and in loving you more dearly to follow you more nearly. In your name's sake, amen." We are looking at C.S. Lewis' chapter on sexual morality and now he is beginning to meddle because he is dealing with the issue of the application of the Christian vision of morality, which he has built up to, and he is now going down to the issue of specific cases and this is not a popular chapter and he well knows that of all the areas this is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues namely that of chastity. It is a very unpopular Christian virtue, as you well know. Chastity, as you know, does not simply refer to being married or not married. A person can be unchaste when being unmarried and a person can be chaste while being married. You understand the idea; it has to do with something more than that. So, Lewis has built up the case so far and he is looking at Christian behavior and he has been talking about the whole nature of morality and now he is getting down to very specific areas and he will look at Christian marriage in the next chapter. He now considers what morality looks like in view of the virtue of chastity. "A Christian view of chastity," he says, "shouldn't be confused with the idea of propriety or of modesty. The idea of propriety or modesty is something that is more cultural." In other words, what seems to be modest or have propriety in one age or in one era may be different in another. If you compare, for example, women who live in the Polynesian Islands and the way they dress with the way that women in the height of the Victorian era dressed your definition of modesty would change very quickly. In the Victorian era it was regarded as very, very risqué to show much more than an ankle. In Polynesia it is a totally different matter. In both cases they can be equally modest. They can have then same degree, relative to their culture, of being proper or decent. Or, they are consistent with the standards of their own societies. He says, by the way, "It is not so much that that makes the difference. It is actually a matter of the spirit inside." He goes on to say, "When people break the rule of propriety that is current in their own time there may be three things that are causing that to happen. If they do so to excite lust in themselves or others then they are offending against chastity." So, he has now gone beyond propriety and it is now an offense against chastity itself because they are trying to incite lust in themselves or in another. He says, "If they break the social mores of propriety because of ignorance or carelessness they are simply guilty only of bad manners." It is just that they don't understand and they need to be given clarity in that area. "But, there are others who might break it defiantly to shock or embarrass others and they are not necessarily being unchaste," he says, "rather, they are in fact being uncharitable. The idea of being uncharitable is to take pleasure in making other people feel uncomfortable." Then Lewis goes and makes a very interesting statement. Remember, when he was writing this, it was generations ago now, he is talking about how things have changed in the last 20 years from the perspective of 1945. It would be a very interesting thing to see, like the old Rip Van Winkle effect, what would happen if Lewis had the opportunity to see things today. I saw a movie not long ago and this film was about a man who was a teacher in a seminary or graduate school and he taught theology. By virtue of a person that he knew who was also on the faculty and who was a dabbler and a tinkerer and he got hold of a formula that would enable a person to go forward into time. He got into this time machine, actually against his will, and he was ushered up into the latter part of the 20th century, about a 110 years difference. The intriguing part about the film is that you get to see the contemporary world through his eyes. It was quite stunning actually. What we realize, when we see a film like this, is that we are more children of our culture then we might like to admit. In fact, he wants to find a church and he wants to find one that is faithful to the Gospel and so forth and he finds there are real differences between him and the ethos of the church members. But, he goes along with them to a movie and he had never seen one before. Imaging what it would be like for a person in 1880, who was a very, very serious follower of Christ, to suddenly find himself in a movie? In this movie, an ordinary film by today's standards, he ran out on the thing and demanded they stop it because they were using God's name in vain and it was promoting things that were totally indecent. You realize that you or I might have the same reaction if we had just seen it because we have slipped into that ethos. A wide variety of things force us to see and admit how things do change. So, if it was remarkable in Lewis' time, obviously you can up that ante considerably when we come from 1945 to the year 2005. We are dealing here, now, with 60 years and things have changed a great deal, have they not? Now, the principles haven't; it is just the degree of application that has made the difference. In any case, what Lewis is now talking about here is that it is not the question of the dress, per se, but the spirit underlying it. So, when he says, for example, "people who are modifying that shouldn't regard the elders as prudes, not should the elders, who are in a transitional state, regard that as being improper. The real desire is to see each other in a way that is charitable." He says, "The real desire to believe all the good you can of others and to make others as comfortable as you can will solve most of the problem." I think he is quite right. Charity would invite us to believe the best we can about others and also to make others as comfortable as we can. So, there is a mindset of being thoughtful and consistent in the needs of others. There is no getting around it when you are talking about chastity. The old Christian rule is either marriage with complete faithfulness to your partner or else total abstinence. Boy, that will fall on deaf ears today. That will fall on deaf ears in a variety of Christian contexts as well. We have to discuss this a little bit and see what it looks like. He says, "Either the Christian vision of chastity is against this," and it is certainly contrary to our instincts, "and you have to decide whether the sexual instinct has gone wrong or there is something wrong with the Christian teaching." Now, as a Christian, he argues that it is the instinct that has gone wrong and he uses three examples to illustrate this idea. The first example he uses is the comparison between what the biological purpose of eating would be and the biological purpose of sex. The biological purpose of eating is to repair the body and that of sex is procreation, vis a vis the biological functioning. It is not difficult to figure this out given the nature of our biological system. Now, given that, he says, "Suppose a person goes off the deep end and decides to indulge his appetite for food with out any restraints whatsoever. What would take place there?" Well, what would happen is, if you eat whatever you want to eat and as much as you want to eat, undoubtedly you will eat too much. But, you are not going to eat terrifically too much. In other words, you might eat twice as much as a person might ordinarily eat but you aren't going to eat ten times as much. It will not be blown totally out of proportion. Whereas, he says, "If a person goes into his sexual instinct and goes as far he can with his sexual appetite, what will happen is that if a healthy young man indulges his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined and if each act produced a baby it wouldn't be long before he populated a small village." So, that, we would say, is something very different from the idea of what sexual procreation is meant to be. He says, "It is ludicrous and preposterous and in excess of its function." So, Lewis uses that analogy and then he tries to persuade us with another analogy using food and that analogy is the idea that you can get a large audience to go to a striptease show. He says, "Suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre simply by bring a covered plate to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let everyone see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a rasher of bacon." Very strange idea, isn't it? He says, "Would you not think that in that country something would have gone wrong with the appetite for food?" And, of course, that would be exactly the case. In the same way, a person from another world looking at our behaviors might say very rightly that something has gone wrong with our appetite, that the sex instinct has really gone out of whack. Now, he says, "One critic might argue that people were starving in that country and while that is possible, we need only test our hypothesis by finding out if only a little amount of food was being consumed in that country or not. If it turns out that the evidence shows that people are eating very well then you have to say there is something wrong with the idea of the appetite; that they desire more then what would be warranted by their very need." So, he says, "Before accepting sexual starvation as the cause of the striptease, we should have to look for evidence that there is, in fact, more sexual abstinence in this age then in ages past when striptease was unknown." In other words, is there more sexual abstinence? It turns out that it is painfully obvious that is not the case at all. Actually, there is greater sexual indulgence and furthermore contraceptives have made sexual indulgence much less costly in marriage and safer outside it then ever before. Obviously he is not even considering the category of abortion which also changes the rules quite a bit because the issues of consequences are thereby minimized. He says, "Public opinion is less hostile to illicit means and even to perversion than it has been since pagan times." That has, of course, increased many-fold since his time. He says, "The hypothesis of starvation, then, doesn't work. Actually, everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like every other appetite, grows by indulgence," does it not? In the quest to feed the appetite, to satiate a passion, the actual indulgence of that which would presumably satiate it actually enflames it and increases its power over us so that the more it is fed the greater its appetite will become. Like all addictive behaviors, more and more is required for less and less. It becomes a form of bondage. He then goes on to argue, as well, another reason why the Christian vision is really not wrong and it is that you find very few people who really want to pervert other appetites, such as the appetite for food. We use food for other things. Now, people do that, but it is a good deal more rare than the perversions of the sexual instinct and the distortions of that. He says, "I an sorry to have to go into this but we have been told all day long about good solid lies about sex. We have been told that sexual desire is the same as any other natural desire and it is a good thing." He also says, "If you think sex has become a mess because it has been hushed up, well, for the last twenty years it hasn't been hushed up and it is chattered about all day long and we have been encouraged to just go as far as we want to go with it." But it is still in a mess and in fact it hasn't been solved. In fact, it has gone the other way around. The human race, he thinks, hushed it up because it had become such a mess. He says, "That sex is nothing to be ashamed of can mean one of two things. It can mean, for example, that there is nothing to be ashamed of the way we procreate in a certain way or in the fact that it gives pleasure." Frankly, that is consistent with the Christian vision, is it not? In fact, that is part of God's purposes. However, he goes on to say, "The old Christian teachers," and I agree with him, by the way, "said that if man had never fallen sexual pleasure, instead of being less, as it is now, would actually have been greater." That is my view as well. Actually, I think three things were limited as a result of God's grace after the Fall. One thing was that longevity was reduced; secondly, our cognitive capacity was diminished and third, our ability to enjoy pleasure was also diminished. Imagine, if this were not the case, you could live for a thousand years and have an IQ of 300 and also have the opportunity to have any pleasures that transcend anything you have ever known. People could be pretty ruinous in their own lives as well. Imagine what that culture would be like. The power for evil would thereby increase because our natural powers, coupled with a fallen nature, would become disastrous. So, my view is that God reduced this and, by the way, the pleasures of Heaven will greatly exceed anything you can imagine now precisely because then we will be able to handle it. Just as you will be able to handle a greater cognitive ability, a greater mental ability, then you can now. You will be able to handle unlimited longevity, eternal life. What I see in this world, what we have, the greatest experiences of pleasure you have ever had, are really only hints of home. They are only hints of what is to come. The greatest moment of intimacy you have ever enjoyed, as I have often said, and the greatest moment of beauty and the greatest adventure you have ever had are only hints, only shadows, of what God has in store for us. But, right now He calls on us to walk in a certain way and He is asking us to do this for our own good. When in doubt, always consult the instructions of the manufacturer. In this case, God is the one who created pleasure did He not? Don't think of God as an enemy of your pleasure. He is the one who created pleasure. At the same time, God is one who invites us to use the pleasures He has given us in a way that is consistent for the purposes of our lives. Everything that God asks us to do is for our own good. Everything He invites us to avoid would ultimately be harmful for us. That is why I call it the sanity of Holiness. It is insane, at the end of the day, to violate the good desires of God for our lives even though they may go against our initial urges. There is a need, here, for a measure of restraint. Lewis says, "It is not the thing itself, or the pleasure that is the problem then. Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions, which thoroughly approves of the body and which believes that matter is good. God himself once took on a human body. Some kind of body is going to be given to us in Heaven and it is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty and our energy." I think he is quite right. Christianity, I want you to understand, is an incarnational faith. Often, I fear, we minimize that side of things. We just want to make it something that is ethereal. It is very, very palpable. All the senses are involved. When we think about the Gospels and how Christ was, in fact, involved and engaged in the nitty-gritty of the actual experiences of His time; the sights, the smells, all the things that were around him, the people, all the earthly things that tempted in all ways, just we are, but He was without sin. He understands the human condition quite well. No, it is an incarnational faith because it tells us that God, Himself, assumed humanity into Himself. Thus, the second person of the Trinity is now forever the God-man. In fact, Christianity glorifies marriage more than any other religion. All the greatest love poetry in the world has been written by Christians. We are not against that at all. But, the problem is they are against un-chastity. That is another issue entirely. If people say, for example, that sex is nothing to be ashamed of and if they say by that, the state into which sexual instinct will now get us is also nothing to be ashamed of, then Lewis would clearly disagree. He would disagree because there is also nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food but it would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food their main source of interest. If half their lives were spent looking at food and dribbling and smacking their lips you could say something had gone wrong. You see the point here? The sexual component, like food, is only a tiny, tiny, component of life, yet, as we all know it has become a huge industry. The fact is that we are surrounded by propaganda in favor of un-chastity. We are surrounded and immersed in that sort of propaganda. Basically, it is saying that God is a cosmic killjoy and He doesn't want you to enjoy yourself. Actually, His principles of the proper use of the sexual gift, in the proper context of a committed and covenant relationship are always in our best interest and not the other way around. Of course there are people who want to keep our sex instinct inflamed in order to make money out of it. Of course, a person with an obsession is also a person who has very little sales resistance. Hence, the majority of Internet downloads are, in fact, from porn sites. The number one downloaded category is the area of pornography. Number two, by the way, is Christian resources. You have an enormous pull in two different directions. 70%, for example, of the hotel in-room profits are from pornographic films. More and more, people that I know personally are being totally addicted by this. At least in the past there were social and cultural restraints were there not? You had to sort of take a chance by going into one of those sleazy stores. Now, you can do this completely anonymously. You can now get a DVD. You can download anything and who is going to know? So, in our anonymity we have more resources that can overwhelm and cause addictive behavior than ever before and it turns out that possibly a third of the people in ministry have some kind of a sexual addiction. This is not a minor issue at all. It has to be dealt with. I would say, by the way, that the issue here is not just the issue of behavior. It is an issue of the heart. It is an issue of thinking; your thought-life is the key. People, I fear, tolerate very sloppy thought-lives. In other words, they allow themselves to indulge themselves in all kinds of fantasies. Not just of a sexual nature but other things as well; even fantasies for revenge or resentment and much more then they might want to admit. That is why Paul has to say, again and again, "Set your mind on the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God." He says, "You are to focus," in Philippians 4, "on that which is true and honorable and right and lovely and of good repute."  In other words, he has to tell us that because we would naturally be thinking just the opposite of those things. That is why news is the opposite of those things. The worse it is, the more bizarre it is, the uglier it is, the better it sells. That is just the nature of it. And so, we understand then, that God has a very, very clear purpose for our lives to keep us from being totally distorted and destroyed. Actually, Lewis says, "The issue is going to be sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome these kinds of pulls that are in the world." Before you can be cured you have to want to be cured; that is the first essential. If you really wish for help you will get it but many people say that the wish is even difficult. He then talks about a famous Christian from long ago who said that when he was a young man he prayed constantly for chastity but years later he realized that his lips were praying, "Lord, make me chaste," but his heart had been adding, "please don't do it yet." That was the mindset and, of course, he was referring to Augustan, who, in his Confessions, acknowledges that very pull in his life. You see, there are actually three reasons why it is very difficult for us to desire, let alone achieve, full chastity in this mind set. In the first place, we have the pull of the world, with our work and the pull of the flesh. We have the devils that tempt us. In other words, he says, "There is spiritual warfare going on," as well as the flesh and what takes place is that when we have this problem of the flesh it is not in our deepest self. Our deepest self is a new creation but we still have this thing that Paul calls "The power of sin that is in our members." He says, in Romans 7, "This is the outer self but I find myself saying that I don't want to do it, but it is the sin that dwells in me. The good that I wish I don't do, for I practice the very thing I don't wish. But, If I am no longer the one who wishes it then it is no longer me but the sin that dwells in me." You see what he is saying? He says, "There is a pull between the inner, deeper identity and the outward," because the remnants of the mortal Adam were not eliminated right away were they? We still have the old capes. Even when you come to faith in Christ the old capes are there. Can you not remind yourself of those? The lies, the false messages, the wrong scripts, all those sorts of things, can be bought into. That is a powerful force, right away, causing us to resist God. Then the world comes in and impinges upon that as well as satanic forces. You have the world, the flesh and the devil. That is why I say it will be a wonderful reality when all three of those things are removed. I am really looking forward to that. When, for example, we will be able to see each other and you will know every person you ever encountered and they will always want what is best for you. They will be other-centered. I rather look forward to that. It is not the case in this world, though there are little islands where that can actually occur. They are called ‘the Church'. Or, as the Church is meant to be. Sadly, however, many institutional settings are such that those things do not occur. ‘Christendom', therefore, is not the same as Christianity. You do know the difference? Christendom is the external, institutionalized approach that we have seen throughout the centuries. Christianity is another thing entirely. Being followers of Christ, then, causes us to transcend the norm. In fact, the standards of Christians are not the same as Christian standards. I am shocked, really, when I read polls and surveys about what people who profess to be Christians say are okay behaviors. It is really surprising what they have to say. I am going to be doing a presentation for you, pretty soon, on the decline of nations. It will give you a sense of where the culture is going. In there I will describe some of these trends. I will be doing a ten-point comparison between the United States and the Roman Empire. That will be exciting. I will whip you up into a paranoid frenzy. But, it does end well. God is sovereign and still in control. He raises up kings and He deposes them but don't suppose western civilization would somehow eliminate the demise of other civilizations. We pray for Christ to come back before that occurs. In any case, Lewis is saying here that we have these pulls against us. "Film after film, novel after novel associate the idea of sexual indulgence with ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness and good humor." See the idea?  In other words, it takes that which God says is wrong, the unbridled indulgence out side the covenant commitment of marriage and associates it with things that are in fact good and therefore it must be normal and healthy. The lie suggests that any sexual act in which you are tempted is healthy and normal. But, he goes on to say, and I think he is right, "To surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousy, lies, concealment and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor and frankness." For example, there is a very simple cure for AIDS. It is called abstinence. Or, it is called fidelity or monogamy. Frankly, that would be the end of it. If everyone suddenly engaged in monogamous relationships within the marriage covenant, AIDS is no longer an issue. Except for those people who had contracted it through some problems before. Perhaps through transfusions and circumstances like that. But, even that would eventually disappear. It is an interesting thing that people don't want to change their behavior but they want the government to change the outcome. Then we get angry with the government for not fixing it. Here is a plague, where we know what the cause is, and we still demand that the government solve the problem. We are angry when it doesn't occur. It has become a ‘cause celebre'. You see AIDS concerts but you seldom see cancer concerts, do you? It is very interesting how that has become the Hollywood virtue and it gives us the allusion of righteousness because they are concerned about this. Do not miss the point; I am concerned about this as well but there are other things that are equally debilitating that we tend to ignore precisely because AIDS has become associated with sexual freedom and liberty that we have come to expect and in fact demand in our culture. We regard God, as I say, as a cosmic tyrant who is actually repressing our true desires. Now, Lewis says, "The issue here is that anywhere in this world there has got to be restraint because every sane and civilized man must have some principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others. Otherwise, everything will go awry." He goes on to say, "First of all, you have this context, a warfare context, between the inside and the outside. It is a realm of temptation and therefore never suppose that you stand because let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall." You always must be aware that it is possible for us to walk by the flesh and not by the Spirit. Those who are in the flesh can not please God. So, it requires the grace and power of God to, in fact, fulfill God's desires for our lives and He well knows this. That is what grace is all about. If you wish to have this power, sure, Christian principles are admittedly stricter than the others, but we think you will get help toward obeying then which you would not get in the others. In other words, it not such that Christ tells us, "Here is what you need to do. Here are the instructions," and you throw the guy into the water and tell him to swim. That is not the Christian position at all. The Christian position is that He not only tells us how to live but He now can live it through us. That is why I say the Christian life is impossible. You can not live the Christian life. Only when you admit that it is impossible does it become possible. When you realize that you can not do it, then you know only Christ, in you, can live this life. That is why I often tell people not to keep saying ‘I'm going to do this for Jesus' and ‘do that for Jesus'. The reality is that you are inviting Jesus to do things in and through you. You see the difference? Let Him do it through you because only when you abide in Him can you bear lasting fruit. It is Christ in you who accomplishes these things. So, I want you to realize again that there are these purposes that God has given us for life and He also gives us the power to fulfill it. It is not just a sense of ‘do's' and ‘don'ts', it is the indwelling presence of a new person in our lives who can make it possible through the power of His Spirit. So, that is the important thing to keep in mind. The standards, yes, are higher but the power is also infinitely greater. Furthermore, He says, "Many people are deterred from seriously accepting Christian chastity because they think, before trying it, that it is impossible." He says, "You know, if they have an examination and if one of the questions is optional and then there is another question that is mandatory the best you can do is try your best because if you don't even try, what will happen? You will get no marks. If you try you might get some marks but maybe not perfect marks." You see where he is going with that idea? There are all sorts of things we think we can't do that we are capable of doing. Is that true? Even things like climbing mountains or, as kid, learning how to ride a bicycle. Little kinds of things and large kinds of things. It is amazing what people can learn to do when given the desire to do it. And so, we might feel, then, that perfect chastity, like perfect charity will not be attained by human efforts. He says, and he is right, that when we call upon God He will help us but there will be times, though, when we don't seem to be getting that thing fulfilled, but, he says, "Here is what you do. You ask forgiveness. You get up and move on." He understands well that this process, of picking yourself up and moving on, that process is moving toward the virtue. It is the power of always trying again, because he says, "No matter how important chastity, or courage, or truthfulness may be, this process trains us in the habit of the soul." My view is this: rather than just getting into indulgence, the idea of embracing God's purposes, calling upon Him for His grace and power, then when we fall, and we will fall, do not deceive yourself, we all stumble in many ways. What do you do? Instead of wallowing in guilt and self- pity, what do you do? You get up and you move on. Imagine a tennis player, when he makes a bad shot, he throws down the racquet and wallows on the tennis court. That is a pathetic thing. Actually, I don't have to imagine that. I have seen it. The fact is its pathetic. What should he do? Get up and try it again and let that be a lesson to try better. You never develop a skill without practice. Isn't that true? You never develop a skill, as well, without a willingness to fail. That very process, then, will actually increase the skill of application in various situations in life. And so, Lewis is right, I think, to argue that it trains us in habits of the soul. "We learn, on the one hand, that we can not trust ourselves, even in our best moments and on the other that we need not despair even in our worst."  I want you to listen to that again. "You can not trust yourself even in your best moments. But, at the same time, you don't need to despair even when you have your worst moments." Your failures are forgiven. My view, again, is that you can not out-sin the grace of God. That is not an invitation, therefore, to sin boldly and thereby increase God's grace. That's to miss the point. The mindset here is to realize that there is no sin so small that it does not need to be forgiven but there is also no sin so great that it can not be forgiven. You see the balance here? We lay hold of grace and it gives us, may I say, a security, a way of moving through this world with a sense of significance and purpose so that even when we fail we can recognize that it is not the end of the game. All things will ultimately be made well and even our failures, even our pain, will be used as a step of redemption in our life. Lewis then talks about, as he concludes this chapter, that Christianity sometimes is mistaken as a invitation to repress these desires and repressed sex is dangerous but he is saying the ‘repressed' is a technical term. It doesn't mean to be suppressed in the sense of denied or resisted because repression, really, is a thought that has been thrown into the subconscious, usually at a very early age, and it now comes to the mind disguised in an unrecognizable form. He is saying, for example, that when an adolescent or an adult engages in resisting a conscious desire he is not dealing with a repression. He is not even in danger of that. In fact, if anything, he is even more aware of the enemy than another might be who succumbs to it. You see the point here? In effect, the better you know your desires the more you understand the enemy because you are consciously resisting that and you become, for example, a person who knows his desires like Wellington knew Napoleon. Or, like Sherlock Holmes knew Professor Moriarty or like a plumber knows about leaky pipes. You see, even attempts at virtue will bring light. Indulgence will bring darkness and fog in the end. It will darken us. And then Lewis says, "I have spoken at some length about sex but I want to make it clear that the center of Christian morality is not here. It is not," he says, "the sins of the flesh that are the biggest problems but the sins of the Spirit." What he is saying here is that, in effect, if anyone thinks that Christians regard un-chastity as a supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad but they are the least bad. The worst sins are purely spiritual. What are they? For example, the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong; of bossing and patronizing and being a spoiled sport and pleasures of power and of hatred and of pride and of resentment and pleasures of bitterness and unforgiveness. Those are more debilitating pleasures than the more obvious pleasures of the flesh. That is why, as you know, Dante put these on the higher realms of hell and pleasures of the flesh on the lower realms. But, you don't want to get your theology from Dante. Nevertheless, he did grasp this idea that the more obvious things are not always the worst. It is the animal self and the diabolical self and this is the pull that we have. And so, the diabolical self is the worst of the two. He says, "A cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to Church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute." Did you get that? Of course, it is better to be neither. Any questions? Yes? (Q) (A): Of course, that is why I said there is no sin so small that it does not need to be forgiven. That is why, and I have told you this before, that there are four ‘G-sins' that Christians can often commit with impunity and get away with it: Gluttony, Greed, Gossip and Grumbling. You won't hear sermons about those very often. Yet, those sins are equally as debilitating and spiritually alienating as those of the flesh. That is why he is saying this isn't the worst of it. By the way, God took grumbling very seriously. That is why they struggled in the wilderness and finally, at the end, He said, "Enough." It is not a minor deal. By the way, it is a sin against gratitude. (Q) (A): Very often. Let's say, for example, the spirit of un-chastity, once again; the idea of getting yourself over that can actually be symptomatic of a deeper disease, namely the unwillingness to walk in obedience before God's commands and the unwillingness to even make the effort. In fact, the failure to move in the right direction is really a deeper problem and this is a symptom of it. It is, in fact, to buy, as a child of the culture, the rules and mores we are surrounded by. Remember, I have told you before, that if you want to be defined by the world, just do nothing. Do nothing at all and the world will define you. But, if you want to be defined by God, by the Word, what do you have to do? That won't happen by default, will it? It will only happen through discipline. So, the world will define you by default but the Word will only define you by discipline. That is an understanding that we have to keep in mind. I promise you, every day is warfare. You have to see each day as a mini-life with all the challenges. God, by the way, does this because we can not live thirty days at once. Don't take the anxiety of a whole month and put it all into one day. Living is so daily because even each day has enough concerns, Jesus tells us, and by the way, He will give us the grace to deal with this day's issues. As for tomorrow, He will give us the grace then, but not today. So, we take that and we walk in that grace as we move in this world. One last question. (Q) (A): That is the idea. Of course you become aware of your desperate condition. That is the very point here. You will not grow apart from your awareness of your need. We are desperate people but we are all not aware of it. But, often our failure will drive us to the realization that we are at the end of our rope. What do we do then? That is when we turn to God. That is what He wants us to do. Finally, we no longer trust in our own power but trust in His power. Frankly, it is true, in this fallen world, we always learn more through pain and failure then we do through success. Man is the only animal where if you pat him on the back his head swells up. Success will not really cause us to grow very much. It is going to be pain and afflictions that actually drive us to become the people God really wants us to be. Let's close in a prayer. "Lord, we thank you for the grace you have given to us and for the power that you have also given to us. You call us to be people who pursue the Christ-like qualities of love and of other-centered love, of chastity and justice, of purity and of courage and of fidelity. All these and others you give us the power to achieve. Give us the grace of Holy desire to pursue the things that you declare to be important. We pray in Christ's name, amen."
 

Please support Reflections Ministries so that we may continue to provide many free resources to our friends around the world.