Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hell's Lullabye

   In the Bible there are numerous references to the Church (or individual, local churches) being "asleep". This state is universally negative; the "sleep" referred to is not a "rest in the Lord", but an ultimately fatal spiritual stupor. Christ, in the book of Revelation, accused the church of Sardis of being dead, and then admonished them to,"Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die..."(Revelation 3:2 NASB). The death Christ spoke of was not a final death, as evidenced by His admonition to the church of Sardis, but it has the potential to be final. I do not know that this death means that one loses their salvation, but that is beside the point. Spiritual death has a profound impact on the vitality of your faith and the quality of your Christian service. You may yet believe in Christ, but you will be spiritually impotent. I will return to this verse later on, but first I want to focus on the cause and danger of this state of spiritual slumber.
    Let us consider the cause of this deadly slumber. I entitled this essay "Hell's Lullabye", and I would be hard pressed to find a more apt title. In short, Satan expends an enormous amount of effort into putting God's people to sleep. His entire plan of attack is crafted around this purpose. It is often taught that Satan desires to destroy the believer, and while this is true of his ultimate goal, the frontal assault is not the best tactic to achieve this objective. All out attack often has the effect of strengthening the faith and resolve of a group or individual (one need only look back to the Battle of Britain in the Second World War to see an example of this truth). This is also true of the Christian; many a believer has come through intense battle much the stronger, for nothing refines the faith of a believer like extreme pressure from the enemy.
    No, Satan, being more subtle than any other beast, prefers the easiest and most effectual method of all: subversion. You know, the ancient city of Babylon was, by all historical accounts, seemingly impenetrable by direct assault. It's walls were fifty feet thick, it had a consistent water source in the River Euphrates, and had supplies enough to weather a long siege. Even as the empire was in decline and being conquered by the Persians, the inhabitants of the capital could rest safe and sound. Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede were not fools, and so they ignored entirely the direct approach. Instead, somewhere upriver, they diverted the river, and so marched their armies through the now dry culverts under the "impenetrable" wall and conquered the unconquerable city in a single night. In much the same way, Satan will not waste his time and resources attacking us in front. No, he will be subtle, he will be sly.
    How has Satan sought to subvert, and ultimately, conquer us? By putting us into a spiritual stupor. How does he do this? It's so simple, it may disgust you (as it has disgusted me): he puts before us those things that satiate our human desires. Dear reader, Satan's plan, "Hell's Lullabye", are the things of this world. Comfort, money, entertainment, food, possessions... these things will always dull our spiritual senses. Satan knows that once we taste of the pleasures of this world (and not even overtly sinful pleasures, at that; the innocent pleasures, the common pleasures are what he uses) our flesh wants more and more, until our spiritual vision and acuity slowly fades away, and we fall asleep, or more accurately, into hibernation.
    Antarctic explorers in the early 20th century were constantly aware of an imminent danger in their endeavor to reach the South Pole. That danger is the threat of falling asleep. The human body, it is true, needs rest and sleep, but when traversing the treacherous and lethal frozen desert of Antarctica, at no time could the entire expedition be asleep at once. There must always be a watch kept. Exhaustion was a constant companion of these brave explorers, due to the difficulty of the terrain and conditions, and it was always so tempting to just lay down and close their eyes for a moment. But that proved lethal, every time. Once they fell asleep, if there was no one to wake them, they would surely freeze to death; they would never wake up. You see, rest is a good thing, and there are times that God will give us rest from the struggle that is the Christian life, but that rest is always temporary and meant only to restore our strength. It is a simple matter of spiritual inertia: a spiritual body in motion tends to stay in motion, and vice versa. If God did not rouse us from our rest by bringing us new challenges, we would never wake up. That is the danger inherent in spiritual slumber.
    Now, I have drawn a distinction between "safe" slumber and "lethal" slumber, and illustrated it, for a reason. Rest, as I have said, is necessary, but Satan does not lure us to rest; he lures us to sleep the sleep of death. God gives us true peace and true rest when we need it. Satan on the other hand, satiates our desire for other things. God envelopes us in Himself, Satan snares us in the pleasures of this world. We must never confuse the two. How, then, do we distinguish between them? Well, do you feel at perfect peace and is your faith strong? Or is there some underlying anxiety and angst, even when you are surrounded by material "blessings"? These are the questions you need to be asking yourself. Do you enjoy God's presence, or do you want to be entertained both night and day? I am speaking from bitter experience, for I have been sleeping the sleep of death for well over a year, and am only now, by the grace of God beginning to rouse myself from my slumber. Do not allow yourself to be ensnared by earthly pleasures, for though they will satisfy you for a while, they ultimately leave you alone and empty.
   I said at the beginning that I wanted to return to Revelation chapter three, and so I shall. The latter half of verse two states,"Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die, for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of  My God." Though you be asleep, and have been asleep for perhaps many years, you are not finished, God still has deeds He wishes you to perform. You have wasted much time, but God restores the years that the locust have eaten (see Joel 2). He is not angry or disappointed, He seeks only that we repent and set ourselves once again on the field of battle. Cast off Hell's Lullabye, those things that will force and have forced you to sink into a stupor, and do not pretend you don't know what particular verse Satan sings to you. You know, you simply do not want to let go; trust me, I have been, and in some ways, still am in that same position. But cast them away, and allow Christ to give you good things, sweet things, eternal things, that will give you rest, not stupefy you. Satan offers the false rest of a narcotic, Christ offers the inner peace and rest of a parent's embrace. Consider this the hand of God extended to you to rouse you from your slumber and urge you on to incredible victory on the field of battle.

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