This morning, I wrote in my journal:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name
– Edward Mote
This, Father, is to what I humbly and quietly return.
The gales have been high and the seas stormy. I feel tender, like big, purpley-green bruises cover my body. Or perhaps my soul. The hand of God gently rests upon me, eliciting both a wince and a sigh. The pain may get worse before it gets better. Usually does. But if I pull away now, if I stubbornly refuse to allow His work of healing, I’ll only prolong the agony.
Satan is real and he delights in beating up the Children of God. I didn’t need to be convinced of that before this past summer, but any lingering, small, hidden doubts have been fully removed from my mind. I’ve seen his destructive work in the past, in the temptation to suicide (incidentally, it’s been seven years), but he’s not always that blatant. He’ll settle for killing our sense of calling, confidence and identity. He cannot take salvation away from anyone, but he will do (and does do) anything and everything to render us ineffective.
I’ve heard that before. What seems like a million times before. I bet you have, too. It’s as true today as it was the first time – because Satan isn’t original. His entire purpose is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Further, he knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). Matthew Henry writes:
The devil, defeated in his designs upon the church, turns his rage against persons and places. Being faithful to God and Christ, in doctrine, worship, and practice, exposes to the rage of Satan; and will do so till the last enemy shall be destroyed.
Contextually, Satan has a short amount of time within the eschaton, the end of all things, a period that all Christians love to debate about. As with all prophecy, Revelation is a cake, with different layers of meaning and application; specific events will occur at a future time, but their types and shadows have come before. Thus it is not out of bounds to understand that Satan has been raging, is raging now and will rage as the clock winds down toward the return of Christ.
He has certainly been raging at me. I won’t repeat the ugliness. You know. You’ve had your own experiences.
So, what to do?
Back to basics.
Back to the Cross.
The author of Hebrews makes it clear that we need to grow (6:1). Our job, once we are justified by Christ, is to do the daily, momently work of submitting to His rule in our lives. This is different for each of us, for our particular sin-struggles are not all the same. And sometimes it’s not even about sin, but rather taking steps away from good things and moving toward the better things that He has designed for us. It’s a messy process. Thank the Lord that He is infinitely more patient that we are.
Growing in faith means developing a taste for the things of God – Scripture, prayer, fellowship with His people (full disclosure: than one is incredibly difficult at times). We learn to love Him better the more time we spend learning from and about the Word of God through the words of God as transmitted through the pens of people just as flawed as we are. When we pray, we discover how to pour out and process our frustrations, praises, longings, joys, sorrows and gratitude in healthy, non-destructive ways. Spending time with His people, with the church – there are days when that’s the last thing any of us wants to do, but the inescapable fact is that we’re family. And you don’t always get along great with family. Bouncing off of each other teaches us compassion, patience and definitely self-control. (Punching people in the face being frowned upon and all that).
In the midst of this growth, it is never wrong to meditate on the elementary teachings, for they are the things that led us to real life. What is true about God? What is true about me? What is true about salvation?
God is the King, and so He makes the rules.
I am the creature, not the Creator, and am unable to remedy my condition.
The only remedy for the condition – sin – is found in the King, the Creator, dying on the Cross. Not because He had to, but because of His great love.
That love is the thing that Satan wants us to forget. Without that love, we look to other, fickle sources for calling, confidence and identity. Inevitably, those other sources fail, leaving us wrecked, even if we seem quite “put together.” Because everyone has to be with themselves in the dark of the night, when nobody else is watching. Everyone knows the truth about themselves.
Back to the Cross. Again and again, back to the Cross.
That’s where I am. I sit at the base, rough-hewn wood just within reach. The ground is stained red, a blotch that the passage of time will never truly remove. He is not there anymore, for He is alive. In fact, He sits beside me, His arm around my shoulders. I look at the Cross and I wonder again at this meeting of righteousness and peace. The big words, the theological terms, are far too small, to pitiful an offering of thanksgiving. Instead, I lean upon His chest, as the Beloved Disciple did so long ago.
This is the basics. And the mysteries. The simple. And the profound.