Know Thyself

I have been working my way through a Beth Moore study and she said something in our most recent lesson that stuck with me — we need to know our own weaknesses, because that’s where the enemy will strike first. I thought that was profound, because it is true.

Her concept was that the enemy will take whatever you fear most about yourself, and strive to make it come true — to affirm your worst secret fears. Christians struggle with many things; we all have doubts and weaknesses and there’s nothing our enemy loves more than to bring them out into the light or to cause them to take us over. Fear and self-doubt are his greatest weapons against us, because both of them can immobilize us and make us incapable of taking action. Not only is he looking for our deepest fears (what is it we are afraid of most? that we are unlovable? undesirable? fallen? that we constantly return to the same sins? that God doesn’t really love us? that this time, our sin really is too much to be forgiven?) he is also searching for something — anything — to trip us up. One temptation, that’s all it takes. One moment of weakness leading to a lifetime of guilt. It can be anything, really, just so long as it feeds one of our sinful tendencies, which in turn makes us ashamed and distance ourselves from God because we fear either “punishment” or feel unworthy.

News flash: we are unworthy. Nothing we can ever do will MAKE us worthy. From the moment we emerged from the womb, we were Fallen. Even babies are not innocent — they are selfish and in being selfish, are sinful. You can be “good,” you can say the right words, but unless you can take every word, action, and even thought captive, you’re not perfect. No one can accomplish perfection, because it is a right and practice of the divine. It takes the same amount of blood to cover the habitual liar that it does the murderer — we are equal in God’s estimation of us, because He desires for each and every one of us to be saved.

This weekend, I watched my pastor pour a gallon of “blood” on a makeshift doorpost and talk about the importance of the Passover and the fact that blood has been required for atonement of sin from the beginning. It has always demanded “perfection” — in the lambs and goats and doves the Hebrews sacrificed, and later, in the perfection of Christ. When The Passion came out, I remember the tremendous controversy it generated, but the outrage was not over the violence — we see that kind of pervasive, gruesome violence in movies all the time. No, it was because of the message behind the violence, the fact that the violence made it “personal” under the realization that Christ did this for us — for you and me, and if I were the only person in history who accepted that Sacrifice, it still would have been “worth it” in His mind.

If Satan wants us to forget one thing, it’s this: we don’t have to be worthy. Salvation is a gift, not something you earn. True, Christ paid a terrible price for it — but it is a gift regardless, and nothing you can do will ever separate you from the power of redemption. This, however, does not give us license to do whatever we please regardless of the consequences. Salvation shields us, but we are still morally responsible for our own behavior — that includes knowing our nature well enough to distinguish what is the most temptation for us. It’s about more than physical inclinations and desires, but spiritual ones as well. What is it that “tempts” us the most? What is it we care about most? Is it pride? Do we always have to be right? Is our way the only way? Will we go to extremes to protect our reputation? C.S. Lewis believed pride was the root of all sins, because it can stem out into the rest. Pride is a corrupt version of “self-love” that might also be known as “vanity.”

In a controversial film from the late 90’s, the statement “vanity is definitely my favorite sin” was made by “The Devil.” The story follows a young man named Kevin going to work for a law firm run by Satan (he does not know this until the end — the audience, however, discerns it immediately). His previously happy and wonderful marriage rapidly disintegrates as his “Boss” introduces him to a beautiful coworker. Soon, he is fantasizing about (lusting after) her. But that’s not the only temptation he faces, or the one ultimately intended to bring him down — it becomes imperative to him to win all of his legal cases. It doesn’t matter if his client is guilty as sin, he is going to get him off, because he has never lost a case. Meanwhile, the Devil goes after his wife by attacking her deeply rooted insecurities — he encourages her to step out of her comfort zone and change her appearance in order to “fit in,” he puts people in her life that are a negative influence, and ultimately winds up destroying her — mind, body, and soul. When Kevin accuses him of being responsible for her downfall, the Devil responds that Kevin could have “saved” her any time he liked — all she wanted was love. But he loved himself more than he loved her.

Ouch.

He “sets the stage, and you pull your own strings.” In other words, he places temptation in front of us and watches us do what comes naturally to us — sin.

When Kevin discerns the Devil’s true intentions, he uses his God-given free will to kill himself rather than give in. Either through this selfless act or a manipulation from the enemy, time reverses and begins at the point in which he had to make his first choice — whether or not to win the case or to sacrifice his pride and allow his guilty client to go to prison. It seems like a cop-out of an ending, and then comes the twist… a journalist pulls him aside and pleads for the right to tell Kevin’s story, and make him a “hero” for doing the “right thing” in sacrificing his client. Flattered, Kevin agrees. But what Kevin doesn’t realize is that the journalist is actually the Devil, who smiles and says, “Vanity… my favorite sin,” implying that once again, he has Kevin hooked — line and sinker. Just because the circumstances have changed doesn’t mean Kevin’s weaknesses have!

We all have our soft spot, the button that inevitably is going to be pushed. It’s incredibly difficult at times to know what these buttons are, but that’s where divine guidance comes into our lives: if we ask God to show us the areas in our life where the Devil is guaranteed to work on us, He will grant us wisdom. It’s not a guarantee that we will never be tempted, but knowing our weak points allows us to better protect ourselves from falling in the traps the enemy is going to line up along our “narrow” path.

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