PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “LAST DAY BATTLEFIELD-THE HEART OF MAN” — By Ron Woodrum
In his book, The Brother’s Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky poignantly states, “The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man“. That battle involves recognizing truth-God’s truth. The devil is, and always has been, in the business of perverting God’s truth into a lie, and getting man to believe it, and thus choose the path of error and destruction. He is a master of deception and his lies are passing for truth quite successfully in our Post-Christian world. Paul warned us that in the last days we would be inundated with “doctrines of demons“( I Tim. 4:1), and that God would let the world “believe a lie, because they believed not the truth” (II Thes. 2:11). Man’s problem today is not knowing the truth, but “suppressing” and “rejecting” the truth in exchange for a lie. Dostoevsky warned about that too. He wrote, “Above all don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lies comes to the point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others, and having no respect he ceases to know love“. That I believe is a very accurate description of the very condition modern man finds himself in. David Roper, in his book A Beacon in the Darkness, hits the nail on the head, when he writes, “We live in a world of cosmic deceit, hidden agendas, treacherous motivations, illusions, and lies. And Satan is behind it all. His strategy is to deceive. His objective is to destroy. His shrewd cruel mind is behind the lies that buffet us all day long, the media messages that encourage us to ‘find ourselves’ in something other than the living God, to go for the gusto, but to leave the Savior out. The lie comes into the world in the guise of beauty and good, (our minds are repelled by ugliness and obvious evil), but the deceit inevitably sickens the soul and it begins to die. For when Satan has accomplished his purpose and separated men and women from God, what can they do but wither and die eternally?” That is why Isaiah warned, “Woe to them that call evil good, and good evil; that call darkness light, and light darkness” ( Isaiah 5:20). Denis deRougement, in a book entitled The Devil’s Share, clarifies the plight of our modern world with more clarity than anyone I have ever read. He says the problem today is compounded by the difference between a lie and a pure lie. This is what he says, “There are two ways of lying, as there are two ways of deceiving a customer. If a scale registers 15 ounces, you can say, ‘it is a pound’. Your lie will remain relative to an invariable measure of the true. If the customer checks it he can see that he is being robbed, and he knows by how much you are robbing him; a truth remains as a judge between you. But if you tamper with the scale itself, it is the criterion of the truth which is denatured; there is no longer any possible control. And little by little you will forget that you are cheating. You may even bet that you will exercise all your scruples in giving exact weight, perhaps by adding a few pinches for ‘good measure’, for the smile of the buyer and the satisfaction of your virtue. That is ‘pure lying’, the moment you falsify the scale of truth itself, all your virtues are at the service of evil and are accomplices in its contagion“. The devil has tampered with the scale. He has caused us to throw out the accurate scale of God’s inspired Word, and receive his counterfeit scale. When the standard is corrupted, even honorable people become agents of evil. They believe they are doing right when in fact what they are doing is dead wrong, and they unwittingly foist their wrong-doing on others. That is what has happened today. Satan has moved the parameters so that even ‘principled people’ have been brought into the service of evil. Their lack of a fixed reference point has led them into profound moral confusion and deep sense of insecurity. I saw a cartoon once depicting two people talking. One said to the other, “I still believe in evil-I just don’t know what qualifies!” People still believe in good and evil, it’s just that no one knows where the parameters are anymore-and that makes for a very dangerous and uncertain world! Black is white; white is black; up is down, and down is up; we are turned loose, without an anchor, of a raging sea helplessly tossed about by whichever way the cultural wind blows. We will end up destroyed on the rocks unless we turn back to the Word that transcends culture and circumstance, and is older than time!
It seems to me that Norman Maclean raises that question in his book A River Runs Through It. His book and Robert Redford’s movie about how A Presbyterian minister tries to teach his sons about life through fly fishing and spiritual wisdom. One son seems to find the truth, while the other refuses the guidance and help and remains a free-spirited son who drinks too much, lives too fast, and eventually loses his life in a back-alley brawl. The father tries, through the medium of fly fishing, to pass on to his sons the underlying, unchanging values of his life. Maclean recalls one streamside exchange with his father: “‘What have you been reading?’I asked. ‘A book’, my father replied. It was on the ground on the other side of him. So I would not have to bother to look over his knees to see it, he said, ‘A good Book’. Then he told me, ‘in the part I was reading it says the Word was in the beginning, and that’s right. I used to think that water was first, but if you listen carefully you will hear the words underneath the water’. ‘That’s because you’re a preacher first and then a fisherman’, I told him. ‘No’, my father said, ‘You are not listening carefully. The water runs over the words. Paul will tell you the same thing.’ I looked to see where the book was left open and knew just enough Greek to recognize ‘logos’ as the Word. I guessed from it and from the argument that I was looking at the first verse of John’ “. Mclean emphasizes that we can take the truth and try to help but it has to be received, not rejected. Mclean writes, “Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know are the ones who elude us. But we can still love them-we can love completely without complete understanding”.
In today’s message we are considering how in the last days, Christ’s Church will find itself living in the location where Satan’s throne is. The Church will be challenged by the world to accept the deception that the devil has pawned off as truth. Some will hold fast to the truth, while others will defect and forsake the Lord and Savior who saved them. Jesus comes, as the one speaking a sharp two-edged sword from his mouth, cutting through all the deception with His truth. Only those willing to welcome the word will be enabled to stand fast in a world where the devil is tampering with the scale of truth!