I hate cleaning up broken glass. I mean, really who likes it. Broken glass means something is… well… broken. And more than that, broken class is a pain to clean because it’s difficult to be sure you have gotten it all up. There have been times when I have had to try and sweep or vacuum up a broken vase or pitcher thinking I have gotten it all only to step on a tiny, seemingly insignificant piece months later. And those tiny shards of glass can be a real bear, because you’re not even sure they are there. They hurt, but it may take a while before you can identify the problem causing more pain and risking infection in the process.
Recently, I had to deal with a fair amount of broken glass, and while the big pieces seemed the most dangerous, I was meticulous about trying to get all the little pieces up so they wouldn’t surprise me later. That got me thinking about the schemes of Satan, and how so often we can trick ourselves into thinking that the most dangerous temptations we face are the ones that we can see. But really, the dangerous temptations are the ones that are out-of-sight, the temptations to sin that seem like good things.
Let’s take the way we look at the idea of truth for example. My generation has grown up in a culture that is so confused about the concept of “truth” that we question if it actually exists. In the name of open-mindedness we are told that we must acknowledge the validity of every idea regardless of its absurdity, and for the Christian we can go so far as to deny the very foundation of our faith: the Word of God. Now, tolerance is a good thing. Being open-minded is a good thing. But the danger of sin and temptation is that in the name of a “good thing” we deny what God has revealed to be true. Sin and temptation of this sort are difficult to see and yet can work its way into our hearts, minds, and souls and do some real damage to faith.
In The Screwtape Letters CS Lewis paints a vivid, albeit fictitious, picture of how Satan tempts Christians, and in the very first letter Screwtape tells Wormwood that the one of the most powerful weapons in his arsenal is that of incompatible ideas. “Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical’, ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless’. Jargon, not argument is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.” So many people believe they can be a Christian and yet can hold views that are incompatible or contrary to the Bible. They can promote Jesus with their lips, but deny him by how they live and by what they truly believe. The degradation of our understanding of right and wrong is a subtle slip from righteousness, but it is one that keeps us from embracing the full truth of the gospel.
And it should not surprise us that the most dangerous temptations are the ones that don’t seem like temptations at all. Paul had to deal with false teachers in the Corinthian church, and what they were teaching may have seemed like truth, but it contradicted the truth of Jesus Christ. And so he writes in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15,
13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
If Satan masquerades as an angel of light, he does so to implant little shards of sin into our souls. He does so to tempt us with things that appear good, that appear true, and are easy to believe, but are totally incompatible with the truth of God’s Word.
May we be as meticulous with our hearts and minds and souls as we are when cleaning up broken glass.