I heard somewhere that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist. I don’t think that’s true at all. I think the greatest trick the devil has pulled is creating a false Christianity, a false truth.
Especially in the West.
Think about it. Look around you at what passes for Christianity in the West today. It is a “faith” that has a shiny coat of paint on it, a thin veneer of “Jesus” but lacks the substance, belief and practice of the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).
I run in to this often these days. People in my circle sound good. They talk about going to church, call themselves Christians and maybe even do what they call praying. But once you start digging a bit and asking questions, that so-called faith starts to show some cracks.
For example, when I argue that Christians should probably not watch TV, I get lambasted. I have had eyes rolled; I’ve been laughed at. I even got called a prude. But, let us consider the words of St. Paul,
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8).
Can anyone reading this really say that the vast majority of things you see on TV these days is anything but honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous or praiseworthy? Can anyone reading this say that anything they see on TV is any of these things? Even if you find a sporting event that seems innocuous, you have to deal with the commercials that push all sorts of sordid agendas.
Or, read the end of Romans 14:23, where St. Paul says, “…for whatever is not of faith is sin.” Whoa. Now, I want to be fair. In this text, St. Paul is speaking specifically about meat offered to idols and other things like that, but this is relatable to every aspect of our lives. Or Romans 12:1-2,
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Again, can any of us believe that what we see on TV is the way we need to present our bodies as living sacrifices or the way we are to live holy lives? Can we honestly say that, by consuming the things of the world, we are transforming our minds to be renewed in Christa and prove what is good, acceptable, perfect or the will of God?
I think not.
But what our enemy has done is to make us complacent. He has created for us a false version of Christianity. It’s kind of like the Matrix. It’s a version of truth but not actually the truth. He has done this since the beginning. Look back at the Garden. We find it in Genesis 3. If you’re not familiar with the story, go read it right now. Look at what satan did. He deliberately used what God had made as good and slightly changed the phraseology. God told Adam in Genesis 2 that he was free to eat of any tree of the Garden, except the one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But what does the enemy say? He takes what God says and twists it. Look at Genesis 3. The enemy asked (I’m paraphrasing), “Did God really say you can’t eat of any of the trees in the Garden?”
The enemy knew exactly what God had said. See how he twisted it? That is not what God said. And then he brought to humanity the great temptation that we all experience. Instead of obedience and living as God has commanded and as His Church tells us to, the enemy creates a false narrative.
Where God said, “Let us make man in Our image,” the enemy says, “Let us make God in our image.”
And this is where we get this pseudo-Christianity that is so popular in the West. Rather than obey what God has said to His people and what Christ gave to the Apostles and told them to pass it on; rather than obey that, we have to make things in our own image.
Fasting is too extreme and people will think you’re a fanatic.
Don’t prostrate yourself physically before God (at times) when you pray because it’s hard on your knees.
Don’t burn incense because it makes people sneeze. Don't have long services; people have things to do.
It’s okay to listen to worldly, lustful music because it’s not actually hurting you. It’s got a good beat.
Don’t worry about what the school system is teaching your children. They’ll be fine.
Who cares if you cuss a little? And don’t worry about what kind of clothes you’re wearing; it’s fine.
And whatever you do, don’t be too fanatical about attending all those services that the Church holds throughout the year and observe all those feasts and fasts. I mean, if you did, you’d be forming your whole life and schedule around the life of Christ and the Church. We can’t have that now, can we?! I mean, we can’t be living like Christians have always lived and believed what Christian have always believed, right?!
Most modern people who call themselves Christians are much more concerned with their own comfort than they are obedience to Christ and His Church. Let’s be honest.
Jesus had some hard things to say at times. He said that we were to take up our cross and follow Him. He said that some would lose their families and livelihoods and even their lives because of Him. He said that those who put their hand to the plow and looked back were not fit for the Kingdom.
He had hard things to say.
But, luckily for us, He gave us His Church, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). The Church is where Christ is found!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us turn away from the world. Let us turn away from this thinly veiled worldly culture that has a shiny coat of “Jesus paint” on it. This is not Christianity. The Church has been with us, virtually unchanged since our Lord and His Apostles started it. As Pentecost approaches, let us turn again to the Church.
Let us turn again to Christ.
I look around me at the world today and I am saddened. I am saddened by the direction the American society is headed and indeed the world. I am saddened by the complete confusion and fear that most people are living with these days. I am even more saddened at the behavior of most of the people who claim the name of Christ these days. I cannot remember a time in my life when I saw so many so-called Christians wandering around in confusion and fear, succumbing in such an obvious way to the darkness of this present world.
So many Christians I hear saying things like, “I don’t understand what’s happening,” or lamenting the condition of the world or, even worse, joining in the shame and cancel culture that infects our world today. In fact, if I may digress for a moment…I am ashamed of the Christians who shame other Christians for not choosing to take the so-called Covid-19 vaccine. Most of those Christians who are attacking other Christians for choosing not to be vaccinated say the same crap that’s coming out of the mouths of pagans.
Think about that for a second. If the things you are saying to each other as Christians match what pagans and the world is saying, you are doing it wrong. There are many good reasons to refuse the vaccine, least of which is a lack of actual scientific data that supports the long-term efficacy of said vaccine. By the admission of the very pharmaceutical companies that are dispensing these cocktails, these vaccines are, at this current time, experimental. From a Christian perspective, what happened to loving our brothers and sisters, showing them grace and speaking kindly to one another, whether or not we agree with them? Are our brothers and sisters not allowed to make decisions for themselves and their children without us calling each other names and attacking one another?
If you are one of those, I implore you to stop. Stop attacking your fellow Christians and understand that, just as you took the vaccine for your reasons, they are refusing it for their reasons. Besides, if you have taken the vaccine, why do you care if they do? Aren’t you protected?
Anyways, back to my main point.
There is a pervasive darkness over the world today. If you cannot see that, you are simply not paying attention, or you’ve just fallen asleep at the wheel of life. Over and over I hear Christians say that they don’t understand what’s happening. And I submit to them, you don’t understand what’s happening in the world because you have forgotten the Holy Scriptures. You have forgotten that the real enemies aren’t the Taliban or Al Qaeda or the coronavirus. We have an enemy, for sure. But it ain’t those things.
St. Peter helpfully reminds us of our enemy,
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
St. Peter tells us, first, that we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and that we are to cast all our cares on Him. Stop being so anxious about a virus; there have been and will continue to be viruses. Humble yourself under the hand of God and take your fears to Him. Be sober, be vigilant he tells us. In other words, to put it in our current context: pay attention and be on your guard against the influences of the world. Stop listening to the talking heads on TV and listen to the Holy Spirit. Spend time in prayer and Holy Scripture, go to Church, spend time with faithful brothers and sisters who aren’t consumed by the world, laugh with your children, play fetch with the dog. St. Peter also clearly tells us who our enemy is.
Our adversary is the devil, not each other. Not a virus, not the Taliban, not the President and Congress (though they sure act like the enemy of the people). At the bottom of all this is a spiritual struggle. The devil hates God and he hates you. He wants to destroy humanity and he will stop at nothing. He will use any means within his power. We must recognize this.
St. Paul also reminds us in Ephesians,
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
St. Paul reminds us that our enemies are not each other or a virus or any of this mess we’re in. Our enemy is against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness. Vaccines, masks and lockdowns won’t stop our real enemy. Only the armour of God will do that. Only when we are girded with the truth consuming our heart and mind and soul, only when we have put on the breastplate of righteousness and have shod ourselves with the gospel of peace, the peace of God that has been offered for all on the cross by our Lord Jesus, only when we have taken up the shield of faith and thrown our lives and souls into the care of the All-Holy One, only when we have taken up the helmet of salvation which is our union with Christ, only when we are armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, only when we pray without ceasing, only when we persevere; then and only then can we see clearly and understand not only who our enemy is but the great power that has been given to us in the Church and our union with Christ to defeat our enemy.
Christ has defeated sin and death! And, if we are in Him, so have we! Let us live without fear. Let us live without vitriol toward our fellow Christians, let us live in the peace that only God can bring through His most precious Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity who holds us in the palm of His hand!
Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might! He has overcome and so shall we!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!