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Jesu, Juva

Principalities and powers

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C. S. Lewis’s book, That Hideous Strength, describes a cosmic battle between good and evil played out on the stage of a small British college, with a revived Merlin thrown in for good measure. In Lewis’s story, demonic powers have enthralled many men and women through their various vices. These have been organized in a seemingly good and helpful way, but with the ultimate goal of overpowering and destroying all that is good, true, and beautiful, including and especially the church. The book is an extraordinarily prophetic picture of our time, but it is obscure, and thus underappreciated.

You can see this process at work in how corporate America and our media, including social media, have largely responded to the two great crises of 2020. We see messages being proclaimed that are a combination of true things that the church is normally eager to affirm and protect; yet mixed together with great falsehoods, inconsistencies, and unbelief; and then leveraged with powerful social appeal and pressure.

We love to affirm and preserve and cultivate God’s gifts of life and health, but we refuse loudly to accept that Jesus’s worship is a disposable accessory to modern life. Rather, the church and her worship are the very wellspring of the world’s life. We love to affirm and treasure the image of God in all men and their equal standing before God; but we refuse loudly to accept that human rivalries and pride and history are simplistic; in particular, that the rank evil of abortion can be factored out of the equation; or that men and women can experience any enduring healing, unity, peace, or joy apart from Jesus. (As usual, Doug Wilson has outstanding thoughts on this.) Enduring brotherhood requires a sacrifice for sin, and until we look to Jesus as that sacrifice, we are going to keep on sacrificing one another. The current moment is proof of that demonic cycle.

This does not mean that we cannot have a fruitful public discussion about foolishness, sin, crime, and the lines between them. But it does mean that apart from Jesus and his objective word, this discussion will be hopelessly subjective and muddy. Even the best intentions will lead men to grave mistakes without the proper foundation.

If principalities and powers lie behind an unholy alliance in the world, then we know that they have the goal of enslaving humanity and destroying God’s church. Zeitgeistheim is a prison. It has been amazing this year to watch the emails and tweets of corporate America as they line up for their daily serving of gruel. But the church despises the world’s approval, knowing that whoever is not for Jesus is against him. We cannot have common cause with this world, or even common language: in Jesus, even these words like unity, peace, love, righteousness, justice, and equality take on different meanings than the world perversely assigns to them. But we do warmly and urgently invite the world to experience the unity, peace, and joy that can only be found by coming to Jesus. In coming to Jesus, we repent of our sins and receive genuine, enduring justification for them. But we also repent of the thought that we had anything virtuous in ourselves to commend us to God or to one another.

What is the cash value to our people in recognizing that the current battles are not battles with flesh and blood? First, it gives us insight into Satan’s moda operandi: he seeks to sow suspicion and division, stir up our various lusts, and distract us from simple faithful living; he wants to get our “trust” and “obey” out of order. Second, when the force of this is turned against the church, as it will be, it equips us so that we will not be surprised “that the world hates you,” or surprised “at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.” Rather, we will “count it all joy.” Third, it spares us from the regret we will experience at that time for having entertained the principalities and powers rather than withstanding them. Fourth, it reminds us that their end will be to bite and devour one another, which gives us both a hope of victory but also a warning of the dangers of dallying with the spirit of the age. Fifth, it directs us to the primary way to wage such battles: the spiritual warfare of worship and prayer in the common life of the church. Sixth, it renders us immune to the world’s attempts at guilt manipulation: our justification is secure in Jesus. Finally, it equips and reminds us to minister the one gift that the world needs: true justification in Jesus from all guilt and sin.

Written by Scott Moonen

June 6, 2020 at 7:34 am

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