Here’s A Thought for Feb. 16

“At once the Spirit sent Jesus out into the wilderness, and He was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.” (Mark 1:12)

At Concordia College, Ann Arbor, Mich. I was required to read and write a book review on “The Screwtape Letters” written by C. S. Lewis in which he provides a series of lessons on the importance of taking a deliberate role in Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, seen from devils’ viewpoints. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy (“Lowerarchy”) of Hell, and acts as a mentor to his nephew Wormwood, an inexperienced (and incompetent) tempter.

In the 31 letters that constitute the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining Christian faith and promoting sinful thoughts and deeds in “the Patient,” interspersed with observations on human nature and on Christian doctrine. In Screwtape’s advice, selfish gain and power are seen as the only good, and neither demon can comprehend God’s everlasting love for man or acknowledge human virtue.

In my book review I noted a striking contrast which is formed between Wormwood and Screwtape, wherein Wormwood is depicted through Screwtape’s letters as anxious to tempt his patient into extravagantly wickedness and deplorable sins, often recklessly; while Screwtape takes a more subtle stance, as an example wherein he remarks: “… the safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

We learn as Screwtape explains to his apprentice the different purposes that God and Satan have for the human race: “We (Satan) want cattle who can finally become food; He (God) wants servants who can finally become sons” in other words, part of his family, the Church.

According, Lewis goes on to describe and discuss sex, love, pride, gluttony, and war in successive letters; revealing how Satan uses them as tools for his temptations of human beings, including you and me.

In the last letter, we see that the Patient has been killed during a World War II air raid and has gone to Heaven as result of his faith in Christ Crucified. For his ultimate failure Wormwood is doomed to…. (Read the book to find out the conclusion)

Like the Patient, we who have been baptized in Christ, who have been made members of his body, the Church; God’s Spirit sends us out into this world’s wilderness. Like Christ in the wilderness, Satan tempts us with pride, power, control, lust, greed, and fear to NOT trust God’s gracious will for us as revealed in his Word — the Bible.

Remember what Jesus used as his weapon against Satan’s temptations? Jesus said: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only “(Matthew 4:1-11)

During our Lenten journey sent by God’s Spirit into the wilderness of this world with its temptations of our sinful flesh, our sinful world, and Satan; like Christ we are not left defenseless. The Apostle Paul tells us: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

To this end, may Christ Jesus, who conquered Satan be praised in your life!

Chopp is a chaplain emeritus, MDiv, BCC, from Marshall