How does the enemy groom hearts to despise Christ and those who follow him and ultimately be proud of their rejection? (A modern version of Bunyan’s work.)
- He turns their thoughts away from the things to come and the promise that all will be made right in the end. He draws primary attention to the pleasures and pains of what is happening right now.
- He convinces people the spiritual disciplines, like prayer and Bible reading, are boring or a waste of time. They may say things like, “It doesn’t make any difference anyhow” or “I’m just too busy.”
- They grow annoyed with lively Christians. They may say things like, “Who has time for people blind to what’s going on in the ‘real’ world? Those people are silly!”
- They cease to participate in public faith expressions like worship services. They will continue to groan about how annoying those people are in a pious superior way. Almost like they are too “good” to be around those who just don’t get it.
- They look for fault in Christians and use it as the reason for turning away. Their focus turns even more from the Creator to fallen creation. They trade away grace towards imperfect Christians for judgement against their deficiencies or failings. They may say things like, “I know how (he or she) really is. I would rather they be genuine and open than live a fake Christian life! I would never do that.”
- They openly grow in the company of the immoral, sensual, and negative and feel “right” with them. They now praise their willingness to acknowledge sin. They call this “good” by twisting words like “genuine” or “authentic” to really mean acceptance. You will hear them say things like, “I love being with people who are real! Christians are so fake, they’re hypocrites! I wish they would be authentic about who they really are.”
- They secretly indulge in immorality themselves and grow ever more entertained by those that do likewise openly. At this point they still feel some guilt in their hearts when they act in sin, only now they are bitter towards Christ, his teaching, and those that follow it because they blame Christian boundaries for the reason they feel bad. Spiritual conviction becomes the “evil” they want to fight against. They are blind to the real origin of their pain, a bitter rebellious heart, that will actually grow more unsatisfied if it indulges in what it wants.
- They play with little sins openly. They now work to actively defend not just the sinner, but the sin itself. You may hear them say, “Even if there was a god he clearly put this in us. It’s natural. To deny it would be wrong!”
- They show themselves as they really are, hardened towards the ways of Christ and proud of it. At best people at this level like things about Jesus, but only if it lines up with their subjective version of what is good. They pick and choose texts to follow. The central driver of their life they believe is their heart. However, they are blind to what has been grooming them all along. At this point they see themselves as beyond the Bible, openly proud to flaunt their ways of living as superior or more refined than the antiquated ways of Jesus.
Bunyan believes that only a divine act of God can spare a heart entrenched in this much self-assurance and pride. “Now, being bogged down… they perish forever in their own deceiving unless a miracle of grace prevents it.” –Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress
There are active agencies working on your heart. Read that last sentence again. We even become agents of these greater powers to influence others. The enemy is conditioning you to become pious, self-pleasing, and hyper focused on just this moment and will lower you into trusting the most dangerous of guides, an unguided heart running aimlessly towards whatever draws its attention next.
Christ is working to prune you, to help you see it is only through His work and our humble acceptance of it that we can become the eternal creatures we were designed to be.
Take a moment and evaluate your heart. Where are you at?
*I adapted these from The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan to fit a modern audience.