Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Do you reject the devil and all proud rebellion against God?

May I speak in the name of Almighty God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Amen

As I said on Sunday, Lent had its origins as a time of preparation for those about to be baptised; which is why Easter Sunday itself has always been seen as a day when it is especially appropriate for all Christians to renew their baptismal vows. I will therefore be looking at those vows during the course of our mid-week Lenten services. And if any should wish to remain behind after the service for a brief discussion of any issues raised they are more than welcome to do so; these discussion will form our Lenten study group this year.

So let us look today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, at the first of the baptismal promises we first made for ourselves at our baptism, or were made on our behalf by our sponsors and were re-affirmed by us personally on the day of our Confirmation. Do you reject the devil and all proud rebellion against God? I reject them.

What does it mean to reject the devil? Well first it would be helpful to look at who he is. Satan was created by God as an angel. As such he is pure spirit and possesses an intellect far superior to mortals. Angels, like humans, were granted by their creator free-will; and Satan looking at the great gifts he had been granted with God was filled with pride and thought himself at least equal if not superior to the one who had created him. This pride led him and others to rebel against God; a rebellion that was, of course, doomed to failure. Cast out of the bliss of heaven Satan and his followers have an revocable hatred against God; and therefore against us his creatures.

And his hatred for humanity can not be stressed sufficiently. Being a spiritual being, pure intellect and will essentially, once his mind has been made up it can never be changed. Therefore he can never repent of his pride and seek forgiveness for his sin. But we mortals are both body and spirit; and any decision we make to love God the Father as he created us to do or reject him is not fixed until we die and leave our mortal body behind. Satan not only hates that such a choice lies within our power, and that at any time, no matter how steeped we are in sin, we may yet repent and turn again to God; but he also seeks to wound our Father in heaven by seeking our damnation. For he knows that God mourns deeply every one of his children that is lost to him; even as he rejoices greatly when those in danger of being lost return, as Christ himself told us.

Satan therefore seeks to ensnare us in his proud rebellion by tempting us to abuse the free will given to us by God and sin. He has been engaged in this hateful battle against humanity from the very beginning, tempting Adam and Eve into the first sin in the Garden of Eden that led to our fall. We risk falling into his snares in many ways. One is by allowing ourself to be seduced by the idea that he is not real, that he is some kind of myth. This is, of course, a prideful rejection of the direct testimony of Sacred Scripture that he is real, rejecting not only the inspired Word of God on this matter, but the recorded words of the Word made flesh himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, who speaks in the Gospels many times of the devil. Refusing to accept an enemy exists makes any resistance of him, much less the defeat of his evil plans, difficult to achieve indeed.

Another is in the deliberate rejection of God, so common an evil these days. Some do by refusing to believe, preferring instead to live life as they please; and others, while believing, prefer to live as if they did not, falling prey to the all too prevalent notion that even though God calls us to obedience to his will, he will not punish those who transgress against his laws. This, alas, is also a prideful rejection of the clear witness of scripture where we are warned again and again of the fate of those who can not bring themselves to love God.

And a third form of rebellion is the path taken by those who think they can achieve salvation by means of their own strength, and thereby reject Christ and all he did to save us from the power of sin. This is the heresy of Pelagius and it is a grievous sin, the prideful rejection of the power of the Cross and our Lord's own sacrifice of himself there for our sakes. Jesus told us that he was the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through him What great pride it takes to rebel against the words of God himself there as by the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity and believe any can attain heaven by his own power. The pride it takes to hold such a belief place the soul of such a person in great danger. And such a belief, like all the examples of rebellion I mentioned, serve to make Satan smile.

There are other ways of joining with Satan in his proud rebellion against God. I do not have space here to list them all; and it would be in any case a type of pride if I thought myself capable of constructing an exhaustive list! But it, I hope, enough for such a short reflection as this; and sufficient to strengthen us in our daily goal of rejecting the devil and all proud rebellion against God. And it is a daily battle – it is not something we simply promise once and then forget about forever. But thinking of the promise daily and praying to God for help to live it out will indeed help us live that promise out faithfully all our days. Something that I indeed pray for all here and all our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen

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