Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Further You Go, The Greater the Temptations

...we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. (Acts 14.22)

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, p. 209:

The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighbourhood of the Holy. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.

Johannes Hoornbeeck, Spiritual Desertion, pp. 96-97:

Fourth, God's people have these trials in common. They do not touch you alone, with others being passed by; no, they come to everyone. It is true that they touch the one more and the other less, but since they are not sent to anyone except for the purpose of salvation, they bring greater fruit of salvation to those who are more heavily burdened. Think about the most saintly -- above whom you may not place yourself (and you do not want to). Think about Christ, our Lord. How did he bear these trials and abandonments? How much did the Son of God, who could not be abandoned completely, suffer? Truly, everything. And would you now want to be an exception above all these? Certainly not, for do you not consider yourself blessed in their company?

Augustine says, "The Master of medicine has first drunk from the bitter cup himself, so that the sick would not hesitate to drink from it." We have already spoken about Christ's trials. We know that it was said of him, "In all things he was like we are; he was tempted but without sin" (Heb. 4:15). Hence, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ have to expect such oppressions. "Who of the saints," Jerome asks, "has been crowned without battle?" Thomas à Kempis declares, "I have never known a godly person who did not at times have this removal of grace." And Otto Casmannus says, "No one becomes saved who is not trained in this battle, before or in death." All this was not foreign to the saints of the Bible either. Listen to Job in chapters 6 and 7; to David in Psalms 13, 32, 38, 39, 42; to Asaph in Psalm 77; and to Heman in Psalm 88. The man of God Luther, enabled by God, was used daily for the great work of the reformation of God's church, and he felt the abandonment of spirit. Both he and others testified to this. Casmannus says about Luther, "In 1527, the holy man Luther felt the heat of these trials so strongly that he, ill in body and soul from them, lay in bed, and later he himself testified that he would rather be imprisoned in the darkest dungeon his whole life than endure that pain again for one hour." One can name several martyrs who were similarly attacked, often just before their death. Someone therefore said, not without good reason, "Let this be a sign to you to know that when you are advancing on the road to the city of the King and are coming closer, that you will undergo the greatest temptations; the further you go, the greater the temptations. Because God does not give great gifts without great temptations."

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