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The Sword of Condemnation

Posted by rjagilbert on December 15, 2013 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Part 6 of the "wrong" armor.

 

The Demon Armor I address in this work is based on the Biblical “Armor of God” as listed in Ephesians 6. Most Christians are familiar with this passage and the spiritual trends represented. Few Christians, in reality, adhere to these spiritual traits. One or more of them have been replaced by the cursed armor-pieces I discuss here.

 

The Sword of Condemnation.

 

Finally we come to the cursed weapon that has conquered civilizations from the dawn of history. Prior to the days of Abraham, Egypt was ruled over not by the soldier class but by the priesthood. Modern-day nations in the Middle East still give power to religious leaders based on the fear of spiritual condemnation.

 

The ancient, demonic trend of this sword is the assertion: “Conform or die.” I have had it wielded against me as “Fall on your knees and beg for forgiveness,” or “How dare you question the Lord your God!”

 

External condemnation is different from the condemnation we feel in our hearts when personally confronted by the Holy Spirit. External condemnation is generally political in nature, spoken by one individual to shame another into conformation. “Shame on you for not doing what I think you should do!” In contrast, spiritual condemnation is a shame we need no one to voice because we know we are not doing what we should.

 

Political condemnation has been historically used to manipulate the masses, although any individual claiming religious authority over another (a husband or parent, for example) is tempted to use it to induce service or conformation. Sadly, this external condemnation often causes its recipient to grow numb to the accusation, eventually rendering the technique ineffective. Over-spanked children and pets often learn to ignore the pain of their punishment and pursue wrongdoing despite the consequences. Over-condemned individuals become hard-hearted in much the same way.

 

True spiritual condemnation comes from the Holy Spirit, which God has placed in all of us. This condemnation is not a sword wielded for wounding, but a surgical knife used in healing. The Holy Spirit quietly speaks life-giving words straight to our heart. It identifies the spiritual flaws and weaknesses that can and will cripple or kill our ministry. Only then can we begin to cut away at these cancerous regions of our soul.

 

Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit’s soft words of truth cannot penetrate the defenses of the Demon Armor. The Shield of Legalism aids in excusing any surgical condemnation that might not be deflected by the Helmet of Self-Righteousness’ oblivious denial. This is no way to live. In fact, in the end, this is how this cursed armor destroys its own wearer.

 

Originally this essay was titled "The Demon Armor," and you will see that I used that term several times throughout. The moniker creates an image of grotesque, horned faces, jagged claws and fangs, bat-like wings, flaming skulls, and a menagerie of other images associated with the “Demons” of old. These creatures, studied but never seen, are better left in the imagination. They are not what I aim to expose. The nature of Demonology I address is not the study of other things which can be blamed for all of humanity’s flaws. Demonology, responsibly taught, is the study of our own human nature. Man does not suffer so much from the claws and tusks of invisible, winged monkeys as he does from the foolishness and the free will of mankind—both his own and those around him.

 

The demons I reference in this work are the presence of trends that have persisted and proliferated throughout history. They are immortal in that they have outlived all cultures from the dawn of history. They are, in fact, all that remains of the ancient world. They are evil in that they could be attributed for the downfall of each of those cultures in which they proliferated. Despite their destructive nature—and they are destructive—they have never been wiped out. They are formidable foes; though many would strive to defeat them in physical combat, few are willing to face them directly…because they are within us.

 

I have addressed many (though not all) of Christianity’s faults through this metaphor of Demon Armor. I will not, in this work, try to interpret Paul’s Armor of God for what Paul meant it to be. There are enough works out there that interpret “Breastplate of Righteousness” into modern context that I feel no need to do it here. This work was written mainly as a means to identify that which all true Disciples of Christ should be aware of.

The Shield of Legalism

Posted by rjagilbert on December 11, 2013 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (1)

Part 5 of the "wrong" armor.

 

The Demon Armor I address in this work is based on the Biblical “Armor of God” as listed in Ephesians 6. Most Christians are familiar with this passage and the spiritual trends represented. Few Christians, in reality, adhere to these spiritual traits. One or more of them have been replaced by the cursed armor-pieces I discuss here.

 

The Shield of Legalism

 

The way Paul puts it, a warrior hides behind his shield to avoid the “flaming arrows of the evil one.” The Shield of Legalism is hid behind as well; not as an act of bravery in battle, but as a cowardly justification to do evil.

 

The inscription at the top of this cursed shield dates back to the Garden of Eden, when a certain serpent asked “Did God really say that?” Through the years, it has been re-forged into various assertions.

“Is it not written?”

“Define (adultery, murder, theft, etc.)”

“What is the Hebrew meaning of this word?”

 

Legalism is the fundamental adherence to the wording of scripture without any consideration to the overall meaning of those words. It places importance not on understanding what God said, but on what man wants God to have said.

 

Upon the Shield of Legalism is the same crest that is found on the Helmet of Self Righteousness. “God is on my side,” this crest asserts. When used legalistically, it states: “Thou shalt not…unless God is on your side.” Historically, this has been one of the most abused assertions by men of God. David used this assertion when he moved the tabernacle to his political headquarters in Jerusalem (Moses had commanded that the tabernacle be situated on a hilltop in what later became Samaria). Under the title “A Man after God’s own heart” (translated: “God is on my side”), David set the Biblical standard for breaking the Ten Commandments that is still in use today within the Christian Church.

 

Christians equipped with the Shield of Legalism today are easy to spot in that they often quote one verse of scripture out of context from the rest. Sometimes, an entire book will be written based on one out-of-context scripture. Often these contortions reinforce the false protection offered by the Breastplate of Breakable Promises. Sometimes they are used to conceal the Boots of Ambition. Most often, they enhance the selfish justification within the Helmet of Self-Righteousness.

 

The law, in favor of evil men, is a terrible thing. The law, in favor of good men, is entirely unnecessary. Good men do what they know God wants them to whether or not the law commands it.

 

Scripture—any scripture, be it Koran, Torah, Greek myth, the teachings of Buddha or Confucius, or the writings of Paul—must be understood as the message the writer wanted to convey; not as the message the reader wants to hear. When written word becomes a tool for evil, then it can no longer be the Word of God.

 

The Boots of Ambition

Posted by rjagilbert on December 6, 2013 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Part 4 of the "wrong armor.

 

The Demon Armor I address in this work is based on the Biblical “Armor of God” as listed in Ephesians 6. Most Christians are familiar with this passage and the spiritual trends represented. Few Christians, in reality, adhere to these spiritual traits. One or more of them have been replaced by the cursed armor-pieces I discuss here.

 

Boots are meant to protect the wearer’s feet from injury as well as to enhance one’s footing. Paul asks the Ephesians to fit their feet with the readiness that comes with the Gospel of Peace. But the Boots of Ambition do not bring peace. They do not allow the wearer “readiness” either.

 

The Boots of Ambition do not allow their wearer’s feet to remain planted. Ambition drives the wearer hither and yon in search of a happiness they will never find. All the while, they leave a path of misery and a negative impression of Christianity that has become one of the primary arguments for Atheism.

 

Boots come in pairs, as do these cursed shoes. On one foot is worn the name of Evangelism. Over the last 2000 years, in Christ’s name, man has crossed the globe and brought the message of salvation to billions of people living in spiritual darkness. In accordance with Christ’s request, the Evangelical movement has helped to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and clothe the poor.

 

However…

 

On the other foot is worn the boot of Exploitation. In Christ’s name, nearly every indigenous people introduced to the Gospel was then introduced to the sword, the shackle, and various other forms of oppression and exploitation.

 

Together, the Boots of Ambition bring this message: “Jesus loves you, but you’re working for me.” Time after time, under the guise of service to the Church—and often using scriptural contortions as justification, various arbitrary divisions of humanity have been exploited, discriminated against, and even enslaved. Even when they were not conquered or enslaved, many of the people brought to Christ by early “missionaries” were inducted into the Western world as the under-paid, over-worked laborers that the Christian economy has so thrived upon. Many more were swindled of their land or displaced under “Christian” doctrines such as Manifest Destiny.

 

There is a story, written in 2nd Kings 5, that shows how poorly God views a man’s ambition to prosper—beyond what God gives to sustain—from his service to the Lord. Gehazi was a servant of the prophet Elisha. Elisha healed a wealthy man and asked for no reward. Gehazi thought that such a good deed deserved comparable compensation. After receiving payment from the wealthy man, Gehazi was met by Elisha and cursed for his greed. Perhaps the punishment was so severe because God knew how many more would face Gehazi’s temptation in the thousands of years to come.

 

Let it not be said that the Boots of Ambition only carry us to alien soil to trod on the foreigner and the savage. Many who wear these cursed boots focus their tyranny upon their own families. Dysfunctional Patriarch (or Matriarch) Syndrome is one such example. Using the Biblical passage: “Children obey your parents”, these dysfunctional parents assert totalitarian authority over their offspring—authority that holds its ground deep into the child’s adulthood. Where the goal for most parents is to produce a healthy, competent adult capable of doing the same with their own children, the domestic tyrant only demands an obedient automaton. This exploitative experience with Christianity often results in the child’s eventual rebellious separation not only from their family but from the Church as well.

The Helmet of Self Righteousness

Posted by rjagilbert on December 3, 2013 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Part 3 of the "wrong" armor series.

 

The Demon Armor I address in this work is based on the Biblical “Armor of God” as listed in Ephesians 6. Most Christians are familiar with this passage and the spiritual trends represented. Few Christians, in reality, adhere to these spiritual traits. One or more of them have been replaced by the cursed armor-pieces I discuss here.

 

The Helmet of Self-Righteousness

 

Here’s where we start to see some real differences between Christians who wear Paul’s Armor of God and those who don the Demon Armor. At least, those who do not wear the Helmet of Self-Righteousness see the differences. Those who do wear this cursed helmet see nothing much of anything.

 

The Helmet of Self-Righteousness is a bucket, inverted over the wearer’s head down to the shoulders, without any openings through which to see. Some who wear it may claim that there is indeed something to see within; the well-polished interior allows its wearer to see themselves—which is the only thing they want to see. This polished surface reflects to the viewer the message of perfection; there is no fault revealed in this mirror.

 

The purpose of a helmet is to protect its wearer’s most vital region, the head, while still allowing functional visibility of the world beyond. This cursed helmet tells its wearer that there is nothing worth seeing beyond themselves. A self-oriented nature is the primary manifestation of this cursed implement.

 

At first, self-righteousness manifests as an oblivious attitude toward the surrounding world and people. The wearer feels that, if it’s not about them, it’s not important enough to pay attention to. Then, when battle comes, the wearer cannot identify his target. In blind desperation, he strikes out at anything and everything within range.

 

The full helmet and visor, which concealed the faces of men in medieval battle, necessitated the advent of a crest upon each warrior’s shield and helmet. The purpose of this crest was to identify each combatant to his allies. Such a crest is found upon the Helmet of Self-Righteousness (also on the Shield of Legalism, discussed later). This crest is the assertion that “God is on my side”, seemingly identifying the Self-Righteous as one whose cause is authorized and anointed by God on high. History is full of individuals who performed or commanded crimes against humanity under this assertion that “God was on their side.”

 

The world is a frustrating place to those who’d like to ignore it; they cannot avoid its frequent and random imposition into their lives. Self Righteousness not only ignores, but denies the existence of inconvenient truths. When truth rears its head despite all efforts to avoid it, the self-righteous must invent myths of blame to explain what they dare not acknowledge.

 

God is true. In fact, most religions assert that God is real. He is not a manifestation of our creativity as are such statues of Baal and Zeus that were once worshipped as false gods. Nor is God a concept, such as Law or Money, that only exists where two or more agree that it is. God is real, and He is also omnipresent. If that is indeed the case, then all that is real is God. The Self-Righteous deny their own experience—their own relationship with reality—if it does not agree with the myths and scriptures that they have accepted into their little bucket-helm of a world. The result is a denial of reality.

 

If denial of God is the sin that separates us from Him, then denial of Reality is the very same deadliest of sins.

 

The Breastplate of Breakable Promises

Posted by rjagilbert on December 1, 2013 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Part 2 of the "wrong" armor series.

 

The Demon Armor I address in this work is based on the Biblical “Armor of God” as listed in Ephesians 6. Most Christians are familiar with this passage and the spiritual trends represented. Few Christians, in reality, adhere to these spiritual traits. One or more of them have been replaced by the cursed armor-pieces I discuss here.

 

The Breastplate of Breakable Promises

 

Remember the beginning of Star Wars, Episode IV “A New Hope”? Within the first few minutes, we are given our first, intimidating impression of the Imperial Storm Trooper. Clad from head to foot in white plate-armor, these evil warriors looked invincible. They burst through a smoke-filled doorway, weapons blasting, and lay siege to the Rebel soldiers. Then a well-aimed shot from a rebel’s pistol penetrates that imposing white armor and the first Storm Trooper falls.

 

“Okay,” we observe, “the Rebels must be equipped with powerful, top-of-the-line blaster pistols in order to penetrate that heavy armor.” But by the end of Episode VI, we have seen Storm Troopers dispatched by rocks and sticks wielded by teddy bears.

 

What good is armor that can’t defend its wearer from sticks and stones? It’s useless!

 

After the advent of gunpowder and muskets to medieval warfare, no breastplate would be worn into battle until it was “proofed” by withstanding a musket ball. Most warriors would not think of putting their trust—let alone their bodies—in armor that has proven itself useless. We would not wear into battle a glass breastplate expected to shatter on the first blow. We would not encumber ourselves with a hot, heavy vest that does nothing to keep the sharp arrows, blades, and bullets of adversity from our vital organs. Yet as Christians, we put our faith in promises—disguised as doctrines and scriptural contortions—that are just as worthless.

 

Many of the breakable promises found within the Bible are actually found in the 67th book: Implications. Bible readers will find that it does not come after Revelations, but in between the lines of many passages throughout the Bible. A few years ago, a book was written about one verse of the Bible that told how God had blessed one individual. The selling point of this book was not what the author wrote—that God wanted to bless our ministry—but what was implied—that God wanted to materially bless us.

 

Preachers have tickled congregational ears for centuries. Human nature has allowed it to continue virtually un-checked because people want to believe what they want to be true—no matter how ridiculous the lie. Modern culture has dubbed this message of health, wealth, sunshine and blessings the “prosperity gospel”. C.S.Lewis lamented that his generation treated God as a “heavenly grandfather”; a deity full of love and blessings, willing to spoil us by giving us anything we demand of him, and ever looking the other way when we misbehave. Much of the popularity of Christianity in this modern era may be largely credited to these false promises of happiness, material blessings, and inconsequential misbehavior.

 

What happens when we discover that these promises are not real? What happens when a soldier discovers that his armor won’t stop a spear? Often, it’s too late. The damage is done. With the breastplate compromised, the vitals punctured, the blow is usually fatal—not to the body, but to the faith.

 

A Christian is promised so many things. When some of the promises are proven false, why believe the rest? As the saying goes, “…Fool me twice, shame on me.” When the promises of eternal life and a reward for righteousness are blended in with the promises of a big house, fast money, and instant gratification, all lose credibility.

 

There is the famous tale of the boy who cried wolf. It can be equally told as the boy who cried blessings. All day long, the boy deceived the villagers with promises of fortune, glory, and pleasure; promises he failed to keep. At the end of the day, if the boy came to the villagers with a promise of eternity, why would they believe him?

The Belt of Bigger Purpose

Posted by rjagilbert on December 1, 2013 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

The Demon Armor I address in this work is based on the Biblical “Armor of God” as listed in Ephesians 6. Most Christians are familiar with this passage and the spiritual trends represented. Few Christians, in reality, adhere to these spiritual traits. One or more of them have been replaced by the cursed armor-pieces I discuss here...

 

The Belt of Bigger Purpose

 

The belt is situated just under the breastplate, and is designed to protect the wearer’s lower vital organs and upper legs. In the English translation of Paul’s words to the Ephesians the passage expresses that the wearer’s “loins” are “girdled”, envisioning the well-protected regions beneath the bulky girdles of sixteenth-century armor.

 

But the belt of bigger purpose does not protect much of anything.

 

Here is a belt with but one notch. There is one size that it fits, and that is big. Bigger than you. In fact, everyone who tries on this belt will find that it is implicitly designed for somebody “bigger”. Not bigger in belly, but in purpose.

 

The Bible was written for paupers and kings, slaves and wealthy merchants, refugees and warriors. But modern Christianity does not sell well when addressed to paupers, slaves, and fugitives. We like to think of ourselves among the kings and successful people of this world. We want to believe that God has planned our lives to fit that “bigger” notch.

 

There is no notch on the Belt of Bigger Purpose for humble servants.

 

This principle of “bigger” has been put to use, with great success, by the industry of higher education. A careful search of most college textbooks will find that their implied messages of success are far less realistic than what college students can and should expect. When an example is given of an individual’s pay rate or lifestyle, it is usually far more inflated above par than what the student will encounter in real life. The intention of the author (and the professors who buy the books) is to lead their students to believe that their tuition and time spent in education is a wise investment towards a future of financial success and a higher standard of living.

 

This is another breakable promise: the gospel of upward mobility. But the damage done here does not usually kill us. It maims us to the point of ineffectiveness in the purpose God does have for our lives. Most of us may make some amount of difference through our loins—that is, through our children or our contribution to posterity. Many of us have the opportunity to make a difference through the menial “leg-work” of the Christian church—the hours of thankless service and unrecognized acts of kindness that used to be what it meant to be a Christian.

 

When we wear this cursed belt, we ignore our loins and our legs, hoping that God has something “bigger” planned for us to do in service to Him. We invest our time, money, and minds in chasing after that “bigger” notch. Often, when attempting to fit into this belt, we wind up missing out on the entire battle. Even when engaged in the battle, this cursed belt guarantees our defeat.

 

The Belt of Bigger Purpose wears so loosely around the waist that the enemy is able to grip it and pull the wearer in any direction. As a result, it is impossible for the wearer to stand his or her ground and remain engaged in the battle. The promise of “bigger opportunity” is far more effective against the church than intimidation or despair. To desert one’s position in search of more glorious combat is the same as to desert in retreat. To abandon the battle is to give the enemy victory.