In this episode:
- Don’t forget to become a Theodio Premier Subscriber. Offer ends when 2020 comes to a close.
- How we compare out sinfulness to those of others
- The relevant segment of the Precious Remedies audiobook
- A conclusion in which I explain what I believe about Satan, and why it matters
- An opportunity to repent and receive mercy
- Episode blog post: How shall I compare me?
- Bonus post: Satan is real, no apologies
- Podcast introduction: Yabo Obien
- Logo and marque: Jeff Lyons at Light & Story
- Original music: Makeup and Vanity Set
- Kindle version of Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices by John Hendryx at Monergism.com
- Text for Precious Remedies provided by GraceGems.org
Welcome back to the Theodio Podcast. I’m your host, Dan Kassis.
If you remember, last time I used a bit of a cliche in the title of blog post that accompanied the episode: keep your eyes on the prize. It’s a cliche because of the way it rhymes, how easy it is to apply it to a situation and feel we’ve said something helpful and motivating.
But cliche or not, it does have its root in scripture: I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, Phil. 3:14. Paul forgets what is behind him. He fixes his eyes on the path ahead, on the prize. It’s a sports metaphor, really. It’s not the only one he uses in his letters either.
I’m using another cliched saying in the title of this episode. I mean, can we talk about this for a minute? How did this become a saying? At least I’m not an axe murderer? Granted, it’s horrible. But does the instrument of choice really determine how bad murdering is? It’s murder. It’s a sin. It breaks a commandment. Okay, I’ll come down from my soap box now.
But it does accurately reflect the subject of the tenth device of Satan against Christians: comparison. Thinking we’re not so bad because other sinners are worse. It reminds me of the prayer of the Pharisee in the gospels. Lord, thank you that I am not like this tax collector. What a way to begin a confession.
Comparison, minimizing, and rationalizing – all subjects we’ve covered here – are coping techniques for unspiritual people. They are not the weapons of spiritual warfare. Remember what we learned a while back? Take up the full armor. Stop seeing the greater sins of others as your justification.
A peek at Brooks’s technique
In his chapter introductions of Precious Remedies, Thomas Brooks often imagines what Satan says to us. Have you noticed that? It’s a clever technique. Brooks characterizes Satan’s words based on what Scripture reveals of his personality, his tactics and schemes, his purposes and desires. Brooks’ introduction to this tenth device is no different.
But notice something unique about this one: it is incomplete. The enemy uses four points of comparison between “you” and other sinners.
- You are only a little lustful.
- You are only a little deceitful.
- You only sit, chat, and sip a little with the drunkard.
- You are only a little proud.
With the first three observations, Satan explains how other sinners are much worse than you. “You do this, but they do that!” But on the fourth, Brooks cuts him off. We don’t learn how much prouder others are. It is unnecessary. We can fill in the blank easily.
Comparison: The thief of joy
At this point, we know how proud we truly are – “in heart and habit, in looks and words.”
We don’t have to close our eyes to our own faults. We are born subjectively blind. This is why writers need editors, why construction companies need building inspectors, why the U.S. Congress needs the Supreme Court. We must rely on others to point out our flaws and shortcomings, to show us where we fail to meet our expressed ideals.
Personal comparisons are spiritually deadly. To pray “God, I thank you that I am not like …” shows we are in no position to thank God for anything. We haven’t yet truly understood the importance of repentance. But to say, “God, why aren’t I as good a Christian as …” is an equal fault. It is to be ignorant of our differing places along the path of sanctification, and to believe we can earn greater measures of God’s love by effort.
We must resist Satan’s attempts to explain away our “trifling” sins by demonstrating how much worse off others are. If there is any real comparison to make, it’s that my sin may not have been exposed publicly to another’s degree.
This audio segment of the book is brief, but important. Let’s listen now.
Brooks’ tenth device closes on a very serious note. One of the earliest blog posts on Theodio is titled: Satan is real, no apologies. I’ll put a link to it in the show notes if you’d like to read it. That’s a fundamental premise of this whole podcast. I believe in a literal enemy who desires to thwart and undermine the work of the Holy Spirit.
I also believe in a literal place of eternal punishment who commit the unpardonable sin of unrepentance. I believe this place is utterly fitting for those who willingly reject the love of God demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe a just God justly punishes the wicked. He can do nothing less.
This final argument against comparing ourselves to those who sin more than we do – it reminds me of what Jesus said in Luke 13, when some persons mentioned to him the people in Galilee whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices:
He answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Bad things happen to sinners and saints alike in this world. The degree of your sinfulness is irrelevant. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But all can receive God’s mercy through the gift of repentance. All can experience salvation, new life, forgiveness, and freedom. When it comes to our both our sinfulness and his grace, God has raised the valleys and leveled the mountains. Apart from Christ, we stand equally condemned. In Christ, he makes us equally acquitted.
Satan is real. Hell is real. But Jesus lives.
We’re closing in on the end of chapter 2. Next time we’re going to talk about doctrine. Brooks has focused heavily on thoughts and actions so far. His focus is about to shift to our beliefs. It’s a critically important subject, so we hope you’ll come back and listen again.