Satan wants to help you—to help you sin. He is hell bent on taking you to hell with him. Thomas Books, in his book Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, drew up a list of the devices Satan uses to draw you—yes you!—to sin. Here are six of them:
1. He presents the bait and hides the hook. Satan shows you the pleasure and the profit that may flow out of yielding to sin, but hides the wrath and misery that will inevitably result. This is, of course, exactly what he did with Adam and Eve: he displayed the benefit of eating that fruit, but hid all the cost. "There is an opening of the mind to contemplation and joy, and there is an opening of the eyes of the body to shame and confusion. He promises them the former, but intends the latter, and so cheats them."
2. He paints sin with the colors of virtue. Satan knows that if he were to present sin accurately, you would run away from it rather than be attracted to it. Therefore, he conceals sin behind the camouflage of virtue so you can more easily be overcome by it and take more immediate pleasure in committing it. When he does this, pride comes in the form of neatness, covetousness in the form of thrift, and drunkenness in the form of a good time. Whatever temptation you are prone to he will likewise dress up as a virtue.
3. He convinces you this is only a little sin. Satan tries to convince you the temptation you face, the sin you are drawn to, is just a small and a harmless one. He wants you to believe this is a sin you may commit without any great danger to your soul.
4. He shows you that even noble men have sinned while hiding from you their sorrow and repentance. Satan will let you see that greater men than you have fallen into this sin and still been loved by God. He will set before you the adultery of David, the pride of Hezekiah, the impatience of Job, the drunkenness of Noah and the blasphemy of Peter. But as he does so, he will hide from you their tears and laments and he will hide from you that they repented of those very things and would plead with you not to succumb to the same temptation.
5. He presents God as only and ever merciful. Satan will convince you that you do not need to be afraid of this sin, that there is no real danger in this sin, for God is full of mercy, he delights in mercy, is ready to show mercy, never wearies of mercy and is more prone to pardon than to punish. And as he presents God's mercy, he deliberately conceals God's justice.
6. He convinces you that repentance is easy. As Satan presents a temptation before you, he will try to convince you that the work of repentance is an easy work, that it is not at all difficult to turn, to confess, to be sorrowful and to beg the Lord's pardon. And if all this is true, there is no urgent need to bother yourself with battling sin, for you can repent later just as easily as you now commit the sin.
Brooks has six more to go, but I will share those at another time. Here is a particularly thought-provoking prayer he includes:
Ah Lord! this mercy I humbly beg, that whatever you give me up to, you will not give me up to the ways of my own heart; if you will give me up to be afflicted, or tempted, or reproached, I will patiently sit down, and say, It is the Lord; let him do with me what seems good in his own eyes. Do anything with me, lay what burden you will upon me, so you do not give me up to the ways of my own heart.
And here is a challenge to understand that every sin is an act of defiance against God.
Every sin strikes at the honor of God, the being of God, the glory of God, the heart of Christ, the joy of the Spirit, and the peace of a man’s conscience; and therefore a soul truly penitent strikes at all, hates all, conflicts with all, and will labor to draw strength from a crucified Christ to crucify all sins. A true penitent knows neither father nor mother, neither right eye nor right hand--but will pluck out the one and cut off the other.
The Tweetable Puritan:
- Adversity hath slain her thousand, but prosperity her ten thousand.
- The best course to prevent falling into the pit is to keep at the greatest distance.
- Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell.
- Sin will kiss the soul, and pretend fair to the soul, and yet betray the soul forever.
- A man bewitched with sin had rather lose God, Christ, heaven, and his own soul than part with his sin.
- Sin will surely prove evil and bitter to the soul when its robes are taken off.
- There is no little sin, because no little God to sin against.
- There is more evil in the least sin than in the greatest affliction.
- You can easily sin as the saints, but can you repent with the saints?
- Many can sin with David and Peter, that cannot repent with David and Peter, and so must perish forever.
- He who turns not from every sin, turns not aright from any one sin.
- Those who do not burn now in zeal against sin must before long burn in hell for sin.
- True repentance is a continued spring, where the waters of godly sorrow are always flowing
Please do read along with me if you are interested. For next week, continue in SectionII (“Satan’s Devices to Draw the Soul to Sin”) and read the second set of six devices. (Read devices 7 to 12 and stop short of Section III: Satan's Devices to Keep Souls from Holy Duties.) I will be offering some thoughts about all of that next Thursday.
Also, Logos has kindly offered the ebook for free for anyone who cares to download it and read along (or not; you can have it for free and read it later). It is part of Volume 1 of The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks. If you use the coupon code RCT613 you can have the whole thing for free. You don’t need to be a Logos user either, as you can download one of their apps and read that way.
The purpose of this series is to read the classics together. Do feel free to leave a comment below or to leave a link to your own blog if you have chosen to discuss this book there.
I am sure that almost every homemaker, every mother, every woman, has experienced the disconnect between what she knows and what she feels, between knowing that her calling is good and the reality that it can be exasperating and so often feels unfulfilling. In Glimpses of Grace Gloria Furman brings the gospel to bear on a woman’s distinct calling and calls her to treasure the gospel in her home. Speaking on behalf of Christian women she says,
We need to know: What does the gospel have to do with our everyday lives in the home? How does the gospel impact our dish washing, floor mopping, bill paying, friend making, guest hosting, and dinner cooking? How does the fact that Jesus himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness make a difference in my mundane life today?
The big question she explores is simply this: How does the gospel change the way a woman lives out her calling as a homemaker?
In the first section of the book she looks at the gospel, saying "Theology is for homemakers who need to know who God is, who they are, and what this mundane life is all about." My favorite chapter here is "Don't Smurf the Gospel." Furman is both amusing and convicting as she writes about the importance of properly defining the gospel and properly distinguishing between the gospel itself and its many implications and applications. If "smurf" is a word the Smurfs used when they didn't know what else to say, "gospel" is a word many Christians use whether they really meant it or not. It’s a word that may mean very different things to different people, so Furman calls for clarity and precision in its use.
The second section, the bulk of the book, looks at a homemaker's many callings and shows how the gospel speaks to each of them. The chapter titles give a sense of the subjects and the tone: "Divine Power and Precious Promises for the 2 a.m. Feeding," "All Grace and All Sufficiency for Every Dinner Guest," "Treasures In Jars of Clay, Not in Fine Bone China." One of the stronger chapters in this section is "The Idol of a Picture-Perfect Home." I appreciated this chapter because there is such a clear gospel remedy and gospel application to the kind of heart idolatry that desires and demands the illusion of a picture-perfect home.
I will turn it over to Kristie Anyabwile to provide her perspective on the book since she writes as a member of the core audience:
We need gospel fuel to joyfully serve our families, and that's what Glimpses of Grace provides. Many days I unload a barrage of law upon my family, when what they need from me is grace, encouragement, and reminders of God's faithfulness. I thank the Lord for using Gloria to point me to the glorious gospel of his grace so that I might extend the same grace to my husband and children. As homemakers we can be smothered by the ordinary, blinded by the mundane, living in a fog of routine and fatigue, unable to see how to clean messy noses or break up sibling squabbles for the glory of God. In Glimpses of Grace Gloria helps to lift the fog by showing us how the gospel can change our perspective as we serve and love our families.
Aileen and I both read this book and both enjoyed it a lot. We saw that Gloria uses both precision and grace as she shows that the good news, when properly understood and carefully applied, must transform the way a woman carries out the task the Lord has given her.
I want to do the right things. I want to do the right things for the right reasons. In fact, I want to do the best things for the best reasons, the highest things for the highest reasons. Sometimes I know I do this. Sometimes I know I don’t. Most of the time I’m just not sure.
Too often I don't know why I do what I do, at least not all the way to the roots. I see the desire to glorify God but when I dig deeper, I see the desire to glorify self down there as well. Or sometimes the desire to be known or noticed or appreciated is there at the surface but as I shovel down I see a genuine desire to please God as well. It's a tricky, deceptive thing, the human heart. Exasperating at times.
It's not tricky to God, of course. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart." The Lord sees and the Lord knows not only what I do but why I do it. He is not the least bit confused. The proverb is true, of course, but as with all proverbs it is not universally applicable. At times the way of this man is not right in his own eyes and at times the way is opaque. There are so many times that I just don't know why I do what I do. Is it for me or is it for God? How much is for me and how much is for God?
Sometimes I talk it out with God. "You say to do this, so I’m going to do it. But you also say to do it selflessly and silently and I don't think my motives here are completely pure. I think I want to be noticed and appreciated for it. So I'm just going to go ahead and do it, because I believe you want me to and I believe it's right. And I'll trust you to work it for good. And I'll ask you to forgive me even now for whatever part of me wants to be glorified for it."
I believe that is a prayer God hears and heeds. I have to. And I have to believe that God is pleased, delighted even, with the part of me, however much it is, that genuinely wants to be unnoticed so he can be seen and known and glorified.
It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God (1 Cor. 4).
I didn't know what The Circle Maker was about until I began to read it. Neither did I know anything about Mark Batterson, its author. I knew the book only as a Christian bestseller and its author only as a name that often appears in my inbox as people ask if I know anything about him or have read his books. "My pastor gave everyone in the church a copy of this book. Have you reviewed it?" Finally I read it.
Mark Batterson is lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., a church regarded as one of the most innovative and influential in the country. He made his debut in Christian publishing with In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and followed that up with several other titles, including The Circle Maker.
The Circle Maker finds its title and inspiration in Honi Ha-Ma’agel, a Jewish scholar who lived in the first century B.C. and who is described in the Talmud. He is remembered as a miracle-worker in the tradition of Elijah and Elisha. Wikipedia provides a condensed version of his most famous miracle:
On one occasion when God did not send rain well into the winter (in the geographic regions of Israel, it rains mainly in the winter), he drew a circle in the dust, stood inside it, and informed God that he would not move until it rained. When it began to drizzle, Honi told God that he was not satisfied and expected more rain; it then began to pour. He explained that he wanted a calm rain, at which point the rain calmed to a normal rain.
Batterson says, "The prayer that saved a generation was deemed one of the most significant prayers in the history of Israel. The circle he drew in the sand became a sacred symbol. And the legend of Honi the circle maker stands forever as a testament to the power of a single prayer to change the course of history." From Honi he has learned the value of big, bold, audacious prayers. On a very practical level, he has learned the value of drawing figurative (and sometimes literal) circles. The promise of his book is that it "will show you how to claim God-given promises, pursue God-sized dreams, and seize God-ordained opportunities. You'll learn how to draw prayer circles around your family, your job, your problems, and your goals."
The book has been widely-praised and has received hundreds of positive reviews, but surely people have simply failed to understand that Batterson has committed a grave error. He begins with Honi, an character who appears in books that are not (and have never been) regarded as inspired by God. He takes Honi as an authentic character who performed an authentic, God-ordained miracle indistinguishable from the characters and miracles of the Bible, and then reads what he learned from Honi back into the Bible. Rather than interpreting Honi through the lens of Scripture, he interprets Scripture through Honi so that from drawing circles he inevitably moves to marching circles and goes to Jericho, asking questions like "What is your Jericho? What promise are you praying around? What miracle are you marching around? What dream does your life revolve around?" He even reads Honi back into church history, looking to Christians of days past and saying that they were drawing Honi-like prayer circles.
The book's examples and illustrations are largely drawn from his own life, from the dreams, goals and desires that he has seen fulfilled. He speaks of drawing a large circle around an area of Washington by walking around it while praying; before long he had a successful and growing church within that circle. He writes about circling a building he wanted for his church, marching around it, laying hands on it, even going barefoot on its holy ground, until it was his. Occasionally he shares examples from others so that he speaks of a friend who desperately wanted to be general manager at a certain golf course; he describes how his friend marched around the club house with his family seven times and then received the desire of his heart.
He anticipates the critique that what he advocates is a kind of "name it, claim it" theology and insists it is not. He says, for example, "Before you write this off as some 'name it, claim it' scheme, let me remind you that God cannot be bribed or blackmailed. God doesn't do miracles to satisfy our selfish whims. God does miracles for one reason and one reason alone: to spell His glory. We just happen to be the beneficiaries." I think he doth protest too much for what he teaches is very nearly indistinguishable. While he may not suggest praying for a bundle of cash or a fancy new car, there is no reason in the book why we would not do this. "I have no idea what your financial situation is, but I do know this. If you give beyond your ability, God will bless you beyond your ability. God wants to bless you thirty-, sixty-, hundredfold." That sounds just too familiar.
When I had finished reading The Circle Maker I found myself reflecting on why a book like this one is so attractive. Why do people love it so much more than a more realistic, biblical book on prayer? What makes it resonate so deeply? Let me share a few suggestions.
First, Batterson describes the Christian life as one of constantly witnessing miracles. He must use the word "miracle" hundreds of times and writes often of all the miracles he has witnessed. I think there are times when every Christian longs to see God work in miraculous ways, yet the challenge for the Christian is simply this: Will you believe God at his Word or will you demand more? Batterson promises miracles, yet as he does this he defines down miracles, making a miracle any answer to prayer. We prayed for a building and got it. Miracle! I needed a bill paid and found money. Miracle! In this way every answer to prayer is a miracle.
Second, he makes direct communication from God the normative experience for the Christian. He speaks often of God whispering to our spirits and encourages Christians to follow inner impressions, what he describes as "the promptings of the Spirit." "Let me spell it out: If you want to see crazy miracles, obey the crazy promptings of the Holy Spirit." I believe that every Christian longs for that unmediated, face-to-face contact with God; and yet again, the challenge for the Christian is whether we will be content with being indwelled by the Holy Spirit who illumines the words of Scripture so that God speaks to us through his Word.
Third, he often takes Scripture far beyond its context which allows him to make promises the Bible does not actually make. He regularly claims Old Testament promises that were clearly meant for a particular people at a particular time as if they were written specifically for him. He looks to Revelation 3:8 and uses it to speak of opened and closed doors as they relate to knowing and doing the will of God. He writes about the spiritual value of the Daniel diet. To be frank, he utterly and consistently butchers Scripture; the Christian reading with an open Bible will soon have to see that so many of Batterson's claims cannot be supported.
Finally, he speaks confidently of things the Bible simply does not say and again, this allows him to claim more than the Bible allows. For example he says, "Sometimes physical contact creates a spiritual conduit. Proximity creates intimacy. Proximity proclaims authority. Drawing a prayer circle is one way of marking territory -- God's territory." He trumpets the value of visualizing what you want as a means to obtaining it: "When you dream, your mind forms a mental image that becomes both a picture of and a map to your destiny. That picture of the future is one dimension of faith, and the way you frame it is by circling it in prayer." The Bible gives us no reason to believe that God consistently relates proximity to power or that there is value in visualization (though you may note that New Age teachers often make both of those claims).
The Circle Maker is a mess. I admire Batterson's desire to pray boldly and love his call to more prayer, better prayer, more audacious prayer. Yet so much of what he teaches is sub-biblical, extra-biblical or just plain unbiblical. With hundreds of good books on prayer available to us there is absolutely no reason to spend as much as one minute or one dime on this one.
Note: If you are looking for good, Bible-based books on prayer, here are some suggestions: 5 Great Books on Prayer.