The first three Sundays in Lent especially direct Christians to consider our formidable foe and his allies—the devil, the unbelieving world, and our sinful flesh. Consider this description of what we face:
“Consider, O devout soul, to what peril thou art constantly exposed from the devil… He is an enemy extremely ready in audacity, strong in resources, subtle in arts and devices, boundless in stratagem, unweariedly zealous in his assaults upon the soul… Whom will he not assail, since he dared to approach the Lord of Glory Himself with his cunning malignity… If he sought to sift the very apostles of Christ as wheat…, will [he] fail to test any Christian with temptation? He deceived Adam… who had a nature holy and innocent; whom can he not then deceive with natures fallen and sinful? He led astray Judas although in the school of the Savior; whom can he not then lead astray in the world, the school of error?… Consider… the wiles of this powerful adversary, and seek to overcome him only by the employment of spiritual weapons… Put on as a garment the perfect righteousness of Christ, and thou wilt be safe from the devil’s temptations. Hide thee in the cleft… of Christ’s wounds, whenever thou art terrified by the fiery darts of that malignant power.”[i]
It is reported that one of the greatest areas of temptation for Christians today is the easy access to pornography we now have through the internet. This leads not only to breaking the 6th Commandment regarding lust, but also the 1st regarding idolatrous rebellion against God and His creation. It is ruining many marriages by replacing the proper sexual pleasure between husband and wife with a fanciful distortion of what God has created for us to enjoy.
Since this marital union serves to strengthen the “one flesh” bond, when it is forsaken and substituted with an imagined and momentary encounter with self, we find contempt, guilt, and shame follow at an exponential rate. Even the unmarried are affected by a porn-addicted thought process. “Like a drug that delivers a short high to its user that is followed by an emotional slump, it delivers a charge that does not last but requires ever-increasing indulgence to maintain its diminishing intensity and ward off the ever-increasing severity of its consequent low.”[ii]
As a pastor for 40 years, I wish I had the Rev. Dr. Kleinig’s book to recommend to younger adults, both single and those engaged to be married. His theology of the body would be of great value to us all, especially chapters 5 and 6.
“Like all evil desires, it [lust] corrupts the whole person with its deceptive allurements that fail to deliver what they so luridly promise… Even though the object of lust is the body of another person, it is the product of a disordered heart with its pornographic imagination. Therefore, the heart needs to be reformed before there can be any change in sexual misconduct… public worship provides the best kind of sexual therapy for us as God’s children, since by our participation in it we gain a good conscience that prevents guilt from impairing the proper enjoyment… in marriage or destroying our contentment with our unmarried state.”[iii]
“O blessed Christ, do Thou fight for us and in us, that in Thee we may have the victory!”[iv]
-President Glenn Obenberger
[i] Sacred Meditations, by Johann Gerhard, Transl. C. W. Heisler, Repristination Press: Decatur, IL 1986, pp. 150-153.
[ii] Wonderfully Made: A Protestant Theology of the Body, by John W. Kleinig, Lexham Press: Bellingham, WA, 2011, p. 172.
[iii] Ibid, pp. 168-170.
[iv] Sacred Meditations, p. 155.