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Chapter 6: Double Take
I regained consciousness on a cold, uncomfortable floor. I felt as if I had slept for years, and I certainly needed it after the traumas I had experienced. As I reflected for a moment, I puzzled over how I could have so quickly crashed from such heights of worship to such dismal unbelief. I was sickened to realize how little of God’s truth must really be within me, if it has to be propped up by circumstances. Despite my superficial familiarity with the words of Scripture, it must be more like cotton candy inside me than the concrete of my belief system. Truth does not change according to circumstances nor with the boldness with which others make their own assertions.
I looked around to discover I was in a tiny circular room. At the perimeter, the flat floor curved seamlessly upwards and became the walls, which remained perpendicular until curving into a domed ceiling. The floors, walls and ceiling were all made of the same featureless, white material. The cornerless, windowless and doorless little room was completely bare except for a table and chair.
Then the thought came to me, Hey! If those demons spoke English because they could scan my brain, how come I understood them right from the beginning when I was just overhearing them and they presumably didn’t even know I was there? I pondered for a minute. Oh, this is just too confusing!
On the table I found a blank notebook, a ball pen and a Bible. It did not take great genius to work out that I was there for Bible study. From my pathetic performance on that horrid planet, it was painfully obvious that such study was sorely needed. I marveled that I still wasn’t back there being tortured. I could hardly claim that it was my great faith that the Lord had graciously responded to by rescuing me.
I opened the Bible. Where do I start? I’d better do things properly this time. So I asked God to direct me to the parts he wanted me to focus on. I asked him to open my understanding and to cause me to get his glorious truths deep into my spirit. Then I plunged in, devouring the Word of God like a famished man at a banquet. As I read, it was as though life was somehow pumped into what had become old, wilted truths. They again became fresh, vital and powerful to me. I felt stronger and stronger.
Time wore on and I grew increasingly bored. I looked around the room. There was not a thing to do except read the Bible. How long am I going to be stuck here? Am I being punished for messing up when those demons had me bluffed? I looked at the cold, hard floor. I can’t even sleep in this place! I looked at the featureless walls. There was nothing even to count. I began to daydream. After perhaps an hour, I walked around and around the desk. I was becoming increasingly annoyed about being in what amounted to solitary confinement in a prison cell. “God, let me out of here!” I prayed. Finally I sat down, put my head on the table and hoped I could wile away some of the interminable hours by sleeping.
I don’t know how long I had been asleep when something startled me. I looked up and to my horror, standing in front of me was someone I had never in my worst nightmares expected to see again – my former master. And he was angrier and more terrifying than ever.
Instantly, I saw my time in that tiny room very differently. No longer was it a prison sentence; it was a desperately needed, tragically squandered training opportunity. Oh, no, no, no, no! I lamented, If only I’d known this would happen, I’d now be equipped to take on this beast! What a fool I’ve been!
Just before my sleep, I had managed to convince myself that through my faith-union with Christ I was a son of God – divine royalty. Now, in this overwhelmingly evil presence, I was like a punctured inflatable doll, caving into a formless mass as my faith hissed out of me. In a desperate attempt to patch the leak before even the little that remained was lost, I tried to convince myself that even the most drastic change in my feelings cannot change who I am in Christ.
“You didn’t really think you’d get away from me, did you?” he snarled. “There’s no place in the universe where you can run that I won’t follow. You’ve yet to know the terror of discovering my powers. You’re mine forever!”
To my dismay, the refresher course I had undertaken before my sleep now seemed a million years ago. I struggled to put on a bold front and practice the truth of God’s Word. “And neither have you discovered my powers!” I said, defiantly pointing my finger at him, in a manner inconsistent with how I felt. “I’m glad you’re back, you con artist! You caught me unawares last time and I foolishly let you push me around but now I know my status in Christ. I know what my Lord has achieved and the power he has entrusted to me.”
He looked at me stony faced.
“You’re all bluff!” I asserted. “You’re defeated. The Ruler of the universe is in me!” I proudly thought to myself how much better I was doing this time around.
“Do you see me quaking?” he retorted in terrifying fury. “I’m here because you’ve blown it! You’ve exhausted God’s patience. No longer will he respond to puny faith. He had mercy on you last time. He rescued you despite your lack of faith and gave you one more chance to build yourself up spiritually, and instead of seizing the opportunity, what have you been doing? You’ve been goofing off! You’ve been sleeping. You’ve been daydreaming. You’ve even had the audacity to complain to God for removing every distraction. If so much as the pen had been slightly different from the technology you are used to, you’d have let yourself be sidetracked into examining it, instead of studying Scripture.”
Wow! Has he ever read my “file”!
“Even though there was no suitable place to sleep, you still managed to sleep rather than put God first. God spoilt you rotten by giving you every opportunity to concentrate on him and his Word and instead of relishing the chance and worshipping your God for being far kinder to you than you could ever deserve, you trashed the last chance you’ll ever get. You threw all his kindness back in his face and even griped to God for his mercy to you in removing distractions.”
He might as well have been a street fighter hammering me with his fists. His every word was a sickening body blow, and he kept pounding and pounding and pounding. “You are vomit! You’ve had the audacity to try to fool yourself into supposing you’re a follower of the Selfless One and you’re as self-centered as me. The big difference between us is that I’m not a hypocrite! You turn the stomach of every angel in Heaven and we on the other side feel the same way about your nauseating hypocrisy. You’ve lost it. You belong to me forever.”
Then he began listing my every sin. He went on and on and on.
How does he know all these things? Talk about being an expert in condemnation! Hey . . .” Suddenly I recalled Romans 8 about there being no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. He’s trying to bluff me again!
I interrupted his tirade about my sins. “You deceiver!” I said in a feeble attempt to sound bold. “Yes, your words are baited with truth. It’s the only way you can dupe your victims into swallowing the hook.” As usual, I found it hard to spit out the words. I’m so hopeless at speaking off the cuff. And yet, with each word I found myself getting stronger. An indignation was beginning to well up from within me, and a fluency that was not my own. “Like all your horde, you’re a compulsive liar – a parasite that can survive only by sucking the life out of truth. Though you rebel against God, you are totally dependent upon him. You can build your mantraps only by tearing down the edifice of God’s truth – plundering Heaven’s Palace for building materials – because you have nothing that is your own. You can catch your slaves only by using God’s truth to set the trap.”
Wow! That sounded good! Did I really say that? Hey! Don't dare fall into pride!
“Yes, I’ve committed all those sins, but I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus. The person who did those vile things died when Jesus died. Jesus and I are one. I’ve risen to a new life through Jesus rising from the dead.”
“Ha! Don’t give me that rubbish! You committed those sins after you committed your life to Jesus.”
“Yes, and I repented of those sins after I committed them – just as I repent of my most recent shameful laziness – and the blood of Jesus cleanses me from all my sin. You have no power over me, you con artist. Jesus has cleansed me. There is no sin in me, because of the power of Jesus’ forgiveness. In the name of Jesus, be gone!”
He resolutely stood his ground.
“You’re defeated. Jesus has won. I belong to Jesus. So be gone!”
He looked as fierce and determined as ever. Then he vanished.
I worshipped God. Praising him for once again being merciful to me, even though I had yet again had a wrong attitude towards him and failed to do even the little that was within my power to do. “Truly you are good and do good,” I wrote in my notebook. “Your tender mercies bathe everything you do.”
Then everything went black.
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