Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
So if the Son sets you free,* you will be free** indeed (John 8:36 NIV).
The legal definition of “blackmail” is, “The crime involving a threat for purposes of compelling a person to do an act against his or her will, or for purposes of taking the person’s money or property.”
Depending upon who wants what and the consequences, blackmail can keep human beings under small or great bondage, paying all kinds of money to stay out of trouble, and/or doing all kinds of things.
For a universal example consider political blackmail where politicians who promise one thing and, once elected, delay acting on those promises or completely reverse their positions, which prompt voters to wonder, “Who is blackmailing them for what activity or crime in their past?” or “Who set them up?”( among other concerns like telling flat-out lies and bribery).
I believe there is also “spiritual blackmail,” as it were, perpetrated by the Criminal of criminals, our real–and brilliant–enemy, who, when we look behind the smoke and mirrors, is the one pulling levers and troubling minds, hearts, and sanctuaries. He also wants us to keep paying and/or doing, figuratively and literally, something to compensate God for our wrongs/sins when Jesus already paid the price.
Why is the Satan up to this?
Because he not only wants our goods but also wants us to reject the ultimate “good,” as in God.
Satan’s problem however, is that he needs cohorts, as in human minds and mechanisms, to accomplish destruction and he cannot proceed without permission from God (Old Testament) and parameters (New) understood by believers in God who know their status in Jesus Christ.***
Trouble is, many Christians do not know their freedom in Jesus Christ–or their (overcoming) status not to mention the fact that their sin debt is paid in full. And there are still plenty of Job’s friends out there who can convincingly suggest it is still our behavior that makes us right/protected by God.
And so the scene is set for spiritual blackmail (lack of information being half the job).
YOU’D BETTER OR ELSE!
Modern-day “Job’s friends” in the pulpit or down the street or even at home expound their own class of doctrine on what is known as “works-based” faith (entirely, or patched in) that does not align with salvation by grace which is what Jesus Christ paid for. That day. On the cross.
And it gets very confusing re: how to work the works.
Dunk or sprinkle? No guitars in church, or guitars okay? Unleavened bread or bagels? First Church of the Latter Reformed Presbylutheranevangelicalamen or St. Mary’s of Perpetual Suffering?
Of course those are surface issues. Unless they are your or my issues, of course, in which case they can be complex and painful.
However, and to my topic: there might be more to all this confusion than just ignorance of Scripture and/or misinterpretation. (For who is perfect of thought, let alone word and deed?!)
I think there are also those who learn how to exploit people’s search for Truth to purposefully waylay them into side-topics and/or ensnare them in heresy, for the sake of money and power.
These wolves…(you know the rest) know well how to con sincere people into–and here is the spiritual blackmail part–thinking that if they do not do the things “they” (the spiritually superior, “anointed” ones) deem “God” is telling them to enforce “for your spiritual good,” there will be Hell to pay.
And for all eternity, likely.
And that there is some mighty potent blackmail, given the high stakes: eternity. fire. excruciating pain. no respite.
Additionally, the Brilliant One knows the power of suggestion, threat, abuse, trauma bonding, and all the rest of what even the highest I.Q.s can fall victim to because we all want “the answers” to–more archetype–Who we are, Where we came from, and Where we are going to. It starts in our earliest years.
Little ones evidence their first existential inklings with questions such as, “Mommy, what’s on the other side of the sky?” and, “What happens after we die?” And the quest for The Truth begins–and continues, as does our vulnerability to those who, via sufficient and impressive beauty, bucks, and/or brawn, convince us it is They we must follow.
If you think about it, what else explains even the world’s most intelligent people abandoning family, bank accounts, and minds to live, for example, on a commune in Oregon slaving away so that the guru can drive a fleet of limousines, armed guards at the gates?
What explains contributing to, say, “Peter’s Pence” once a year to support a Pope’s and an institution’s gilded lifestyle no matter if the family’s income barely stretches from payday to payday and the world’s poor barely scratch out a living?
What explains the belief that half of the Body of Christ must bow to the presumed superiority of the other half based on genitalia?
I could go on, but you are likely now thinking of even more examples of how extra-biblical teachings can warp the Gospel (or such a Gospel) of grace–and (what I think is the end game of the Evil One) cause many to abandon the search. Oppose it, even, at length. At least abandon religion if not questing for the real God–for many who have left the Sunday School of their youth still search. Check out the many shelves on the Religion/Philosophy/New Age aisles of any book store.
And when did this all start?
Jesus’ blood was still seeping into the hillside at Golgotha when the infiltrators (and the Infiltrator) began to peddle lies, ensnare minds, hearts, and psyches. Just flip over to the very first book after the Gospel accounts and begin reading.
And why does Satan use religious systems when plenty of people give themselves over to him for free? Some even report “selling their souls” for this or that gain. For one, the Devil doesn’t have to work at convincing those who self-select him. He just has to keep the smoke thick and the mirrors positioned.
But mostly, I think, Satan concentrates his best game on sincere God-seekers because it’s a kind of two-for-one deal for him. He gets to harm people and get back at God, too. See what you think.
SATAN’S TWO-FOR-ONE DEAL
Because works-based religious systems, as busy and confused as they can keep the people, draw the veil back over grace and the eventual frustration over what to do when and for how long and who is really right about all this makes people just want to stop the disharmony of mind and spirit as the spiritual “spin” (which as every bit as confusing and frustrating as political spin) intensifies.
People can only ride the angst-go-round for so long until they have had enough. The fear, confusion, doubt, and possible loss of money, possessions, and/or peace take their toll–not to mention the chagrin sincere searchers feel when logic nudges sense to realize they’ve been duped.
And guess Who they (we) tend to blame.
Well, this is His gig, right? It’s all about what He wants us to do/say/think/behave like, right? I mean, that’s what the enlightened/educated/charismatic ones claim…
(And another One, cackling in satisfaction behind the curtain, the scent of sulfur wafting near, celebrates his “two for one deal”: not only has another human bit the spiritual dust he or she also blames it on GOD!)
I get it.
See here for my own experience heavily saturated in arguably the world’s most works-based of all works-based religious systems. Yes, Jesus’ one-time-only saving sacrifice is referenced here and there in that spiritual venue, but it is artfully secured in place among, well, all the add-ons. (Although one thing is missing, as many former Roman Catholics will tell you, which is the power of God through Christ Jesus to free us).
And so the real enemy of us enslaves, one lie at a time (really, really good lies, though, and smart), searching minds and hearts for what entices, seduces, and ensnares.
He searches highways and byways for just the right location for the Church of the Immaculate Deception or the Kingdom Now For All Emergent Seekers Social Justice Conference Center and Retreat Lodge (with a Starbuck’s kiosk in the narthex). And once we are enlodged there, as it were, mind and heart hoping, hoping, maybe here…the answers, the balm for our troubled mind, broken heart…the key to unlock the chains of regret over the guilt we harbor for one really bad choice–or sixty–the spiritual blackmail begins.
The Brilliant One snakes into some carefully crafted pitch selling some old or some new way to work it all out (CDs, books, phone apps, and daily devotionals reinforcing today’s message sold next to the Starbuck’s), a little bit of truth in every lie. AND don’t miss next week’s message on the Seven Steps to Spiritual Utopia which we will be covering for the next seven months.
…and the scent of sulfur…
…as still more lost souls search…having not yet found.
While from the empty tomb, the voice of Jesus echoes, still:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 KJV).
Not a peace the world understands, mind you, as He said. Nor is it peace you can purchase at the Temple of the Gilded God, some mountaintop of mindfulness, or at Holy Namesake Cathedral, but a peace purchased for us. That day. On the Cross. His blood pooled beneath…
Friends and fellow questers, please don’t let Satan blackmail you anymore into wasting you mind, heart–and pocketbook–searching for yet another balm to heal the wounds of your heartaches and failures or to give you the answers to the questions born of being human.
Because Jesus already paid the price. In full.
He is the Balm of Gilead so newly–or so long– sought.
He is not just an end note in the back of the encyclopedia of world religions. He is the Book, and all of its words, bound in His own flesh, as it were, not just to explain or teach from but to illustrate in His life, death, and resurrection. For us. As the scholars say, He shows up in some way on every page, infusing all with the message of “no greater love”…
If you haven’t yet, please seek Him, and He promises that you needn’t journey alone.
Oh, and He isn’t some ogre sitting on high with a ledger that always seems to show your account in the red (for there always seems to be something to count against you…) even if you doctrinalize yourself to the bone in some works-based religious system designed on purpose or through lack of knowledge and that profits more that other one (over there, behind the curtains) than you.
Rather, your Redeemer is also your friend.
This song comes to mind for you–and for me:
* Free: from eleutheros; to liberate, i.e. (figuratively) to exempt (from moral, ceremonial or mortal liability) — deliver, make free.
In sum: “not a slave or under restraint”.
***Jesus defeated Satan on the cross–and to those who receive Jesus’ spirit at re-birth, He gave us the power to “trample on snakes and scorpions,” (archetypal figures of evil that the seventy-two Jesus sent out in this passage of the narrative would have understood to be such). As A.D. believers, we have the same. Here is an interesting exposition on this that includes how, and here, another that reinforces our position as the Body of Christ on earth–as well as our focus needing to be on Jesus, not man-made religious systems infected with “other” gospels. See above.
You Tube video from here.