The Egyptians ruthlessly made the children of Israel serve, and they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field, all their service, in which they ruthlessly made them serve. . . and the children of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the children of Israel, and God was concerned about them. (Exo. 1:13-14, 2:23-25)
You were made alive when you were dead in transgressions and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience; among whom we also all once lived in the lust of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Eph. 2:1-3)
For, uttering great swelling words of emptiness, they entice in the lusts of the flesh, by licentiousness, those who are indeed escaping from those who live in error; promising them liberty, while they themselves are bondservants of corruption; for a man is brought into bondage by whoever overcomes him. (2Pt. 2:18-19)
Every Jew is supposed to have burned into him the lessons of the Passover: That we were slaves to Egypt, but that Hashem in His great mercy and to fulfill His covenant with our father Abraham, redeemed us with an outstretched arm and great judgments.
Every Christian is likewise supposed to have burned into him the lessons of the New Covenant: That we were slaves to the world, but that the LORD in His great mercy and to fulfill His covenants with our fathers and the prophets redeemed us with both arms outstretched and with great judgments.
Unfortunately, the nature of our slavery in the modern world so often escapes us, especially here in the West. We join the Pharisees in saying, “We have never been in bondage to anyone” (John 8:33)! Oh, we may groan at the labors of this world, but we deny the chains that bind us!
What are these chains? Simply put, these chains are chains of the mind, binding our thinking to the ways of the world. Ephesians tells us that there are three kinds of chains:
- The course of this world, the myriad of ways that our cultures, our memes, our paradigmns, and even good ol’ peer pressure shape and mould us.
- The Prince of the Power of the Air, the Adversary, who binds and blinds us supernaturally.
- The lusts of our flesh, our human desires run amok. Paul lists this one last because it is the most subtle and yet strongest chain of all, and the one which will remain even in the Millennium when the Adversary is bound and the cultures of the world are controlled by Messiah Himself.
Through sin, memes, and conditioning, we are wrapped in so many invisible chains that true freedom of thought and action is impossible. We make up our minds and then refuse to admit data that doesn’t fit our decision. We make up new memories on the fly. We make decisions on a subconcious level up to ten seconds before our conscious minds work out a “logical” reason for that decision. That means that we’re making decisions based on processes that we aren’t even aware of (processes that can be influenced by those with the know-how without you even being aware of it) and then coming up with logical justifications after the fact. As one scientist put it, “This doesn’t rule out free will, but it does make it implausible.”
As George Otis writes in The Twilight Labyrinth:
As Japanese researcher Gen Matsumoto points out, memories act at a subconscious level . . . A whiff of burning hay might flood the mind with memories of a long-ago trip through the country. . . His pornographically inclined neighbor may find the movie theater of his mind clogged by sexual reruns. . .
Given an ample supply of the right kind of neural patterns, [the Devil] can control both our inner reality and often the people and circumstances that surround us. . . (p. 157)
[E]xperience prompts physical changes in our brain. . . Experiments conducted by Dr. Gray Lynch, senior professor at the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory at the University of California at Irvine revelaed that stimulated neurons produce new synapses in as little as ten minutes.
The enemy’s strategy is simple. He wants to influence the kinds of thoughts that enter our minds so he can alter the neural structure of our brains. . . (p. 158)
Otis concludes, “This also explains why true conversion is (and must be) such a radical process. As our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit, old mental patterns are actually replaced with new, undistorted metaphors” (p. 165). That’s also why only those who have experienced that radical conversion can even perceive the true Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3), the true rule of Hashem in the hearts of the faithful.
Let me give a couple of personal example of the forging of these memetic chains: In my teenage years, I came across a friend’s porn collection and was fascinated by it (the course of the world). It excited me, transforming normal and natural male desires into an obsession (the desires of the flesh). I justified myself: “Oh, it’s perfectly natural. I’m not hurting anyone. Anyway, I’m holding onto my physical virginity, so I’m doing all right.” And out of those lusts, the Adversary gained a foothold in my life that would take more than a decade to unravel.
When I speak of a foothold, I don’t mean that in a purely metaphorical sense. I opened up a door and unclean spirits, demons, of lust entered in. And though I came to repent of pornography in principle, they did not politely leave, but for many years continued to drag me back, first to magazines found in certain stores downtown, and then to the ever-increasing volumes of free porn available on the internet. I would have temporary victories, and they would withdraw just long enough for me to let my guard down to trip me up again.
Sin chains like these serve the same purpose as Pharaoh putting the Hebrews under forced labor: They degrade the soul, kill the spirt, and break down independent thought, creating a slave mentality that seeks maximum comfort over the struggles that come with true freedom.
From the time that I rededicated my life to the Lord at age 22 after a family member confronted about the size of my porn stash, I knew it was wrong, and I hated myself for it. I was also deeply ashamed, and would only refer to my habit in a vague past tense if the subject came up. It was not until I overcame my shame, confessed my sin, and allowed myself to be prayed over and delivered that the door was finally closed.
There are even more subtle chains, like the “Gospel of St. Vote.” Anyone who cares at all about politics knows this one, whether he wants to admit it or not. We are drawn into politics because we legitimately care about our country, and we become convinced that everything that is wrong is the “other side’s” fault. The key of the Gospel of St. Vote is that we believe that if only enough people would vote right, we could turn this country around and set everything right. And you moderates out there aren’t immune either. You’re convinced that only you see clearly the extremes of both sides and that by waffling between them, you’re one of the ones who is saving the country from “extremism.” It’s still the Gospel of St. Vote.
The genius of that particular chain is that it never makes you feel guilty or ashamed. Everything is someone else’s fault. You, on the other hand, see clearly just what is wrong with this country and just what needs to be done. You are certain to be vindicated by history.
That chain is one that I’ve only really even become aware of in the last year or so as I’ve listened to some Christian talk radio that is decidedly non-Conservative. And I’ve come to realize that the problems this country faces are far more complex than we’d like to think. Does social spending divide the family and cause people to rely on the government rather than on each other and God? Sure, but in a godless nation–and let’s be frank, true Christians who walk the walk as well as they talk the talk are an increasingly rare breed–what else are we to do? As I quoted Mark Steyn months ago, “But the social liberalism always ends up burying the fiscal conservatism. As Congressman Mike Pence put it, ‘To those who say we should simply focus on fiscal issues, I say you would not be able to print enough money in a thousand years to pay for the government you would need if the traditional family collapses.’”
On the other hand, the realities of our military ventures are pretty disturbing to anyone who does a bit of reading about them too–and are just as deeply costly to our nation. So why do I root for going in, guns blazing, just because the guy in the White House got my vote?
The fact is there are no easy answers, and no salvation to the world by voting the right way. Those older and wiser are saying, “Well, duh,” right now, but for me, the subtle draw of the Gospel of St. Vote captured my imagination for almost two decades of my life.
I’ll have to write more on that another time.
In the next entry in this series, we’ll look at the parallels between the Exodus and that moment of salvation we experience in Yeshua as well as the importance of ritual immersion in water (what my Sunday brethren call baptism). Until then,
- The Devil’s Prison House (ptl2010.wordpress.com)
- Freedom in Christ (michaelelynch.wordpress.com)
- “Christ and Cancer,” by John Piper (brokenbelievers.com)
- What About Regeneration (verticalviewer.wordpress.com)