Whence? What? Whither?

Three key questions to keep in mind at all times.

Ill Winds (4)

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 2 Corinthians 4.3, 4

The god of this age
Two interpretations of Paul’s phrase, “the god of this age,” are endorsed by Biblical scholars. The first and most common sees this phrase as referring to Satan, who was cast out of heaven and condemned to prowl the earth, lying and deceiving as many people as he could (Rev. 12.7-9), and warring against the Church of Christ with every weapon at his disposal (Rev. 12.13-17).

The second interpretation treats this phrase a little differently, yet perfectly in line with what the Greek will allow. It reads the phrase, ὁθεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος, ho theos tou aionos, as “the god which consists of this age.” Here the emphasis is one step removed from the father of lies, and indicts all the lying and deceiving philosophies, worldviews, and religions, and the people who espouse and embrace them, which Satan blows forth over the world. 

I think it’s safe to say that both of these are true. The ideational air we breathe, and through which we conduct our vessels of faith toward the eternal Kingdom, abounds with half-truths, fake news, deceptions, and outright lies. Many of these are so ludicrous that no one takes them seriously. Others seem so convincing that almost everybody hoists their sails in them to one degree or another.

Ideas, opinions, views, advice, counsel, and instruction comes at us continually, all day long, through a wide variety of channels: news, advertising, school curricula, books, the Internet, podcasts, conversations, and more. There is no shortage of wind trying to lodge itself in the sails of our soul, and if we are not discerning, we may be tempted to hoist our sails into this or that seemingly friendly current, only to find ourselves rather off course from where the Wind of God would have us.

We need to ask three questions concerning every form of ideational wind that wants a piece of our soul.

The first question is the easiest to answer. Well, it’s easy in direct proportion to how faithful we are in feeding on the Word of God, delighting in His Law, hiding His Word in our heart, letting His Word dwell richly in us, and seeing Jesus everywhere we look in Scripture (Jer. 15.16; Ps. 119.97; Ps 119.9-11; Col. 3.16; Jn. 5.39). If we are well grounded in the Word of God, rooted and nourished by the living water it channels our way (Ps. 1), then we’ll be better able to discern the winds blowing against us each day.

Because the first question to ask about any idea, position, thought, worldview, moral opinion, or any other notion or view is: “Whence is this?” That is, “Where does this idea come from?” Is it Biblical? Can I find this idea in Scripture? Is it consistently taught throughout God’s Word? It’s seeking to get my attention, attract my interest, and may entice my desire; so I need to know for sure: Is this a Word from the Wind of God, the Holy Spirit of God, speaking in Scripture?

Because if not, regardless of how you interpret 2 Corinthians 4.3, the source of that idea is from the world or the flesh or the devil. In which case, Scripture gives us one command: Submit to God and His Word, and resist the devil and his hot air (Jms. 4.7).

But you may not be able to answer this question until you’ve considered the second.

The apostle John tells us, in effect, to test every wind that’s trying to force its energy into the sails of our soul (1 Jn. 4.1-3). That is, we need to ask, “What is the content, thrust, and promise of this idea or thought?” What is it trying to get you to do? Does the message of this idea fly in the face of something you know from Scripture? Does it seek to make you the final arbiter of truth? To hold out things as the ultimate goal of a happy life? Self as the final determinant of all right and wrong? You as the thing above all to be loved?

Or does this idea or thought harmonize with the Wind of God: Love your neighbor?. Deny yourself? Honor God not men? Seek only what is beautiful, good, and true?

One essential guideline from the Wind of the Spirit can help us here, as we begin to discern what of any particular idea or point of view consists of: “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Rom. 12.9).

Finally, we need to consider the probable outcome of embracing any particular idea or suggestion: “Whither will this take me?” That is, “If I follow this line of thinking, this moral action, this interesting possibility, and if I allow it to fill the sails of my soul, will this lead me onward to Christ, or will it cause me to drift from Him?” Is this taking me forward into more of His Kingdom and salvation, or is it pushing me into the doldrums of self?

Here again, one simple guideline should suffice: “…one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3.13, 14).

What we can not do is to allow just any of the winds that blow against us to fill any of the sails of our soul. The winds will come at us. They will do everything they can to capture some canvas in our soul. We can’t really avoid that. Martin Luther is reported to have said about temptation and sin: “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair.”

We can’t stop the winds of this age – the lies, deceptions, half-truths, reckless suggestions, and self-serving notions – from wafting across the decks of our soul. We need to recognize them for what they are – whence they’ve come, what they promote and promise, and whither they would take us. But we need to give our full sails only to those currents that issue from the Wind and Word of God. All the others we must recognize for what they are, and keep them from settling into any of the sails of our soul.

But recognizing deceitful winds, and keeping them out of our sails is a constant struggle. So make sure you are grounded in the Word of God, and that you are daily opening the masts of your soul to the Wind of God’s Spirit. When this Wind fills your souls, you’ll have neither room nor desire for any others.

For reflection
1. Would you say that your commitment to reading and studying God’s Word is sufficient to guard your soul against the lying and deceitful winds of this age? Explain.

2. Our sinful self – the law of sin that remains within us (Rom. 7.21-24) – is always ready to accommodate worldly winds. How can we keep our sinful self in check?

3. How should Christians help one another in dealing with the three questions outlined here?

Next steps – Transformation: Begin asking these three questions about any idea or notion you are contemplating. Commit all your thoughts, plans, dreams, desires, and hopes to the Lord, and make sure they line up well with His Word.

You can also now listen to a weekly summary of our daily Scriptorium study on the book of Jeremiah. Click here for Jeremiah 34-38.

The Church Captive
For a limited time, we’re offering The Church Captive for $2.00 (plus shipping). This is an important book to help us consider our great need at this time. Order your copy by clicking here.

Three new resources are available at our website to help you grow in the Lord and His work. Our new Personal Mission Field Workshop offers weekly training to help you shepherd the people to whom God sends you. The Ailbe Podcast will introduce you to The Fellowship and how its resources and Brothers can be of help to you in your walk with and work for the Lord. And the InVerse Theology Project can help you in your daily pursuit of the knowledge of God.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore