“…because the life of every creature is its blood.” (Leviticus 17:14)
“If anyone eats blood, that person must be cut off from his people.” (Leviticus 7:27)
“You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 15:29 )Ever since the Fall, Satan has been doing his best to deceive, beguile, trick and confuse the creatures made in God’s image. After all, Satan is no gentleman. He is bluntly described in the Bible, as “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44), and his is a predatory, murderous hatred. But since he can’t get at God, his desire now is to use his still powerful intellect to confuse the humans who are so precious to God. God knows this, and that is why he graciously and mercifully gives us warning after warning in Scripture about Satan and his schemes:
“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (2 Cor 11:14) Meaning, Satan will rarely show up with red horns and a pitchfork, billowing sulfurous smelling smoke. No, often times he masquerades as someone wanting to help us, as our friend, just as when he presented himself to Adam and Eve in the garden: “Hey, I’ve got your back! That God, he’s holding out on you, but let me tell you, eating from that tree will be great for you!” He didn’t say it in these exact words, but that was his message.
The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is another example. Does anyone recall that Satan actually quoted scripture to Jesus? And he didn’t misquote Scripture, either. By that I mean that he didn’t misquote a single word…he just quoted it out of context. That’s why false teachers can be so deceptive: they often quote scripture word for word…just out of context. Obviously, to the undiscerning, this can give the appearance of being religious, spiritual, even good. This was the same trick employed by Satan in the desert, but was his motivation to do good, to help Christ? No, it was to gain power for himself and to tempt Christ into abandoning God’s plan of salvation for humanity. As far as he was concerned, if quoting the Scripture would get him where he wanted to be, well, he certainly wouldn’t be above that.
“The devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (I Peter 5:8) Satan may be able to masquerade as our friend (as he did with Adam and Eve), or as “an angel of light” for a period of time, but eventually his mask will slip and his true agenda will be exposed: he wants, above all else, our destruction. Remember the old folk legend that closes with the caution: “Beware of dancing with the devil, because in the end, it will be the devil that dances with you.” In other words, Satan may seem like our friend, and his enticements may tickle our flesh momentarily, but in the end, he will walk away laughing, leaving wreckage and death behind him if he can. He is a cruel playmate.
As Christians, we know (or should know) that Satan loves to take wonderful blessings from God and make his own grim version that he can present to people as a better version than God’s blessing. The first known example of Satan’s attempt to pervert what God has given and intended as a blessing is in the Garden of Eden. Another example is sexuality. According to God's boundaries, sexual relations must only be within the framework of marriage, between one man and one woman. And through this covenant, God blesses his people greatly. Adultery, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography and divorce are all grim examples of what happens when covenantal marriage vows are broken.
Another example is the occult. God gives explicit instructions throughout both the Old and New Testaments on how God’s people should respond to the occult. In a word, flee! In Deuteronomy, we are given a detailed account of what God tells us to avoid: “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. ‘For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.’ ” (Deut. 18:10-12).
This passage in Deuteronomy makes quite clear what the LORD considers to be occultic and wicked. Now, as Christians, we all know the standard we are to use in determining whether something is good or bad for us. We’ve practically been trained! If quizzed on this, we will automatically produce the right answer: Our standard is the Bible, of course. We know this, but do we really live this out in our day-to-day lives? I would submit that in today’s culture, a disconnect has developed between (1) what we know to be true and (2) how we practice this truth (or fail to practice this truth) in our daily lives.
And this brings me to the subject of Twilight. Now, let me stop and give a little background on what the Twilight phenomenon is, for those who haven't heard of it -- and there can't be many since Twilight has been a blockbuster best-seller and has already been made into two movies, one released last fall, and the other to be released November 2009. Twilight is the first in a series of four books written by Stephanie Meyer that chronicles a love story between a vampire (Edward) and a human girl (Bella). And according to USA Today, it's even bigger than Harry Potter:
"Stephenie Meyer's four-book Twilight series has sunk its fangs into USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list — with no signs of letting go. Meyer's domination of the list for the past 12 months has smashed records that until now had belonged to J.K. Rowling." (August 4, 2009-USA Today)I personally became aware of this book only in sort of a peripheral way when it first came out. From time to time, I hear about books and movies with an occultic theme, but they don’t really register on my radar; they don’t, that is, until I start to hear about Christians who are enthusiastically embracing the new phenomenon to come along, whether it is Harry Potter or Twilight or whatever. How can this be? How can people profess faith in Christ but then fail to make choices that reflect having a Biblical worldview? An extremely occultic, sexually charged book comes out and what do the Christians do? Flee? No. Along with the pagan culture, they embrace it. And make Bible studies centered around it. And herald Edward (the vampire love interest) as a Christ figure.
Which brings me to my last, and most important, example of a Godly blessing which Satan attempts to pervert with his own demonic parallel: the blood. Obviously, blood is very important in scripture because it is how we approach God. In the Old Testament the blood of animal sacrifices atoned for, and temporarily covered, the sins of God’s covenant people. In the New Testament, it is the perfect blood of Christ that atones for and covers the sins of God’s people. Because blood is the way in which we approach God, God has gone to great lengths to shine a spotlight on blood throughout the entire Bible. He does this by carefully laying out the Old Testament sacrificial system in great detail (a shadow of what was to come), and then expanding our understanding of this in Hebrews (Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament shadow only dimly understood before his coming): “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12). This is “God’s version” of blood leading to eternal life: a perfect, spotless Lamb (Jesus) who sheds His own blood in an atoning sacrifice by which to secure the souls of, and everlasting life for, his people.
And then there's “Satan's version” of blood leading to eternal life in Twilight: a sexy, magnetically attractive teenage boy vampire who feeds on the blood of his victims, who are then “given” eternal life, albeit a very grim version of it. However, this horrific version of eternal life is made enticing in the Twilight series because the characters are portrayed so positively and sympathetically. The love interest of the vampire, Bella, literally begs this vampire boy to drink her blood so she can be with him forever!
Just like the Harry Potter series, this series of books about vampires has been phenomenally popular in the culture (which we would of course expect). But it has also been popular and widely read among professing Christians. Now, does anyone besides me see the irony of this? We already have God's own beautiful, epic story about sacrificial love and blood and eternal life -- the story that is the very heart and soul of the Bible. So why on earth would we settle for Satan's grim parody of this?
When I was involved in the occult more than a decade ago, I briefly practiced magic with a group that identified themselves as "white witches," meaning they only practiced magic or witchcraft deemed to be “beneficial” or “good.” I did not stay long with this group because even in covens of "white" witches, there is always an undercurrent of darkness - always. I remember sitting in a class with this group, and thinking, "Why am I scared?" It was a beautiful fall day, and we were sitting in a window-filled room awash with light. I looked outside the window and saw nothing but beauty: brilliant blue skies, bright sunlight, lush orange and red foliage. But inside the room, there was an undercurrent of darkness. It is the same with vampirism. We can "cutesy" up the legends of vampires all we want (Count Chocula cereal, the Count on Sesame Street) or we can sex them up (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, the HBO series True Blood), but the fact remains that at their core, these stories are wicked and, more than that, deemed to be off-limits to Christians.
“But, it's just a book,” Christian women hasten to tell me. “It's just fiction! I’m not drinking anybody’s blood!” True enough, technically, but I would submit that anyone who reads Twilight, or goes to the movie, is vicariously enjoying this demonic world and consorting with evil spirits...in their heart. And yet what do we hear over and over in scripture? It’s the heart that God wants, not outward compliance, not….legalism. Legalism?! I can just hear the gasps of outrage at this charge, and the furious reply: “I’m not the legalist, you are! You’re the one being the book police!” But let’s just look at the Biblical teaching on legalism and see if this is a fair assessment.
We get our teaching on this from Jesus, who often used the Pharisees as an example of what legalism was. The Pharisees, remember, were the ones who were concerned with the outward appearance of things. They would have never engaged in any wicked, occultic practices, but the Bible records that their hearts were inwardly full of rebellion. Jesus, who brought a new, higher standard, exposed this discrepancy between their outward compliance and their inner wickedness in many ways. He told the Pharisees that though the outside of the cup might be beautiful, it didn’t matter when the inside was filled with filth (Matthew 23:25). He compared them to beautiful whitewashed tombs…lovely on the outside, but inwardly filled with maggots and decay and the stench of death (Matthew 23:27-28). So let's just ask ourselves: in the area of the occult, do we want to be Pharisees (legalists) in the eyes of the LORD; that is, technically correct outwardly, but having a heart that relishes wickedness?
We may not be consorting with vampires, but, when we get our thrills from reading books describing these practices and activities, is it not the same thing, in the LORD’s eyes, as if we had done the thing itself? The imagination is a very powerful thing, and when we watch or read something that requires our imagination, our emotions can often be as stirred as if we had had the experience ourselves. Regardless of how spiritually strong we think we are, we are not immune to the deceptions and enticements of Satan. As God’s redeemed, we are not told that we will never be tempted; on the contrary, we are told that we will struggle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12) Anyone who thinks that they can indulge in occultically themed books or movies and not be affected by them is either deceiving themselves or is being demonically deceived.
The cover of Twilight shows a stark black background, with the focus on two hands cupping a ripe, red apple, seeming to offer it up to the reader. This, of course, is an obvious reference to the forbidden fruit of Genesis 3, but in a sensual, enticing way. As Christians, we must remember that it did not turn out well for Eve when she began to long for the fruit God had forbidden. And we must also remember that Satan will rarely present himself in all his awful glory: he delights in taking evil and presenting it as something good and alluring....like a luscious piece of fruit that is "a delight to the eyes and good to taste." Or a sexy vampire with washboard abs.
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (Phil. 4:8)These are very dark times, and we are charged with the serious task of bringing the gospel to a lost and dying world. We know, of course, that Jesus never intended us to live as Christians only in church. He charged us to go out and love others with a supernatural love, and to present the face of Christ to the world. Now, I will agree that there is a very fine line between being in the world and being of the world. But do we really believe that we can impact the culture when we ourselves are participating in the wickedness of the world? That in any way God could be glorified by our reading of occultic literature?
As Christians, we must look to the Bible and apply the truths that are found there to our everyday lives. Scripture must always be our plumbline, our guide, our moral compass….not the world. It doesn't matter what everyone else in the world is doing: as Christians, we are held to a higher standard; we are to view everything through the lens of Scripture. If we truly believe, as the Bible says, that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood,” but rather, is spiritual in nature, then we must take this warning to heart, and in all that we do, ask this question: “Is what I am doing glorifying to the Lord?” For this must be our standard with every book we read, every movie we watch, every activity we do, and every conversation we have.
Let me close with this final word. If what I have written makes you angry, then please think on this: a secret love for the world and an unwillingness to give up what we know to be evil is not the mark of a true believer (I John 2:15-17). When we are “corrected” by scripture, we might initially resist or struggle against our newfound understanding, but those who truly belong to the LORD will always come back to Him in repentance – always. As Christians, let us love the “correction” we receive from scripture, and love even more the LORD who graciously gives us guidance in every area of our lives. And finally, let us hold fast to the exhortation of Paul in the book of Romans, and cling to what we know is good and flee from what we know is evil. And in this way, we truly will be light to a dark and dying world.
Twilight - Part 1: Emotional Porn