In honor of The Screwtape Letters, with apologies to C.S. Lewis:
To begin, we must first outline some of the differences between old converts and new believers. You would think new believers would be the easiest to tempt, but this is not always the case. Often times old Christians are much easier than new ones.
New believers may be unaccustomed to the language and behaviors of Christians, but that is of little use to us. They may have some old bad habits – and you can certainly exploit those, but what they do have is a recent fire in the belly – a fresh realization of our Rival’s holiness and their own sin. Many older believers have gone years without those thoughts. Even better, their religious habits have produced a self-satisfied version of devoutness you will find cocoons them completely.
As for the new convert, try attacking those old habits and while it may succeed in the moment, the counter-effect is that it reminds them of their sinfulness and their recent decision and drives them wholly to our Rival’s camp. You may win the battle, but lose the war, and we are taking the long-term view here.
What you can try to do, is make the young disciple question their previous conversion. Was it real, or some imaginary excitability of the moment? Have the initial feelings lingered? Is he really “changed?” Where is the proof of this? Feel free to employ feelings, legends and fairy tales – anything to make the conversion seem fanciful and completely unscientific.
On the flip side, an older Christian is unlikely to doubt their conversion experience – years ago as it was. Let’s just make sure it remains in the past. Let them remember it fondly, but without any connection to what they are doing at present. As the memories grow dim, let him file it away with that of merry Christmases or the first day of school. “Going to church” is less worrisome to our lot that which church, for they come in all varieties. (Church, yes – revival, no.)
Once your charge has found a church completely devoid of the latter, encourage he or she to stay there as long as possible. He couldn’t possibly leave now – he has made too many friends. She is on the benevolence committee (though hardly gives) and teaches 3-year olds in the nursery. It is close to her house.
An older Christian is a creature of habit – we must teach him to encourage the wrong ones.
The basics of our mission remain the same – thwart, confuse, discourage, destroy. But you will find that sometime the more subtle tactic does the trick – that the road to hell is often tiled with complete contentment, complacency and utter indifference.