Entering into Temptation
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Matthew 26:41, NKJV)
In the news this week, I read of the British police who charged two Russian citizens with the Novichok, nerve agent attack on ex-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. It seems they concealed the agent in a fake bottle of high end perfume and then sprayed it on the front door of their house in Salisbury. Apparently, they disposed of the perfume bottle in a charity bin in the town. This was in turn discovered by the hapless Charlie Rowley who then gave the expensive perfume to his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess. Ms Sturgess later died from exposure to the nerve agent.
Just like Novichok, sin kills on contact. This is true for every human being. The Puritans used to say, “Sin has dug every grave.” Sin kills everything and everyone it touches. There is a relentless logic to Paul’s words, “If you—whoever you are, whatever profession of religion you make, whatever spiritual experiences you have enjoyed—if you live according to the flesh, you must die. (Romans 8:13).”
This principle holds true irrespective of the amount of sin. A small drop of Novichok will kill a person, and so will a little sin. A pistol will kill a man just as dead as a nuclear warhead; so a small sin, when unconfessed, will kill and damn the soul just as surely as a big one. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23).
As Christians we often forget this. In that black corner of our soul, where the darkness looks bright, we like to think, “But I live in the age of grace. And does grace not nullify the effects of sin?”
Well in one sense it no doubt does. Through Christ, grace pays the debt of sin. Through Christ, grace cancels the guilt of sin. And through Christ, grace breaks the power of sin. By so doing, grace will never let the redeemed soul live comfortably in sin. And so, while the elect cannot out-sin God’s grace, yet the more they sin, the more God’s grace abounds to draw them out of sin.
If you hear in these words any downgrade of the urgency to repent and flee from the wrath to come, DON’T!
Playing with sin is no way to make your calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10).
Playing with sin allows the principle of death into your hearts and lives. Think of it like this: would the blessed promise, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, etc.” (Romans 8:28), encourage you to allow your children to come into contact with cancer causing chemicals or the ebola virus? Of Course not! Well then why would you allow the promise of grace to encourage you to play fast and loose with lethal evil?
Well, you might say, I am quite confident that I am elect and cannot therefore lose my salvation, so while I would not allow myself to fall into great sin, I don’t really need to be neurotic when it comes to dealing with smaller sins. But have you forgotten what Jesus said, “He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much, and he who is faithless in a little will be faithless in much” (Luke 16:10)? Would you not agree with Thomas Watson, when he said, “It is a great sin to love a small sin.” Don’t you realize that God will not be mocked. There is an unavoidable sowing and reaping logic to life. “If we sow to the flesh we will from the flesh reap corruption. If we sow to the Spirit we will from the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8).” Sometimes burglars use small children to climb through tiny windows to open the front door of the house. So also, the devil sometimes uses small sins to open the door to larger ones. If we think this won’t happen, we presume upon a strength we simply do not have.
Jesus says, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.” Temptation is when the devil reaches through the keyhole of your soul. You enter into temptation, however, when you unlock the door and leave it ajar. Jesus says we must watch and pray against such folly. At such times, It is not so much that we enter into temptation, but that we allow it to enter in to us.
For the true Christian, of course, sin cannot damn his soul, but this should afford shallow comfort to the christian embracing it. Like a wrecking ball, sin will tend to kill everything in our lives we hold dear: Our enjoyment of God’s presence, our strength to live for God, our ability to love others, our marriage, our reputations, etc., etc. Saved we might be, but only as if through fire (1Cor. 3:15).
So let us make no peace with sin. Let us wage total warfare. Let us show evil the black flag (NO QUARTER GIVEN TO THOSE WHO SURRENDER). Let us fight this battle in the strength of Christ, for we have none of our own. Let us plead His merit, make use of His atoning blood, by faith touching the resurrection power of His endless life, and in so doing let us walk by the Spirit and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
“/And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness./” (1 John 3:3–4, NASB95)