Browsing Tag

temptation

Christian Life, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Warfare

Fighting Cravings

December 23, 2016

 

 

 

For most long-time followers of Christ many of the sins we end up in aren’t the result of conscious, pre-meditated disobedience. More often than not it’s a split-second decision to go along with a seemingly out-of-nowhere craving. The Apostle James describes it in his epistle, writing, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14)

We are lured and enticed by the cravings that come flowing from within our flesh, choosing in those moments to go with the flow into sin when we could instead, by the Spirit, “stand firm” (Eph. 6) and resist temptation. According to a recent webinar with the VitalSmarts, several studies have shown that most cravings last around three minutes, so if we can resist and refocus ourselves for three minutes we’ll see a drastic shift away from giving into those craving-driven sin. The question is, what do we do during those painful three minutes?

Proverbs 21 has some wise insight for us here:

“A slacker’s craving will kill him
Because his hands refuse to work.
He is filled with craving all day long,
But the righteous give and don’t hold back.”
– Proverbs 21:25-26

Cravings will kill

Both James and the writer of Proverbs agree – when we give into temptation and cravings it ends in death. A slacker’s cravings, in this case for food, ultimately kill him because he’s too lazy to get up and do the work to earn money to feed himself. Similarly, in a spiritual sense it’s often our laziness that gives our cravings and temptations power to draw us into the deadly grip of sin. We refuse to do the work that would carry us away from temptation because it’s more difficult.

It’s combat, and it’s what we were given the power to do when we were born again and received the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at two practical ways to combat temptation and cravings outlined in the Proverb above.

Combat the cravings

1. Put your hands to work

God always provides a way out of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), but it often looks like hard work, so we often choose to float along into death because it seems easier in the moment. But that’s not what we were created for. We were created with purpose for good works (Eph. 2). The slacker’s cravings kill him because his hands refuse to work, so combat your cravings by putting yourself to work.

Do you find yourself craving over-indulging on food Friday nights? Get up from the couch and do some small house work for 10 minutes. Tempted towards pornography? Put your body to work by exercising for 15 minutes. More often than not the craving will be gone by the time you’re done.

2. Give generously

The writer of this proverb contrasts the man who is “filled with craving all day long” with the righteous person who gives generously and doesn’t hold anything back. Generosity is one of the most potent defenses against temptation. Are you fighting a deep-set craving today? Get up, find another human, and bless them somehow. Bless them generously, whether that be financially or with words of encouragement or helping them with a task. As you turn your focus off your cravings and onto the needs of another human being your craving will dissipate like fog beneath the summer sun.

Practice, Practice

Pushing through moments of temptation and craving isn’t an easy thing. Just like any skill it takes practice, and the longer you’ve been giving into the craving the more practice it will take you to divert that temptation into something good and glorious. I wrote this blog post as much for myself as for anyone else who might read it – there are plenty of cravings that I too easily give into, and I intend to take these two practices from Proverbs and put them into action as we move towards a new year. Will you join me?

As we do so may God bless us with his grace to take advantage of the escape from every temptation that he provides so we can find ourselves living in the beautiful, free life that is found in Christ rather than in the dark, crushing captivity of giving into the flesh and its cravings.

 

 

 

Fallout Revisited, Spiritual Growth

Fallout Revisited: Joab’s Strategem

March 23, 2011

When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.

–          2 Samuel 10:9-11

Only a fool goes to fight an army alone, yet here stand we Christians on the battlefield, fighting against that which wages war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11), often standing on our hilltops surrounded by enemies who we intend to beat back by our strength alone. Little wonder that we fail so often! Here Joab, the seasoned commander of David’s armies, a man who has won battle after battle after battle and who by all means should be confident in his ability to conquer, class upon his brother to assist him. Even after defeating numerous enemies in battles where the odds were completely against him, Joab does not assume that he is able to win alone, so he invites Abishai to help. Oh, that we would have the wisdom and humility to do so when the enemy bounds us on all sides!

The point of this passage is simple; when the enemy is too great for you, ask your brother to assist you in the battle.  However, there are three other observations that I shall make which may greatly assist us day to day.

 

1. Joab recognized the situation and acknowledged his need.

Firstly, Joab recognized the direness of the situation. Most often it is this first  step is the one that we miss and are defeated by. How can we prepare if we do not know there is to be a battle? And how can we prepare adequately if we do not know the strength of the enemy?  “Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear.” He scanned his surroundings and attended to the position and number of the enemy, a thing that we often fail to do. Joab was not busy in his tent preparing a meal or resting, nor was he drinking or being entertained with his comrades. No, he was alert on the battlefield, keeping watch for the attack that he knew would come.

Brothers and sisters, we need to learn this lesson! We are surrounded by a culture that cries “Eat, drink, be merry! There is no war and no worries!” Even among the church there are those who do as Jeremiah complains of in Jeremiah 8:11, saying “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” And indeed, there is no peace. The devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour those who are asleep or too drunk to fight. But you, men and women of the Lord, are called to remain alert and ready for the battle;  to prepare your minds for action and be sober-minded, and to be on guard against the enemy. (1 Peter 5:8)

I urge you, do so! Cast off those things which entangle you, whatever it may be. Perhaps it is video games that lull you into spiritual slumber (they certainly do so for me), or perhaps it is literal alcohol that bereaves you of your sobriety. For some relationships are the enemy’s tool to distract from the true battle, for others it may be success in the workplace, and for still others it may be music. There are a myriad of things in this world which will distract us from the enemy’s strategies. Be like Joab and remain alert, watching for the enemies attack and ready to counter it.

Secondly, Joab made his need known to his brother. It does a man no good to remain sober and alert and see the enemy’s ploy if he does not react to it. I have noticed in myself a deadly mix of foolish passiveness and pride that expects others to see my plight and come to my assistance. Not so with Joab! See how readily he invites his brother Abishai to take charge of part of the army and help in the defense, thereby foiling the Ammonites and Syrians. Do not think yourself any better than this great general of Israel’s armies. When you have noted that the enemy may be more than you are able to handle alone, go to your brother and ask for his assistance. They will gladly give it.

Note also how it was his brother from whom he requested help, not merely some common soldier. He chose a man whom he had grown with and who he could trust to hold his own, a man that he knew would not cower beneath the enemy’s attack or be too quick to enter the battle. As Christians, we each need people like this in our lives; people who we can trust and are able to depend on.  But in order to have relationships like that, we must open ourselves to spending time with brothers and sisters, making a conscious decision and perhaps even mutual agreement to be there for each other, particularly in a culture that is drawing us more and more into individualism and seclusion. Do not be too proud to ask for help, and don’t be too proud to open yourself to others.  It is only together that we are stronger.

2. A plan was made before the battle and was expressed clearly to the others.

Being aware of the strength and strategy of the enemy and bringing others to help in the battle are excellent things, but they will be of little benefit if a clear plan is not laid out. Joab makes the strategy clear to Abishai when he says “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.” It doesn’t have to be an intricate strategy of attacks and feigned retreats, but the plan must be clear. Are there times that you are particularly tempted? Set out a plan with the brother or sister who has agreed to help you in the battle and stand by it. Perhaps as simple as “Text me on Saturday morning to remind me to stay strong,” or, “I’ll let you know when him and I are going to be together,” or, “I’m going to fast from movies, tv, and video games this week. Will you check on me on Tuesday and Friday to encourage me to stick with it?”

The clearer the plan is to all parties involved, the easier it will be to hold to. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by vague statements like “I’ll get in touch occasionally to see how you are doing.” Instead, set dates and times to do so. And do so well before the battle, not as the battle happens. It is sheer idiocy to wait until an attack to prepare. (And you don’t want to be an idiot.)

Also, note how it is Joab, the one against whom the attack is taking place, who makes the plan. He doesn’t come to his brother Abishai and say “Well brother, I’ve got a battle coming up, will you make a strategy for me?” Instead, he takes responsibility for his own battle, bearing the burden of preparing and planning. The same should be true for us in our temptations and struggles. Not that our brothers and sisters should not help us, but we must not rely on them to carry us out of our sin.  Far from it! We are to be helping them even as they help us, as we will see in the next point.

3. The guarding was mutual, not one way.

Thirdly and finally, the strategy that Joab and Abishai use helps both of them. If the Syrians begin to overwhelm Joab, then Abishai and his forces are to come and help. If Abishai is being conquered by the Ammonites, then Joab and his forces will come to their assistance.  And so it should be for us in our day to day lives. We are not to be parasites, only absorbing the service and help of others. Instead, we are called to “mutually encourage” each other in the faith (Romans 1:12) and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

How beautiful of a thing it is to see a group of people working together towards one goal! And it is to exactly that which we are called as brothers and sisters in Christ. Make a point of finding one or two people with whom you will band together, spurring each other on in love and good deeds and helping to keep each to live righteous and holy lives. Let it be a thing that is mutual, each person assisting where the other is weak, for that is what we have been called to do.

I leave you with this challenge, my friends; be like Joab and stay alert to the enemy, prepare and seek the help of others in the faith, make clear plans, and assist each other in the battle. There is much war around and within us, but praise be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are able to take heart, for He has overcome the world! Go, and live together in that glorious truth.

 

Prose

Joab’s Stratagem

January 12, 2010


When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.

–          2 Samuel 10:9-11

Only a fool goes to fight an army alone, yet here stand we Christians on the battlefield, fighting against that which wages war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11), more often standing on our hilltops surrounded by enemies who we aim to beat back by our strength alone. Is it any wonder that we fail? Yet here is Joab, the seasoned commander of David’s armies, a man who has won battle after battle after battle and who by all means should be confident in his ability to win, calling upon his brother to assist him. Joab has come from defeating numerous enemies in battles where the odds are completely against him, and yet still he does not take pride in his prowess and assume that he is able to win alone, so he invites Abishai to help. Oh, that we would have the wisdom and humility to do so when the enemy bounds us on all sides!

The point of this passage is simple; when the enemy is too great for you, ask your brother to assist you in the battle.  However, there are three other observations that I shall make which may greatly assist us day to day.

1. Joab recognized the situation and acknowledged his need.

    Firstly, Joab recognized the direness of the situation and that he needed help. Most often it is this first  step is the one that we miss and are defeated by. How can we prepare if we do not know there is to be a battle? And how can we prepare adequately if we do not know the strength of the enemy? Joab, “Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear.” He scanned his surroundings and attended to the position and number of the enemy, a thing that we fail to do. Joab was not busy in his tent preparing a meal or resting, nor was he drinking or being entertained with his comrades. No, he was alert on the battlefield, keeping watch for the attack that he knew would come.

    Brothers and sisters, we need to learn this lesson! We are surrounded by a culture that cries “Eat, drink, be merry! There is no war and no worries!” Even among the church there are those who do as Jeremiah complains of in Jeremiah 8:11, saying “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” And indeed, there is no peace. The devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour those who are asleep or too drunk to fight. But you, men and women of the Lord, are called to remain alert and ready for the battle; (1 Peter 5:8) to prepare your minds for action and be sober-minded, and to be on guard against the enemy.

    I urge you, do so! Cast off those things which entangle you, whatever it may be. Perhaps it is video games that lull you into spiritual slumber (they certainly do so for me), or perhaps it is literal alcohol that bereaves you of your sobriety. For some relationships are the enemy’s tool to distract from the true battle, for others it may be success in the workplace, and for still others it may be music. There are a myriad of things in this world which will distract us from the enemy’s strategies. Be like Joab and remain alert, watching for the enemies attack and ready to counter it.

    Secondly, Joab made his need known to his brother. It does a man no good to remain sober and alert and see the enemy’s ploy if he does not react to it. I have noticed in myself a deadly mix of foolish passiveness and pride that expects others to see my plight and come to my assistance. Not so with Joab! See how readily he invites his brother Abishai to take charge of part of the army and help in the defense, thereby foiling the Ammonites and Syrians. Do not think yourself any better than this great general of Israel’s armies. When you have noted that the enemy may be more than you are able to handle alone, go to your brother and ask for his assistance. He will gladly give it.

    Note also how it was his brother from whom he requested help, not merely some common soldier. He chose a man whom he had grown with and who he could trust to hold his own, a man that he knew would not cower beneath the enemy’s attack or be too quick to enter the battle. As Christians, we each need people like this in our lives; people who we can trust and are able to depend on.  But in order to have relationships like that, we must open ourselves to spending time with brothers and sisters, making a conscious decision and perhaps even mutual agreement to be there for each other, particularly in a culture that is drawing us more and more into individualism and seclusion. Do not be too proud to ask for help, and don’t be too proud to open yourself to others.  It is only together that we are stronger.

    2. A plan was made before the battle and was expressed clearly to the others.

      Being aware of the strength and strategy of the enemy and bringing others to help in the battle are excellent things, but they will be of little benefit if a clear plan is not laid out. Joab makes the strategy clear to Abishai when he says “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you.” It doesn’t have to be an intricate strategy of attacks and feigned retreats, but the plan must be clear. Are there times that you are particularly tempted? Set out a plan with the brother or sister who has agreed to help you in the battle and stand by it. Perhaps as simple as “Text me on Saturday morning to remind me to stay strong,” or, “I’ll let you know when him and I are going to be together,” or, “I’m going to fast from movies, tv, and video games this week. Will you remind me and check on me on Tuesday and Friday to encourage me to stick with it?”

      The clearer the plan is to all parties involved, the easier it will be to hold to. Don’t allow yourself to be deceived by vague statements like “I’ll get in touch occasionally to see how you are doing.” Instead, set dates and times to do so. And do so well before the battle, not as the battle happens. It is sheer idiocy to wait until an attack to prepare. (And you don’t want to be an idiot.)

      Also, note how it is Joab, the one against whom the attack is taking place, who makes the plan. He doesn’t come to his brother Abishai and say “Well brother, I’ve got a battle coming up, will you make a strategy for me?” Instead, he takes responsibility for his own battle, bearing the burden of preparing and planning. The same should be true for us in our temptations and struggles. Not that our brothers and sisters should not help us, but we must not rely on them to carry us out of our sin.  Far from it! We are to be helping them even as they help us, as we will see in the next point.

      3. The guarding was mutual, not one way.

        Thirdly and finally, the strategy that Joab and Abishai use helps both of them. If the Syrians begin to overwhelm Joab, then Abishai and his forces are to come and help. If Abishai is being conquered by the Ammonites, then Joab and his forces will come to their assistance.  And so it should be for us in our day to day lives. We are not to be parasites, only absorbing the service and help of others. Instead, we are called to “mutually encourage” each other in the faith (Romans 1:12) and to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

        How beautiful of a thing it is to see a group of people working together towards one goal! And it is to exactly that which we are called as brothers and sisters in Christ. Make a point of finding one or two people with whom you will band together, spurring each other on in love and good deeds and helping to keep each to live righteous and holy lives. Let it be a thing that is mutual, each person assisting where the other is weak, for that is what we have been called to do.

        I leave you with this challenge, my friends; be like Joab and stay alert to the enemy, prepare and seek the help of others in the faith, make clear plans, and assist each other in the battle. There is much war around and within us, but praise be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are able to take heart, for He has overcome the world! Go, and live together in that glorious truth.

        Prose

        ANTHEM

        August 30, 2009

        Grabbed this from Piper’s blog over at Hyperlink to Desiring God , thought it was well worth reposting to share with anyone who wants to read. Wise words here, lust is a massive thing to fight against in our culture, and this acronym gives a person an easy to to remember strategy to use in their fight.

        I have in mind men and women. For men it’s obvious. The need for warfare against the bombardment of visual temptation to fixate on sexual images is urgent. For women it is less obvious, but just as great if we broaden the scope of temptation to food or figure or relational fantasies. When I say “lust” I mean the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct. So here is one set of strategies in the war against wrong desires. I put it in the form of an acronym, A N T H E M.

        A – AVOID as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire. I say “possible and reasonable” because some exposure to temptation is inevitable. And I say “unfitting desire” because not all desires for sex, food, and family are bad. We know when they are unfitting and unhelpful and on their way to becoming enslaving. We know our weaknesses and what triggers them. “Avoiding” is a Biblical strategy. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).

        N – Say NO to every lustful thought within five seconds. And say it with the authority of Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus, NO!” You don’t have much more than five seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable. Say it out loud if you dare. Be tough and warlike. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Strike fast and strike hard. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” ( James 4:7).

        T – TURN the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction. Saying “no” will not suffice. You must move from defense to offense. Fight fire with fire. Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ. The Bible calls lusts “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They lie. They promise more than they can deliver. The Bible calls them “passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). Only fools yield. “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter” (Proverbs 7:22). Deceit is defeated by truth. Ignorance is defeated by knowledge. It must be glorious truth and beautiful knowledge. This is why I wrote Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. We must stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus. Then we must turn to them immediately after saying, “NO!”

        H – HOLD the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). Here is where many fail. They give in too soon. They say, “I tried to push it out, and it didn’t work.” I ask, “How long did you try?” How hard did you exert your mind? The mind is a muscle. You can flex it with vehemence. Take the kingdom violently (Matthew 11:12). Be brutal. Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes. Hold it. Hold it! Don’t let it go! Keep holding it! How long? As long as it takes. Fight! For Christ’s sake, fight till you win! If an electric garage door were about to crush your child you would hold it up with all our might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.

        E – ENJOY a superior satisfaction. Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal. We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. Don’t say, “That’s just not me.” What steps have you taken to waken affection for Jesus? Have you fought for joy? Don’t be fatalistic. You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart – more than you treasure sex or sugar. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph. Plead with God for the satisfaction you don’t have: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Then look, look, look at the most magnificent Person in the universe until you see him the way he is.

        M – MOVE into a useful activity away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviors. Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure. Find a good work to do, and do it with all your might. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Abound in work. Get up and do something. Sweep a room. Hammer a nail. Write a letter. Fix a faucet. And do it for Jesus’ sake. You were made to manage and create. Christ died to make you “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Displace deceitful lusts with a passion for good deeds.

        Fighting at your side,

        Pastor John

        Poetry, Prose

        The Temptation of God Himself

        August 2, 2009

        Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
        The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
        Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”
        The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
        Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
        The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
        “‘He will command his angels concerning you
        to guard you carefully;
        they will lift you up in their hands,
        so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
        Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

        -Luke 4:1-13

        A few quick observations on this text that I read this morning before I head off to sleep. Gotta get up early tomorrow, pack for a missions trip, and roll on out. Nothing like last minute preparation, eh? Anyways, as so often happens with the Word, I’ve read this story numerous times and heard it preached on or touched upon by various Christian leaders equally as many, and yet still there is much to gain from it.

        This morning as I was mulling over this section of scripture it struck me that I have, without even realizing it, had the idea in my head that to fight temptation we quote scripture and perhaps pray, and that takes care of it. That’s the general idea I’ve heard drawn from this text many times, and it is the obvious conclusion when we see how Christ rebuffs Satan’s attacks consistently quoting from scripture. However, though that is true, my mind stopped short of this realization; when Christ quotes scripture and fights against Satan’s temptation, the temptation doesn’t disappear. In fact, in continues on for what may have been hours more as Satan took Christ around the world, offering him one thing after another.

        Somewhere along the line I got this silly idea that when we resist Satan and temptation, they will immediately cease to fight. Oh how wrong that is! Time and time again we must cast ourselves upon the Word, trusting in it over and above our own desires. Our flesh and the devil are no weak foes; they conspire together in unwavering war, always waiting for a moment to pounce and make their entrance into the fortress of the heart. Which leads me to my second observation.
        Once again, somehow I’d ended up with only a partial truth, and a partial truth is no better than a partial leg or hand; it will not do nearly as much as the whole can do. What is an arm without a hand or a leg without a foot? So is a piece of what is true without the whole. It may allow you to hobble or grope for the thing which you seek, but progress will be slow and painful.

        In these verses, Luke makes the seemingly small but massively important not that Jesus was in the desert, “where for forty days and forty nights he was tempted”. Why is it that I’d always thought that he was just out in the desert fasting for all those days until the final one when Satan appears, and then the temptation began? Ah, the foolishness of the human mind! How easily we ignore what is there for all to see.

        But, thanks be to God, He has revealed to me at least a small piece more of His truth! And this is what I see; Firstly, the intensity and forwardness of temptation varies from time to time. Perhaps one day it will be something subtle that slips in without notice, as so often happens. Other times it is a hundred small pin pricks that lead to a large fall. At still others it is a temptation like Christ’s final day in the wilderness, where it is a cunning frontal attack by the enemy, obvious but nonetheless devastating for those who are not prepared.

        Note how the section finishes with Luke noting that Satan left “until an opportune time.” It is when we are at our weakest that those brutal frontal attacks are most likely to come, if I understand this verse and my own experience right. Are you tired at the end of a long, wearisome weak? Has there been many points where you have nearly fallen this day? Do not lower your guard. No, raise it all the more! Just like the drowsy driver will turn up music or stop and splash water upon his face before driving further lest sleep behind the wheel and destroy himself, so we must take action to keep ourselves alert when we are weak.

        My second and final observation on Christ being tempted for forty days and forty nights is a call to rejoicing. Do not despair, weary saint! Christ has undergone forty days without food and under siege by the devil himself, and withstood a temptation of a magnitude that I do not think we are likely to face. How many will be brought face to face with Satan himself and be offered the kingdoms of the world? Yet in the face of such great peril, Christ has overcome! Truly, God chose the weakest things in the world to make into not those which are. Why else would He ordain that His son be so tempted at the end of such an arduous fast?
        Have courage on two fronts because of this, Christian. Firstly, Christ has overcome temptations far greater than you will ever endure. He is the sure winner of every contest, and He is your shield and salvation; a strong fortress in times of trouble and a captain who shall guide you through every perilous channel. Secondly, the Savior – God Himself – knows what it is to undergo every earthy tug towards sin, and He prays that you might overcome them all. We have a high priest who sympathizes with us because He has felt the sting of every whip. Do not think yourself beyond redemption or rescue, for as Satan said in an attempt to use a partial truth, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; the will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Though the deceiver misused those words, they are a glorious comfort to those who are called of God. Surely, you will be lifted in His hands so that you will not fall.
        Temptation will come, it is sure, but be not overly afraid of those moments. Instead, keep guard, seek the whole truth, and rejoice that Christ has overcome and now guides and intercedes on our behalf.
        Now that is good news.

        Prose

        River Course

        June 9, 2009

        “Take an empty vessel and put it into some stream that is in its course to the sea, it will infallibly be carried thither, according to the course and speed of the stream; but let strong winds arise upon it, it will be driven with violence on every bank and rock, until, being broke in pieces, it is swallowed up of the ocean. Men’s lust will infallibly (if not mortified in the death of Christ) carry them to eternal ruin, but oftentimes without much noise, according to the course of the stream of their corruptions; but let the wind of strong temptations befall them, they are hurried into innumerable scandalous sins, and so, broken upon all accounts, are swallowed up into eternity.”

        Overcoming Sin and Temptation, three classic works by John Owen, p. 190

        How many people today have wrecked themselves upon “every bank and rock” as they allow themselves to flirt with the sins that surround them, ever floating towards what Owen describes as the ocean of eternity. The above section is part of a paragraph from Owen’s essay on the nature of temptation and how to avoid entering in to it, and what a mind bending essay it is! I would highly recommend it to all who would spend the time to read it in its fullness. My call here to you is the same as Owen’s is, and the same that Christ’s is in the garden of Gethsemane when he told his disciples to “Watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation.”

        I see so many people around me, and so much in myself, that is like the empty vessel that Owen describes above, floating blindly – perhaps slowly – but surely towards the sea, not knowing that it is flowing away from the safety and peace and joy of the heartland of God. Do not allow yourselves to be lulled to sleep, my friends! We are surrounded by infinite temptations in this world in which we reside. From sex to food to entertainment to work to rest, all things are things that tempt us to abuse what is good and thereby make it evil. Do not think, like that empty vessel, that simply because everything seems calm and smooth all is well. In my own experience as a Christian, that is often the opposite of the truth. More often than not it is the times where everything seems perfectly gentle and passive that I am, in truth, drifting swiftly from the King I love.

        At times it is God’s mercy that sends a wind to crash us upon the rocks at the side of the stream in which we float, awaking us from our slumber and causing us to realize just how far away we’ve fell. But how much better for the man who keeps his guard and stops his backsliding before he has fallen even an inch! Doing so would save many a person from numerous trials and heartaches.

        My cry for you this day, dear friends, is that you would not simply take the river course like an empty vessel and allow yourself to drift away into an ocean of misery, distant from the creator. Instead, be on your guard and be aware of the temptations that surround us. Guard your heart, as Proverbs exhorts(Prov. 4:23). Know where it is that you are most vulnerable; what things draw you most strongly away from Christ; the times of the days and seasons that you are most susceptible; and keep those things not only strongly in your own mind, but reveal them to a choice few Christian brothers and sisters so that they might also be a guard and a shield to keep you close to the Lord. Never cease to press hard after the Lord. Delve deeply into His word and set aside frequent, regular times where you will draw away from the temptations of the earth to come before Him in prayer and praise. Surround yourself by the things of God, and set your mind not on earthly things, but upon things above, where Christ, who is our Righteousness, is seated at the right hand of God. (Coll. 3:1)