- Dr. Timothy X. Merritt
Spiritual Attacks: Drawing You to Sin #7
If you have no fear of sin, you may be under Spiritual Attack. To reduce your risk, consider these remedies: 1) Avoid even the appearance of evil, 2) There is no conquest over sin unless the soul turns away from it, 3) Saints turn away from opportunities to sin as from Hell itself, and 4) Avoiding the opportunity to sin is evidence of grace.
Book Review: When I first learned about Thomas Brooks, the Puritan preacher, I was overwhelmed by his spiritual maturity and the authority of his insights. However, I also realized that because it was written in an old style of English, most of the message would be lost on a post-modern audience …the very people who need to hear his words the most! Therefore, I decided to undertake a massive book review project, reviewing each chapter individually and “translating” the key ideas into a format suitable for a popular audience. All these techniques of Spiritual Warfare are adapted from Thomas Brook’s book “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” first published in 1652, now available through Puritan Paperbacks (see the Paid Link Below).
Device #7: Making the Soul Boldy Risk Sin
Most post-modern people believe that they are basically good. They think they are good people even though they pass by the prostitute's door (think about online activity) but don't go into the prostitute's bed. Or they consume addictive substances, but they don't become addicts. Even rich people steal when they think the item is only of little value. There are many examples of this kind of behavior:
And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this, and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?"
The Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. (Joshua 7: 7-12 NIV)
How do we experience this device today?
We often believe that lying is acceptable (if nobody catches us doing it!) The more we lie, the less it seems to cost. As a consequence, we tend to lie more frequently. As many have learned the hard way, this creates a cycle with many unhappy consequences.
Social media provides us with a forum where we can speak essentially anonymously. Many people use that freedom to bear false witness against others who may disagree with their political ideology or religious beliefs. There seems to be a global frenzy for this type of behavior, and many innocent lives have been ruined by it.
Maintaining "emotional relationships" with persons who are not your spouse. Many people convince themselves that this behavior is innocuous, but innocent flirting is flirting with disaster! How many children have been forced to grow up in single-parent households because of the recklessness of parents? What a tragedy.
Remedy 1: Scripture demands that we avoid the occasion of sin, and the appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). This means that we must not just hate our gross sins, but that we also must abhor the minor signs and even tokens of sin. If a person does not wish to be burnt, they should dread the fire. If you do not wish to hear the bell, do not play with the rope. Spending time with wicked people is one of the strongest chains of Hell; it binds us to both participation and punishment.
Remedy 2: Consider that there is no conquest over sin unless the soul turns away from it. God will not remove the temptation unless you first turn away from the occasion. It is just and righteous with God that you fall into the pit if you've been dancing on the edge of the pit. As long as we have fuel in our hearts for temptation, we cannot be secure. To rush boldly upon the occasion to sin is to tempt Satan to tempt our souls. Look back on your life, do you remember how often you have been overcome by sin? Didn’t you first adventure too close to the occasion of that sin? If you desire a future that is free from acting sinfully, flee from the occasion!
Remedy 3: The third remedy against this spiritual attack is to think about the Saints that turned away from opportunities to sin as from Hell itself. The story of Joseph (Genesis 39:10) describes how he resisted the repeated immoral invitations of Potiphar's wife. In this single temptation, you may observe Joseph's fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence – the four Cardinal Virtues. Shunning the occasion of sin renders a person most like the best Saints. The devil counts an opportunity for sin as half a conquest, for he knows corruption is a seedbed of sin. It is soon set to work producing death and destruction. Everyone should strive to be like the Saints in grace, that they one day maybe like them in glory.
Remedy 4: Remember that avoiding the occasion to sin is evidence of grace. When sinful occasions present themselves to the soul, it proves who the person really is. Many wicked people are full of corruption, but you can't see it until they are tempted to sin. If a person is truly good, they will not sin, even though sorely tempted. However, a Christless soul not only indulges in sin but also looks and longs for the opportunity. Rather than go without sin, the wicked person will buy opportunities to sin at the cost of both money …and their soul. Nothing but grace can protect you from the occasion to sin when you are strongly tempted. Therefore, if you would cherish evidence of grace in your heart, avoid all sinful occasions.
Because Thomas Brooks offers so many remedies, and because he lists them so systematically, I built an online spreadsheet for easy referencing. Find all of the Remedies to Satan’s Devices at the Spiritual Warfare Curated Library. Be sure to link to the page as the spreadsheet is constantly being updated!