by Mike Ratliff
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
Yesterday we looked at the nature of Temptation. Today we will look at the danger of “entering temptation.” There is no doubt that most believers walk in defeat in this battle much of the time. On top of the guilt and self-abhorrence that are natural products of Christians sinning, there is also the battle fatigue that comes upon them which results in more guilt simply for being “tempted” in the first place. Of course, much of this can be blamed on faulty theology and an extreme drought in the area of teaching the Biblical truth about sin and temptation from our pulpits and Bible studies. To understand the danger of “entering temptation” we must first understand what it is and what it is not.
First, to our great relief, it is not merely to be tempted. Temptation will be our lot as long as we live in this age. It is impossible that Christians can be insulated from it that they would never be tempted. Satan is the god of this age. Within his power, the world is consumed with lust. Therefore, as long as we live in these bodies in this age, we will be tempted. Even our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted in every way that we are while in His earthly body. This made Him one like us except without sin. As hard as it is to grasp at times, the temptation we go through in this life is designed to make us unto Christ’s likeness. In Luke 22:28 our Saviour called His ministry a time of trials or temptation. The Word of God in no place gives us a promise of absolute freedom from temptation. The best we have is found in the Lord’s Prayer that I placed at the top of this post. He commanded that we should pray for God to, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Instead of praying not to be tempted we are commanded to pray that we not “enter into temptation.”
Entering into temptation is something more than the ordinary work of Satan combined with our own lusts. We deal with this every day of our lives. No, entering into temptation is something out of the ordinary that is not in our every day walks before the Lord. It is something that comes upon us characteristically of being seduced unto sin, on one account or other, by the way of allurement or fear. I suppose those few sentences caused your spiritual ears and eyes to go wide open for this is not what we usually hear about the nature of this battle is it?
Entering into temptation is more than merely being conquered by a temptation or to commit sin. We may “enter into temptation” and yet not fall under temptation. Our great God can make a way of escape for us, when we are in it. He can break the snare as he makes Satan flee. He can build up our hearts to be more than conquerors even though we have entered into temptation. Our Lord Jesus Christ entered temptation, but was not in the least defeated by it. So what is the “danger of entering temptation? The danger comes when we are in it and become entangled.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:9 ESV)
When we are “entering temptation” to the point of compromising our walk so as to get what we desire it as a man falling into a pit where there are traps and snares that entangle him. Think of an insect that is allured into a Pitcher Plant. The deeper it goes into the flower the more danger it is in. At some point it will reach a point of no return where the angle of the tube of the flower is too steep. It will then tumble into bottom of the plant where there is accumulated rain water where it will drown and be digested. It becomes entangled. In our case, when we fall into the pit full of traps and snares in trying to feed our desire we are not quickly killed or destroyed, but we will soon find that we are entangled and are no longer free. We will be clueless as to how to become free from what is holding us. We have become enslaved to our own flesh.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
What a comfort this statement is! Even though we have become entangled and cannot find a way out in our own abilities, God knows how to deliver us. When we allow a temptation to enter us then we have entered into it. When it is alluring us we are still free from it. All temptations begin small. They may even appear benign, but are full of poison. When we partake of the allurement then the bargaining begins to go deeper. It may even continue small, just a small compromise, not a big deal…yet.
There are conditions for entering temptation. Our enemy must turn up the heat a bit from normal. We probably will not cave into our desires if it hits us full in the face, but if it comes at us in deceptively small pieces then we may indeed fall. In any case, Satan will turn up the heat and present us with a temptation that is, so to speak, a masterpiece of allurement. Also, the nature of the temptation or trial may be so entangled with us that even when we dispute and pray, God will not take it away. Think of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. This sort of entanglement will play itself out in one of two ways. The first is that Satan, by God taking His hand away for His own purposes, has an advantage against the one he is attacking. For instance, Satan demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat. (Luke 22:31-32). The second is when our lusts and corruptions meet up with whatever can provoke them to be exercised fully. Think of David seeing Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop and what happened because of David’s adultery and murder of her husband. In either case, the man or woman has entered into temptation.
Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. (Revelation 3:10 ESV)
In either state, the Christian has entered into temptation. According to Revelation 3:10 this is the “hour of temptation” or “hour of trial.” In this hour the temptation will grow like a boil into a head. When we are in the hour of temptation then we must also know that we have “entered into temptation.” This is nothing unusual. Every great and pressing temptation has its hour or season. During this “time” it grows into a head. It becomes vigorous, active, insidious, operative, and prevalent. It may take a long time to come to a head, however, when it does, it appears to take us over. Prior to “entering into temptation” we can easily scorn and resist it. We may even think that we will never fall for it again. However, when God allows the conditions to be met for our “entering into temptation” then we will find that we have no ability, in ourselves, to resist it. For whatever reason or cause, the temptation has become stronger and the Christian has become debilitated in the ability to resist it. The hour has come and he or she has entered into temptation.
Is there a way to know when temptation is in its hour? A temptation attains its hour several ways. One way is by long solicitations where the believer converses with the evil that is the subject of the temptation. This weakens the Christian’s resolve over time by causing his or her thoughts to make it less serious in their minds. If this succeeds then, like a house of cards, it is inevitable that the fall is coming as the temptation progresses to its hour. Interestingly, when this process first starts the Christian probably recoiled from the idea that they would consider this evil. They may even be indignant about it. The problem comes when they do not continually fight this battle by becoming more and more indignant. If they keep the status quo they will eventually be worn down as they converse with evil. Instead of fleeing from it, they become familiar with it. Once they become convinced that it is only a little sin, not a big one, then the temptation is at its “high noon.” Lust has then enticed and entangled, and it is ready to “conceive.” (James 1:15)
We can also know when temptation is at its hour when it has prevailed on others, and our soul is not filled with dislike and abhorrence of them and their ways, nor with pity and prayer for their deliverance. If this is our state then the temptation has a huge advantage over us. It is moving forward quickly at this point. Unless we move into complete dislike and abhorrence for those who have fallen and the evil itself then we are likely the temptation’s next victims.
Another thing that happens that we may know that a temptation is in its hour is that has morphed into a form where it has complicated itself with many considerations that, perhaps, are not evil at all. This is what happened to the Galatians. They had a zeal for the Gospel, which is good, but it caused them to fall under the spell of the Judiazers.
Is there a way to know when temptation has attained its “high noon?” If we are plagued by its incessant urgency and arguing with us then we must know that it is restless. It is ready to do battle with us; therefore, it gives us no rest whatsoever. Satan is shrewd. He knows that his victories come mostly by wearing us down. It is at these times that the temptation in our minds will be so severe that unless God does provide the way of escape, and we take it, then we will have entered into temptation.
Another way to know if a temptation has attained its “high noon” is when it combines fear with enticements. They come at the believer together in full force. The fear is that of being exposed for whatever reason and the allurement is made nearly irresistible. Think of David’s killing of Uriah so that he could possess Bathsheba. David feared for Bathsheba if Uriah found out about their affair. He may have even feared for himself. He probably feared the whole thing would be made public. Then, the allurement was to have Bathsheba to himself. David was dealing with a temptation that had reached its “high noon.”
It sounds pretty rugged and hopeless doesn’t it? However, as we saw in yesterday’s post, our Lord gave us what we need to withstand and prevent temptation ever reaching the stage where we are in it up to our necks before we know it. What was it? We are to “watch” and “pray.” What does it mean, “to watch?” It means to be on our guard, to take heed, to consider all of the ways and means so that we will be on our guard. We should proactively consider all of the ways and means whereby our enemy may make an approach to tempt.
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV)
Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
(Revelation 3:2 ESV)
We must be careful and diligent by exercising all ways and means prescribed by God, over our hearts and ways. Then we must understand the methods of our enemy. How does Satan bait and trap his prey? What about the world and its ways? How does it entice us to sin?
Prayer should be self explanatory. What are we to pray for? We are to pray that we not be lead into temptation. We are to pray for a way of escape and, by faith, believe that God will give us one. When He does, then we must take it.
“To believe that He will preserve us is, indeed, a means of preservation. God will certainly preserve us, and make a way of escape for us out of the temptation, should we fall. We are to pray for what God has already promised. Our requests are to be regulated by His promises and commands. Faith embraces the promises and so finds relief.” – John Owen
Tomorrow, by God’s grace, we will look at our duty as believers to be diligent and not fall into temptation. Soli Deo Gloria!