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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11b
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #2
Tonight we come to the second study of Thomas Brooks' classic work, "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices". Brooks was a Puritan who died in 1680. Like other Puritans, he excelled in practical religion. In this book, he exposes the mind of Satan to help us overcome the evil one.
A "device" is a strategy or a trick; it's the devil's way of getting us to sin. Last week, we studied concealment. Brooks wrote of Satan, "His first device to draw the soul to sin is to present the bait and to hide the hook". He emphasizes the pleasure and profit of sin, while ignoring the misery and wrath that must follow. Satan is like the tobacco companies, advertising the benefits of smoking without saying much about the pesky lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema that tend to go with it.
Satan's second device to draw the soul to sin is "by painting sin with virtue's colors". Brooks is on to something here--something important. If Satan cannot hide sin, he simply re-names it. And the name he gives it makes it seem neutral, at least, and sometimes, quite good. For example, have you ever heard someone say, "I am pro-abortion"? I haven't; they say "I am pro-choice". In a free society who wants to be "anti-choice"? "Pro-abortion" and "Pro-choice" mean precisely the same thing. But the former sounds ugly and heartless, while the latter sounds tolerant and liberating. Satan frames the killing of unborn children as "A woman's right to choose".
Another example is euthanasia, or called "death with dignity". Who could be against that? Who's in favor of "death with shame"? No one is, of course! Yet, the so-called "right to die" is, in fact, something else: it's the right to kill. But that won't sell, and so Satan calls it something else. In the words of the Puritan, he "paints sin with virtue's colors".
These are obvious ones. Everyone here--I hope--has seen through them. But some of Satan's tricks are more subtle than these.
Self-righteousness may be the Church's most common sin. One reason it's so popular is that it goes by many wonderful names. It's hard to put a good spin on adultery or theft. But haughtiness goes by holiness, consistency, discipline, high standards, and so on. How can you tell the difference? It's quite simple--if you're willing to be honest. Holiness differs from haughtiness in two unmistakable ways: it is broken before the Lord and it feels for the weak and sinful. If these things are not of true of you, Satan calls you "uncompromising", but God has another word, "Unclean".
A second example is cowardice. It is every believer's duty to speak up for Jesus Christ--"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so". But, for most of us, it's scary. People will roll their eyes at you or run away, or who knows? Maybe they'll punch you in the nose! And so, we don't witness at all; or at least not much. To think "I'm a coward" makes me feel very badly. And so--abra cadabra--I'm "wise, prudent, discerning". In fact, I'm obeying the Word by not "Casting [my] pearls before swine". If you're thinking this way, recall our Lord's temptation and Satan's use of Scripture to make Him to sin.
When it comes to money, Satan works all the angles. Covetousness he calls "enjoying the good life God gives you"; greed he calls "planning for the future"; showy giving he calls "setting a good example". A family buys a house it can't afford to "show hospitality". They buy a car they can't pay for, to "take kids home after church". They go all out for Christmas because they "love their children". Remember, the devil can mix the best motives in with the worst sins.
"Love" is Satan's trickiest device. It is used to justify fornication, divorce, pampering children, and abortion.
"The things we do for love".
These examples, of course, don't cover the field. Satan never gets tired finding new ways to make sin look good.
As believers in Christ, it is our duty to see through his tricks and "yield not to temptation". How do we do it? Thomas Brooks offers some good advice, under four remedies. They are:
"Consider that sin is never a whit the less filthy, vile, and abominable, by its being painted with virtues colors".
Words do not change reality. You may say, "There's nothing sweeter than a lemon". But when you bite into it, it's still sour! You've changed the word, but not the reality. Likewise, you can call sin "good", but you can't make it good. You can say, "it will make me happy", but it won't. John Adams wrote,
"Facts are stubborn things".
Sin is one of those facts that won't be changed by wishing it were so. Remember: words change, the Word does not. That's a good remedy to Satan's devices.
A second remedy is,
"Consider, the more sin is painted with the color of virtue, the more dangerous it is to the soul".
This is another gem. Think about it: "Betraying my wife" is appalling. But "Falling in love with another woman" doesn't sound so bad, does it? While millions of men do the latter every year, hardly anyone admits to the former. Yet the two are identical.
Soft words make sin more likely. Because they disguise its true nature, they lessen the guilt of committing it. Fornication sounds so much worse than "dating"; who wants to get drunk when he can "party?"
"Satan was the first lawyer" Martin Luther quipped. He opened the first advertising agency, too, I might add. He "packaged" the forbidden fruit to look irresistible to Eve--"Good for food, he said, "pleasant to the eyes, a tree to be desired...You shall be as God".
The better he made the fruit look to her, the more likely she was to eat it. And not her alone. We're all susceptible to his clever packaging. The better it looks, the more dangerous it is to our souls.
The third remedy is this,
"Look on sin with an eye to death and judgment".
What looks lovely now may not look so good on your death bed or at the "Judgment Seat of Christ". The devil paints sin with godly colors, but as you lay dying, the paint starts to peel.
Death has a way of sharpening the focus and allowing things to be what they really are. Afterward? "God will bring every work into judgment and every secret thing, whether it be good or evil".
The words of John are worth recalling: "The world is passing away and the lusts thereof; but he who does the will of God abides forever".
Take the long-view of sin. You can call it "good" for now, but not forever. Remember that when Satan whispers in your ear. Answer him, why don't you: "Great idea! But how am I going to feel about it when I die?"
The last remedy is also the most important. If you want to "see through" the temptation to the sin itself and its true nature, you must
"Consider that even those sins that Satan paints and puts new names on, cost the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ".
"Christ died for our sins". Some of those sins were "painted in virtue's colors". Some of them sound good to us and look good to others. But they aren't good. You know the hymn,
"Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great;
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate;
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed
Son of Man and Son of God".
Call lust "love" and it still cost the Son of God His life. Call lukewarmness "moderation", it still crucified the Lord. Call apathy "contentment", it still put Jesus Christ to death.
The best "remedy" to "Satan's devices" is a life "hid with Christ in God".
There's nothing Satan likes more than to get you to sin with a good conscience. To make his work look like God's will. To see through his devices is not easy, but by grace we can do it. Let's plead with God for it, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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