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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #6
Tonight we continue our study of Thomas Brooks' great book, "Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices". It's goal is to expose the devil's cunning ways and to help us overcome them by grace.
So far, we've looked at five of Satan's "devices"; now we take up a sixth. The Puritan wrote,
"Satan draws the soul to sin by making it bold to venture upon the occasions of sin".
His wording is a bit clumsy, but his illustrations make the meaning clear. "Satan says you may walk by the harlot's door though you wont go into her bed; you may sit with the drunkard though you won't be drunk with him; you may toy with Delilah, though you will not reveal your secret to her..."
If the devil can't get us to sin, he'll do the next best thing: he'll get us to flirt with sin--to get as close to it as possible without committing the sin.
Charles Spurgeon tells a funny story about this. He once went to dinner with some other clergymen, one of whom was a Rabbi. The main course was duck. Having webbed feet, it was "unclean" to the Jew. But it looked delicious. As the bird was passed around the table, Spurgeon said "The Rabbi lingered over it with a long sniff, thereby taking in as much as he dared!"
That was Satan at work in the heart of the Rabbi. For, if it's wrong to eat duck, the Rabbi shouldn't have smelled it, for that could do nothing but whet his appetite for sin.
Another story, not so funny, but equally to the point. A woman once called me, pleading for help.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"I can't control my spending".
"What are buying?"
"How serious is the problem?"
"It's pretty bad. I have more than 100 pair of shoes and a walk-in closet full of dresses".
"When you're not buying clothes--I wondered--"What do you like to do?"
"There's the answer. Quit shopping for clothes, and you won't buy so many".
"But I enjoy it so much. And really, I don't mean to buy anything".
"I know you don't. But Satan does. Don't give him the opportunity".
Satan did not tell the woman, "Buy everything in sight". He just told her, "Take a look". When she did, like Achan, "she saw, she coveted, and she took". Satan knew her weakness and exploited it to the full.
And not hers only. He also knows our weaknesses. To beat him, we mustn't be "ignorant of his devices".
How do we answer Satan's device? Thomas Brooks offers some good counsel, which I've re-worded a bit. The first is
"Remember that flirting with sin is itself a sin".
Sin is defined by God's Word. Does it advise us to flirt with sin or to stay as far away from it as possible? Two examples: I Corinthians 6:18 says "Flee fornication". 10:14 has it: "Flee idolatry". What does it mean to "flee"? Does it mean to hang around--or to get out of there? It means to get out as quickly as possible. Thus, when we flirt with sin we disobey God.
Coveting is not as bad as stealing, of course. But the man who lusts for his neighbor's money, but doesn't rob him, hasn't resisted temptation; he's given into it.
Flirting with sin is not compatible with many positive duties. How, for example, can you loiter around sin and--at the same time:
1.Think good thoughts? cf. Philippians 4:8.
2.Put your body to good use? cf. I Corinthians 6:20.
3.Maintain a good witness? cf. I Peter 3:15.
Brooks sums it up by quoting I Thessalonians 5:22: "Abstain from every appearance of evil". And adding: "Whatsoever is heterodox, unsound, and unsavory, shun it as you would a serpent in your way or poison in your meat".
Remember that flirting with sin is a very great sin.
Satan tells us that--as long as you don't do the bad thing--it's not so wrong to think about it, to talk about it, to come close to it, and so on. But who is Satan? "He is a liar and the father of lies" our Lord says. And never did he tell a bigger one than this.
For flirting with sin has another name. You know what it is? It is "tempting God". It is doing something foolish and then asking God to bail you out. Satan suggested just that to our Lord. "Jump from the Temple" he urged and "God will save You". But how did He respond? With these words,
"You shall not tempt the LORD your God".
Is that a small sin--tempting God? It is the very thing Israel was charged with in the wilderness. And their record is not too flattering, is it?
No. Tempting God is a very great sin. And that's just what we do when we pray against sin, and then willfully expose ourselves to it.
A third "remedy" is
"Remember the example of the saints".
Holy men are known for avoiding both sin itself and, whenever possible, its occasion.
Joseph is a good example. When Potiphar's wife invited him to the bed, he dived out the window!
David, on the other hand, gave place to the devil. And Satan took full advantage of the opening.
Thomas Brooks said: "Precious saints turned from the occasion of sin, as from hell itself". Their lives were put into the Bible as examples for us.
A fourth "remedy" is
"There is no conquest of sin until the soul turns from the occasions of sin".
The holiest man is weak and likely to sin if he doesn't "watch out" for temptation. To play with it, thinking he won't succumb to it, is a vain conceit.
The Puritan says: "As long as there is fuel in our hearts for temptation, we cannot be secure. He who has gunpowder on him had better keep far away from sparks".
The last remedy is my own, and taken from Romans 13:14,
"Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh".
To "make no provision for the flesh" is to make sin easy. You'd think it was easy enough to sin. But for some, it is not. They have to court it, invite it into their souls, and make it as comfortable as they can! How do they do that? By hanging around temptation.
The best way to avoid that is to "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ". This means at least two things:
1.Remembering what He has done for you. That's the context of Romans 13. We're to yield ourselves to Him--not to obtain--but because of "the mercies of God". What has Christ done for you? He has gone to the cross and there taken the worst that man--and God--can dish out to Him. He did that--not because He was worthy of death, but because we are. Can we think of His dying love and then court the temptations that break His heart? God forbid.
2.It also means to reflect on His example. Did He come as close to sin as He could? Or did He avoid it with everything in Him? When Peter counsels Him not to die, does He think it over? No! He turns from it in horror--"Shall I not drink this cup?" He was a public Man, yet not even His enemies could find anything in Him to fault. "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" Is His example worth following? Romans 8:29 says it is. "Those [God] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son".
If we "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" every day--and keep Him "on", we won't be perfect. But we will be sincere. The sincere believer will not court temptation, but "flee" from it.
I pray God will make us such people. For Christ's sake. Amen.
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