In his work titled Temptation Resisted and Repulsed John Owen (1616-1683) heartily exhorts his reader on a host of varied occasions to fly to Christ in the midst of temptation.
On a previous Sunday evening I was particularly encouraged by Owen in reading the following excerpt as it helped to shake me from the dangerous comfort I’m so quickly wooed to by the world, my flesh and the devil relating to temptation and sinfulness.
Surely, we must repent and flee from of any lackadaisical feelings we find in our constitution when it comes making light of the temptation to sin. For it was the author of Hebrews who wrote, ‘We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it’ while exhorting his hearers to consider the superiority of Christ to all things. In the same way, we must treat with due gravity the temptation to commit what earns eternal death and punishment––sin (Romans 6:23).
The apostle Paul did not mince words when speaking about being at peace with our sin. In Romans chapter 8 he wrote, ‘If you live according to the flesh you will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live’.
Did not the Prophet Jeremiah warn us against trusting our own inclinations when he wrote, ‘The heart is deceitfully sick, who can know it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9). And did not King Solomon in his wisdom likewise pen, ‘There is a way that seems right to a man but it leads to death’ (Proverbs 14:12).
Likewise, Owen writes,
“The ways of entering into temptation are many, various, and imperceptible, the means are very powerful, and its entrance is deceitful, subtle, imperceptibly gradual, and plausible! Our own weakness and our lack of watchfulness are so great that we cannot in the least degree keep our preserve ourselves from it. We lack both wisdom and power for this work.
Let the heart, then, commune with itself and say, ‘I am poor and weak; Satan is subtle, cunning, powerful, watching constantly for advantages against my soul; the world is earnest, pressing, and full of persuasive pleas with innumerable false and deceitful claims; my own corruption are violent, disturbing, enticing, entangling––conceiving sin, and warring in me and against me! Moreover, there are countless occasions and opportunities for temptation in everything I do or suffer. The beginnings of temptation are almost imperceptible and so agreeable to me that, if I were left to myself, I would not even now that I was trapped until my bonds were made strong and sin had gained ground in my heart. Therefore, I will rely on God alone for my preservation, and continually look up to him for it.
This will make the soul commit itself always to the care of God, resting on him, and undertaking nothing without asking his counsel. Observing this direction results in a double advantage to the soul in its preservation from the evil feared:
(i) It engages the grace and compassion of God, who calls the fatherless and helpless to rest on him; for the soul who, in a sense of need, rolls itself on him, on the basis of his gracious invitation, never fails to receive fresh supplies.
(ii) Keeping the soul in this frame of spirit greatly tends to its preservation, for he who looks to God for help in this way is both aware of his danger and careful to use means for his preservation.” 1
We must not despair ultimately because of our sin and sinfulness after we have fled to Christ––for he is our precious redeemer who is mighty to save and has done so to the uttermost––but we must not be at peace or make light of temptation to sin, either.
Like Owen keenly observed from studying our Savior, we ought to say, in light of the gloriousness of Christ and the weakness of ourselves, ‘I rely on God alone’.
1Owen, J. (1658). In Temptation Resisted and Repulsed (pp. 70-71). Edinburgh: Banner of Truth.