Temptation (38)

John Owen

Owen goes on to describe a third instance where temptation is waiting: A season of great spiritual enjoyments is often, by the malice of Satan and the weakness of our hearts, turned into a season of danger as to this business of temptation. We know how the case stood with Paul, 2 Cor. 12:7. He had glorious spiritual revelations of God and Jesus Christ (which he says would naturally puff him up with pride-JK). Instantly Satan falls upon him (by God’s sovereign will!-JK), a messenger from him buffets him; so that he earnestly begs its departure, but yet is left to struggle with it. God is pleased sometimes to give us especial discoveries of himself and his love, to fill the heart with his kindness; (This infirmity was to magnify God’s grace-JK). Christ takes us into the banqueting-house, and gives our hearts their fills of love; and this by some signal work of his Spirit, overpowering us with a sense of love in the unspeakable privilege of adoption, and so fills our souls with joy unspeakable and glorious. A man would think this was the securest condition in the world. What soul does not cry with Peter in the mount, “It is good for me to be here; to abide here for ever?” But yet very frequently some bitter temptation is now at hand. Satan sees that, being possessed by the joy before us, we quickly neglect many ways of approach to our souls, wherein he seeks and finds advantages against us. Is this, then, our state and condition? Does God at any time give us to drink of the rivers of pleasure that are at his right hand, and satisfy our souls with his kindness as with marrow and fatness? Let us not say, “We shall never be moved;” we know not how soon God may hide his face, or a messenger from Satan may buffet us. Besides, there lies oftentimes a greater and worse deceit in this business. Men cheat their souls with their own fancies, instead of a sense of God’s love by the Holy Ghost; and when they are lifted up with their imaginations, it is not expressible how fearfully they are exposed to all manner of temptations;—and how, then, are they able to find relief against their consciences from their own foolish fancies and deceivings, wherewith they sport themselves? May we not see such every day,—persons walking in the vanities and ways of this world, yet boasting of their sense of the love of God? Shall we believe them? We must not, then, believe truth itself; and how woeful, then, must their condition needs be!

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Temperance in all things

 

If the athlete has to be self-controlled and temperate in all things (food, sleep, physical training) then even more so should the Christian believer be temperate in all things and keep under, nay mortify, his body of sin (sinful flesh).

 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (I Corinthians 9:24-27).

John Gill is good: Commentary (v24)

Temptation (37)

Another instance that leads into temptation is a time of the slumber of grace, of neglect in communion with God, of formality in duty, is a season to be watched in, as that which certainly some other temptation attending it. Let a soul in such an estate awake and look about him. His enemy is at hand, and he is ready to fall into such a condition as may cost him dear all the days of his life. His present estate is bad enough in itself; but it is an indication of that which is worse that lies at the door. The disciples that were with Christ in the mount had not only a bodily, but a spiritual drowsiness upon them. What says our Saviour to them? “Arise; watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” We know how near one of them was to a bitter hour of temptation, and not watching as he ought, he immediately entered into it. I mentioned before the case of the spouse, Song of Solomon 5:2–8. She slept, and was drowsy, and unwilling to gird up herself to a vigorous performance of duties, in a way of quick, active communion with Christ. Before she is aware, she hath lost her Beloved; then she moans, inquires, cries, endures woundings, reproaches, and all, before she obtains him again. Consider, then, O poor soul, thy state and condition! Doth thy light burn dim? or though it give to others as great a blaze as formerly, yet thou seest not so clearly the face of God in Christ by it as thou hast done? 2 Cor. 4:6. Is thy zeal cold? or if it do the same works as formerly, yet thy heart is not warmed with the love of God and to God in them as formerly, but only thou proceedest in the course thou hast been in? Art thou negligent in the duties of praying or hearing? or if thou dost observe them, thou doest it not with that life and vigour as formerly? Dost thou flag in thy profession? or if thou keep it up, yet thy wheels are oiled by some sinister respects from within or without? Does thy delight in the people of God faint and grow cold? or is thy love to them changing from that which is purely spiritual into that which is very carnal, upon the account of suitableness of principles and natural spirits, if not worse foundations? If thou art drowsing in such a condition as this, take heed; thou art falling into some woeful temptation that will break all thy bones, and give thee wounds that shall stick by thee all the days of thy life. Yea, when thou awakest, thou wilt find that it hath indeed laid hold of thee already, though thou perceivedst it not; it hath smitten and wounded thee, though thou hast not complained nor sought for relief or healing. Such was the state of the church of Sardis, Rev. 3:2. “The things that remained were ready to die.” “Be watchful,” says our Saviour, “and strengthen them, or a worse thing will befall thee.” If any that reads the word of this direction be in this condition, if he hath any regard of his poor soul, let him now awake, before he be entangled beyond recovery. Take this warning from God; despise it not.

John Owen

Temptation (36)

Having expounded on prayer as the chief means of preventing our entering into temptation John Owen goes on to explain what watching means. “Watch and pray”.

What does it mean?

He believes there are special seasons of temptation which are:

  •  unusual prosperity
  •  a slumber of grace
  •  a season of great spiritual enjoyment
  •  a season of self-confidence.
    ” (1.) A season of unusual outward prosperity is usually accompanied with an hour of temptation. Prosperity and temptation go together; yea, prosperity is a temptation, many temptations, and that because, without eminent supplies of grace, it is apt to cast a soul into a frame and temper exposed to any temptation, and provides it with fuel and food for all. It hath provision for lust and darts for Satan. The wise man tells us that the “prosperity of fools destroys them,” Prov. 1:32. It hardens them in their way, makes them despise instruction, and put the evil day (whose terror should influence them into amendment) far from them. Without a special assistance, it hath an inconceivably malignant influence on believers themselves. Hence Agur prays against riches, because of the temptation that attends them: “Lest,” saith he, “I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord?” Prov. 30: 8, 9;—lest, being filled with them, he should forget the Lord; as God complains that his people did, Hos. 13:6. We know how David was mistaken in this case: Ps. 30:6, “I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.” All is well, and will be well. But what was at hand, what lay at the door, that David thought not of? “Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” God was ready to hide his face, and David to enter into a temptation of desertion, and he knew it not. As, then, unto a prosperous condition. I shall not run cross to Solomon’s counsel, “In the day of prosperity rejoice,” Eccles. 7:14. Rejoice in the God of thy mercies, who doth thee good in his patience and forbearance, notwithstanding all thy unworthiness. Yet I may add to it, from the same fountain of wisdom, “Consider,” also, lest evil lie at the door. A man in that state is in the midst of snares. Satan hath many advantages against him; he forgeth darts out of all his enjoyments; and, if he watch not, he will be entangled before he is aware. Thou wantest that which should poise and ballast thy heart. Formality in religion will be apt to creep upon thee; and that lays the soul open to all temptations in their full power and strength. Satisfaction and delight in creature-comforts, the poison of the soul, will be apt to grow upon thee. In such a time be vigilant, be circumspect, or thou wilt be surprised. Job says, that in his affliction “God made his heart soft,” 23:16. There is a hardness, an insensible want of spiritual sense, gathered in prosperity, that, if not watched against, will expose the heart to the deceits of sin and baits of Satan. “Watch and pray” in this season. Many men’s negligence in it hath cost them dear; their woeful experience cries out to take heed. Blessed is he that feareth always, but especially in a time of prosperity.”

Temptation (35)

 

   Owen continues in his advice on how to prevent our entering into temptation by saying:

    Pray as being helpless, rely on his keeping power believing that he will preserve us is a means of preservation; for this God will certainly do, or make a way for us to escape out of temptation, if we fall into it under such a believing frame. We are to pray for what God hath promised. He hath promised that he will keep us in all our ways; that we shall be directed in a way that, though we are fools, “we shall not err therein,” Isaiah 35: 8; that he will lead us, guide us, and deliver us from the evil one. 

He that would be little in temptation, let him be much in prayer. This calls in the suitable help and succour that is laid up in Christ for us, Heb. 4:16. This casteth our souls into a frame of opposition to every temptation. When Paul had given instruction for the taking to ourselves “the whole armour of God,” that we may resist and stand in the time of temptation, he adds this general close of the whole, Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication.”
Without this all the rest will be of no efficacy for the end proposed. And therefore consider what weight he lays on it: “Praying always,”—that is, at all times and seasons, or be always ready and prepared for the discharge of that duty.
 out to the
utmost: so shall we stand. The soul so framed is in a sure posture; and this is one of the
means without which this work will not be done. If we do not abide in prayer, we shall abide
in cursed temptations. Let this, then, be another direction:—Abide in prayer, and that expressly to this purpose, that we “enter not into temptation.” Let this be one part of our daily contending with God,—that he would preserve our souls, and keep our hearts and our ways, 
that we be not entangled; that his good and wise providence will order our ways and affairs, that no pressing temptation befall us; that he would give us diligence, carefulness, and watchfulness over our own ways. So shall we be delivered when others are held with the cords of their own folly.”

Temptation (34)

 

Owen goes on to tell us how to watch and pray:

This will make the soul be always committing itself to the care of God, resting itself on him, and to do nothing, undertake nothing, etc, without asking counsel of him.

This will mean we receive the grace and compassion of God, who hath called the fatherless and helpless to rest upon him; nor did ever soul fail of supplies, who, in a sense of want, rolled itself on him, on the account of his gracious invitation.  The keeping of (our soul) in such a frame as, on various accounts, is useful for its preservation. He that looks to God for assistance in a due manner is both sensible of his danger, and conscientiously careful in the use of means to preserve himself: this exercises faith on the promise of God for preservation. To believe that he will preserve us is a means of preservation; for this God will certainly do, or make a way for us to escape out of temptation, if we fall into it under such a believing frame. We are to pray for what God hath promised. Our requests are to be regulated by his promises and commands, which are of the same extent. Faith closes with the promises, and so finds relief in this case. This James instructs us in, chap. i. 5–7. What we want we must “ask of God;”but we must “ask in faith,” for otherwise we must not “think that we shall receive any thing of the Lord.” This then, also, is in this direction of our Saviour, that we exercise faith on the promises of God for our preservation out of temptation. He hath promised that he will keep us in all our ways; that we shall be directed in a way that, though we are fools, “we shall not err therein,” Isa. 35:8; that he will lead us, guide us, and deliver us from the evil one.  Exercise faith on work on these promises of God, and expect a good and comfortable issue. It is not easily conceived what a train of graces faith is attended withal, when it goes forth to meet Christ in the promises, nor what a power for the preservation of the soul lies in this thing; but I have spoken to this elsewhere. Weigh these things severally, and first, take prayer into consideration. To pray that we enter not into temptation is a means to preserve us from it. Glorious things are, by all men that know aught of those things, spoken of this duty; and yet the truth is, not one half of its excellency, power, and efficacy is known. It is not my business to speak of it in general; but this I say as to my present purpose,—he that would be little in temptation, let him be much in prayer. This calls in the suitable help and succour that is laid up in Christ for us, Heb. 4:16. This casteth our souls into a frame of opposition to every temptation. When Paul had given instruction for the taking to ourselves “the whole armour of God,” that we may resist and stand in the time of temptation, he adds this general close of the whole, Eph. 6:18, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary?

Classic Roman Catholic portrayal.

Letter Published in Limerick Post on 23 June 2018

The occasion of Limerick’s Novena prompts me to point out three myths about Mary. First, Mary is not “full of grace,” at least not in the sense that she is a fountain of grace for others. Only Jesus is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Instead, Mary was highly favoured because, first, she was chosen to bear the Saviour; and second, she is the recipient of God’s salvation: “my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:47). If Mary had a Savior, she had sin, both original and actual sin, from which she needed to be saved.

Second, Mary is not the “Mother of God.” More accurately, she was the mother of Jesus, who is the divine Son; she was theotokos (literally, God-bearer), says the Creed of Chalcedon (451 AD), “according to the manhood.” The same creed declares Jesus as “begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead.” The aim of the creed is not to exalt Mary, but to stress the deity of Jesus.

Third, Mary is not able to obtain blessings for poor sinners with Jesus or with the Father: Jesus is the Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Advocate (1 John 2:1), not Mary. The Bible commands us to “come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace” from Jesus (Heb. 4:16). Jesus, not Mary, died on the cross for sinners; and Jesus, not Mary, intercedes for those sinners. How dreadful to bypass Jesus Christ in order to seek mercy with Mary!

None of this is a slight on Mary, for she does not need, require, or want veneration. Instead, she says to us, “Whatsoever he [Jesus] saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5).

Martyn McGeown

Limerick Reformed Fellowship

 

Temptation (33)

Owen says that it is very evident that it is not a thing in our own power, to keep and preserve ourselves from entering into temptation.

Therefore are we to pray that we may be preserved from it, because we cannot save ourselves. This is another means of preservation. As we have no strength to resist a temptation when it doth come, when we are entered into it, but shall fall under it, without a supply of sufficiency of grace from God; so to reckon that we have no power or wisdom to keep ourselves from entering into temptation, but must be kept by the power and wisdom of God, is a preserving principle, 1 Pet. 1: 5. We are in all things “kept by the power of God.”

This our Saviour instructs us in, not only by directing us to pray that we be not led into temptation, but also by his own praying for us, that we may be kept from it: John 17:15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil,”—that is, the temptations of the world unto evil, unto sin; or from the evil one, who in the world makes use of the world unto temptation. Christ prays his Father to keep us, and instructs us to pray that we be so kept. It is not, then, a thing in our own power. The ways of our entering into temptation are so many, various, and imperceptible,—the means of it so efficacious and powerful,—our weakness our unwatchfulness, so unspeakable,—that we cannot in the least keep or preserve ourselves from it. We fail both in 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 earnest, pressing, and full of specious pleas, innumerable pretences, and ways of deceit; my own corruption violent and restless, enticing, entangling, conceiving sin, and warring in me, against me; occasions and advantages of temptation innumerable in all things I have done or suffer, in all businesses and persons with whom I converse; the first beginnings of temptation insensible and plausible, so that, left unto myself, I shall not know I am ensnared, until my bonds be made strong, and sin hath got ground in my heart: therefore on God alone will I rely for preservation, and continually will I look up to him on that account.” This will make the soul be always committing itself to the care of God, resting itself on him, and to do nothing, undertake nothing, etc, without asking counsel of him.

Temptation (32)

John Owen

2. What can we do to prevent entering into temptation.

What are the best directions to prevent entering into temptation

Jesus our Saviour said: “Watch and pray  (Matt. 26:41) which implies:

(1.) The great danger of temptation

(2.) That it is not in our power to keep ourselves

(3.) Faith in promises of preservation—Of prayer in particular.

We must fear entering into temptation in the same way we fear sin says Owen: “When men see that such ways, such companies, such courses, such businesses, such studies and aims, do entangle them, make them cold, careless, are quench-coals to them, indispose them to even, universal, and constant obedience, if they adventure on them, sin lies at the door. It is a tender frame of spirit, sensible of its own weakness and corruption, of the craft of Satan, of the evil of sin, of the efficacy of temptation, that can perform his duty. And yet until we bring our hearts to this frame, upon the considerations before mentioned, we shall never free ourselves from sinful entanglements. Sin will not long seem great or heavy unto any to whom temptations seem light or small. Grief of the Spirit of God, disquiet of our own souls, loss of peace, hazard of eternal welfare, lies at the door. If the soul be not prevailed withal to the observation of this direction, all that ensues will be of no value. Temptation despised will conquer; and if the heart be made tender and watchful here, half the work of securing a good conversation is over. And let not him go any further who resolved not to improve this direction in a daily conscientious observation of it. “