By Jady W. Copeland
You had no choice about whether or not you entered the world; you do have a choice as to which world you enter for eternity (Matt. 25:46). And the way you live in this world will determine which world you will occupy in eternity. Since that is obviously true (to the Bible believer), doesn’t it argue for a “prescription” as to how to live while in this world?
We must have no fellowship with the evil of the world (1 Cor. 5:10; 2 Cor. 6:14-18). We must be “in” the world, not “of” the world (1 Cor. 5:10; 1 Jn. 2:15). The new Christian has a problem sometimes. Before he becomes a Christian he has a family, a job, associates and civic duties. After he becomes a Christian he has the same job, the same family and duties. In some cases he may have to give up his associates and, in a few cases, his job. In most cases he would not need to give up his family. So often he had the same temptations before him, and yet he has a changed life. Repentance may cause him to quit some of his actions, words and sometimes the associations. But the devil never quits; he just changes his strategy. Instead of keeping him out of God’s family, the devil now wants to make him an ineffective worker, or even cause him to quit.
Too often, the new convert has another problem, and this has to do with the Christians themselves – those in Christ. Often when one is baptized, he finds out (perhaps gradually) that all those in the fellowship are not what they ought to be – some simply are hypocrites. And this discourages him, being young in the faith. He has to learn (hopefully before it is too late) that all of God’s people are not what they should be, and that he must not let their actions control his actions. He must let God do that, and he must learn that from the beginning God has had his people go astray.
But as the new convert begins his life as a Christian, is there some way we can prepare him for what lies ahead? Of course there is no magic formula or spiritual “vaccine” one can take to prevent temptations, but there are a few Bible principles we can point to that will surely help. This will not only help the babe in Christ; it will help us all, and they are not new at all. They are Bible principles which have been preached from the beginning and are “tried and true.”
Recognize the Nature of Satan’s Devices
They are nearly always deceptive. As the poet said, “things are not what they seem” and “all that glitters is not gold.” But Jesus said it best in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.” Paul said, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13). Even Satan “fashioneth himself into an angel of light” (v. 14).
He wears a face of beauty appealing to the five senses. He tempts by sight, sound (like the rock music of our day), taste (alcoholic drinks), feel (lust of the flesh), etc. He promises pleasure, popularity and excitement; but he tells you nothing of the outcome of such sins. This is not only dishonesty, but it is the temptation of the lust of the flesh. Satan has (through the world around us) caused most to believe there is nothing wrong with pre-marital sex, “live ins,” cursing, cheating, immodest attire, homosexuality and the like and many Christians have come to believe that these things are not so bad after all. Indeed Satan is very subtle in his ways. Beware!
If Satan fails in one area he will not quit. If the Lord convinces you to quit gambling, Satan will tempt you to work on the Lord’s day to make an honest living. If you are convinced to quit working on the Lord’s day, Satan will try to get you to be stingy with the Lord in your giving. If the Lord convinces you to get married, repent of fornication and live godly, Satan will try to get you to abuse your wife and children. He never quits. If the Lord convinces you that you should obey the gospel, Satan will try to convince you that you need not save others. Beware! Satan has many faces, and outwardly many things “look good” but take a closer look and check it by the word of God.
Develop A Hatred for Sin
“Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104). Again the Psalmist, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11). We are often inclined to “wink” at sin, or make excuses for sinners. “Off-color” jokes, “white lies” and “watered-down” cursing is getting too common among brethren. How many parents teach their children to hate sin – when they allow them to listen to Satan-inspired rock music and attend R-rated movies? Even the movies rated a bit “higher” are unfit for most Christians to see, yet we flirt with the world trying to rationalize and make ourselves think they are “not too bad.” Should we not hate those things which the Lord hates? The wise men gives a list in Proverbs 6:16-19 and includes a haughty spirit, lying, murder, those who plan wicked things, mischief, false witnesses and those who sow discord among brethren. The Lord’s hatred for sin is manifested in Jesus’ dying on the cross. What better argument need we make? If he hated sin to that degree, should not we?
Remember How Jesus Met Temptations
We can live among our fellows much easier if we become familiar with Jesus’ methods of resisting temptation (read Matt. 4:1-11). Each time Satan tempted him, he met each temptation with God’s word. Are we familiar enough with the word to be able to use it in such trials? As noted above, we must “hide” the word in our hearts to the extent that we “might not sin” against God. It is the great weapon for fighting back. Jesus proved it. If one is tempted to commit adultery, remember Hebrews 13:4, “Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” If we are tempted to divorce, remember Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. If you are tempted to sin by swearing, remember Matthew 5:37. If you are tempted to forsake the Lord, remember Hebrews 10:25.
I believe the reason many do not resist temptations as they ought is because (1) they do not know the Scriptures and (2) they have not thought seriously enough about the consequences. When we think of the fact that all God’s promises have come true, and every transgression of people in the past has been justly rewarded, why should I think God will overlook my sins? Am I different than they?
Choose The Proper Companions
“I need all the help I can get” we hear so often. Christians can help one another. “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor. 15:33). Godly companions encourage us in the things that are wholesome and right. Evil companions tempt us and influence us in the wrong way. Christians have to be strong enough on the job to say “no.” But in their social contacts, how much easier it is to five a godly life when all have the same ideals, desires, motivations, love for God and habits as we. Proverbs 1:17-19 gives us some good advice in this matter. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (v. 7). “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (v. 10). They may act secretly, as they “lay wait for blood.” Indeed they are very bold sometimes about their methods (v. 12). They promise rewards for “we shall find all precious substance” (v. 13). They are very generous and say, “Let us all have one purse” (v. 14). But the wise will not fall into their trap (v. 17). Indeed the improper choice of companions has led many away from God.
We Must Pray Constantly
Jesus said, “Lead us not into temptation” as he taught his disciples to pray (Matt. 6:13). Does God hear the Christian? Does the prayer of a Christian appeal to God? If you answer these in the affirmative and if Jesus’ prayer in teaching his disciples means anything, then surely he will help us to resist the devices and temptations of Satan. And what a comforting thought that Paul left: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to men; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
You will be tempted by Satan but with God’s help you can be faithful. You hold the key.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 20, pp. 620-621
October 19, 1989