Our Lord taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”. If we really mean what we are praying we should do all that we can to avoid places where we would be at risk of sinning. We should do all that we can to follow obediently after Christ, and never be guilty of knowingly placing ourselves in harm’s way.
A person would not carelessly swim in a rip, would he? If he did, he might get caught in it and drown. Now, it is possible that he may be a really good swimmer and be able to swim out of the rip instead of being towed away from the shore by it. But even if he could, it would be risky and foolish to get himself in that situation in the first place.
Likewise, every one of us should be very careful to avoid situations where we can easily fall into temptation. Our Lord, who knew firsthand the power of temptation, urged us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). But, no matter what we do—even if we are careful to avoid temptation—we will still be tempted to sin. Jesus himself was absolutely sinless, but that is not to say that he was not tempted, and tempted severely at that. Just as sparks fly upward, Christians are born into a world of temptation. Therefore, we must always be on guard against Satan, for we don’t know when he will focus his attention on us. He is like an assassin who steals up on his victims from behind; like a thief who gives no forewarning of his coming. He loves to attack us when we feel safe and least expect it. Therefore, we need to listen carefully to Jesus when he says, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:37) If we heed his advice to be constantly on the lookout for Satan, it will help to save us from falling into sin.
There are certain times when Satan is more likely to attack us. It is often not when we are on high alert to danger, but when we believe that we are safe from his attacks.
In The Pilgrim’s Progress Mr Carnal Security, who felt no need to be watchful and wanted everyone else to be at ease as well, said, “There is no need for us to be in perpetual alarm; evidently the Prince Emmanuel smiles upon us, and the Holy Spirit dwells within us; we are the children of God, let us sit at the table and feast; let us eat, drink, and be merry.” This was very poor and dangerous advice. We should beware of the devil the most when we feel that we have the least need to fear him.
Luke writes, “When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened …” (Luke 3:38) Jesus was a man of prayer. His life and ministry were characterised by prayer. Often, when his disciples were sleeping, Jesus would pray alone. Sometimes he spent entire nights in prayer. This is a characteristic of our Lord that separates him from many of his followers.Jesus was praying when he was baptised, and yet almost immediately after his prayer, temptation came.
The same could happen to each of us. We may be people of continual and earnest prayer. We may feel a sense of God’s presence so strongly that we conclude that we are safe from Satan’s attacks, only to find ourselves immediately under attack. Satan knows the trouble that we can cause him though our prayers, and therefore he goes on the offensive. Just as wicked people are quickly angered when righteous people stand for the truth, so we can be sure that Satan will attack us when he hears us appealing to God to grant spiritual strength, to open blind eyes and to quicken dead hearts. He knows that it isn’t to his advantage to let us pray in peace. He knows that the more we become like our Master and the more we are empowered by the Holy Spirit in us, the more important it is that he discourage us and bring our prayers to a halt.
Unlike our Lord who remained sinless in spite of severe temptation, we all too frequently fall into sin. We often end up doing the very things that we are trying to avoid doing. Paul sums up our plight well when he states, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15). He cries out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) The answer is the sinless One, Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. He willingly carried our sins on the cross. He paid the penalty that stood against us. And so, as a result of his sacrifice on Calvary the Apostle John declares,
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Again, he states, “the blood of Jesus, his [the Father’s] Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). So, Jesus not only teaches us how to avoid sin, but saves us from it when we fall into it. Praise him!