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Looking at temptation more broadly, Lovelace says,
Most commonly, temptation is directed toward larger ends: involving believers in whole ways of life or patterns of behavior which are subChristian, which will extinguish their spirituality and make them negative witnesses; or luring them into adopting outlooks which excuse or justify sin and which may almost totally obscure their faith.14
Materialism, worldliness, and racism are obvious examples in American evangelicalism, and there are a number of others.
Each of us needs to be aware of specific sins that we are vulnerable to and work earnestly “by the Spirit . . . [to] put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13). J.I. Packer gives a helpful explanation of what this means:
How do we “by the Spirit put to death the misdeeds of the body”? Outward acts of sin come from inner sinful urges, so we must learn to starve these urges of what stimulates them (porn magazines, for instance, if the urge is lust; visits to smorgasbords if the urge is gluttony; gambling and lotteries if the urge is greed, and so on). And when the urge is upon us we must learn, as it were, to run to our Lord and cry for help, asking him to deepen our sense of his own holy presence and redeeming love, to give us the strength to say no to that which can only displease him. It is the Spirit who moves us to act in this way, who makes our sense of the holy love of Christ vivid, who imparts the strength for which we pray and who actually drains the life out of the sins we starve.15
Often we will need to flee from temptation when it confronts us (1 Tim. 6:11). But when that isn’t possible, we must remind ourselves that we are not helpless victims who cannot resist sin, for as Paul tells us, we will encounter no temptation that is not common to man. And, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
With unbelievers, Satan’s chief goal is to blind their minds and thus keep them from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). He uses all manner of schemes to entice them into sins and idolatries that will keep them under his influence and away from God. Thus, “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Eph. 4:18). And should they ever hear the word of God, he immediately snatches it away from them (Matt.13:19).
What are our defenses against such an enemy? We must remind ourselves regularly that the devil was decisively defeated by Jesus at the Cross. Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). And by shedding His blood on the cross, Christ broke the devil’s power (John 12:27–31; Col. 2:13–15; Heb. 2:14–16), paid the penalty of our sins and opened the door of salvation to all who repent and trust in Him. This will enable us to rediscover our own liberation (Col. 2:13–15) and the authority Jesus has given us over the powers of darkness (Luke 10:17–19) and learn to exercise it rightly for our own good and the good of His church. This is crucial.
One day the devil and all who serve him will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:1–3). Until that day he and his minions fight on. Thus we must also daily remember that our life in this world is lived on a spiritual battlefield, and we must be sober and alert. We must live by faith, keeping our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus our King, not the devil. As E. Stanley Jones once said, “What has your attention has you.” If the devil cannot keep us blinded, he is happy to run us off a cliff through preoccupation with his activities and paranoid fear.
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