As a Christian there are those ‘special’ times when we are especially afflicted by God with what seems to be a double dose of conviction. The response of praise through pain is one unique to Christians. For in this sanctified pressure we are molded more into the image of Jesus, our Master.
I enjoyed one such season recently as I sat down to read Temptation, Resisted & Repulsed, by John Owen. The book, released by Banner of Truth and abridged by Richard Rushing was a blessing to my soul and has quickly jumped into my starting rotation of books to recommend to friends who are looking for books to help them grow in sanctification.
Owen comes out of the box in this book with resolve to go to work on the human heart with a view towards holiness.
Owen defines temptation as, “anything that, for any reason, exerts a force or influence to seduce and draw the mind and heart of man form the obedience which God requires of him to any kind of sin…it could be business, employment, the course of one’s life, company affections, nature, corrupt, purposes, relations, delights, reputation, esteem, position, abilities, gifts, etc,, that provide the opportunity to sin or neglect duty. These are true temptations just as much as the most violent solicitations of Satan or allurements of the world. Whoever does not realize this is on the brink of ruin.” (pp. 10-11).
Owen writes in chapter six about our great duty of avoiding temptation. He speaks of our identity with our blessed Savior as the chief means of combating temptation. For it is Christ who knows “our condition”, the “power of temptations”, our “vain condition”, and our “weakness and folly”.
At the same time he exhorts believers in the folly of trusting their own hearts, “A wicked man may be a great use in external things, but if he trusts in his own heart, it is a false hope and will come to nothing. Temptation is a heart work, and when temptation comes in like a flood, how can a rotten trifle such as a wicked man’s heart stand before it” (p.28). I love the fact that a book on temptation deals so much with the root of the problem (our hearts) rather than only with various and sundry stimulants (ie outside inducements to sin).
In chapter 13 “Means of Preservation” Owen highlights two practical considerations as we “watch and pray”.
(1) Entering into temptation is a great evil. The conclusion is that we will truly fight against temptation when we understand the true evil nature and fruit of it. He also cautions against running headlong into liberty without a healthy measure of the susceptibility of the heart unto temptation.
(2) Owen reminds us that staying free from temptation is not a thing in our own power. It was the Lord Jesus who called us to pray in order to avoid temptation (Matt. 26.41) while he also prays to his Father that we would be kept from temptation (Jn. 17.15).
Owen, modeling Christian maturity in his dependence, writes:
“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 fully of persuasive pleas with innumerable false and deceitful claims; my own corruptions 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 know that I was trapped until my bonds were made strong and sin gained ground in my heart. Therefore, I will rely on God alone for my preservation, and continually look up to him for it.”
I firmly believe that this book is a ‘must read’ for anyone with a sinful heart who desires to resist temptation and pursue holiness. Get to know yourself as your friend John Owen teaches you about who you really are in light of God’s revelation.
This book is great for ‘one on one’ discipleship or a small group setting. It is not a ‘tough read’ as far as Owen goes. You will want to read it slow though as it seems that each word is laced with a sanctified razor blade to deflate your pride.
Discounted copies are available at Westminster Books.