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John Owen, Sin, and Temptation

“Let no man pretend to fear sin that does not fear temptation also! These two are too closely united to be separated.”

John Owen

It seems as though our culture has mastered the art of stepping as closely to the edge of the cliff as possible without falling into the canyon. Inevitably, culture can and will creep into our churches, causing Christians to adopt the same ideals about temptation and sin.

Though Jesus was tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15), it is not wise nor beneficial for us to engage in temptation ourselves. As Owen so perfectly states, sin is too closely tied to temptation to be toyed with. It is equally a great danger to be ignorant of temptation, believing that that we are too holy or righteous to stumble. The truth is that, even for the Christian, Satan is able to capitalize on our weaknesses and knows the human race well enough to tap into the darkest parts of our existence.

Paul gives us great hope in this battle:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

– 1 Corinthians 10:13

Temptation is common to mankind, and there are none special to their situation. Sin is a nasty beast, devouring away at every person from birth. This reminds us quickly to remember that we are just as in need of grace as those whom we love to belittle and judge (Jesus had something to say about that).

Thankfully, Paul doesn’t leave us there but reminds us of the gospel’s power. Whatever it is that you struggle with (and we all have a multitude of somethings), God makes a way of escape. That escape may look different for everyone, but the point is that we as Christians, with new natures, have the unique ability to step away before we are entangled in sin. The Holy Spirit lives inside of us, and he is constantly at work in our hearts. The gospel liberates us from the shackles of enslavement to self-gratification.

Please, do not isolate yourself from the world. Do not surround yourself with other Christians and “accountability partners” and ignore the Great Commission in the name of piety. We have far too many people who hide from culture and have no real impact for the Kingdom. Simply apply good judgment as a child of God to deal with temptation as seriously as necessary.

Be in the world, not of it.

While you’re at it, go pick up a copy of this book. It will greatly challenge your thoughts on sin and temptation.