Firmness in Temptation
"Jesus saith unto him, 'Get thee hence, Satan'." (Matthew 4:10)
There is an awful intensity of meaning in the words, as applied to Jesus, "he suffered, being tempted" (Heb. 2:18). Though incapable of sin, there was, in the refined sensibilities of His holy nature, that which made temptation unspeakably fearful. What must it have been to confront the Arch-traitor? — to stand face to face with the foe of His throne, and His universe? But the "prince of this world” came, and found “nothing in him” (John 14:30). Billow after billow of satanic violence spent their fury, in vain, on the Living Rock!
Reader, you have still the same malignant enemy to contend with, assailing you in a thousand insidious forms; marvelously adapting his assaults to your circumstances, your temperament, your mental bias, your master-passion! There is no place where "Satan’s seat” is not; “the whole world lieth in the Wicked one” (1 John 5:19). He has his whispers for the ear of childhood; hoary age is not inaccessible to his wiles. “All this will I give thee” (Mt. 4:9) is still his bribe to deny Jesus and to "mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). He will meet you in the crowd; he will follow you to the solitude; his is a sleepless vigilance!
Are you bold in repelling him as your Master was? Are you ready with the retort to every foul suggestion, “Get thee hence, Satan” (Mt. 4:10)? Cultivate a tender sensitivity about sin. The finest barometers are the most sensitive. Whatever your besetting frailty is — whatever bitter or baleful passion you are conscious of which aspires to the mastery — watch it, crucify it, nail it to your Lord’s cross.
You may despise the day of small things — the Great Adversary does not. He knows the power of littles — that little by little consumes and eats out the vigor of the soul. And once the retrograde movement in the spiritual life begins, who can predict where it may end — the going on “from weakness to weakness,” instead of “from strength to strength.”
Make no compromises; never join in the ungodly amusement, or venture on the questionable path, with the plea, “It does me no harm.” The Israelites, on entering Canaan, instead of obeying the Divine injunction of extirpating their enemies, made a hollow truce with them. What was the result? Years upon years of tedious warfare. "They were scourges in their sides, and thorns in their eyes" (Jos. 23:13). It is quaintly but truthfully said by an old writer, “The candle will never burn clear, while there is a thief in it. Sin indulged, in the conscience, is like Jonah in the ship, which causeth such a tempest, that the conscience is like a troubled sea, whose waters cannot rest” (Thomas Brooks, 1608-1680).
"Keep,” then, “thy heart with all diligence,” or, as it is in the forcible original Hebrew, "keep thy heart above all keeping, for out of it are the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23).
Let this ever be your preservative against temptation, “How would Jesus have acted here? Would he not have recoiled, like the sensitive plant, from the remotest contact with sin? Can I think of dishonoring Him by tampering with His enemy; incurring from His own lips the bitter reflection of injured love, 'I am wounded in the house of my friends’” (Zech. 13:6)?
Jesus tells us the secret of our preservation and safety, “Simon! Simon! Satan hath desired to have thee, that he might sift thee as wheat; but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not” (Lk. 22:32).
Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind!