Enticing the Affections
By John Fast
We have seen that the first step in sin’s work of deception is to carry away, or draw away the mind from its obligation to God (Jm 1:14), as well as the means which God has given for our use to prevent and preserve our minds from being carried away by the deceitfulness of sin. The second step which the Apostle James credits to the deceit of sin is to be “enticed”. The meaning of the word “enticed” conveys the idea of being lured and ensnared into a trap by means of some sort of bait, as a fish is lured to a hook, or an animal is ensnared in a trap. The bait which Satan uses to entice someone is their own various lusts and desires (Jm 1:14). Just as Satan did with Eve, he makes sin seem desirable, appealing, harmless, and even necessary. He will ascribe beneficial qualities and advantages to sin that appeal to a person’s own lusts. This “enticing” has particular reference to a person’s affections. Just as sin will work to draw the mind away from its obligation to God, it will work to entice the affections into sin. Today the affections of many have become so corrupted that they have more regard, care, and affection for the lives of animals than for human life.
For something to be enticed there must first be something to entice it, “Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it?” (Am 3:5). Also, it must have an affinity for the bait used to entice it. Not all things are attracted to and lured by the same bait, and not all baits incite an equal attraction. It must be something that is irresistibly alluring and enticing to the prey in order to lure it into the trap to be caught. This is why a person’s own lusts and desires are so effective in enticing someone into sin. For some it is their lust for ease, comfort, prosperity, security, pleasure, and self-gratification. For others it is their lust for power, position, prestige, influence, popularity, and notoriety. Still, for others it is their lust for attention and for the acceptance, praise, admiration and approval of man, and to be in vogue with the latest trend. It is always self. Ahab was enticed by his lust for power and conquest, and so he ignored the warning of God’s prophet Micaiah, and chose to believe the flattery of the false prophets, resulting in his death (2 Chron 18:12-34). Whatever a person’s own lusts are, they make the perfect bait to entice their affections into loving them and being set on them, thereby fixing their mind on them, even to the point where, rather than part with their lusts, they will deny or minimize their sinfulness, along with any divine judgement for them, “in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming (i.e. His coming in judgment)? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pt 3:3, 4).
Part of the seduction and effectiveness of these enticements resides in the agency through which they come. Very often they come from those nearest and dearest to us, “If your brother, your mother’s son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods,”…you shall not yield to him or listen to him;” (Dt 13:6-8). Jesus declared that anyone who loves mother, father, son, or daughter more than Him, is not worthy of Him (Mt 10:37). When a person’s affections are enticed to love anything or anyone more than Jesus Christ and His truth, they have been ensnared by the deceit of sin. This is the trial which Jesus gives to test any professed love for Him, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15). For those who love Christ, “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn 5:3), but “they are the joy of my heart” (Ps 119:111). Those who love Jesus will obey Jesus, not perfectly, but sincerely, without any hesitancy or weighing of the consequences, or how it will impact their self-interest, or looking for loop-holes, but with a willing, spontaneous, and sincere desire and effort to be obedient to His commandments. Whereas, those whose affections are entangled by their own lusts will not obey Jesus, “you are unwilling to come to Me that you might have life” (Jn 5:40). They do not because they will not. The Apostle Paul pronounces a severe denunciation of divine wrath against all those who will not love Jesus Christ as He is revealed in Scripture – as Lord, as God, as Creator, as sovereign, as lawgiver, as Judge, and as Savior – “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16:22).
Satan’s servants – those who masquerade as servants of righteousness – adopt his methods by “enticing unstable souls” (2 Pt 2:14); “they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality,” (2 Pt 2:18). They adulterate, tamper with, distort, and misrepresent God, Jesus Christ, and His word in order to ensnare (2 Cor 4:2). They dangle temptations in front of people and wave them under their noses hoping to entice and ensnare them. They give these temptations spiritual-sounding names, or even apply the names of spiritual attributes to them. They dress them up with all sorts of alluring promises, reasonable sounding justifications, and persuasive arguments in order to ensnare a person’s affections and make the gratification of their lusts seem legitimate and necessary to their happiness, and the denial of them to be harmful, cruel, and unreasonable.
The world does this every day, all day and all night in ways too numerous to count. It is constantly insinuating itself into the minds of people, to fill their mind, thoughts, and affections. When the world fills our thoughts, it cannot help but entangle our affections, so that “whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jm 4:4); “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15). In a time such as ours, where love of the world characterizes almost all that professes to be Christian, and where there are so many baits, expertly designed to tempt virtually every lust and desire and constantly being dangled in front of us, to where a person might escape one only to be ensnared by another, no one can hope to be delivered from this snare of the world without a constant and vigilant watchfulness to keep and preserve their souls from being enticed and ensnared by the deceit of sin, “be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pt 3:17). The only way to avoid this is to “grow in the grace and knowledge (“true knowledge”) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). The fact that his readers were habitually “walking in truth” did not keep the Apostle John from warning and commanding them to “Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished (2 Jn 4, 8). And what necessitated their diligent watchfulness was the fact that “many deceivers have gone out into the world” (2 Jn 7). There has never been a time in the history of the church where more deceivers and deceived were in the world than there are now.
Just as there is more than one way to die a natural death, so there is more than one way to die spiritually and eternally. All who die do not die of cancer, and all that die of cancer do not die from the same type of cancer. The wages of sin is eternal death, but all who suffer eternal death do not die from the same overt and wicked sins. Those who love the world, who indulge the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and are covetous are excluded from the kingdom of God no less strictly than fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, and idolaters (1 Cor 6:9, 10). Those who believe and adhere to a false gospel are just as condemned as those who believe in no gospel.
There are many who make a profession of faith who also believe that a certain amount of earthly mindedness and love of the world is necessary for their happiness, and so can be indulged in without any harm to their souls. Their circumstances require them to be satisfied with an inferior measure of love for spiritual and heavenly things. They see no reason to be, or any advantage in being more spiritually minded than they presently are. And the truth is, they have so many friends and acquaintances that are of the same persuasion that they see no reason why this should reflect badly on them or the condition of their soul. The shame of the guilt is removed by the multitude of the guilty and the commonness of the sin. How many, who at one time thought they stood in the truth, and appeared to others to walk in the truth, who, because they failed to take a diligent heed of their own souls, have now fallen into an irrecoverable apostasy (1 Cor 10:12; Hb 6:4-6; 10:26)?
When the love of earthly things is predominant, when earthly things dominate virtually all their thoughts and conversation, they are not, nor can they be spiritually minded, because spiritual mindedness resides in the affections. Only the mind that is set on the Spirit and on the things that are above, and only that mind, is life and peace (Rm 8:6). The only alternative is a mind that is set on the flesh and on the things that are on earth (Rm 8:6; Col 3:2). There is no third category, no third state of being. Each state may manifest itself in various degrees, but there is no intermediate state.
To be spiritually minded is to possess a mind that has been, and is continually being, changed, transformed, and renewed by a principle of spiritual life, to where it is continually and habitually setting itself on thoughts, desires, and meditations of spiritual things, as a result of the affections clinging to them with love, joy, fondness, delight, and satisfaction. The thoughts, meditations, and desires for the things of the Spirit spring from the love and delight of the affections for them. The same is true when people set their mind on earthly things; it is because they have a love for them. And they have a love for them because they are compatible with what their thoughts, desires, and affections are continually fixed on and filled with. The Apostle Paul highlights this as a great distinction between true believers and unbelievers, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rm 8:9).
Therefore, concerning sin’s enticement of the affections, in this study we will consider three things:
- What it is for the affections to be enticed and entangled by the bait of sin, so as to be inclined toward sin, and when the affections are so enticed
- How sin entices the affections and the way it works to entice, ensnare, and capture the soul
- Why sin so easily entangles the affections of most people today
What it is to be Enticed
First, when a person’s affections fill their imagination with images, thoughts, and fantasies of the sin with which they are enticed towards, there is no doubt that their affections have been ensnared by the deceit of sin. When the affections are fully fixed on the object toward which they are enticed, then the mind and imagination will be filled with it. They indulge “the desires of the flesh and of the mind”, thereby evidencing that they are still “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3). These are the ones on whom the prophet Micah pronounced a dreadful woe, “Woe to those who scheme iniquity, who work out evil on their beds!”, which “When morning comes, they do it,” if it is in their power to do it (Mic 2:1). The reason for such a harsh and terrible sentence of woe is “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God” (Rm 8:7). Their mind is set “on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:2) because their affections have been ensnared by them. That which is hostile toward God is under the curse of God. Such people “are slaves, not of the Lord Christ but of their own appetites;” (Rm 16:18).
If they have the ability to fulfill their lustful desires, they fulfill them, and if they lack the means and opportunity, they do the next best thing and fill their imagination with images and pictures of the object of their lust and desire into which they have been enticed. They imagine themselves doing it, along with all the pleasure they imagine and expect they will derive from it. This is why people are often disappointed after actually gaining the object of their lust; it does not provide the pleasure they had imagined it would, or the pleasure does not last, so they begin to fix their affections, thoughts, and imaginations on something else. They think they can kill their lust by gratifying it, but this only feeds it and makes their affection for it grow stronger, “Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness,” (Jon 2:8).
Those whose affections have only been partially entangled with sin are not yet to this point, but are in the process of, and in danger of turning aside into sin. The Apostle John tells us that “all that is in the world” is also “from the world”, and this is “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).The lust of the eyes are those sins which are conveyed to the soul by the eyes, but not just by the physical seeing of the eye, but also by the eyes of the imagination, or the “mind’s eye”, being fixed on those lusts. This is called “the eyes” because in this way things are constantly conveyed to the mind and soul, just as physical objects are by physical sight.
This is why we must be very careful, not only in what we view, but also in what we hear and read, and allow our minds to dwell on. Very often the physical sight of something is the occasion for producing these imaginations, and when those occasions are known, the Christian is to flee from and avoid them, not arrogantly and presumptuously indulge in them, or justify them as harmless entertainment. We need to take seriously the instruction of Proverbs 4:25-27, “Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” This is the only way we can “Watch over your heart with all diligence” (Pv 4:23). Yet how many professing Christians today immerse themselves, through various forms of media, in all that would turn our hearts to evil, to all sorts of coveting, thereby filling their imaginations with the objects of their lusts and setting their minds on the things of this earth?
This was how sin got the better of Achan, “when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold…then I coveted them and took them” (Josh 7:21). First he saw them, and then he coveted them and imagined all the pleasure and profit to be had by possessing them, which led to his fixing his affections on them and his mind on getting them. This is what led to the sin which utterly devastated David’s family. First he saw Bathsheba bathing, which led to his coveting her and rolling her around in his imagination, and then he set his heart and mind on getting her. The same causes which ruined others will always produce the same effects in us. Those who sow to their “own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption,” (Gal 6:8). If a person finds that, despite any abhorrence they may have of sin in their mind, that their imagination is regularly and repeatedly solicited by, succumbing to, and engaged in sin and is set on earthly things, such a person can be sure that their affections are secretly enticed and ensnared.
This leads to a second indication of what it is to be enticed and entangled by sin, and that is when the imagination can succeed in overcoming the mind to where the mind comes to have a secret delight and fondness toward the object on which the affections are fixed. These thoughts become stuck in the mind, even when they would never actually commit them, yet the thoughts of them begin to be lodged in their mind. It was this which was at the heart of Israel’s defection from God, and what God commanded them to forsake, “Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, that you may be saved. How long will your wicked thoughts lodge within you?” (Jer 4:14). The Apostle James rebukes this just as strongly, “Cleans your hands you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (Jm 4:8).
So while a person may never commit the actual sin, their affections are so entangled by it that they allow the thoughts of it to be lodged in their mind. These thoughts are like text-messages between the imagination and the affections that transmit sin back and forth between them, increasing it and inflaming the imagination, thereby entangling the affections more and more until it eventually gains the consent of the will, and sin is actually conceived. David thinks about Bathsheba which makes him desire her, and by desiring her, his thoughts are infected, which inflames his imagination with more images of her, and so by one thing leading to another his affections were inflamed and ensnared into sin. No one can take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned, nor can they walk on hot coals and their feet not be scorched (Pv 6:27, 28). A constant and vigilant watchfulness must be maintained against entertaining vain thoughts and imaginations, especially in a season where we are continuously being bombarded by them, and where most people surround themselves with their seductions. If the affections become so ensnared by sin, so that sin is allowed to lodge in the mind, then the mind cannot help but be set on the things of the flesh and the things that are on earth, and “the mind set on the flesh is death” (Rm 8:6).
Very often this leads to the next evidence that a person’s affections are ensnared into sin, and that is they have a tendency and readiness to excuse, justify, mitigate, and extenuate the sin with which their affections are entangled. We have already shown in previous studies that it is one of the primary deceits of sin to offer diminished and justifying thoughts of sin to the mind; thoughts such as “Everyone else does it”; “No one will know”; “God is merciful”; “Jesus died for my sins past, present, and future”; “Just this once”; “My situation is unique”; “So and so approves of it”; “Some saints in the Bible did it”; “We have to change with the times”; “The times demand it”, etc.
This is the language of a deceived heart and mind. When there is a readiness in someone to listen to, look for, and approve of such excuses as will offer themselves in reference to any sin or unbiblical practice, it is evidence that the affections are enticed. When a person is willing to be tempted, when they place themselves in the path of temptation, to be courted by sin, to listen to its invitations and enticements, then they have lost their affections for Jesus Christ and are ensnared by sin.
They are like the young man lacking sense in Proverbs 7:6-23, who by wandering into the neighborhood of the adulteress, is seduced by her, not knowing “that it will cost him his life” (Pv 7:23). Rather than heeding the instruction of wisdom to, “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths” (Pv 7:25), they willingly place themselves in the path of temptation and allow their affections to be enticed by its seductions, because they take pleasure in the thought of it, then they look for ways to justify and extenuate it. When the deceit of sin has succeeded this far on any person, then their affections are enticed and ensnared, and are very near having their will consent to actually committing and conceiving sin, “and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (Jm 1:15).
How the Deceit of Sin Entices and Entangles the Affections
As I mentioned earlier, in order for someone to be enticed, they must have an affinity for and predisposition toward the bait used to entice them. The sin must be made irresistibly enticing, not only to ensnare a person’s affections, but also to cause them to overlook the danger of the trap. We will identify four of sin’s most effective lures that it uses to entice and ensnare a person into sin.
First, the commonness of sin, especially those sins which used to commonly be in a person’s mind, is used to draw the mind away from a careful watch against those sins. As Proverbs teaches, “Indeed, it is useless to spread the net in the eyes of any bird” (Pv 1:17). If it can see the snare, and has wings with which to fly away, it will not be caught. In the same way it is useless for the deceit of sin to set its traps and dangle its bait to ensnare the affections, while the eyes of the mind are open to its schemes, so as to put the will and affections to flight and avoid it, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pt 5:8); “for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor 2:11). But if the eyes are distracted or blinded, then the wings serve little purpose for escape. In this way sin seeks to distract and blind the mind to the sinfulness of sin, by minimizing its sinfulness by its commonness and public acceptance, and by false reasonings and justifications, and then it casts its net over the affections and entangles them.
In this way are loose, careless souls, who walk in a secure, formal, and respectable profession of Christianity, ensnared by the deceit of sin into a false security, in which their thoughts and affections are so filled with the things of this world that it is impossible for them to set their minds on the things above, and as a result, they never see the snare. There would never be any need for us to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), if it were not for the fact that there are always very many who are willing to corrupt it and turn away from it. If the churches planted by the apostles themselves, and who were under their vigilant care and watchfulness were prone to such defections and entrapments, how much more are we today where the most vile sins are nationally and publicly sanctioned and approved?
The influence of the gospel in any nation may be measured by the success it has against known national sins. The sin of this nation has always been the pursuit of prosperity, pleasure, and self-gratification. If these are not in some measure subdued and restrained by the gospel, if the mind and affections of people are not estranged from them and made more watchful against them, if their sinfulness does not appear exceedingly sinful, then whatever profession people make of the gospel, if they are not delivered by the gospel from the power and practice of these sins, their profession is empty, vain, and useless.
Secondly, by taking advantage of such seasons, when the minds of most professing Christians are distracted from sin’s sinfulness, sin is then presented as something desirable and gratifying to their carnal and worldly affections. It is glossed over and gilded with innumerable justifications so as to appeal to a person’s own lusts. Destructive heresies are easily introduced in such seasons (2 Pt 2:1). Error, once received under the guise of truth, takes a deeper root into the minds of carnal people than truth ever will or can. This is because all error is suited, in one way or another, to the unrenewed mind, there being nothing in it to incite the enmity of a fleshly mind against it. There is something in every error to recommend itself to the mind still set on the flesh. Hereby sin is presented, with the aid of the imagination, as something desirable, beneficial, and even necessary. This is the placing of the bait in the trap, to make the sin irresistibly enticing. Unless these “passing pleasures of sin” (Hb 11:25) are despised, as they were by Moses, and seen for what they really are, there can be no escaping the sin itself. The reason people reject a love of the truth is because they “took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Th 2:12).
The pleasure derived from sin resides in its suitability to satisfy and gratify the lusts, desires, and affections of the flesh. There is an affinity on the part of the flesh for the bait. Thus the reason for Paul’s warning to “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Rm 13:14). Do not allow your minds, your affections, or your imaginations to dwell and fix on things that are sinful, fleshly, and worldly, to harbor and cherish those things only suited to gratifying the lusts of the flesh. The deceit of sin attempts to entangle the soul by painting over the ugliness of sin with a false beauty, so that, with the aid of the imagination, it will seduce the heart into taking pleasure in it. Only a love of the truth and the experience of its power in the heart and life can prevent the mind and affections from being ensnared by sin’s deceits. All other means, all other systems of religion, all forms of false Christianity always have and always will fail to prevent and restrain a people from taking pleasure in their wickedness.
Thirdly, the deceit of sin will hide the danger that always accompanies every sin, especially those sins that are less obvious and most common, but equally toxic. When the deceit of sin has managed to remove the fear and reproach of even the most filthy and abominable sins, when people feel free and emboldened to display their sin like Sodom, when there remains no fear of God’s judgment and people glory in their shame and revel in their abominations, and when sins have become national, common, habitual, and celebrated, this is the most dangerous position that any place, church, or nation can be found in. Where people, under the profession of the truth, continue promiscuous in sin and take pleasure in unrighteousness, God will not always allow His gospel to be prostituted and used as a covering for their sin, but will give them over to such deceptions as will break out into an open apostasy from the truth. No age could ever give more evidence of this actual and practical atheism than the one in which we now live. This is the great danger of our time. The primary objective of the vast majority of people is to live in sin with as little trouble to themselves now, and with as little fear of what is in store for them in the future as they can attain. Sin will use all the deceit of which it is capable to hide from people the wrath of God, the consequences of sin, and especially of the particular sin into which their affections have been enticed. It will hide it with hopes of future pardon, with resolutions of future repentance, with extenuations and excuses, with promises to compensate by good works, with denials of God’s judgment, and with a thousand other deceptions it will hide the danger of every sin.
Fourthly, having succeeded this far in distracting the mind and affections from the sinfulness of sin, and having succeeded in making the sin irresistible by painting it over with false promises of pleasure and profit, and by hiding its danger, it now excites perverse rationalizations and reasoning in the mind, to fix it upon the sin into which the affections have been enticed, so that it may gain the consent of the will and actually conceive and accomplish the sin. How else do people reach the point to where they think it is rational and reasonable to allow, support, and defend a grown man being in the same restroom with little girls and women? How else do the most vile and horrific sins, such as the murder of infants, become nationalized, institutionalized, and commonplace? How else do the affections become so entangled with sin that, “the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil” (Eccl 8:11)? How else does most of professing Christianity come to believe that all of its national sins are somehow compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Why Sin is Able to Easily Entice the Affections
If the generality of people who profess to believe the truth, had really received the love of the truth; had they not had a secret enmity in their hearts and minds against the truth; had not vain and carnal pleasures been suited to the dominate principles of their mind and affections, then they could not, they would not have so easily, and so universally forsaken the true gospel for the traditions of men and their own lusts and desires as is the case today. They may have had a profession of the truth, and an affirmation of the truth, and a tradition of the truth, and a general, natural knowledge of the truth, but they do not have a love of the truth as will motivate them to obedience and holiness. And no case can be cited of any church or nation defecting from the truth where there was not first a gross negligence of imparting the power of the gospel into the hearts and minds of people by those entrusted with this duty, in both their teaching and by their life. In their lust for numbers and visible “results”, multitudes have been swayed into making a “decision”, affirmed in a counterfeit conversion, rushed into joining a church, where they continue as formal and dead professors, blinded by habit and a false security to their true condition. The church and gospel must now be redefined to accommodate the unbiblical lives and tastes of the multitude of unregenerate members. Instead of imparting the power of the gospel, they have succeeded in instilling in the minds of most people false notions and impressions of the nature of Christianity and the person of Jesus Christ, thereby encouraging and maintaining a false security in the vast majority of the generality of professing Christians.
I am as staunch a believer in and defender of the doctrine of eternal security and the perseverance of the saints as anyone who affirms this biblical truth, but there is a great difference between what the doctrine affirms and the false security in which most professing Christians live. A false security deceives, persuades, and assures someone that they possess what in reality they have never had. A false security is the product of a natural knowledge of spiritual things. Now, a natural knowledge has no power to keep the soul from sin and the world, or to constrain it to holiness and obedience. Therefore, in the place of any spiritual reality, men and women will substitute a form and appearance of it by applying its names, attributes, and effects to natural, outward, lifeless activities, or facsimiles thereof. All the power of faith, love, peace, self-denial, holiness, conformity to Christ, and all the principles and glory of a heavenly life, being lost, denied, forfeited, and despised among the generality of professing Christians, they set up a form of it in which they content themselves and work to deceive others with. Natural and external things are substituted for spiritual and internal realities and given the same names. The effects of true regeneration, the obedience, holiness, and love of the truth it always produces, is exchanged for other ways of obedience and holiness that meet with a ready acceptance and praise from the world.
As the lives of professing Christians grow more worldly, carnal, and materialistic; as they grow more and more weary of its doctrines and worship and of the holiness and obedience which it requires; in order to retain the people who make a profession of the gospel, a system of religion must be contrived, under the appearance and name of Christianity, that will accommodate its doctrines and worship to the lusts and carnal minds of its professors, while at the same time allowing them to be secure in their sin. It is “because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Mt 24:12). All sin is lawlessness, so as sin increases the love of the truth grows cold because people take pleasure in their wickedness, so they substitute a form of godliness for its power, which, if they possessed, they could never live securely in their sin.
Only the true gospel will deliver people from their sin and their love of it, and only a false, corrupted, and adulterated gospel will make people secure in their sin. No one who has a love of the truth can corrupt, prostitute, or deny the truth, or endorse, promote, participate with, and profit from those who do (2 Jn 10, 11). Anyone who denies, corrupts, adulterates, and prostitutes the truth has never known the spiritual power and glory of the truth. The indispensability of a new birth, having been proclaimed by Jesus Christ, is the first thing attacked by all false religion, by attempting to destroy and redefine its nature, and/or to remove its necessity.
A false security always spawns a careless, slothful, negligent watch over our own heart. Little or no effort is made to distinguish between truth and error, either in doctrine or practice, and those who do attempt to make and expose the distinction are usually vilified and accused of being schismatic, arrogant, harsh, narrow-minded, divisive, too dogmatic, and uncharitable. False teachers learn from experience that it is in their own self-interest to keep people ignorant of the great truths and doctrines of the gospel. This is why we see such a belittling of theology today, the preference for programs and entertainment over truth, and so little hunger and demand for really helpful literature. And if, for the sake of preserving their reputation as a legitimate teacher, they do teach its doctrines, they will ignore or misrepresent their implications and the holiness and obedience which a true spiritual love and knowledge of the gospel always produces and requires. Arthur W. Pink wrote in 1934,
“The religion of vast multitudes consists in little more than a firm conviction that their sins are forgiven and that their souls are eternally secure. They considerate it a serious fault to doubt their salvation, and the whole of their experience is made up of ‘faith’ and ‘joy’: faith that their sins are blotted out, joy in the sure prospect of eternal bliss. But there is no conformity to God’s holy law, no mourning before Him because of self-love and self-seeking, no humility and brokenness of heart. Let one bid them ‘examine themselves,’ test their foundations, take upon them the yoke of Christ, and they at once raise the howl of ‘Legalism, Dangerous teaching’! O what a rude awakening awaits all such the first five minutes after death!” (Cited in The Life of Arthur W. Pink, Iain Murray, Banner of Truth Trust, 2004 (176)
This dismal assessment of professing Christendom was shared by other men of this era; men such as B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and A.W. Tozer, who wrote,
“The doctrine of justification by faith – a biblical truth, and a blessed relief from sterile legalism and unavailing self-effort – has in our time fallen into evil company and been interpreted by many in such a manner as actually to bar men and women from the knowledge of God. The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may now be ‘received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. The man is ‘saved’ but he is not hungry and thirsty after God.” (Ibid, 178)
If this was the situation in their time – a time before the infiltration of charismatic theology; before the corruptions of the seeker-sensitive movement; before the influx of feminist ideology; before the explosion of Word of Faith teachings; before the self-esteem cult; before the integration of secular psychology; before the invention of all the programs and activities geared to cater to the various fleshly desires of every demographic; before the crass commercialization of Christianity; before the apostasy of entire denominations, to the point of their ordaining practicing homosexuals; before the introduction of worldly, entertainment-driven worship; before the explosion in technology to propagate heresy and the product of people’s own imagination presented as extra-biblical revelation straight from God; and before the popularizing of the carnal Christian teaching – we can only imagine what their assessment would be of professing Christendom today. No doubt it would be the same as Jesus’ judgment of the state of religion during His earthly life, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mt 15:8).
Consequently, having only a natural knowledge of gospel truths, and being secure in the persuasion that they are eternally secure and can never lose their salvation, people allow their mind to be carried away by the deceitfulness of sin, and their affections to be enticed by their own lusts. This is why no true understanding of Christianity can be gained from the beliefs and practices of the vast majority of those who make a profession of it today, or from the great majority of those who teach it, or from the life and practices of the majority of churches. There is not a more secure, carnal, worldly, materialistic, sensual, and unrestrained generation of sinners in the world than those who are under the sole influence of a natural knowledge of spiritual truths. Plastering our cars and filling our homes with religious paraphernalia, and whitewashing our lives with religious and humanitarian activity, and stuffing our heads with theological knowledge, are no indication that a love of the truth resides in the heart (Mt 7:22, 23). Where there is no love of the truth, then there is nothing to prevent or restrain the affections from being wholly enticed by the deceitfulness of sin, or to deliver the mind from being set on the flesh and the things on this earth.
In our next study we will examine the next step in the deceit of sin, and that is its gaining the consent of the will to conceive and accomplish sin.