Spiritual warfare (correctly understood) is warfare that takes place largely within a person’s soul. Satan tempts me to sin, while God’s Word and God’s Spirit call me to faith and obedience. We must recover this sense of daily spiritual warfare, or we will not recover daily biblical holiness.
Temptation is an issue that Christians rarely talk about these days. Even the word itself has quietly slipped out of religious use, becoming instead a term used to boost sales of perfume and chocolates. Attempting to create an electrifying name that would attract big audiences, television producers titled a reality show “Temptation Island.” I know of no musical groups called The Blasphemers or The Compromisers, but one of Motown’s most famous groups was named The Temptations. One grocery store chain called its new line of gourmet cookies—you guessed it—Temptations.
The word temptation once evoked a sense of seriousness and caution, much as did the words tuberculosis and heresy. To brand something a temptation was to give it the kiss of death. No respectable person would knowingly flirt with temptation. Now it is a word we say with a twinkle in our eye.
It would be bad enough if the word temptation had simply dropped out of common use, but it is worse than that. Temptation is no longer seen as a devilish strategy for encouraging Christians to sin. By losing the biblical concept of sin’s enticing appeal, we have also lost (at least in part) the biblical diagnosis of how and why we sin.
Few subjects are as practical for the Christian as temptation. In all likelihood, you will be tempted to sin at least several times today. If you are a believer, then you know from experience that sin’s seduction is frequent, unrelenting, and more successful than we would like to admit.
This series aims to reacquaint believers with the critical subject of temptation. More specifically, it is designed to equip you to resist temptation more effectively. This series also has a second goal: to familiarize you with a book about temptation that was written 350 years ago: Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices.
Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) published Precious Remedies in 1652. Holding Brooks’ book in my hands makes me feel like a football coach who will be leading his team into the Super Bowl in a few weeks… and who has obtained his opponent’s entire playbook. Precious Remedies is something like Satan’s playbook; with withering thoroughness, it exposes the most common temptation strategies that the Father of Lies uses to damage God’s people. It then supplies no-nonsense remedies that the believer can use to thwart Satan’s assaults.
Because my burden is identical to that of Brooks, I will rely on the first section of Precious Remedies as a framework for discussing temptation. I will borrow some of Brooks’ ideas and quote him occasionally. I will also include a few quotations from other Puritan pastors, in part to demonstrate that Brooks’ ideas were shared by his peers in pastoral ministry.