Everybody is tempted. As long as you’re in the body, temptation can reach you. The impulse to sin has a landing place in your life.
Jesus doesn’t say, “Watch and pray, so you won’t be tempted.” There’s no way you can get to a place in the Christian life where you’re no longer tempted but, “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). Literally it says, “so that you will not enter into temptation.”
Entering into temptation, he says, has two distinctive features:
First, “Satan becomes more earnest than usual.” There are times when he intensifies his assaults against you. Not every day in the Christian life is the same. There seem to be days and seasons of life when all hell breaks loose. Paul refers to this, “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes…” (Ephesians 6:13).
Second, “the heart… is unable to escape the trap of temptation.” Often you will be able to brush off temptations without serious difficulty. But there will also be times when a particular temptation will gain power and vigor within you. You will find yourself divided, wanting to reject the temptation, but at the same time unable to free yourself from it.
Imagine a salesman knocking at your door. You open the door, and he tells you what he is selling. At that point, if you’re not interested, it’s not hard to say, “Sorry, I’m not interested. Try the nice folks next door.” But suppose you invite this person into your home…
Now he sits down in your living room and makes his presentation. He shows you the product. He talks to you about how much you need this and how much better your life will be if you have it. Some relationship begins to be formed and your mind and your heart become engaged. Now it’s harder to say “No.”
This is what it means to “enter into” temptation.
You’re engaged with it, connected to it. You let it inside and its sitting in your living room. The temptation that landed in your flesh has found a place in your affections. Temptation grows in power as it builds a position in your soul.
In a previous post we used the analogy of football. The game is about moving the ball forward and backward, trying to gain yardage. You are building a position. It’s the same in chess. The chess master builds a position on the board. Gradually he moves his pieces into commanding positions on the board, until your king suddenly gets knocked over.
It’s the same in business when there is a hostile takeover of a company. Gradually, over time, a position is built with the shares and with seats on the Board, and eventually their position becomes overwhelming and the takeover is irresistible.
It’s the same in warfare. The great military conflicts of history were won or lost by where the generals positioned their troops, the strategic pieces of high ground that they took and so on. This is true on the football field, in the boardroom and on the battlefield.
On the night when our Lord was betrayed, Satan was building a position. He’d entered into the heart of Judas, the betrayer. He was unleashing his entire arsenal, so our Lord Jesus comes to the disciples and says, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. What Satan is doing here is going to trap you. Don’t get into a place where sin traps you.”
This is a word for us. Temptations will come to you this week, and Jesus says, “Watch and pray, so that what will come to you will not enter into you and trap you.”