You’re probably like me and often get annoyed at the never-ending stream of emails that flood your inbox, advertisements for various products or services you never asked for, seeking to lure you in to their world. I sort of understand how it works … if I ever buy tickets to a music or sporting event online then all of a sudden I’ll be offered opportunities to purchase tickets for musicians or sports of which I’ve never heard. If I purchase clothing, even browse for clothing online, then all of a sudden my purchase options are greatly multiplied with things I would never consider. The Christian online universe is no better! If I even indicate a remote interest in a Christian event, conference, book, course, etc. then I’ll be overwhelmed with information about a myriad of other Christian stuff that I have no interest in whatsoever.
As you might expect, I will at times be captivated by some flashy ad, the newest product, the latest book, the lowered price, the life-changing conference, the best service, etc. and will then actually follow up and open the email, perhaps even make a purchase. Yes, I realize this only perpetuates the situation and only invites more such unsolicited emails … but … I mean … you know … it’s not like I’m emptying my savings account, or causing my children to go hungry, or causing someone else to make a purchase.
All this sounds a lot like how sin works. Sin is unsolicited … although we do pursue sin by nature, we don’t typically go around shopping for a particular sin to commit. Sin is relentless … the inbox of my heart gets flooded with sinful temptations every single day, throughout the day. Sin is packaged very attractively … been this way since the Garden where Eve found the fruit to be good for food, beautiful, and desirable to make one wise. Sin is packaged with other sin … showing interest in one sin opens the door for other sins to gain access into your life. Sin is deceptive … we can justify a sin by thinking it’s not the worst thing in the world or that it’s not really hurting anyone else.
Temptations are going to come our way. But how do we avoid the situation where we’re giving in to every one we see? We need to remember 1 Corinthians 10:13 - “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.” Great verse, worthy of memorization. But don’t forget to read the verses that follow: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry ….” Paul goes on to explain how, even through the sacrament, we deepen and strengthen our participation in Christ, in the benefits of the cross, in our fellowship with Him.
Where is the strength to fight against temptation? It’s not in yourself. God doesn’t merely flash a sign to you in the midst of temptation and give you a hint about an escape route you can pursue in your own strength. Rather, in and through Jesus Christ, He has defeated sin and gives us the opportunity, through Word and Sacrament, in faith clinging to the power of the cross and resurrection, to enjoy His strength as we encounter sin. Jesus is that way of escape!