Why do we find the power of a temptation to sin so great, and let go of the delights and future glories that are promised us? Why does the temptation to sinful instant gratification often eclipse our joy in the future gratification offered to us in Christ?
An excerpt today from Thomas Manton is most helpful — beginning with a keen diagnosis of how present temptations work, and then how faith brings us help. pdb
We should have such a faith to substantiate our hopes and to check sensuality, for we find the corrupt heart of man is all for present satisfaction. Though the pleasures of sin be short and inconsiderable, yet, because they are near at hand, they have more influence than the joys of heaven, which are future and absent. We wonder at the folly of Esau to sell his birthright for a morsel of meat, (Heb. 12:16). …When lust is up and eager for fulfilment, all considerations of eternal glory and blessedness are laid aside to give it satisfaction.
A little pleasure, a little gain, a little happiness in the world will make men part with all that is honest and sacred. A man would wonder at their folly, but the great reason is, they live by sense: “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10). Here lies the bait, these things are present; we can taste the delights of the world, and feel the pleasures of the flesh; but the happiness of the world to come is a thing unseen and unknown. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32).
This is the language of every carnal heart. …Present advantages and vanities, though they are small and but trifles, have more power to pervert us than good things at a distance, and the promises of God, even, to allure and draw in our hearts to God. Here lies the root and strength of all temptations; the inconveniences of strictness in religion are present, and they may have present distaste and present trouble to the flesh, and our rewards are yet future.
So, how can we check this ‘living by sense’ that is so natural to us? Why, faith, substantiating our hopes provides a remedy. Faith makes things to become as real as if they were already enjoyed. …Where faith is alive and strong, and is “the conviction of things not seen”, it baffles and defeats all temptations.
~ Thomas Manton (1620-1677)
*This comes from Manton’s reflections on Hebrews 11. They are all profitable sermons, available online (plain text format), but also published by The Banner of Truth Trust.