*Keeping Watch and Praying
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Isaiah 30:21 NIV
You see the unquestionable progress from grace to sin. Thus it goes on, from step to step: (1) The divine seed of loving, conquering faith remains in the one who is born of God. “He keeps himself” by the grace of God and “cannot commit sin.” (2) A temptation arises; whether from the world, the flesh, or the devil, it matters not. (3) The Spirit of God gives him warning that sin is near and bids him more abundantly watch unto prayer. (4) He gives way, in some degree, to the temptation, which now begins to grow pleasing to him. (5) The Holy Spirit is grieved; his faith is weakened; and his love of God grows cold. (6) The Spirit reproves him more sharply, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (7) He turns away from the painful voice of God and listens to the pleasing voice of the tempter. (8) Evil desire begins and spreads in his soul till faith and love vanish away.
He is then capable of committing outward sin, the power of the Lord being departed from him.
It is unquestionably true, that one who is born of God, keeping himself, does not, cannot commit sin. Yet if he does not “keep himself,” he may commit all manner of sin with greediness.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this fifty-ninth lesson on prayer, Wesley describes how we can fall from grace in situations of temptation if we do not keep ourselves. That is, attend to the things we know will keep us strong in the midst of temptation. Just like caring for a garden, we must keep the weeds pulled and water the life planted in our souls for a bountiful harvest. Jesus says in Matthew 26:41, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
1 John 2:15-17 warns us, saying, “15Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life are the same weaknesses Satan tempted Eve with in the Garden, and Jesus with in the wilderness. They are the same weaknesses that Satan tries to exploit in us.
In Romans 12:1-3, the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
James 1:12-16 tells us, “12Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘ I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
Wesley ends with, “It is unquestionably true, that one who is born of God, keeping himself, does not, cannot commit sin. Yet if he does not “keep himself,” he may commit all manner of sin with greediness.”