Joey turns to Chandler. He exclaims: “over the line? You’re so far past the line, that you can’t even see the line. The line is a dot to you!”. And, unbeknownst to Joey, he brilliantly sums up Satan’s seventh device.
Satan’s seventh device, Brooks’ states, is luring our souls to sin “by making the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin” (66). Let’s face it: this seventh device is obvious. In fact, it seems like a departure from Brooks’ previous surgical precision in identifying Satan’s work in our hearts. Of course Satan lures our souls toward sin by tempting them with sin!
But, if we scratch this device, we realise how puss-filled a spiritual sore it truly is. Brooks is arguing that Satan tempts the soul by not simply holding up sin itself but by holding up the occasions of sin. Satan lures us to sin by preaching the myth that holiness is a line. If holiness is a line, then we can enjoy proximity to the occasions of sin without stumbling into sin. In other words, we can stop before we go past the line. If we manage our occasions of sin carefully, we can enjoy an unchanged life, and the line will never be a dot to us. We “may with Achan handle the golden wedge, though you do not steal the golden wedge” (66, emphasis mine). This “holiness is a line” mentality allows Satan to “make the soul bold to venture upon the occasions of sin”.
Remedy #1: seriously consider Scripture’s testimony concerning occasions of sin.
Scripture’s testimony concerning occasions of sin may be summed up thusly: “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Brooks contests that: “to abstain from all appearance of evil is to do nothing wherein sin appears of which hath a shadow of sin” (66). If we long for holiness, we must turn away from the shadow of sin. Indeed, our repentance is not simply for the act of sin itself, but for the attitude of our heart that often leads to a blasé ingratitude for our graciously life-giving union with Christ. We repent of a heart that willingly embraces occasions of sin. Following Solomon’s advice against adultery (Proverbs 5), reflecting particularly on verse eight, Brooks concludes:
“He that would not be burnt, must dread the fire….to venture upon the occasion of sin, then to pray, ‘lead us not into temptation’, is…to thrust thy finger into the fire and then to pray that it might not be burnt” (67).
Scripture is clear. Holiness is not a line, distinguishing between the occasion and act of sin. A grace-shaped life will repent of both occasion and act. Therefore, take no confidence from Satan’s message, as you have no confidence in the strength of your flesh.
Remedy #2: seriously consider that there’s no conquest over sin without turning from the occasion of sin.
“It is impossible for that man to get the conquest of sin, that plays and sports with the occasion with sin” (67). Take Sméagol, for example. In J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Sméagol is warped into the twisted Gollum by the Ring’s influence. Proximity to the Ring destroys Sméagol, but he cannot bear any distance between him and “his precious”. For Sméagol, proximity means slavery. If we’re prepared to dance “on the brink” of sin’s pit, then it is a “just and righteous thing with God that [we] should fall into the pit”. Our sanctification requires that we throw out the gunpowder of our frequent occasions of sin. If we don’t, all it takes is a single spark.
Remedy #3: seriously consider that avoiding occasions of sin is an evidence of life-giving union with Christ.
Brooks constantly contends: “a man is which he is in temptation” (70). He argues that the truth of a man’s life is most keenly seen in how he endures, and responds to, temptation. This, he argues, “speaks out both the truth and the strength of grace” at work in a given man (70). “A Christless soul will look for and long after occasions to sin” (70). Therefore, “nothing but grace can fence a man against the occasions of sin….[that man that is surely good] will be strongly tempted thereunto…on many occasions…but in his course will not be bad” (70). It might seem spiritually cool to put our souls closer to occasions of sin. But, our union with Christ is evidenced in our souls when we strive to shun all sin, even occasions toward sin.
Holiness is not a line. There’s not a spectrum of holiness. In Christ, we have been made holy, even as we struggle against the unholy sinfulness that plagues us. Therefore, don’t listen to Satan. Don’t allow him to fan the flames of our indwelling sin by wandering aimlessly toward occasions of sin. Instead, through your union with Christ, work hard at fighting this Satanic device.