2. The first day that you enter into Christ's congregation, watch out for the temptations.
Bunyan, John (2011-11-22). Prayer (Kindle Locations 371-372). GLH Publishing. Kindle Edition.
One would think that when we come to Christ and enter into His church, we are safe at last. And in a sense, we are right, for there is no more dangerous place to be than outside of Christ. There I am under the lordship of the devil, and in constant peril of being confirmed and confined to eternal punishment. Now, in Christ, we are saved - safe in Him.
And yet, there are temptations for those who enter the fold - temptations that would draw you away from the purity of the Gospel; temptations that would fix your eyes on men with powerful personalities rather than relying on the power of the Spirit; temptations to attempt or expect short-cuts to glory, bypassing the pains and shames of suffering.
The Apostle Paul has written letters on each of these subjects (and more). He wrote to the Galatians: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turned from the Gospel,” returning to a kind of “approval-by-lawfulness.” He wrote 1 Corinthians to warn people to not be so enamored with gifted men who have been called to be but servants of Jesus who alone is Lord. In addition, Peter wrote his first letter to warn fellow Christians that they “should not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you.”
All of these temptations result from losing sight of the glories of heaven, substituting instead a lesser vision framed by earthly and man-sized perspectives. We trade away approval with God, secured by Christ, for approval in the eyes of men, earned through our own efforts. Our worship slides askew from “faith-in-God-who-cannot-be-seen” to physical or psychological attractions toward mere men. We begin to think that we were saved primarily for our own convenience and comfort rather than for the glory of God, and thus find rejection and suffering impossible to comprehend and to endure.
But Christian, remember that we are strangers and sojourners. We are not yet what we will be, and we do not yet bask in our Savior’s presence. That is ahead, up the road. Let’s keep going, in the purity of the Gospel, relying on the strength that God’s Spirit gives, enduring suffering as good soldiers of Christ.