This past Sunday, I concluded my sermon on Matthew 26:36-46 with the five steps that lead to spiritual tragedy. These steps are taken from the exegesis of the same text in John MacArthur’s commentary on Matthew. He notes that the sequence of events leading to spiritual disaster are as follows:
1. It begins with Self Confidence. That is what we saw last week in Matthew 26:31-35 as the disciples were refuting what Christ had said about them falling away. It was also reflected in this subsequent text as they did not feel the need to keep watch and pray. They were sure of themselves, so sure that they did not feel any sort of need to seek God and depend on God for courage and strength. As it says in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
2. It continues with Spiritual Indifference. We slip into this pattern where we think that sin and evil are no big deal rather than acknowledging that we are engaged in a spiritual battle against real forces of darkness and against the vileness of our own flesh. We come to a place where we are effectively asleep at the spiritual wheel of our lives just as the disciples were asleep in the garden. This Spiritual Indifference is most characterized by a lack of time in the Word and a lack of prayer. We don’t pray and study God’s truth anymore because we don’t sense a need for those means of grace.
3. It leads to Temptation. Self confidence and spiritual indifference always open the door to temptation. Our flesh is weak, and Satan is a cunning adversary. He knows our besetting sins and He is tireless in His onslaughts. Our lack of prayer and Scripture reading represents a lack of love for and dependence upon God (which is ultimately a lack of faith). If we are not dependent on Him, then we will fall to temptation, because we do not have the power within ourselves to overcome. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
4. Temptation gives way to sin. When we fail to commune with Christ in the Word and in Prayer, we fail to properly equip ourselves, we fail to put on the full armor of God (Eph 6), and so when our enemy attacks, we are led away as willing slaves. We can subsequently get wrapped in a blanket of guilt that continues to suffocate us spiritually because it keeps us from biblical repentance and restoration.
5. The final result is Spiritual Tragedy. In the case of the disciples, the tragedy or the disaster was falling away from their Lord on the very night He was facing His greatest trial. In our lives, it could mean the ruin of a marriage, the loss of a job, the downfall of a ministry, and a host of other bad consequences. Ultimately, our witness for Christ and His gospel is diminished and we have to endure the consequences of grievous sin all because we failed at the beginning to “watch and pray.”
In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he began his letter by telling Timothy to fight the good fight of faith (1:18) and he ended his letter by repeating it: “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Timothy 6:12-14)
These words are for us as well. We must fight the good fight of faith. We must discipline ourselves for godliness. We will only be successful in this fight as we look to Christ in faith and as we depend upon His grace and strength. But the fact that He is working in us and through us does not diminish our personal responsibility to persevere in the practice of godliness.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” Let us run the race together for the glory of out Savior. I love you all!