We’re honored to be joined again by author and speaker Paul Tripp on the Ask Pastor John podcast. He is the author of the outstanding book Sex and Money. In the book you say, when it comes to sexual temptation, run from the pride that says you are stronger than you really are (p. 96). Explain this pride that says we are stronger than we really are in the face of sexual temptation.
Wow, wow, wow. I think this question is so important.
I would say it this way: Generally, it is not my weakness that gets me in trouble, it’s my delusions of strength. The Bible is all about the beauty of God’s grace for the weak. In fact, you could argue that there is no such thing ever considered in Scripture as human autonomy and human self-sufficiency. I am neither independent nor self-sufficient. So even in the pre-fall condition, Adam and Eve were not so powerful as to not need God. They were created to be dependent on God.
Now we don’t like dependency. If you are a parent, you know those arguments your children have with you about what to eat and about what to wear and about when to go to sleep are not about those issues. They are saying, “You will not rule me. I am going to make my own decisions. I am going to set my own rules. I am strong enough and I am wise enough to do that.” And so we all do that in some way. We all swindle ourselves into thinking that we are wiser, stronger, and more righteous than we actually are. And that really makes us susceptible to temptation because we don’t prepare ourselves for weakness and foolishness — because we don’t believe it exists in us.
Here is a practical way of talking about this question: I think that we are called to live in a constant state of prepared spontaneity. What that means is I don’t know the temptations I am going to face today because I am not sovereign. I am not omniscient. I don’t see the future. But I know everything God says about the fallen world and its dangers, and I know everything God says about the sin that is in my heart that makes me susceptible to those dangers.
So I prepare myself for what I don’t know is coming so that, when it comes, I am ready. And the way that you prepare yourself is you preach to yourself a positive theology of spiritual weakness coupled with a positive theology of sufficient grace. And you never stop preaching that to yourself. I want to say what I say all the time: No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do. You are in a constant conversation with yourself. And that is either a gospel-driven conversation that acknowledges weakness and seeks grace, or it is a delusional self-swindling conversation that promotes delusions of human strength and delusions of human righteousness that sets me up for temptation.