This is Satan's most common scheme: He presents the bait and hides the hook. Satan presents sin as fun, satisfying, profitable, and pleasurable, while concealing the miseries and pain that always accompany sin.
Surely this is part of what Scripture calls the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). We are tempted to believe that our happiness and fulfillment require us to indulge some sin. The “passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25) seem irresistible, in part because temptation presents to me only the alleged benefits of sin. Far from conferring benefits, however, sin is the very thing that cripples us. When we commit sin, as Brooks puts it, wrath, misery, shame, and loss are always close behind (p. 29).
Sin is bad for many reasons; one of them is that it wreaks havoc in a man's soul. It promises satisfaction, but delivers emptiness. Sin leads to more and bigger sins. It either makes us feel guilty and ashamed (which is bad), or creates moral numbness in us so we no longer feel guilt and shame over our sin (which is worse). But Satan hides these hooks and presents only the bait.
Satan used this ploy successfully in the Garden of Eden. He told Eve that the forbidden fruit would open her eyes, thus causing her to be like God (Genesis 3:4-5). The serpent presented the bait, and said nothing about the hook. Richard Sibbes, one of Brooks' contemporaries, wrote, "Satan gives Adam an apple, and takes away Paradise. Therefore in all temptations let us consider not what he offers, but what we shall lose." Satan also tempted the Lord Jesus Christ in this manner: He offered Christ the largest bait imaginable, namely all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-9).
The bait looks attractive because we believe that sin leads to happiness. Temptation offers shortcuts to fulfillment; it promises quick contentment. But obedience to God is the only sure route to satisfaction. God's laws are guidelines given by a loving Creator who desires for His creatures to flourish. Holiness—not sin— leads to happiness. Sin's remnants in us rebel against this truth, which is why we often struggle with obedience to God's will. Satan exploits these vestiges of sin in us and fans our doubts about whether God's way is truly the best way.
When we are tempted, the alleged benefits of a sin appear large-just like a juicy worm appears large on a fisherman's hook. The worm does taste good to the fish when he swallows it. But along with the worm comes a hook. Expect Satan to entice you with bait that has special appeal to you. "Satan, like a fisher, baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish," observed Thomas Adams, one of Brooks' fellow pastors.
Sin's hook is painful. It injures, damages, enslaves, and sometimes disables. Sin leaves long-term (and occasionally life long) scars. Although God forgives sin, He frequently allows us to live with the consequences of our sins.
Christian, believe God's assessment of sin: It brings misery.
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Robert Spinney (PhD, Vanderbilt) is professor of History at Patrick Henry College, where he teaches American history and historiography. He is the author of City of Big Shoulders: A History of Chicago and World War II in Nashville: Transformation of the Homefront, as well as an American history textbook and numerous ministry-related booklets. Dr. Spinney formerly served as a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Hartsville, TN, and at Winchester Baptist Church in Winchester, VA.