Hedges to Help Protect Us from Sin

Hedges

When Satan came before the Lord, God praised Job for his righteousness: “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8). Satan, however, protested. In his mind, he believed that God was unfairly protecting Job from temptation: “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?” (Job 1:10). This “hedge” of divine blessing made Job less susceptible to temptation.

Of course, when God granted permission for this “hedge” to be removed, Job remained faithful (Job 1:22; 2:10). But the fact that Job had to work harder to resist the temptation to forsake God cannot be denied. Temptation was more severe when the “hedge” protecting Job was taken away.

As we make application to our lives, we should understand that we can have certain hedges to help protect us from sin. God has promised a way of escape so that every temptation can be defeated (1 Corinthians 10:13). The more hedges we have in place, the better we will be able to overcome temptation.

The only infallible safeguard against temptation is the word of God. The wise man wrote, “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Proverbs 30:5). However, there are other hedges that we can put in place to help guard against temptation. We will consider a few of these in this article. We should understand that none of these safeguards are infallible, but they can greatly help if we use them properly.

Conscience

The conscience is what helps us to “discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). Of course, we should not expect the conscience to be a safe guide on its own. The wise man said, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). When Paul persecuted Christians, he did so “with a perfectly good conscience” (Acts 23:1). Because he was following the wrong standard, he felt no guilt. The conscience can also become “seared” (1 Timothy 4:2), which prevents one from feeling guilt for doing what is wrong.

While the conscience cannot be a safe guide on its own, it can be a safeguard for us when it is trained according to the word of God. The Hebrew writer said, “For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14). When the conscience is trained by the word of God, it is able to provide a warning for us when temptation strikes. We will know that something is not right, even if we cannot immediately place a finger on what it is. Therefore, the conscience, properly trained, can be a hedge to protect us against sin.

Memory

The memory is what helps us to remember what we have previously been taught. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, He responded each time with a quotation from Scripture as the reason why He would not do what the devil was trying to get Him to do. Jesus was well familiar with the Scriptures and how to use them since He was the Word in the flesh (John 1:14). When we are faced with temptation, we will need to remember what we have learned from the Scriptures so that we can call to mind the instructions regarding the particular stumbling block before us.

Memories are not perfect. Even though the apostles had been with Jesus, they still needed to be guided by the Holy Spirit in order to remember perfectly what Jesus taught them (John 14:26). We will not receive the same miraculous, direct assistance today (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). Therefore, we must study diligently to be able to accurately handle the word (2 Timothy 2:15) and have it hidden in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). The better our memory of the Scriptures, the better hedge we have to protect us from sin.

Habit

Habits are those behaviors that have been done often enough that they become second nature to us, such that we can do them without much thought. This is not to say that our service to God should consist of us mindlessly “going through the motions.” We must serve Him from the heart (Matthew 15:8; Romans 6:17). Furthermore, we must be especially careful not to develop any bad habits. We cannot afford to allow a careless sin become a habit and become second nature to us. Self-evaluation is constantly necessary.

However, when obedience to the will of God becomes customary, there is less of a struggle of will involved in dealing with temptation. Yet the only way this can happen is if we practice righteousness consistently. We must live in such a way that we can echo the words of Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). The good habits that we develop through Christ-like obedience will provide a hedge to help us resist temptation.

Brethren

Our fellow Christians are able to be an encouragement to us to do what is right (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Unfortunately, there are also false brethren (Galatians 2:4), erring brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:6), and weak brethren (1 Thessalonians 5:14) who could fail to encourage us in what is right and even lead us to do things that are wrong. We can never let our guard down, even when we are with fellow Christians.

But when we have like-minded brethren (2 Peter 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10), we are able to receive encouragement from them to face the challenges and temptations that will come in life. In order to take advantage of this encouragement, we must take time to assemble with the church (Hebrews 10:24-25), as this is a prime opportunity to encourage and to be encouraged. But we should not limit our interaction with our brethren to the regular assembly. As we have opportunity, we should find time to be with brethren outside of the assembly (Acts 2:46). These times provide further opportunity to receive encouragement. The Hebrew writer said, “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). The encouragement we receive from like-minded brethren helps build a hedge, protecting us from the attacks of the devil.

Conclusion

No “hedge” is full-proof. The word of God alone is perfect. Therefore we must continually examine ourselves according to that standard to be sure we are using it properly and following it faithfully. But the more hedges, and stronger hedges, we place between us and temptation or sin, the better off we will be in our efforts to be blameless and upright – as Job was – and please the Lord.


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