From the Word
9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart I seek thee; let me not wander from thy commandments! 11 I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. 12 Blessed be thou, O LORD; teach me thy statutes!
Psalm 119:9–12, RSV
A man may be familiar with God’s Word, yet if he walks in self-security, concerned about other matters, or perhaps, being tempted, he loses sight of God’s Word, it may easily happen that he is seduced and deceived by the secret craft and cunning of the devil; or of himself become bewildered, losing his wisdom and being unable to find counsel or help even in the most trivial temptations. For the devil and reason, or human wisdom, can dispute and syllogize with extraordinary subtlety in these things until one imagines that to be true wisdom which is not. A wise man soon becomes a fool; men readily err and make false steps; a Christian likewise is prone to stumble; and even a teacher and prophet can easily be deceived by reason’s brilliant logic. So there is need of understanding, of careful, keen discernment, that wisdom be not perverted and falsified, and man be deceived with its counterfeit.
Man is prone to stumble and to fail in understanding when not watchful of his purposes and motives, to see how they accord with the wisdom of God’s Word. Particularly is his understanding unreliable when the devil moves him to wrath, impatience, dejection, melancholy, or when he is otherwise tempted. Often they who have been well exercised with trials become bewildered in small temptations and uncertain what course to take. In this one needs to be watchful and not go by his reason or his feelings, but remember God’s Word, or ascertain if he does not know what it is, and be guided thereby. Man cannot judge aright by the dictates of reason when he is tempted. Therefore he ought not to follow his own natural intelligence, nor to act from hasty conclusions. Let him be suspicious of all his reasoning and beware of the cunning of the devil, who seeks either to allure or to intimidate us by his specious arguments. Let him call upon the understanding born of his wisdom in the gospel, what his faith, love, hope and patience counsel, what God’s will eloquently teaches every one and under all circumstances, and let him strive and pray to be filled with such knowledge.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 408–09.