The phrase I'm thinking about is found in the middle of the sentence: "the sin which so easily ensnares us." Does it ever! I have been snared by sin far more times than I care to admit. What is so frustrating is that it's generally the same two or three sins I've struggled with for as long as I can remember. They don't hold the appeal for me that they once did, but it's like a chronic back pain: once you injure your lower back, you have to be careful to avoid doing things that can aggravate the old injury. (Trust me; I know.) My wretched flesh--all that I was before I trusted Christ as my Savior--is constantly trying to find a way to reassert its control over me. I know from long experience that when my walk with the Lord is consistent, the Holy Spirit gives me both the strength and the desire to resist temptation in those areas; but it's up to me to see that, in the words of David, "I [keep] myself from my iniquity" - Psalm 18:23. The idea is that we know the sins that plague us and so we take steps to avoid situations where we know we can be tempted. If I were someone who had a problem with alcohol, for instance, then I would know that I have to stay away from the old drinking crowd, the bars, etc.
Now let's take a look at how sin can take root in the life of an individual, Christian and non-Christian alike:
"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor
does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires
and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown,
brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren." - James 1:13-16
I was pastor of a church in western Michigan for many years. When I had the time, I enjoyed going walleye fishing with one of the men in our church. He taught me how to catch walleye--the best-tasting freshwater fish in my
opinion. Walleye tend to hang out in the current and let food drift toward them. My friend had a fish finder on his boat--some people call it a cheater--so locating a school of walleye was pretty easy. We would bait our hooks with nightcrawlers, leaving about half the worm drifting behind the hook. Walleye will approach the worm and begin nibbling away at it. The trick is to wait for a tug on the line that indicates he's taking a good bite. Then you give a sharp pull on the fishing pole and set the hook. Sometimes we would miss, but we usually got our limit.
That is a pretty accurate description of the word translated as "enticed" in the passage from James. Satan dangles a tempting morsel--the sin that so easily ensnares us--in our thoughts. The minute we begin to consider and think about, or even enjoy, that thought, we are on dangerous ground. If I have been negligent in my personal walk with the Lord, then I find that I am relatively easy prey for the temptation. (Keep in mind that to be tempted by some sin is not sin--Jesus was tempted in all points like you and I are, yet without sin). Trouble begins when we stop to dwell on that sin, to give it room in our thoughts and affections. Then that sin "conceives", and the temptation "gives birth" to sin.
Now what we ought to do when that temptation first attracts our attention is to do what Joseph did when he was tempted by Potiphar's wife (read Genesis 39:6-12 for the whole story): he ran outside, away from his master's wife, away from the temptation. That is what we ought to do, but too many times we stay put rather than removing ourselves from the temptation. We tell ourselves we're fine, we won't give into the temptation, but we know that the longer we allow ourselves to dwell on what the Bible refers to as "the pleasures of sin", the more likely we are to give in to the temptation.
Sin immediately puts up a wall between us and God. Fellowship is broken, and even our prayers aren't heard. If that last statement surprises you, consider the two verses below:
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear (me)." - Psalm 66:18
"Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you,
so that He will not hear!" - Isaiah 59:1-2
If my prayers aren't heard, then I am unable to pray for my needs, for God's direction in my life, and my prayers aren't heard when I pray for others--including those I love the most. This is serious business. As Christians, the only place of safety is keeping ourselves as close as we can to the Lord. We must work to diligently maintain our relationship with Him by means of obedience to His commands and expectations; by spending time in His word reading His thoughts and His perspectives; through prayer; and through a consistent walk with the Spirit. If I sin--and I know I will--I must deal with it quickly, no matter how painful it may be, no matter what it may cost me. I ask for forgiveness with the full intention of not giving in to that sin again. I put myself in a place of safety, just as Joseph did when he ran from the temptation posed by Potiphar's wife.