Everyone struggles with temptation
of some kind. It is part of life on a fallen Earth that still
has a devil operating on the planet. There is no condemnation
for those in Christ (Romans
8:1), and God has provided ongoing forgiveness for the born-again
Christian through the confession of our sins (1st
John 1:9). At the same time, most every Christian would like
to be more victorious
in resisting temptation — whether it is a socially-unacceptable
sin like breaking one of the ten
commandments, or simply falling to the temptation to pray
less than we should or not read in God's Word. There are actually
many helpful keys to be a greater overcomer concerning temptation,
and I will share some of them.
First, it should be pointed out that
it is not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation.
You cannot avoid having a certain amount of temptation in life.
One minister said it this way, you can't keep birds from flying
over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in
your hair. And 1st
Corinthians 10:13 promises that God will not allow you to
be tempted beyond what you are able — He always provides
a way of escape if we will seek Him and seek how to escape the
traps of Satan.
The devil tries different things
on different people to see what might work, the same way a fisherman
might try different baits to see what the fish might bite. What
appeals to one person might not appeal to another. It depends
on a complex set of factors that includes personality type, experiences
in life, and examples we have seen. For example, when I was a
teenager, I saw drunks laying in their own vomit and heard stories
from my father about personal lives destroyed by alcohol —
and so alcohol was never something that appealed to me. However,
if all I knew about beer was from the commercials on television
making drinking look fun and exciting, it might have had more
appeal to me.
The first obvious key to overcome
temptation is to realize the destruction which sin will always
cause. God's ways give a better life. On the other hand, the wages
of sin is death in some area of life (Romans
3:23). Any sin
will harm a person. Some sins harm faster than others. Sin will
cause a person to lose some aspect of their peace, joy, reputation,
heritage, confidence, and spiritual power. Sin is a bad witness
and sets a bad example for your children and grandchildren, while
encouraging others to sin. It inhibits your faith and hardens
your heart. And if those are not bad enough, it can open the door
to Satan to steal, kill, and destroy. Wow — the beer commercials
never mentioned all those things! It would probably put a pretty
big dent in their sales if they had to put a disclaimer on all
their beer cans which listed the possible side-effects like that
list above. Warning labels for sin should be mandatory! It has
been said that sin always takes you further than you wanted to
go, costs more than you wanted to pay, and keeps you longer than
you wanted to stay. One minister said the recipe for disaster
in life is spelled DOA:
for something wrong +
Opportunity to sin +
Action taken to commit the sin.
If we avoid the opportunities, or
at least not take action, we can avoid the disaster.
Perhaps the most important key to
overcome temptation is the importance of living correctly out
of gratitude to Jesus.
The Bible would call this motive love, but "love" has
so many meanings in America that the word gratitude is more appropriate.
The King James translation actually uses the word thanksgiving
in several New Testament scriptures on this topic, but a modern
translation substitutes the word gratitude which gets the point
across better. Perhaps you have seen the movie The
Passion of the Christ, or some other correct depiction of
what Jesus did for you and me. The gift of eternal salvation,
paid for at a great price by Jesus, should motivate us to live
a holy life just because Jesus deserves it. We were saved from
sin, not to sin. Some people have fallen victim to a philosophy
called "greasy grace". While forgiveness for sin is
available in Christ, that is not a justification to continue sinning.
And we will all stand before Jesus some day, so we should use
this life to prepare for the next!
Another key to overcome temptation
is to better manage the "inputs" into our lives. The
Bible says to be wise in what is good, and simple [innocent, unexposed,
unmixed] concerning evil (Romans
16:19). We are very much like a computer, and my programming
class in college taught me the statement "garbage in, garbage
out." Whatever we let in through our senses will affect our
lives and tend to come back out through our words and actions.
In light of this, my family watches relatively little secular
television at my home (and only edifying programs), and we typically
either turn off the TV during commercials or at least mute the
sound. We do not subscribe to cable or satellite, and I use a
family-filtered Internet service. I do not subscribe to the city
newspaper or a lot of secular magazines. I fast an average of
one day a week, and live a fairly separated life. God's Word instructs
us to live a "holy" and "sanctified" life,
and that will go a long way toward helping us overcome temptation
— and produce a better life.
Along those lines, Romans
13:14 says, "Make no provision for the flesh,
to fulfill its lusts." One translation says
"do not set the stage for sin."
If you know you are weak in some area of life, make changes in
that area. If you recently quit smoking, don't store cigarettes
in your cabinet! If you have a problem gambling, pick a different
route to drive home from work every day so you don't go by the
horse track or casino. If you are single and dating, double date
— or at least don't go park by the lake in the moonlight!
Use common sense.
Using your will to resist sin is
a force all by itself. You can use self-discipline, and the force
of your will can break bad habits (or start good ones). Kenneth
Copeland once told about a woman who came to him at the end
of his meeting and said she had a bad tendency in her life she
wanted to stop, but she was not ready to accept Jesus. She asked
Kenneth if he could still help her. He told her to just go disobey
that temptation for 21 days, and she could be free. She did that,
and reported back to Kenneth that it worked! Of course, the power
of God through accepting Jesus would have helped her more, but
principle of using one's will is true.
One specific technique is to "speak
God's Word." Whatever concern you have, find a scripture
addressing that topic and speak it out loud whenever you feel
tempted in that area. For example, if you are tempted with feelings
of inferiority and failure, proclaim "I can do
all things through Christ who strengthens me"
4:13). One by-product of what you speak is that it affects
what you are thinking. That is a little-known, powerful tool to
change your thought-life. Merlin
Carothers wrote a helpful related book called, What's
On Your Mind.
On the topic of spiritual things
that overcome temptation, reading more in God's Word and praying
more are practical things we can do to actually build greater
spiritual "muscle" (power) to resist temptation and
the devil. This is something anyone can do. But many people are
so spiritually weak that even getting started seems hard. It is
an exact parallel to starting an exercise program. Many people
will get tired just walking around their block. But if they stay
after it, they can be walking miles in a matter of months. The
same is true of building up one's spiritual power with God's Word.
And a side benefit is the renewing of the mind that will happen
which will greatly improve one's thinking and perspective, resulting
in better decisions, less sin, and an abundant life. And an abundant
life also helps dim the attractiveness of sin.
For various reasons, some problems
and sins are so entrenched in many people's lives that they need
stronger measures to break free. The Bible sometimes calls this
a "stronghold" and it especially applies in cases where
a problem has occurred since childhood (Mark
9:21). We often call this process principles of "spiritual
warfare" because of the extra degree of related struggle.
The New Testament also refers to this as deliverance. We see Jesus
and the disciples sometimes casting out evil spirits to help people
get free in the Bible, and the same ministry is valuable and needed
today. With the name of Jesus, confession of sin, prayer and fasting,
and a personal commitment to do what it takes to be free, any
person can break the devil's grip on their lives. But many people
either don't want to change (because they enjoy the sin), or they
have a lack of knowledge of what is available to deliver themselves.
That is a reason I made a personal
deliverance outline over 20 years ago. I have always made
it available at no charge and have said it can be copied. Click
here for a free copy if you know anyone who could benefit
Helping people overcome,
Dale & Judi Leander