Overcoming Temptation!


Dear Ministry Partner,

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:

Desire for something wrong +
pportunity to sin +
ction 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 the 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" (Philippians 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 from it.

Helping people overcome,

Dale & Judi Leander


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