Scriptures

Overcoming Temptation

Introduction

When it comes to the subject of temptation, it’s a subject that every Christian is very familiar with and most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, will admit we all struggle with them, just like those of old struggled with them, Daniel 12:10 / Zechariah 13:9 / Psalms 66:10 / Luke 22:31 / Hebrews 11:17 / James 1:12 / 1 Peter 1:7. We all have them and they come in various forms and each one is tailored made for each individual.

Examples

A person may have no problems in going to the local pub for a meal but a person who is a recovering alcoholic, knows that same pub also sells alcohol, and that would be a major temptation for them. You may have a woman who loves to go clothes shopping but for her friend, who used to be a thief, would have a major problem going clothes shopping because it would cause a major temptation for her to steal again.

Imagine a young couple who start dating for the first time, there they are alone in the house, lying on the settee a watching film, whilst the girl is enjoying the film, the guy begins to have these sexual desires towards her. This may not be a temptation for the girl but it’s a serious temptation for the guy. In other words, what tempts you, may not tempt others and what tempts others, may not tempt you.

Temptation

The English dictionary defines the word temptation as ‘the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.’ Easton’s Bible dictionary defines the word temptation as ‘solicitation to that which is evil’. What the English dictionary calls something ‘wrong’ or ‘unwise’ the Bible calls ‘evil’. Let’s be clear here, temptation is powerful enough to lead us into sin.

Temptation And Test

We should note there is a difference between the word ‘temptation’, and the word ‘test’. Satan is the tempter, not God, Genesis 3:1-6 / Matthew 4:1-11 / James 1:13, he tempts us to sin and lure us away from God and to bring out the worst in us, but testing is done by God, to draw us closer to Him and to bring out the best in us, Genesis 21:1 / Genesis 22:16-18 / James 1:2-4.

Example

In Luke 4:1-15, we find the account of Jesus being led into the wilderness by the Spirit, where He was going to be tempted by the devil. He spent forty days in prayer and fasting and so, we can imagine how physically, weak Jesus must have been. This was the perfect opportunity for Satan to move in to ‘tempt’ Jesus to see if He would sin, but why did God allow Jesus to be tested?

Jesus Faced Three Tests From The Devil

1. Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread to satisfy His fleshly hunger. Luke 4:3

2. Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and offered them to Him. Luke 4:5-7

3. Satan challenged Jesus’ identity and relationship with God by tempting Jesus to prove Himself. Luke 4:9-11

Jesus Passed The Three Tests Allowed By God

1. ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ Luke 4:4

2. ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ Luke 4:8

3. ‘It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Luke 4:12

The Greek word for tempt, ‘peirazo’ is the same Greek word for test but we can understand the difference when we look at the context and what the motivation is. Satan ‘tempted’ Jesus in order to draw Him way from the Father, but God allowed Jesus to be ‘tested’ in order to allow Jesus to exercise His free will. His choice was to follow His Father’s will or follow Satan’s will.

What Satan is doing here is exactly the same as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden, Genesis 3:1-16. He offered Jesus a deceptive alternative to God’s will and make no mistake about it, he still uses the same deceptive temptations with Christians today,

‘desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride of life,’ 1 John 2:16

Like I mentioned earlier, when Satan tempts us, he wants to lure us into sin and bring out the worst in us, just like he did with Peter, Matthew 16:23, whilst God allows us to be tested in order to give us the opportunity to exercise our free will, draw closer to Him and bring out the best in us, Genesis 50:20.

The Lord’s Prayer

‘And lead us not into temptation.’ Matthew 6:13

‘And lead us not into temptation.’ Luke 11:4

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the Pope, the head of the Catholic Church officially approved altering the phrase ‘lead us not into temptation’ to ‘do not let us fall into temptation’. He did this because he felt that the words, ‘lead us’ were misleading, he believed that those words gave people the idea that God ‘leads us into temptation’.

However, if he had taken the time to read other Scriptures, he would know that God doesn’t tempt anyone or lead anyone to be tempted.

‘When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.’ James 1:13

Did The Spirit Lead Jesus Into Temptation?

‘Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.’ Matthew 4:1

We should note that although Matthew 4:1, Mathew 6:13 and Luke 11:4 use the word, temptation, ‘peirazo’, in the context of these passages it means simply means ‘test’. In other words, the Spirit didn’t lead Jesus to be tempted but to be tested. None of these passages teach that God tempts us, rather they’re teaching us that we should pray that God won’t allow us to get into any situation where we will fall into sin.

‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’ 1 Corinthians 10:13

Here Paul assures the Christian that God Himself will help us overcome temptation when it comes our way. He doesn’t provide a ‘way out’ in the sense of ‘here’s a door, go through it’, He provides a ‘way out’ in the sense that He will go through those temptations and trails with us, He will help us through them. This idea of God carrying us through those temptations and trials is shown beautifully in the Hymn, ‘Yield not to temptation.’

Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin;
Each vict’ry will help you some other to win;
Fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.

Notice Horatio R. Palmer, the hymn writer correctly says that temptation isn’t sinful, Hebrews 4:15, but it’s the yielding to temptation, which is sinful, James 1:14, and notice the last line, ‘look ever to Jesus, He’ll carry you through.’

This is what Paul is saying in the Corinthian passage, God will help us through those difficult times of temptations and trials. Jesus will carry us through them because He knows exactly what we’re going through.

‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.’ Hebrews 4:15

Why Does God Test Us?

Maybe an illustration would be useful here.

When an engineering company wants to build a large bridge over a great chasm, they usually want to test the bridge first, and so they fully load it with heavy goods and add extra carriages on it, so that it ends up being double the normal weight of the train. The train is then driven onto the middle of the bridge, where it will stay for an entire day.

Why do they do that? Are they trying to break the bridge? No, they’re trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.

We face tests in the same way Jesus faced tests, God doesn’t test us to see if we will break, He doesn’t test us to see if we will sin, He tests us to let us know, because we need to know, how strong our faith is, so that we can live through difficult times without sinning.

God tested Abraham for this very purpose, God knew what Abraham’s faith was like, but Abraham needed to know for himself what his faith was like. He doesn’t test us for His benefit, He tests us for our benefit, as we see Him doing with Abraham, Genesis 21:1 / Genesis 22:16-18.

God already knows what’s in our hearts, Luke 16:15 / Romans 8:27, but there are times when we need to know what’s in our hearts, 1 Thessalonians 2:4.

God tests us, in order for us to grow and mature as Christians, James 1:2-4, the trials that come our way, aren’t there to tempt us to sin, but to help stay focused on our eternal reward, James 1:12. The purpose of trials, ‘dokimion’ meaning ‘a proof testing’, in our lives, is to refine our lives and leave us with a purer, stronger faith, as well as a character that God can bless and use.

‘In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ 1 Peter 1:6-7

Why Does God Allow Us To Be Tempted?

The reason God allows us to be tempted is simply because it’s God’s way of allowing us to exercise our free will. When we understand that He allows us to choose to love Him and He allows us to choose to be obedient to Him, He also allows us to choose not to love Him and to be disobedient.

Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, Genesis 3, just like Judas Iscariot, Matthew 26:25, and just like Jesus in Gethsemane, Mark 14:32-42, we all must choose between God’s will or our own. He loves us enough to allow us to be tempted in order that we can choose for ourselves if we want to follow Him or not.

Overcoming Temptation

If we admit we’re sinners, we must admit we have our temptations, we all have our weakness and it’s vitally important that we recognise them in ourselves and know to deal with them. Satan knows our weaknesses more than we’re willing to admit and he has a whole load of things to tempt us to help us fall into sin.

All too often many Christians, when being tempted, often fall into sin because they weren’t prepared, they’re not willing to help themselves. Some Christians don’t know how to deal with their temptations because a lot of churches don’t speak about them and all too often, they believe that being tempted is a sign of weakness.

Below are some suggestions to help us prepare for them.

Prayer

Prayer is a vital part of the Christian’s life and prayer will certainly help and strengthen us against temptation. Joseph M. Scriven wrote the hymn, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’.

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Joseph asks an honest question which requires an honest answer, ‘have we trails and temptations’? Yes, is the answer, but notice the cure, ‘take it to the Lord in prayer.’ When we admit we have trails and temptations, we should pray to God about them, acknowledge our weakness, tell Him our struggles, tell Him we want His help to overcome them.

‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Mark 14:38

God’s Word

We have God’s Word for many reasons, one of which is to learn from others who resisted temptation when it came their way, Romans 15:4. Earlier, we looked at Jesus when He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, in all three occasions, Christ replied by quoting Scripture, Luke 4:4 / Luke 4:8 / Luke 4:12.

Jesus didn’t win this battle simply by quoting Scripture, He won because He trusted His Father, He trusted His father’s plans for Him, He totally submitted to His Father’s will. In other words, His faith was strong because of the relationship He had with His Father.

When faced with temptation, remind yourself of your relationship with God, remind yourself of what God says in His Word and learn how others dealt with temptation, Genesis 39:6-20, then put it into practice.

Remind yourself that God is control and He won’t allow you to go through something you can’t handle, 1 Corinthians 10:13, remind yourself He’s with you and He will help you through. Remind yourself that He understands and sympathises with you, Hebrews 4:15. We can resist temptation by reading His Word regularly, 2 Peter 1:3.

‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.’ Psalm 119:11

Run Away

This may sound obvious but running away from certain situations which may cause you to be tempted is always a good idea. If you struggle with pornography, you should stay away from the PC, if you struggle with gambling, you should stay away from betting shops, if you struggle with alcohol, you should stay away from pubs.

I know a man who was heavily involved with drugs and became a Christian, but he had to make a huge decision in his life. He made the choice to leave all of his friends who were involved in drugs, it wasn’t easy for him, but he realised this was one of those occasions he had to help himself, so that he can stay away from being tempted to going back to drugs again.

When temptation comes your way, it may be wise to run in the opposite direction and stay away from situations where you know you will be tempted. This is a powerful and practical way to resist temptation, James 4:7.

‘Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.’ 2 Timothy 2:22

Surround Yourself With God’s People

I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned over the years, the more time I spend time with God’s people, the less time I think about temptation. One practical way to avoid falling into sin is by surrounding yourself with God’s people.

The same man I mentioned earlier who was heavily involved in drugs, said this really helped him overcome temptation. He got involved in absolutely everything the congregation was involved in, he surrounded himself with God’s people.

‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ Hebrews 10:24-25

Conclusion

We need to be able to distinguish between a temptation and a test, temptation leads us away from God and His will, and brings out the worst in us, 2 Chronicles 21:1 / 2 Samuel 24:1, whilst a test leads us closer to God and brings out the best in us.

When God allows tests to come our way, remember that this is God’s way of helping us to grow, James 1:1-2, it’s God’s way of reminding us of the eternal reward we will receive if we endure, James 1:12.

As Christians we must learn to help ourselves in order to help us resist temptation. God has blessed us with a spiritual family and given us everything we need to live the kind of life He wants us to live, this is one of the reasons we were given the gift of the Holy Spirit at out baptism, Acts 2:38. We can resist temptation when we fully equip ourselves with God’s armour.

‘Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.’ Ephesians 6:10

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:28

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