Playwright Oscar Wilde once jokingly remarked, “I can resist anything except temptation.”
We smile when we read those words because they speak an important truth about the human condition. Temptation pays regular visits to each of us and most of us struggle. Temptation itself is not a sin. But how you respond makes all the difference.
James 1:14-15 (ESV) Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Let’s suppose a young man and woman start dating. After a few weeks he confesses to his pastor that he is experiencing sexual temptation. “Why are you surprised?” the pastor replies, “It would be more surprising if you weren’t being tempted.” Temptation is a sign that we still live in a fallen world. It’s not the temptation that matters; it’s how you respond to it.
Temptation is not the same as sin
It is not a sin to be tempted, but it is a sin to yield to temptation. Temptation is an invitation and solicitation to sin. Temptation is the gateway to sin – it is an enticement to sin.
The Bible warns us to flee temptation, not because we’ve already sinned, but because in the midst of temptation we desperately feel like we want to.
Temptation always has an attraction or we wouldn’t be drawn to it. Essentially, it’s an enticement to evil. Satan’s purpose for it is to distract us from our relationship with God and derail us spiritually.
As a follower of Christ you will face opposition and attack from the enemy. Are you aware of the hidden dangers planted by Satan along your spiritual path? How do you handle temptations? How can you escape the enticements that can derail your faith – pride, jealousy, insecurity, compromise, fear, unforgiveness, bitterness – and stay clear of Satan’s traps?
Temptation becomes sin when we yield to it
The devil is called the tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). One major problem we all face is that temptation comes when we least expect it. If we could schedule our temptations, we’d do much better. “I’ve decided to fight temptation next Saturday afternoon at 3 pm,” we would say. Unfortunately temptation often shows up knocking on our door unannounced at 9:30 am, Wednesday morning. It comes when our guard is down and we are most prone to give in.
Temptation is often the strongest when we are at our weakest.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Every sin is a choice to do wrong. Before you make that choice, you always have another choice. That other choice is your “way of escape.” Perhaps you’ve heard about the little boy who was lying under an apple tree. The farmer asked, “What are you trying to do? Steal my apples?” The boy quickly replied, “No, sir, I’m trying not to.” Many Christians are trying not to, but we fail because we lie down under the apple tree.
No one is immune to temptation
You may often feel all alone in your temptation. You will look up and down the path, and see no one. And in your head you will hear a voice, “no one has ever been tempted like this. No one has ever had to turn his head away from such a beautiful woman. No one has had to deal with such a jerk. It’s not your fault; go ahead and yield.” In case you are wondering, that is the voice of sin.
Galatians 6:1 (WEY) Keep watch over yourself, lest you fall into temptation.
No one – even a mature believer – is immune to the appeal of temptation. Most people have no idea how to respond to the attraction of sin. They try to stand against it but give in eventually, making excuses about “being human.” Their sin brings a weight of guilt and shame, so they confess their lapse and promise the Lord they will improve. Unfortunately, the cycle of temptation and defeat often continues time and again.
Believers don’t have to live this way. Although this life is filled with temptations, we can be victorious and through God’s Word learn to overcome without surrendering to them.
Temptations every Christian must resist
God promises that no temptation will be so great that it can make you yield. In fact, in the midst of the temptation, God promises that He will always make a way clear for you to move out of the temptation before it becomes sin. Here are 7 common temptations that you may have to confront…
- You can be tempted to condemn yourself and “beat yourself up” by focusing on your past mistakes, sins, shortcomings, faults and failures.
- You can be tempted to feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity about life’s disappointments or blame others for the situation you are currently in.
- You can be tempted to get offended, hold grudges, and walk in unforgiveness because someone treated you badly. You can face the temptation to be bitter, resentful and vengeful; to be consumed with anger and a desire to get even no matter what.
- You can be tempted to be spiritually lazy and lukewarm — daily Bible reading and prayer are neglected and you lose your hunger and passion for God. Living for God and serving Him is no longer a priority.
- You can be tempted to “stretch the truth”, to lie and be deceptive to gain advantage over people or to cover up your own hidden sin.
- You can be tempted to compromise your integrity and Christian testimony by looking at things you shouldn’t look at; going to places you shouldn’t go to and associating with people (bad company) you shouldn’t spend time with.
- You can be tempted to worry, to get anxious and fearful about difficult circumstances and the pressures of life. You can get caught up and focused on the “cares of life” and the bigness of your problems instead of the greatness of your God!
2 Peter 2:9 The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations.
Maybe you are tired of failing over and over by giving in to temptation and destroying your life. Apart from God’s supernatural help, you will never be able to find genuine freedom from sin. To be an overcomer, you must be totally surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Meet with God before you meet with the devil
When you begin the day with God in prayer and meditate on His Word, you dedicate the day to Him. When you start the day with Him, you begin the day energized with His presence and the power to overcome.
Acknowledge that God has called you to live a pure and holy life in the midst of a sinful culture. Learn to stand strong in the Lord and be ready when the tempter comes.
We cannot keep the birds of the air from flying over our head, but we can keep them from building a nest in our hair.
Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit. As a born-again child of God, you have the awesome power of the Spirit to live a victorious Christian life.
Satan’s power is limited, God’s power is supreme, and victory is yours in Christ.
As a Christian you have a spiritual G.P.S. – God’s Positioning System – inside of you, which is the supernatural anointing of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit guides you in the truth and empowers you to live a life of obedience that honors and pleases God.
Temptation is the common experience of every believer. We will never escape it as long as we live in a fallen world. But God has given us divine weapons and spiritual armor and everything we need to win the battle every time. God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our limits.