We All Deal with Temptation

All of us know something about temptation. We are even tempted to blame outside sources for the problem. But our decisions determine the effectiveness of our temptations.

Now, having used the word “temptation,” let us define it, identify its sources, determine its limits, install the defenses against it, and consider our part in the outcome of any temptation.

The Definitions of Temptation
The King James text often translates two different words with the one word, temptation or tempted. One means to be tested, so as to prove the strength of something. God sovereignly tests us to prove to ourselves and others that we are what He says we are. Though such testing may be difficult at the time, it is a good thing. James 1:12 assures us, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

The other word means to solicit for evil. God never solicits us for evil. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas 1:13–15). Satan doesn’t care to prove us, but he certainly delights in tempting us to do evil.

The Sources of Temptation
In Luke 4:1–13, the Lord Jesus was “tempted.” He was “full of the Holy Ghost,” and was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil.” God was testing him to prove to all that he was who he said he was: God in the flesh. But, in the same event and process, the devil was soliciting him for evil.

There are three elements involved in temptation to which the devil has access: “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). He used them all in his temptation of Jesus. Jesus was hungry after forty days of fasting and Satan tempted Him to turn a stone to bread (lust of the flesh). Satan took Jesus to a high place and showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth and offered them to him (the lust of the eyes). Finally Satan challenged Jesus to cast Himself from a cliff so that the angels would catch Him and save Him, proving by fulfilling Scripture, that He was the Son of God (the pride of life). Satan will use these elements in tempting you to sin.

But, take heart. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15–16).

The Limits of Temptation
We will sometimes hear ourselves say, “I can’t take this any more!” We have borne a trial for a long time and we are at the end of our strength and want to give up. And sometimes we do, but not because God failed us. God has declared, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Cor 10:13).

Whether it is a test from God to prove our mettle , we can endure it, no matter the severity of the trial or the length of time involved. God is faithful. He will not test us beyond our ability to endure to the end of the testing period, even if it is for our lifetime.

Whether it is a solicitation from Satan to commit sin, we can refuse to fall for his enticement. God is faithful and will provide the spiritual discernment, stamina, and determination to withstand Satan’s onslaught.

The Defenses against Temptation
Let us now home in on the solicitations to sin. “Oh, I’m familiar with those,” you say. “They hit me from all sides and never let up!” It sounds like you are ready for help in gaining victory over your temptations.

In the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, he was dependent upon the Holy Spirit for His victory. He was led into the wilderness by the Spirit and the Spirit continued to empower Him in His ministry after the ordeal was over (Luke 4:1, 14).

Jesus also effectively used the Word of God in handling the solicitations of Satan. Repeatedly He quoted Scripture to negate the devil’s suggestions (Luke 4:4, 8, 12). Even when the devil used Scripture wrongly, Jesus answered with Scripture in a proper context and with a proper interpretation and application.

There is no substitute for the knowledge of Scripture in times of temptation to sin. Scripture lets us know what sin is, no matter the context, circumstance, or personalities involved. The arguments of our peers to the contrary will never negate God’s definitions of sin.

The still small voice of the Holy Spirit will often speak to us by way of our conscience, our upbringing, and our knowledge of Scripture to show us the way to victory over the solicitation to evil. We have the privilege of quietly consulting the Lord through prayer in such circumstances.

The Determinants of the Effectiveness of Temptation
There are two determinants which will decide whether you gain victory over the offer to sin, or not. They are “Yes,” and “No.”

The answer “yes” will be dictated by our lusts. Our old nature will desire what the devil has offered and the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season, will be most appealing. The devil knows our weaknesses and will engage them at our most vulnerable moment. Be on guard and always ready to say “NO!”

The answer “no” will be dictated by our love for and obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 5:24 explains the possibility of success in warding off temptation: “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” We have been crucified with Christ and are to reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, that is, the sin nature. That was Paul’s answer to his dilemma in Romans 7.

Another encouraging word is found in Titus 2:11–14: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Peter also gives admonition toward the same objective in 1 Peter 2:11: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”

Did you notice in the admonition to “live soberly, righteously, and godly” that it is our responsibility to do so? And did you notice in the admonition to “abstain from fleshly lusts” that it is also our responsibility to do so? We cannot be passive in such circumstances and expect victory over temptation. Our wills must be in conformity to the will of God.

Temptations to sin will be as strong as the devil can make them. He will use every resource available to him. He will try to turn us against ourselves and be his allies in his battle with us and with our Savior. His purpose is to make us fail in our Christian lives, and bring reproach upon our blessed Lord.

Temptations and testing will be as strong as God allows them to be. He will provide the strength, the guidance, and the grace to endure the temptation and gain the victory over sin. His purpose is to deliver us from the grasp of the evil one and give us victory over his evil devices.

Temptations will be as effective as we allow them to be. We will either cooperate with the devil and fall for his solicitations, or we will cooperate with God and seek His strength, provision, and purpose in victory.

God has stated His purpose and strategy. He has revealed many of the “wiles of the devil” that we may be able to recognize his devices. He has shown us our responsibility to cooperate with Him. Let us then purpose in our hearts that we “will not sin against Thee!”

August 2009


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