A troubling addiction. A betraying thought. A compromising situation. Temptation comes in many forms, sparking a fierce "winner-takes-all" battle for our souls that has one goal: to cause us to stray off the path that leads to godly living.
Is Temptation Sin?
Temptation is not sin. If temptation were indeed sin, then Jesus would not have led a sinless life. But as the Bible says, Jesus was "tempted in all things," yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
Still temptation should not be taken lightly. That's because it is the gateway to sin. Temptation is often strongest when we are at our weakest. In fact, the longer we allow it to brew in our thoughts the more dangerous temptation becomes. Therefore, we must learn to recognize temptation and keep it in check.
What's So Tempting?
Temptation is one of the enemy's most powerful "schemes" for misleading God's people (Eph. 6:11, 16). It causes us to focus on the "passing pleasures" (Heb. 11:25) of sin instead of the rich rewards of serving God with a pure heart.
The Bible says, "Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:14,15). Thus, our own lusts give temptation its power over us.
Temptation says, "It's okay to sin just a little bit." But nothing could be further from the truth (Num. 32:23; Prov. 15:3). In God's eyes, there are no "small" or "big" sins (James 2:10). The wages of sin is always death (Rom. 6:23).
When we are tempted, we often convince ourselves that we can hide our sin. But as men and women since the beginning of time have discovered, there is no hiding from God. "Thou hast searched me and know me." David said. "Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, thou dost know it all" (Psalm 139:1,4).
Our tempting thoughts also try to undermine or twist the meaning of the Scriptures. When Jesus was "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted" (Matt. 4:1), the tempter twisted God's Word in an attempt to lead Jesus astray.
Ultimately, temptation tries to silence the voice of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send to "guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). By tuning out the Holy Spirit's voice, we fool ourselves into thinking that we can make it on our own.
The Way Out
Temptation can be difficult to resist. But God has not left us as helpless victims of temptation. He has promised a "way of escape" (1 Cor. 10:13) to all who trust in Him.
The "way" is not a program, but a person: Jesus Christ. Jesus not only cleanses us from sin, He also understands our temptations (Heb. 4:15-16). That's why we can come to Him for help.
If you have not yet placed your trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life, no matter how "good" your life is, you will never be able to overcome temptation and sin (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:23). First, you need to find new life in Christ (John 3:16-17). Simply believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead and confess with your mouth that "Jesus is Lord" and the Bible says you will be saved (Rom. 10:9-10).
Battling temptation is a daily walk. Even the most loyal followers of Christ can be tempted (Heb. 12:1). That'' why the Lord's prayer instructs us to ask God to "lead us not into temptation" (Matt. 6:13).
The following principles can help you fight-and win-against temptation.
1. Be honest with God. At the time of temptation, don't debate the issue. The longer we wrestle with tempting thoughts, the closer we get to committing the sin. Flee from the temptation as soon as you recognize it (2 Tim. 2:22).
2. Recognize your enemy. Understand that this is serious business! You are engaged in a battle for your very soul. There is an enemy, the devil, who "prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). This enemy will use any temptation to draw you away from God.
3. Resist through Jesus! Go to the Lord and receive mercy and grace in your time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). Remember, you are not alone in your struggle. Satan tries to discourage us through isolation, telling us our temptation is unique. This simply isn't true (1 Cor. 10:13).
4. Give Thanks. In the midst of the struggle, thank God for the opportunity to experience the victory through Him (Rom. 5:1-5). Thank Him for providing a way of escape.
As You Pray
If you are facing a difficult temptation right now, or if you have already fallen into temptation and its resulting sin, you can find freedom and victory. Turn to the Lord right now and pray.
"Dear Jesus, thank You for Your sacrifice on the cross, which paid the penalty for my sin. Please keep me from this present temptation that wars against my soul. In Your perfect love, provide the way of escape Your Word promises. And thank You for the grace to walk with You every day. In Jesus' name. Amen."
God's Word on Temptation
"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
Scriptures For Study
James 1:2-3, 13 - We grow as we overcome temptation
Ephesians 5:15-21 - Keys to walking uprightly
Hebrews 12:1-13 - Encouragement in Christ
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Scripture references are from the Contemporary English Version.