The reality of temptation
Temptation is with us until this mortal body goes into the grave. When we know this, we can relax and accept it as a reality of life. We expect the flesh to be pulled, lies to seduce, and the practice of faith to move along replacing the lies with truth. As overcomers in Christ we are not to be scared of the flesh and the devil. As young Christians we pray: “And lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13). As we grow in Christ, we learn to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). Why should we count it all joy? Because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3). God allows temptations to root us into Christ and to recognise the tricks and wiles of the devil.
Temptation is not sin
Temptation is not sin, but when tempted, it feels like sin.
Temptation is not sin, but when tempted, it feels like sin. So, we call temptation just what it is — temptation. Temptation is not sin because Jesus was “without sin” and yet He was tempted. We may erroneously think we are tempted because of some permanent sinful element still in us. No, a believer has a new heart and a new spirit, and has moved from death to life, from darkness to light! The heart has two sides; one side is fixed; the other side is subject to temptation, simply because we are not robots.
Accept no condemnation
Let’s face it; we are all constantly bombarded by questionable thoughts and feelings. However, they have no objective reality and do not constitute more than possibility. Furthermore, Satan continually puts his spin on thoughts and feelings. He attempts to make them real by persuading us to believe we cannot live without them.
Temptations are necessary
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matt. 18:7).
Temptations really serve to strengthen our faith muscle. They are necessary, but the Bible also provides information on how to deal with them:
“Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom. 13:4).
There are two keys:
- put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
- make no provision for the flesh.
Corrie ten Boom said: “When the devil knocks, I send Jesus to the door.” The devil always tempts us to see ourselves apart from Christ: “Look what you have done, are you a Christian?” So, we send Jesus to the door and we thank God: “Yes, I am a child of God. I have nothing in myself. Christ is my life and in Him there is always forgiveness.” We never see ourselves apart from Christ. We send Jesus to the door, who takes away the devil’s ground. The second key, not to make provision for the flesh, brings us into the area where we can avoid temptations.
Not all temptations can be avoided, but when we make no provision for the flesh, we reduce the number of them. We may fully be aware which places, books, people, websites, movies, etc. give opportunities to our flesh to have its fling. Decide to avoid them and the temptation will be avoided too. Job said: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1).
Store up God’s word in your heart
Another way to avoid or not to give in to temptation, is through God’s word, the Bible:
“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).
We all have to learn to memorise key passages of Scripture and quote them in order to resist the devil. It was Jesus’ strongest weapon. His constant word was: “It is written… for it is written…” (Matt. 4:1-11).
David could say by experience: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:11). And we should say that too!
In case we give in to temptation and sin, repent quickly (1 John 1:9). Quick sinning? Quick repenting! And on we go!