Overcoming Temptation

It has been said that opportunity only knocks once, but temptation knocks continuously. This statement is only partially true because God gives us opportunities all the time. Temptation, however is always trying to find a way into each of our lives.

Temptation to sin is a snare set by the devil. Because Satan is a liar (John 8:44), the bait he uses often appears like something you need or desire, even something that seems sweet and pure. But once you yield to his trap, you will ultimately find the bitter, rotten fruit of sin.

Three Areas of Temptation
All temptations fall into one of three areas: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life (see 1 John 2:16). A problem with any of these areas will lead to a life of sin and bondage.

The lust of the flesh has to do with our bodily appetites. Drunkenness, drug addiction, gluttony, adultery, fornication and homosexuality are some of the sins of the flesh.

The lust of the eyes is an excessive desire for things of the world. Covetousness, greed, idolatry, love of money and financial dishonesty are the result of the lust of the eyes.

The pride of life is the desire for glory or fame. Someone who struggles with the pride of life is tempted by worldly honors, fame, reputation and position.

Jesus Overcame All Three
Luke tells the account of Jesus being led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness where He was tempted by the devil for forty days. When tempted with the lust of the flesh, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'” (Luke 4:4). When Satan tempted Him with the lust of the eyes, Jesus responded, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve'” (Luke 4:8). And, when tempted with the pride of life, Jesus told the devil, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God'” (Luke 4:12).

People often ask if it is a sin to be tempted. The answer is “No”. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That’s why He was able to say to His disciples – and us – “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Since Jesus overcame, you can too! Here are some Biblical keys to help you overcome the temptations you face:

Be Strong in the Lord
“Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

All too often, people don’t take enough time to build their relationship with the Lord. They get busy with other things or are distracted by life’s demands. When temptation comes, they can’t withstand it because they don’t know how to operate in the Lord’s strength.

Becoming strong in the Lord is like performing preventative maintenance. No matter how close your relationship with the Lord is, it can always become closer. As you consistently read the Word, pray and spend time in worship, you will become much less susceptible to temptation.

Stand on the Word
“For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He responded by choosing God’s Word over the temptation. He used the Word as a weapon each time He said, “It is written…” You can rise above the influences of the world, the flesh and the devil by doing the same thing, but it won’t happen until you are committed to God’s Word.

1 John 5:4 says, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.” Your faith is the victory. Where is your faith? Your faith needs to be in God and His Word. If there is a particular area where you are tempted over and over again, memorize scriptures that apply to that area. Get them into your heart so you will be ready to counter temptation as soon as it comes your way.

Don’t Love the World
“Do not love the world or the things in the world…” (1 John 2:15)

Every one of us is subtly influenced by the worldly things we are exposed to unless we protect ourselves. Much of today’s media (music, television, movies, books, magazines and the internet) is polluted, so you need to be careful what you let into your mind.

The psalmist wrote, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me” (Psalm 101:3). If you don’t want sin and evil works clinging to you, you’ll have to say “no” to ungodly influences.

Flee Temptation
“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).

There are times when the best way to handle temptation is to flee from it. When Joseph was tempted to commit adultery with Potipher’s wife, Genesis 39:12 tells us that he fled and ran outside! It might sound extreme, but if you want to keep from sinning, you must develop a mindset of being willing to do whatever it takes.

Maybe you have a friend who is causing you to stumble. If so, it’s time to make new friends because, as we’re advised in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Evil company corrupts good habits.” Decide what is more important to you: doing God’s will or having a friend who is influencing you to sin. You’ll have a better quality of life when you separate yourself from bad friends.

Resist the Devil
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

You’ve probably noticed that Satan doesn’t always leave the first time you quote a scripture! In fact, temptations often take place over a period of time as indicated in James 1:12 and 1 Peter 1:7. That’s why we have to be diligent in resisting the devil.

How long do you resist the devil? You resist him until he flees. You can be sure he will keep pestering you in an area as long as you let him. But when you become consistent at resisting him and his works, he will realize that you mean business. God’s Word is true. When you resist the devil, he will flee.

Finally…All of the above will help you overcome temptation, but the best advice I have ever heard on the subject is illustrated by the wisdom of an unknown woman who was admired for her purity.

Someone asked her, “Sister, what do you do when you are tempted?”

She replied, “When the devil knocks at the door, I let Jesus answer.”

Temptation of one kind or another will always knock at your door. Our prayer for you is that, when it does, you will let Jesus answer.

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