Temptation

<<opportunity or desire to do wrong>>

Temptation is always to do what is sinful, never good and right, by breaking God’s laws and commandments. It is being given a free choice to be faithful to God (expressed as obedience) or unfaithful by catering to our self-gratification stemming from our own sin-biased heart (outworked

This is an opportunity to say to Jesus,                                                 ‘I love you more’

as disobedience). Our decision determines if we experience God’s blessing and life, through denial to the flesh as we obey Him, or the way of defeat, curse and death by disobeying Him through giving in to the demands of the body (Jn 10:10). Experiencing the temptation itself is not sin, it is giving in to it which is. Temptation is Satan’s ploy to lead people astray; as every person is tempted by their own evil desires this requires our self-discipline to resist the oppression or influence of being ‘encouraged’ into sinful behaviour (Jas 1:14,15, 4:7). However by repeatedly yielding to temptation our resolve is weakened and its power over us increases, so the Bible counsels is do not give the devil any foothold in your life or legitimate reason to harass, instead turn away from wickedness making your body the slave not master (Rom 6:16; 1 Cor 9:27; 2 Tim 2:19; 1 Pet 5:8,9).

The nature of temptation

There are four distinct phases of temptation: it starts with a thought – everyone is tempted, but if not repelled at once it becomes imagination – picturing yourself doing evil; this rouses the desire to do evil, which urges action. Avoiding temptation by keeping out of the ‘enemy territory’ – is next in importance to resisting temptation (2 Tim 2:22). This may involve removing yourself from the source, be it people, places, things or situations.

Temptation has seducing power, leading to powerful, destructive habits and bondages which have ruined many people because these seeds were not decisively dealt with when they first appeared (1 Tim 6:10). Understanding our responsibility, a disciplined, Godly mind recognises the source of these thoughts, rejects them outright, replacing them with good ones, and is transformed by ‘taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ while abstaining from sinful desires (Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 4:8; 1 Pet 2:11).

Sources of temptation

1/. The trials of life which God permits to come our way in order to test and strengthen us (1 Pet 1:6,7).

2/. Satan with his ambitions of seducing us into giving Him our allegiance (Mt 4:3; 1 Cor 7:5; 2 Cor 11:3; 1 Thes 3:5).

3/. The desires and lusts of our sinful human nature (Gal 5:19-21).

4/. The “world” – that is, the attitudes and systems of Godless humanity (2 Pet 1:4; 1 Jn 2:15).

God and temptation

God does not tempt anyone to sin but tests or proves our faith to strengthen and purify it, helping us conquer and develop godly character, walking in the power and victory available in Christ, over the pull of the evil thoughts and desires within (Ex 20:20; Deut 8:16; Job 23:10; Mt 15:19; Jas 1:13). He does not actively lead into temptation (as Satan does) but keeps us from, and helps us to escape or remain strong in the midst of temptation (1 Cor 10:13). Life is a continual time of testing, to be obedient to God’s ways. He gives us the choice – life or death, blessing or curse. He urges us to choose the best option (Deut 8:2, 28:1-68, 30:15-19).

Satan and temptation

Since being cast out of heaven Satan’s mode of operation has been to tempt human beings away from their maker and into his kingdom of darkness by targeting our weaknesses and getting us to focus on what we don’t have – yet we can overcome (Lk 10:19; Rom 12:21; 1 Jn 2:13,14, 5:4,5). Satan misleads and deceives people about accomplishing worthwhile goals, suggesting shortcuts and accentuating the benefits without disclosing the cost. His focus is always self-gratification, distorting the true perspective by focusing on our perceived needs, not God’s plans. In the Garden of Eden, he appeared to present a worthy objective and desirable aspiration – “You will be like God” – however all humanity, and in fact the whole world, is still bearing the cost of that original sin (Gen 3:1-5).

Jesus said, pray that you won’t be led into being exposed to Satan’s temptation and his deceitful ways with the possibility of being overpowered by them, as well as watching and praying that that you won’t yield to its pressure (Mt 6:13, 26:41; Jn 17:15). We are to ‘guard our hearts’, as Satan tempts us to yield to the desires of the carnal flesh, to do something wrong or unwise, to please self for it’s short-term gratification, forgetting the long-term consequences or penalty by turning from the good moral pathway (Prov 4:23; Eph 6:11).

Temptation and self

The mind is a battleground into which Satan continually brings wrong thoughts or impressions through stimuli from one of the five senses – sight, touch, taste, hearing or smell. Unless rejected the mind will endeavour to outwork these in reality if practicable. Situations continually present themselves, begging

for our participation, just as there is always 'free' cheese on a mouse trap enticing an unsuspecting rodent to its demise.

When under pressure, tired, lonely, facing uncertainty, or bored we are more susceptible to temptation, which will be directed at our weak areas. It is important to develop self-discipline and conscientiously guard the areas where we know we are vulnerable, yet sometimes our strengths may also be the target –

here we are prone to pride and self-reliance by not recognising our continual need for God’s enabling, even after a high point in our spiritual lives (1 Cor 10:12). We may even feel the compulsion to fulfill a good or God-given desire in a wrong way or at the wrong time, eg. God created sex but only approves of lovemaking with one’s own spouse within the marriage setting. Do not see how close you can get to the 'fire' without being burned. In instant your Christian tesimony that as been a long time developing can be compromised and destroyed. Accountability and having another person as a witness to our actions are safeguards; besides fellow humans this is a role of the Holy Spirit who is within who speaks into our conscience. 

Temptation and the world

All temptation falls into three main areas, and to a greater or lesser degree we will be tested in these areas – ‘gold, glory, and gals’. Gold represents money, possessions, power and material aspects of the soul’s domain; glory symbolizes pride, vanity and other obsessions characteristic of the non-regenerate spiritual part of mankind; ‘girls and grog’ refers to sex and other physical desires that want gratification, typical of the fleshly dimension of humanity. The Bible says we will be attacked in these same areas too, “the cravings of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and pride of life, which are not from God but from the world” (1 Jn 2:15,16). By contrast, God values, generosity, humble service and self-control in resisting ungodly passions (Tit 2:11,12). While we may be more suscepible to temptation in some areas and less prone in others, everyone has their own battles to fight (1 Cor 10:13). We need to pay particular attention to our weak spots.

Handling (overcoming) temptation

Don’t give Satan an opening to hassle you but resist him by drawing closer to God (Eph 4:27; Jas 4:7,8). Conceding to temptation is obeying another god other than the one true God – this violates the first commandment as He is the one we should love and respond to above all else (Ex 20:3; Mk 12:30).

We should deny the gratification of our selfish desires in the interests of a better future – living with no regrets and painful consequences. As Jesus walked in continual victory, shouldn’t we be overcomers more often? He will reward those who have not defiled (made unclean, polluted) themselves, while those who have given in to sin will be severely judged (1 Cor 3:17; Jas 1:12; Rev 3:4).

The pain and struggle of wrestling with temptation is one of the best ways for us to die to the old life and grow more like Christ (Rom 6:6, 8:13; Eph 4:22; Col 3:5). We must grasp the truth of what the Bible says, "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation, the old has gone the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17). Recognise that the Holy Spirit who is in us is greater than the evil forces that would come against us so centre your attention on Christ, not the evil powers that want to destroy us (1 Cor 6:19; Eph 6:12). Taking control of our thoughts is a vital key, "For as a person thinks in their heart so are they" (Prov 23:7). We must be proactive to think about the wholesome 'God things' in life (Phil 4:8).

The danger is to view yielding to temptation as an isolated event but the risk is that of establishing a pattern or lifestyle of disobedience which is in total contrast with what God requires – crucifying the flesh, walking in holiness, considering others and having a long-term perspective. Satan would try to get us to trade, compromise or throw away what is of greatest value. He didn’t tempt Eve to tie two cats tails together, no he went for the ultimate – to disobey God (Gen 3:1-6). Instead of entering into a conversation with the devil, Eve should have directly resisted his approach. Satan is not so interested in the casual relationship you have with your barber, he attacks important areas such as marriage – trying to bring division into the home which is a basic building block of society.

As he did to Christ, Satan will often use Scripture, but out of context, to tempt us to sin, so it is vital to be conversant with the whole Bible and its principles as well as utilizing the spiritual weapons so we can rebuff his attacks (Mt 4:6; Eph 6:10-18). Don’t tolerate sin for it is not compatible with holiness. Focus on the Scriptures and the power of the crucified, risen, triumphant Lord who defeated Satan rather than the appeal of the temptation (Ps 119:9,11; Col 1:27; 1 Jn 3:8, 4:4).

There is nothing like temptation, relationships and adverse circumstances to reveal what is in our hearts. If we sin, the solution is to repent, and with God’s help not repeat it (1 Jn 1:9). Be careful if you think you are standing firm that you don’t fall (1 Cor 10:12; Gal 6:1; Col 2:8). Taking your

  Recognise temptation for what it is –                                                     it’s dangerous

responsibilities seriously, means don’t see how close you can walk to the cliff edge; even as we pray ‘Lord lead me not into testing situations’ we should be distancing ourselves from potential calamities. While each victory overcoming temptation makes us stronger, we still need to rely on His ongoing enablement to conquer the next one, for although we have the power of the Holy Spirit within to assist us in walking in righteousness, the old carnal nature is still alive. Are the desires of my flesh being ‘crucified with Christ’? Temptation is an opportunity for growth in holiness, while nothing lasting is gained by giving in to it (Gal 2:20).

A person has not being truly obedient if they have not had the opportunity to disobey, yet yielding to temptation can result in devastating outcomes. What appears to be desirable soon becomes a slippery disastrous slope with the principle of sowing and reaping taking effect, “the one who sows to his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction” (Prov 7:22,23; Gal 6:7,8). Sin desires to have you, but you must master it” (Gen 4:7). There are always two options; to do right (obeying God) or do what is not right (giving in to Satan), consequently we will either let God or Satan be our master – we can’t have both (Mt 6:24; 2 Pet 2:19). As Christians we have a new righteous master and it is our personal responsibility to close the door to temptation and pass the test of obedience – “Sin shall not be your master” (Rom 6:11,14,16). The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where Satan tempted Him, and although throughout His earthly life He was tempted in all areas as we are He did not sin (Mt 4:1-11; Heb 4:15,16).

Biblical examples

Satan was permitted to expose Peter to temptation, because in his heart was something that had to be put to the test, for a choice to be made. Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith wouldn’t fail, not that he wouldn’t be tempted. In pride and self-sufficiency Peter thought he was strong, ready for anything but failed the test. For him to become totally dependent on God and the leader who could strengthen and build up the faith of the believers it was necessary to deal with this (Lk 22:31-34).  He repented and ‘looked to Jesus’ for his leading, demonstrating that failing is not final. Jesus prays for us too, that our faith will not fail, and although we won’t be kept from the test, we can be kept in it.

Judas, who had a love of money, was exposed to the temptation of misappropriating finances – he failed the test and this was his downfall (Mt 26:15, 27:3-5; Jn 12:4-6). Saul disobeyed God and refused to acknowledge his wrongdoing. Only after being told God would take away his kingship did he admit his sin. Saul, who had an ego problem, was more concerned with his reputation than his relationship with God, begged Samuel, “O at least honour me before the leaders...” (1 Sam 15:30).

David yielded to the temptation of sexual immorality and although he acknowledged and repented of his sin there was long-lasting consequences (2 Sam 11:2-4, 12:10-14; Ps 51:1-3,17). In contrast Joseph outlined his position, keeping clear

Don’t trade what is of lasting or long-term value                                   for the fleeting short-term thrill

of compromising situations but when he was out maneuvered, he literally ran from the trap (Gen 39:6-10). Daniel, before he faced the test had made a resolution in his heart, so was prepared when the time came (Dan 1:8). Be prepared and alert so the bias of the flesh towards evil doesn’t overpower you – Jesus said, pray so that temptation will not overpower you (Lk 22:40,46). A declaration such as, “I resolve that my lips and eyes will not sin” must be diligently supported with a corresponding lifestyle (Ps 17:3, 101:3). Do I live with integrity, resist ungodly passions and ensure there are witnesses in potentially compromising situations (Tit 2:11,12).

See also: accountability, armour (spiritual), blessed or cursed, boundaries, choice, conscience, consequences, desires, entry points, failure, flesh, free will, guard, lust, position in Christ, reaction, repentance, seduction, self, self-control, selfishness, sin/sinners, test/testing, thinking/thoughts, victory.

 

 

 

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