By Heath Rogers
When we become a Christian we become a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). We rise from the regenerating waters of baptism to live in the newness of life (Tit. 3:5; Rom. 6:4). As Christians, God expects us to live a life free from sin. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin . . . likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:6, 11-l3).
We know that we aren’t supposed to sin. We know we must overcome temptation. The question is not “Can it be done?” Jesus did it (Matt. 4:1-11). The question is “How can it be done?” What can we do to overcome the temptation to commit sin? Is there anything we can arm ourselves with? Does the Bible offer any suggestions at all? Yes it does.
One of the best things that we can do to overcome temptation is to understand how temptation works. Temptation works through our desires and lusts. “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. 1:14-15). If we have a desire, lust or appetite for something, then the devil has the bait. That bait comes in three forms. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). The “lust of the flesh” is something that will make us feel good, something that will satisfy a physical desire. The “lust of the eyes” is something that looks good and makes us want it. The “pride of life” is the opportunity to better ourselves, to improve our status or position, to make us feel better about ourselves.
We don’t all have the same desires, but we all have desires. Temptation is when our desires are appealed to and encouraged to be fulfilled. It is kind of like fishing. Different baits catch different fish, but they all work on the same principle. If we can understand what is happening when we are being tempted, we stand a better chance of recognizing it and stopping it. After all, we are smarter than a fish, aren’t we?
Don’t Put Yourself In A Situation To Be Tempted
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14). We are not to go out looking to be tempted. We are not to put ourselves in temptation’s way.
Several people in the Bible have made this grave mistake. Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom” (Gen. 13:11-13). We know what happened to Lot. It all came about because he intentionally put himself in the company of sinners (1 Cor. 15:33). King David was in the wrong place at the wrong time (2 Sam. 11:1-2). He should have been out with the other kings in battle. But instead he was where he could see Bathsheba bathing. He desired her, committed adultery, had her innocent husband killed, lost the child, and had another son rebel against him. All because he was where he shouldn’t have been. Peter followed the Lord “afar off” (Matt. 26:57-58). Instead of staying with the Lord, he was in the company of strangers. It was there that he was able to do the unthinkable, he denied the Lord.
Too many Christians are all too willing to play with fire. It is foolish knowingly and willingly to put ourselves in a situation to be tempted. The Bible tells us that we are to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
Flee! Get Out While You Can!
When we find ourselves in a sinful situation we are to get out of it. “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18); “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14); “flee these things” (1 Tim. 6:11); “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22). “Flee” means to escape, get away, run for your life. Thayer says it is “to seek safety by flight, to escape safely out of danger.” I have a feeling that too many of us fail to see the “danger” that temptation poses. Our world has taken the bite out of sin for us. Sin is no longer a bad thing for many people, including many Christians. Instead of running away from sin, we attempt to explain away our sin. We have concocted all kinds of excuses for people who happen to be caught up in sin. It is not their fault, it is somebody else’s. But Christian, you are a child of God! You are not to engage in sin thinking you can excuse it, you are to run from sin hoping you can escape it (1 Cor. 10:13)!
Protect Your Heart and Mind
If we can keep in control our minds, we have a better chance of overcoming temptation. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:6-8). We are to “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14) and “walk in the spirit” (Gal. 5:16). This is a lifestyle, and a lifestyle occupies the mind.
Jesus quoted Scripture when overcoming temptation (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). Have we filled our minds with Scrip- ture? The Bible tells us to meditate and think on certain things for a reason! It is a way of protecting the heart and mind. Assembling for worship equips us with the strength and determination to fight on and resist temptation (Heb. 10:24-26). Prayer is useful — no — essential if we are going to overcome temptation (Matt. 6:13). Are we putting on the armor of God to protect ourselves from the wiles of the devil, or are we walking out into the battleground naked and defenseless (Eph. 6:10-17)? If we will make it harder for the devil to tempt us to sin, then it will be easier to overcome temptation.
“I did repent when I obeyed the gospel!” Yes, then you sinned again. Repentance is an ongoing process. To repent means to turn. We must stay turned from sin and towards God. Temptation is constantly calling upon us to return to our sinful habits. When being tempted, we have to remember, “No, I repented of that sin to do it no more!” Did you really repent of your sins when you obeyed the gospel? Did you really repent, or were you just sorry about your sins, knowing that you would most likely commit them again if given the chance? True repentance is lacking among God’s people today.
Just saying that we are not to sin — that doesn’t help very much. We all know that. The question is “How do we overcome temptation?” That is information that we desperately need. The Bible tells us that there are some things that we can do that will help us overcome temptation. The question now is “Will we do them?