Being tempted isn’t a sin; giving in is
The way the question is phrased is important. Notice the question is not “how do I avoid temptation” or “how do I stop being tempted”. No, the question is, “how do I overcome temptation”. The difference in phrasing the question is crucial, because it is not a sin to be tempted.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. – Hebrews 4:15
It isn’t a sin to be tempted, it is only sin when we give in to the temptation. And we have to understand that giving in to temptation is rooted in our flesh’s desire to seek gratification.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. – James 1:13-14
Temptation is coming – be prepared
Look at what 1 Corinthians 10:13 says:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man….” In other words, your temptation is not unique.
“…And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…” I suppose that means there are no excuses. If you say “I tried to resist, but I just couldn’t – the temptation was more than I could bare” then you are saying that God was wrong. But if God isn’t wrong, then there is absolutely no other reason for giving into temptation except for the fact that you really wanted to.
“…But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” Not only can you overcome temptation, but God will also provide a way out of the temptation so you can flee from it. So when we do give into the temptation to sin, not only is it because we really want to, but also because we willingly reject the exit-strategy that God offers us.
Victim or Victor – your choice
Notice what the last few words of that verse said… “He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it”. The HCSB says “so that you are able to bear it”. When we are tempted, we have the choice to become a victim or victor. God doesn’t allow us to be tempted in order to set us up for failure – God’s strategy is to set us up for victory. When we are tempted and overcome, it produces endurance in us making us stronger spiritually and more prepared to fight off the schemes of the enemy.
PRACTICAL STRATEGY IN OVERCOMING TEMPTATION
I’ve talk a lot about temptation, but haven’t really given any practical solutions as to how to overcome it. Here are 5 practical guidelines that if followed are sure to lead you into victory over temptation.
1) Know the word thoroughly
It’s one thing to be a parrot of your pastor, repeating verses that you’ve heard quoted in church. It’s another thing to have studied the scriptures for yourself, wrestling with those verses to draw out the application. If all you know about the bible is what you’ve heard other people talk about, then you are a prime suspect for scriptural manipulation.
Scriptural manipulation occurs when someone doesn’t have a thorough understanding of the bible, and are easily persuaded that their sin isn’t all that sinful because of other scriptures taken out of context. This is the tactic that the Devil tried using when he tempted Jesus in the desert after 40 days of fasting – he would twist familiar scriptures about the messiah to make it sound as if Jesus could do things He knew He shouldn’t do. And what did Jesus do? He drew from His scriptural memory banks and replied with another verse that automatically brought context to the Devil’s twisted scripture.
2) Walk with the Father daily
What I mean by saying “walk with the father daily” is that you should be consciously aware of His presence with you throughout the day. As an example, if a guy who has a girlfriend sees a pretty girl walking down the street, he may take a second look. However, if he was walking down the street holding his girlfriend’s hand, he will likely be more cautious, and maybe even turn his head the other way as to avoid accidentally slipping up. Why? Because he is aware of his girlfriends presence, and knows that it would be dishonoring to his girlfriend to be looking at another girl – especially while holding her hand!
It’s the same concept with temptation and God. When you are not aware of God’s presence, you are likely to be careless. However, when you are walking with God throughout the day, you are aware of His presence and will be more cautious; knowing that giving in to temptation would be dishonoring to Him – especially while claiming His Name!
Walking with God includes constant prayer, and meditation. By meditation, I mean intentional thinking and reflection (not emptying your mind and humming!). When you are talking to God (prayer) and thinking about God (meditation), you will be aware of His presence with you, and you will not want to give in to temptation.
3) Avoid sinful surroundings and influences
Take time and read passages like Psalm 1 (the whole thing) and 2 Timothy 2:22.
2 Corinthians 6:18 tells us not only to avoid sexual immorality, but to “flee from sexual immorality”. God calls us to take on demonic powers and spiritual forces head on. However, when it comes to the lustful desires of your flesh, He tells us to flee.
If you want to overcome temptation, stay away from places that you know will tempt you with something your flesh desires. If you have a problem with smoking weed, stay away from your dealer. If you have a problem with drinking, stay away from the bar. If you have a problem with premarital sex, don’t ever put yourself in a situation wherein you are alone with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
4) Renew your mind
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… – Romans 12:2
The world, the flesh and the Devil are all bucking up against you. The mindset of this world has a million ideas about what is good, what is important, what is pleasurable, and what will bring ultimate satisfaction – and it’s all pretty much backwards. From TV shows and movies, to advertisements, music, politicians, professors and friends – they all have ideas that are in opposition to what God says is good, important, pleasurable, and what will bring ultimate satisfaction. It takes a conscious effort to renew your mind with God’s word to wash out all of the junk the world pumps into your soul.
Make sure you are feeding your spirit more than you feed your flesh – if you don’t, I guaranty you will give in to temptation.
5) Read what the bible says about what God thinks of sin.
God thoroughly hates sin. When you read passages like Revelation 21:8 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and you see that people who live in sin don’t inherit the kingdom of God and instead get sent to the lake of fire, it really diminishes the appeal of sin. It doesn’t seem all that tempting anymore when you see sin’s final result. When you have a healthy fear of the Lord, it will birth a disgust for sin.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil… – Proverbs 8:13
So there you have it… if you want to be successful in enduring temptation, know the word, walk with the Father, avoid sinful surroundings and influences, renew your mind and read what the bible says about sin.