Its one thing to want to be holy, its quite another to know how. This is because resisting temptation is a skill that must be learned. People often fail to obey God not because they dont want to but because they find themselves unable to stop yielding to the suggestive thoughts that come into their minds or the impulses that surge through their emotions. Try as they might they cant overcome the building pressures they feel. They sincerely attempt to resist for a while and then simply cave in out of exhaustion. When that pattern of failure is repeated often enough it damages our self-esteem and erodes our confidence to approach God in prayer, or minister in His name, or expect His blessings in our life. In fact, after enough serious attempts to stop have failed we may even begin to question whether or not He still loves us or whether or not we are still saved. So before we move on from the subject of holiness lets talk about some practical ways to resist temptation. What resources has God given us to help silence the unholy thoughts that enter our minds? If were going to pursue holiness, all of us will need to learn how to defeat temptation.
A. How has God created me?
1. Dust: body
2. Breath: biological life, soul
3. Image of God: spirit, a person as He is a person (conscious: self aware; volitional: will, able to make moral choices; rational: think; emotional: feel; eternal: continue to exist after being conceived)
B. What changes take place when I am born-again?
1. I repent: Cease to be independent and rebellious: I recognize Gods ways are better than my ways; I recognize I constantly need God to succeed in every area of life.
2. I believe: Jesus is Gods Son who died for my sins: the barrier of sin between me and God is removed. All judgment is removed. All of Gods resources are given to me. He is for me and not against me. Hes my Father and not my Judge.
3. I receive: At the deepest level of my being I open up and receive Gods living presence to dwell in me.
The all-powerful Holy Spirit becomes one with my spirit (the new me).
The resources inside me are as unlimited as God Himself
- John 4:14 a well of water
- John 7:37-39 rivers of living
- John 14:17-23 He abides with you but He will be in you
C. What does not change when I am born-again?
Body appetites, emotional response, subconscious thoughts, false beliefs. However, in Christ God has given me the resources to transform each of these areas. My new situation:
1. The new dwells within the old
Galations 5:17 internal war
2. My spirit (the new me) is now free to turn to God when I am in need.
Galatians 5:16 walk in (the) Spirit and you will by no means bring to completion (teleo) the passions of the flesh
3. God is always present within me but He waits for me to seek Him.
I surrendered to Christ when I became born-again but I must daily, even situation by situation, choose to draw upon His power (walk in (the) Spirit)
As a born-again person I still live in a sinful body, I still feel the flush of wrong emotions, I still can be deceived by confused thinking, but I have entered into a relationship with God who is now teaching me to live free from these things.
D. What part do I play in this process?
Because I have surrendered to God and am indwelled by His Spirit I am now able to live free from the old. Before I was born-again I was a slave of the old, but now I am genuinely able to choose: I can yield to the old or lay hold of the new (Col 3: 5-9; Ro 6:6-14). My job is to choose to focus my thoughts on Gods truth. His job is to give me the power to obey. I must choose to:
1. Refuse to think of myself as a slave
I cant conquer this. Its a genetic trait. Im a victim of abuse.
John 8:34-36 if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
2. Refuse condemnation
Gods sick of me
Ive failed too often
Regularly take communion
3. Refuse self-hatred
Harsh self-treatment, mutilation
Youre punishing the wrong person
E. Is there a spiritual force behind the temptations I experience?
1. Listen to the list of common temptations: sex, idolatry, anger, envy, alcohol, drugs, stealing, greed, verbal abuse, business fraud, doubt, depression, suicide, fear.
2. Ephesians 6:10-18
v 16: extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one
3. We must recognize the real source of temptation. Yes, we still carry areas of old weakness, but the fact is we have an enemy who assaults us particularly where we are weak.
The devil can insert thoughts into our minds (flaming arrows)
These evil thoughts do not come from our born-again hearts. The devil wants us to believe they do and to conclude our heart is evil.
F. How do I access Gods power when I am under attack?
How do I let the Spirit who dwells inside me rise up and become dominant over my thoughts, emotions and behavior? The answer is found by answering the question, what part of me can my born-again spirit (heart) control at all times? The answer is found in Romans 8:5:
1. I can always turn my thoughts to God (also Col 3:2). Nothing in the spiritual or physical realm can prevent this.
2. In other words, I dont find victory by fighting against a thought, I find victory by fleeing in my thoughts to God. This is an extremely important distinction.
3. This does not mean that I wont momentarily speak a rebuke against a thought (No! in the name of Jesus stop!) (Jas 4:7
Resist the devil and he will flee from you)
4. Please notice: you do not handle a tempting thought by prayer. Prayer against temptation should take place at the start of the day (Mt 6:13).
5. Temptations of all sorts begin in the mind (Jas 1:13-15). James says:
I entertain it; the desire builds; I act on it; something dies
6. As soon as I recognize an improper thought (oops!), turn in my mind and see Jesus. I envision His face, or Him on the cross, or even His blood. Picturing Him in my mind is different than thinking theological concepts. I hold my focus there until the temptation releases.
7. This can be done in the wink of an eye even in the middle of a conversation.
8. Remember: the longer you delay to do this the harder it is to get rid of the intruding thought (flaming arrow)
9. In time this becomes a programmed response. I find myself instinctively defecting improper thoughts.
10. And the more I do this the less hold they have on me. In other words, the more I choose holiness the less power that temptation has over me.
I fought to get it out. Now I fight to keep it out.
11. Finally, an old puritan saying was an idle mind is the devils workshop. Learn to keep your mind constructively busy.
Study the Bible, watch a good DVD, go for a walk and talk to the Lord
Watch the patterns of your life and identify where youre the most vulnerable and build in something healthy there instead.
1. What steps do you take to gain victory over a tempting thought?
2. Name a Bible promise that helps you resist temptation.