Updated: Feb 1, 2019
"Come to the Lord Jesus Christ and He will dissolve all of your aches and pains! He will cure your brokenness and loneliness! Submit to the Lord and He will remove your evil thoughts and annihilate your fears and temptations! For He is the way, the truth, and the life!"
- a well intended Preacher
There is no doubt that Jesus Christ can and will dissolve all of our aches and pains, cure all of our brokenness and loneliness, and sanctify us by removing all of our sin and evil thoughts and annihilate our fears and temptations - at His second coming.
There is absolutely no doubt that we should submit ourselves to the Lord, because He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and there will certainly be a transformation process that gives the believer in Christ a joy and satisfaction that will heal brokenness and fill the void of loneliness in this lifetime, but we have allowed Satan to deceive us if we believe that coming to Christ will put away all heartache, sorrow, and temptation in this life.
It doesn't take long after conversion to realize that temptation does not go away in this lifetime. This is why the apostle Paul said to the Romans,
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me." Romans 7:18-20
Even after conversion we still deal with the pangs of temptation. Really, temptation doesn't even exist before conversion, because before, we carelessly dwelt in our evil nature. It is only when the Holy Spirit infiltrates our souls and produces a salvation experience and a genuine desire for repentance that temptation really becomes an issue in the Christian life. When that infiltration takes place, an all out war breaks out within our being.
Only at the day of total sanctification will our temptation be squashed once and for all. However, until then, the believer in Christ who truly wishes to obey God's commands and be the holy man or woman of God that they were created to be must strive to fight back the flames of the roaring fires of temptation.
Here are six pieces of helpful advice:
1. Renew Your Time with the Lord
Do not expect to have a handle on your temptations if your time with God is suffering. What do I mean by "Time with the Lord?" What I mean is the time you spend one on one with the Almighty - the Maker of the universe - in prayer and the reading His Word.
It is no coincidence that some of the most righteous individuals in church history, such as Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, George Muller, Hudson Taylor, Corrie Ten Boom, and Billy Graham, were also some of the most spiritually disciplined individuals in church history. To read of their unbelievably adamant devotion and desire for communion with God is humbling and revealing.
When we think about it logically, and understand how much of a privilege it is to be able to speak to the Master of the enormity of the cosmos and read the Words He had penned down just for us, it is breathtaking how much neglecting time with Lord lacks any sense at all.
That being said, neglecting to meet with the Lord throughout the day is the number one cause for temptation. Logically, if neglecting time with God produces temptation, being conscious and proactive in this spiritual discipline will squelch the majority of temptations.
Evil cannot reside in the presence of the living God. Therefore, when we regularly spend time in His presence, temptation must flee.
If you seek to convince yourself that you are too busy for time with the Lord, read this article by Crossway titled Infographic: You Have More Time for Bible Reading than You Think and you will reasonably think otherwise.
2. Understand the Consequences of Sin
There are certainly serious physical consequences for sinful actions. For example, when a spouse decides to betray their husband or wife of twenty years and lie in the bed of her lover or his mistress, there is the real consequence of losing the marriage he/she spent twenty years building and cultivating. Similarly, choosing to live a promiscuous lifestyle could produce the consequence of sexually transmitted diseases. Further, if I commit the sin of murder, there is the very real likelihood that I will spend the rest of my life in prison. Also, there is the consequence of being labelled a liar if i habitually do not tell the truth.
There are definitely physical consequences to your sinful actions, and these physical consequences could very well be deterrents of temptation, but physical consequence is not what I am talking about when I tell you to understand the consequences of sin.
Rather, I am suggesting that you understand the more serious spiritual consequences of sin - consequences that far outweigh the physical ones.
To effectively combat temptation, we must know that sin is utterly deplorable to God. I cannot use a vivid enough vocabulary word to accurately capture the magnitude of God's hatred for sin. He hates sin so much that the very definition of fear of the Lord is hatred of evil (Proverbs 8:13). He hates sin so much that He will separate Himself from anyone found in it (Isaiah 59:2). He hates sin so much that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:32). He hates sin so much that those who habitually live in it will not inherit His kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). God detests sin.
Check out these verses:
"There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." Proverbs 6:16-19
"For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you." Psalm 5:4
"The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence." Psalm 11:5
"Do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD." Zechariah 8:17
"For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." Hebrews 10:26
These are just to present a few. Scripture is filled with citations and examples of God's ample disgust with sin and evil.
If we are to combat temptation, we must understand that every single time we give into temptation we step one more step away from God. We must not fool ourselves into believing that sin has no spiritual consequence.
The most sobering and terrifying reality of sin is that every time we give into our temptations God has the absolute right to walk away from us. Praise God that He wont ultimately leave us suffocating in our sin - Jesus died on the cross to insure our redemption - but the objective and goal of every child of God should be to draw as near to Him as much as humanly possible.
It is easy to see why understanding the consequences of sin would aid in the fight to thwart off temptation when we understand that every sin we commit sends us farther and farther away from the presence of the Almighty.
John Calvin once said of the righteous man,
"It is not simply fear of punishment that keeps him from sin. Even if there was no hell, because he loves and reveres God as his Father and honours and obeys him as his Master, he would spurn the very idea of offending him."
Understanding the consequences of sin is effective in combating temptation because it reveals to the Christian, who loves God more than anything in the universe, how detestable and offensive sin really is to his/her Father.
3. Declare War on Satan and Commit to Holiness
When we do become aware of the consequences of sin, and we see how unbelievably detestable evil actions are to God, the obvious reaction for the true faithful believer in Christ is to make it our mortal life's goal to spurn anything that attempts to draw us into the clutches of depravity, and to declare all out war on anything that entices us to participate in activities that draw us farther and farther away from our heavenly Father. This calls for us to declare war on Satan and commit ourselves to a life of holiness in Christ.
First, we must be clear that your sin is your own. You cannot so much as slightly attribute a shred of your wickedness to the Devil. You must own it!
From the beginning, Satan has sought nothing more than to entice man into separation from God. That is what he did with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and this is what he seeks to do with you and me today. This is why Peter warns his readers,
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8
Though Satan is not the essence of our sin (or really even the cause), he is, however, happily the fine tuner that tightens our strings just to the perfect pitch of depravity. He seeks to facilitate and further our downfall. He seeks to entice us into the depths of our demise
If we seek to squelch the temptation in our life, we must declare an all out assault on the great Tempter. Satan seeks an easy target. Therefore, when we put up an intentional resistance to him, he doesn't find us to be worth the effort; and he leaves. This is why Peter also says to his readers,
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." 1 Peter 5:8-9 (emphasis added)
And why the apostle James said,
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7
If we are to have any chance of combating temptation, we must make it a point to declare a daily war on Satan and commit to the holiness of God. When our hearts yearn for the precious holiness of the Holy One, and when we despise the Devil with every fiber in our being, war with the Devil becomes obvious and easy, and the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ becomes more desirable than the most pleasurable of sins.
4. Do not Fight Temptation Alone
Often, due to the shameful and embarrassing nature of our temptations, we seek to "fix" them on our own or stifle them down deep so that no one will ever know they are there.
In our day and culture, this is alarmingly prevalent among young men (though it is not to the exclusion of the ladies) who struggle mightily with lust, finding themselves addicted to pornography. Since their temptations are at a high magnitude of shame, the secondary temptation to never ask anyone for help is quite appealing.
However, God did not create us as solitary individuals that depend solely on ourselves. Rather, God created us as social creatures that learn, grow, and thrive with one another. this is why Proverbs 27:17 says,
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." (NLT)
Therefore, if we seek to effectively combat temptation, we must not succumb to the temptation of fighting it alone. Instead, we must seek out help from others in a variety of ways:
1. Seek the Help of a Wise Counselor
Though here at Joy in the Father we seek to provide good quality resources to further your walk in Christ, we also recognize that there is no substitute for a trusted wise Pastor or counselor. If you find yourself continually struggling with temptation, seek out a Pastor that has proven himself as a quality adviser. If he is of any worth, you will not have to fear ridicule or judgement, but rather, will experience a loving man or woman of God that will help you in your struggles. Pray and ask God to place these people in your life.
2. Confess Your Sins and Temptations to a trusted Individual
Confessing our sins and revealing the nasty true nature of our hearts and souls is completely and radically contrary to our initial instincts. We seek to bury and hide our sins where no one can find them and find out just how twisted and evil we truly are. However, confessing our sins to an individual that we can confidently trust is wildly therapeutic. Revealing the most intimate characteristics of yourself and revealing struggles that you could never share with anyone else is often like lifting a twenty ton iron weight off of your chest so you can breathe again. Ask God to guide you and confess your sins to someone you can trust has your best interest in mind.
3. Find an Accountability Partner
Combating temptation becomes far easier when you find someone who will agree to be your accountability partner. This is a trusted friend that will gently and privately call you out on your spiritual shortcomings. An accountability partner can also be an excellent way to insure that you remained disciplined in prayer and Scripture intake.
4. Accept Defeat and cry out to God
If we are going to be honest and realistic, you stand no chance of defeating your temptations. Your inherent desire for evil is too strong, your plea for righteousness is too weak, and Satan's enticements are too clever. However, we can declare victory when we accept defeat and cry out to God. He is the only Being that can defeat our temptations. This is why the Lord's Prayer says,
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Matthew 6:13
This is not a plea to God to abstain from causing us temptation - the apostle James said that God tempts no one (James 1:13) - but rather, this is a plea to ask God to guard us from temptation. Only with God's intervention do we have a shot of squelching temptation.
5. Immerse Yourself in Kingdom Ministry
I have found that there are few physical actions that you can take to combat the dreadful pangs of temptation that are more effective than immersing yourself in Kingdom ministry - participating in the activities of the Church.
We must be clear that adamantly involving yourself in church life does not guarantee a temptation free life. In fact, if you show up to every worship service, attend every men's or women's conference, and participate in every ministry at your church, but you fail to cultivate a healthy prayer life and neglect the other spiritual disciplines, temptation will most certainly knock at your door and rule your life. Without intentionally indulging in the previous four pieces of advice, immersing yourself in Kingdom ministry will be of little help.
However, if you have renewed your time with the Lord, understood the consequences of sin, declared war on Satan and committed to holiness, and fought the temptation to fight temptation alone, immersing yourself in Kingdom ministry can be a wonderful way to fine tune your assault on temptation.
It must also be clarified that we do not give ourselves to Kingdom ministry simply for the sake of obtaining the release from temptation. We should never work for the Lord with the purpose of obtaining anything but success of His glorification. Though we do receive reward for our kingdom pursuits here on earth, we are to give ourselves sacrificially for Him because Christ gave Himself sacrificially for us.
The Church holds a place in the heart of God like no other. As His bride, we eagerly await the day we may experience the reunion of our bridegroom. Thus, God chooses to fulfill His work through the Church. So, when we rightly immerse ourselves into His Kingdom work, temptation finds no room to reside in our heart.
6. Make Jesus Your Supreme Joy
The reason we struggle with temptation is because, in our naturally evil state, we find more pleasure and joy in sin than we do in Jesus Christ. We find the allure of lust more appealing that Christ's righteousness. We find the charm of deception more sensational than God's holiness. We find the wicked sources of the pleasures of our evil hearts more satisfying than the love, joy, glory, and extraordinary compassion and fulfillment that the God of all the universe has to offer.
However, it doesn't have to be that way. Though we will not experience the full contentment and satisfaction in Christ that He is due until our total glorification and sanctification, we can - by the power and intervention of the Holy Spirit - repent and swap the joy and pleasure we have for our sins and temptations and exchange it for joy and pleasure in Jesus Christ.
This is one of the overwhelming beauties of Jesus' coming. He reveals this in His prayer to the Father in John 17:
"But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. " John 17:13 (emphasis added)
If we want to have any chance of combating the temptation that ravages our hearts, we must seek to make Christ our supreme joy. This means that He reigns totally triumphant over our hearts and priorities. This means that before our friends, our parents, our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our anything else, God is our true and ultimate source of joy and satisfaction. God said of His second commandment:
"For I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Exodus 20:5-6
Christ seeks for His children to see the beauty of the revelation of His glory and seek nothing for our fulfillment and joy but Him. Truly, temptation will never be effectively squelched in our hearts and minds until our Joy in the Father far exceeds our joy in sin.
Author: A.C. Minor
Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
John Calvin, The Institutes of Christian Religion (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids) 2002, pg. 27