Living With Temptation
Is it a sin to be tempted? No:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus Christ was without sin, and yet He was tempted just like us. Hebrews says there is a difference between temptation and sin. That must mean that what we do with the temptation results in the sin, not the temptation itself.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We can see the results of resisting temptation: a rock solid reliability and maturity (that’s what the word translated ‘perfect’ is getting at here). How do we make the choice to resist, especially in the heat of the moment, since we as humans are so weak according to Jesus and the urge is so strong?
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
The answer is our choice. We can’t fight what is stronger than us, but God can. We have to choose to get closer to God.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
If you come near to God he will come near to you. We need to pray for strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
We also have to take action for ourselves. If we spend too much time with the wrong people, they will influence what we say and do. The bible is clear: bad company ruins good morals.
“Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
“Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38)
“And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)
Our line of communication with God is through prayer, so we need to be talking with God all the time, especially about those things which tempt us. When we keep praying about these things, we keep reminding ourselves about who God is and who we are by comparison.
Idleness is the devils workshop
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it.” (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
You can see, looking back at Genesis 19, how idleness gave the people of Sodom and Gomorrah lots of time to get up to all sorts of evil things, which God punished them for. Work is something that is given by God for us to be busy with (Genesis 2:7-9; 15), to keep our hand engaged so that we have less chance for temptation to take hold.
We don’t just react to temptation though. We can take steps to make sure that we don’t get into places that will lead to temptation.
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3)
Wise and careful people not only see danger when it is right in front of them, but also foresee the possibility of danger and evil in a situation. Notice how they respond. They don’t harden up and take it: they run, they hide, they get out of its way completely.
Overcome Evil With Good
“To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21)
We don’t just have to run away from everything that looks shifty though. We are told to give the people who are out to get us everything they need, because it will be better payback than taking matters into our own hands. This is how we deal with people who are trying to drag us down, and stirring us.
Submit Yourself To God
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:17)
The order of how we deal with anything the devil throws at us is important. If we get it backwards we will be relying on our own weakness and we will fail. We have to first submit to God. Then when we are listening only to Him, and recognizing that He is our only strength, we have the ability to resist the devil. That is why the devil has to run; you already have a God and its not him.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
This is the most encouraging promise. It means, in every situation you are in, there is a way to escape. It’s not necessarily going to get you out of the whole thing, but God will give you the strength to keep standing for Him until it’s over. Remember, Jesus has actually been through exactly the same temptation as the one you are in right now. In fact, He has been tempted in every single way that it’s possibly to be tempted (Hebrews 4:15). That means that Jesus knows the suffering that comes along with it and can help you when you go through the same thing.
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)
What happens if we screw up, because let’s face it, we will. We are weak and we are even weak at something simple like coming to God.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 John 2:1)
Jesus is our lawyer to God the judge even when we do screw up. He will argue our case, and use every bit of evidence to plead for us. That right there is pretty amazing. Jesus biggest piece of evidence is actually Himself. Because He already took the sentence for sin that was ours legally, we get to be whatever he is. Jesus is righteous so that when God looks at us and sees Jesus, he sees that we are perfect. No judgement, no need to “pay our debt to society”. We are already forgiven.