Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Overcoming Temptations

Fighting Temptation - Defining Temptation
Fighting temptation describes a battle that is as much spiritual as it is emotional or physical. To be tempted is not a sin. Everyone is tempted and at different levels. Even Jesus was tempted! Temptation happens when the opportunity is presented to do what we know is wrong, whether against God, ourselves, or others. Being tempted is not wrong - it's the decision to do wrong and the corresponding action that follows.

Sometimes we can confuse temptation with God's testing of our hearts, but temptation and God's testing are very different. Most of the time, though, what we're experiencing is both! God's testing presents the opportunity to do that which would please Him. When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham was being tested - both his heart to obey God and his ability to trust Him (Genesis 22). God's Word clearly states that He tries the heart and tests for faith. Proverbs 17:3 says, "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart."

At the time we are experiencing it, we may not be able to distinguish the difference between testing and temptation. Afterward, if we are seeking God's purposes in our dilemma, we will likely understand God's intent.

Temptation can occur on many levels. We may be tempted to eat something we shouldn't for health reasons, we may be trapped in a harmful pattern of thinking, or dangerously involved in a lifestyle that is harmful. In all cases, temptation is rarely a one-time event.

Tests may occur more than once in similar ways, but temptation is almost always cyclical. James 1:12-16 discusses the process of being tempted, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 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. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers."

Fighting Temptation - God Allows Temptation
Fighting temptation is combat God allows, because it is won or lost at the spiritual level. He desires that we endure when we are tempted and promises that there is a way out. When we are sorely tempted, it may not seem that there is a way out, but the God who made us knows what we can endure and bear, and it is He who provides a way of escape. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Depending on what His goal is in our lives, God's way of escape might be to take us through the temptation, or He may give us strength to overcome it. His desire is that we don't fall into temptation, but that we proceed through it and master it, rather than it mastering us. God wants us to overcome! 1 Peter 1:3-8, reminds us, "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
God Allows Temptation
Temptation is as old as mankind, beginning in the Garden of Eden. When Satan tempted Eve to do what God had forbidden, he appealed to her reasoning. "Did God really say…," the enemy hissed. Then he appealed to her desires, "You can be like gods!" Finally, he slithered aside and let her passions take over. She looked at the fruit on the forbidden tree - and she wanted it (Genesis 3). Temptation still works like that. There is nothing new in Satan's bag of tricks. King David was tempted when he saw his neighbor's beautiful wife, Bathsheba, and he succumbed to that temptation (2 Samuel 11:2-5). Throughout the book of Psalms, we find David recording his distress after falling into temptation. His soul was grieved and felt as if it were torn in two. In a discussion with Peter, Jesus tells him that Satan wants to rule him (Luke 22:31-32). Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan (Matthew 4).

God wants us to succeed and prevail over temptation, but Satan, God's sworn enemy, longs to devour us. In fact, 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings." When Adam and Eve gave in to temptation in the Garden, rather than obeying God as He desired, they yielded control of this physical world to Satan. His goal in our lives is two-fold: first, he wants to take us with him to hell. If he loses that battle because we become Christians, his goal is then to make us ineffective for God in this world. He uses temptation to accomplish his purposes. The very essence and meaning of sin is to miss the mark, and this is accomplished through giving in to temptation.

Fighting Temptation - The Secret of Success is Spiritual!
Fighting temptation focuses on the cravings and desires of the flesh versus doing what is right. No one is above temptation or the potential to sin (1 John 1:8). When fighting temptation, society's solutions revolve around personal stamina and will-power. However as worthwhile as this may seem, the chances of success are minimal, due to the focus being on natural ability. As Scripture clearly tells us, the battle is not natural-but spiritual. Ephesians 6:12-13 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." As an example to us, Jesus used the weapon of God's Word in resisting temptations (Matthew 4). Since He is the only human who has ever been tempted, yet did not sin, His example is a good one to follow! God knows how to provide a way to both get through temptation, and overcome temptation. Psalm 34:17 says, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles."

When we choose to rely on our own strength in defeating temptation, independent of God, God looks at this as pride (James 4:6). He has a plan of deliverance, a way of escape which is found primarily through relationship with Him and experiencing His loving hand of correction (Hebrews 12).

When we come to God for salvation, He gives us a new nature. The old one - full of deceit and the desire to please only ourselves - is gone. 2 Corinthians 5:17 reminds us, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" What begins to transpire at this point is a literal transformation. As we start to read the Bible and get to know who God is, our way of thinking is gradually changed. This is a renewing that changes the moral fiber and character of a person. New traits and disciplines are learned and integrated, replacing the old characteristics. Through a relationship with God, we become likeminded with Christ and grow in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord.

Temptation always involves choice - do we obey God or give in to our own desires? Yet climbing out of the pit of temptation is rarely simple, as anyone who has been there knows. The good news is that with God's help, we can end the cycle. There may be pain and anguish in your heart and mind when declining temptations of the flesh, but overcoming temptation is treasure for the soul.
Fighting Temptation - How the Battle is Played Out
Fighting temptation can feel like struggling for breath. It's everywhere you turn, like a boxer wanting to pummel his opponent. Victory involves God's Word, prayer, confession, and avoiding situations where temptation is likely to occur. God knows who we are. After all, in the person of Jesus, He has been tempted as we have. He knows what we need to do in order to defeat sin. Whatever your area of greatest temptation is, ask God to help you recognize and stay away from compromising situations. Use God's Word to change harmful thought patterns. We have this good news from the Apostle Paul, "We are human, but we don't wage war with human plans and methods. We use God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NLT).