Thoughts on Temptation

The past weeksI have been amazed by the most unexpected positive responses to what the new  me.  People ask me what has happened to me, I am encouraged by comments on positive change. I am so stimulated by the new eyes and ears I seem to have gained in the experience.

At the same time, even though very committed I seem to keep wandering off or have thoughts about old habits.It cannot be denied however that the lows keep getting less and less but at the same time they are there: Why? Here is what I found, I hope this may serve others like me, which I understand now is probably every Christian.

It is easy to mistakenly believe that Christians are immune to evil thoughts and behaviors: some kind of protective shield drops over us to keep us from being dragged away. That is not how I find it to be. In fact, I seems that the more I move ahead with Christ, the more intense the temptations become.

As a believer you are of great value to the Lord and therefore. At the same time this makes you a target for he who hates anything God loves: Satan. As a result “temptation” is ever present an may be understood as the continuing effect and downward pull of our former life and habits. The end game of temptation is always the same, to keep us from a close walk with Christ. It is not too hard to imagine why Satan would want to pull us away from God. Look at the credentials a Christian person is given in1 Peter 2:9:

9But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

If, as it is understood there is a Satan out there hating and to trying to destroy what God loves. Credentials like the one in 1 Peter 2:9 make us the perfect target for Satan and temptation is one of the means.  No one is exempt.

At first I was inclined to think ” why am  being put to the test? I gave my life and now this? James explains however:

13When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
(James 1:13)

Temptation comes from our own flesh

14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

Furthermore not so much the temptation is what is sinful (in a personal sense) but giving into the temptation:

15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

At the same time we will need to realize that no one  human is completely successful in countering temptation at all times. That is as we can read in Matthew 4: 1-11.

1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
” ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.

9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”

11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

In I John 1:8-10 we read:

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

And in all honesty even without the Apostle John explaining this we would all have to admit that we are not flawless.  Temptation however is never fatal. But giving in can set us back and cause discouragement. I understand that so much discouragement can be caused that some end up giving up. Giving up is at no times a solution. Some as I understood from reading other articles give in to temptation so often to temptation that no hope for overcoming these temptations is left. People give up or give in without a fight. That would to me personally qualify as an unacceptable condition born out of despair, blinding the you from God’s provision to overcome temptation. To me personally, Matthew 4:11 is of of the most reassuring passages in terms of being stimulated to hang in there. It appears to indicate that the Satan in going for the road of little or least resistance. In terms of my fraud risk consulting background: Satan goes for the the easy mark. With that in mind, the Apostle John’s word become easier to grasp.

1My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  (1 John 2:1)

The purpose of having God in our lives is to free us from the consequences of sin (at conversion) and to surely destroy the influence of sin in our lives. John is pretty clear here, he does not write “so you will sin less” or “I write this so that you will not sin so blatantly” no; “not sin” at all.

There are many ways to deal with sin, philosophers are great at explaining us the relativity of morals, which C.S. Lewis so beautifully addresses/counters in his writings (See further parts of the Mere Christianity series of which I wrote yesterday). Another way may be to consider it a part of human nature and see it as inevitable. You could also condemn it and at the same time resign to it. All not very helpful. Finally and what seems to be the most appropriate and logical is to admit your sins and ask for forgiveness .

The temptations appear to concentrate according to John in three areas. He warns us for everything of the world is:

the cravings of sinful man,
the lust of his eyes and
the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world.
(1 John 2:16)

The lust of the flesh as I understand it includes improper kinds of self-indulgence, as I understand it sexually but also otherwise  and includes our actions AND thoughts. The lust of the eyes as I understand it refers to all that we illicitly crave. And then when we do get it it often turns out does  little to satisfy. The pride of life is perhaps the most dangerous because of it’s deceitful nature.

Pride produces self-promotion, selfish ambition, and benefit at the expense of others: we seek to make ourselves like God. But was that not also the very cause of Satan’s fall from heaven?

Regardless of how much we battle temptation, we can thank the Lord that He is our way to victory over temptation. As could be read in Matthew 4:1-11, He is uniquely qualified, for He, the God/man, successfully overcame all that he was tempted with by Satan and is therefore able to help us when we are  tempted. As Paul :

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted
(Hebrews 2:18).

Peter also provides us this reassurance:

The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations
(2 Peter 2:9).

Paul gives us similar Paul again in his first letter to the Corinthians:

13No 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. (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So, whatever way you are tempted, God will come to the rescue when things appear to get out of hand by offering a way out. Knowing there is a way of escape, and using that way of escape, may be quite different things however. Ignorance of God’s Word, I could imagine would lead to a situation where you do not recognize the escape when you even when it is right in front of you.One thing seems clear however: it is not possible to truthfully claim that the temptation was so strong that you had no other way than to give in to it.

Another promise is that no one in this universe is uniquely tempted.I remember seeing the movie Luther and while I do not recall the exact persons in there amongst whom a conversation took place, I do recall something like this:

Q: “what is it you really like best about your work you are doing”

A: “serving God, as there is nothing I would love to do more”

R: “Than that is how you will be tempted.”

No two people are exactly alike, the temptations confronting each individual are basically the same as have confronted others, but that may still mean that they come in different forms or shapes. At the same time  Bible a temptation is a temptation and therefore the Bible can say that Jesus Christ was tempted in all points like we are, and even suffered in this temptation, but did not sin. He’s been there and done that and therefore is actually equipped to be a sympathetic Savior. He comes from His own incarnate experience in knowing the pressure that temptation can exert.

We, as neighbours can help and learn from one another. Merely knowing that another Christian has overcome greed, for instance, may be just the assurance that someone needs to make another attempt to overcome it in his own life. The Christian who has grown in one facet of his spiritual life is responsible for helping other Christians who have not yet grown in that area. In this manner, Christians can edify (or, “build up”) one another in their faith

15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
(Ephesians 4:15-16).

May we appropriate the power and wisdom of the Word, relying upon God’s grace, and therefore have victory, even over the most subtle and compelling temptations. And for the record don’t take it from me, do your own research,  I am new at this and may well be wrong.


6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Temptation

  1. My heart beats differently each breath I take.
    And in each breath there is either thought or creation.
    When aligned with the love of God our breath becomes the source of our creative power to over come all temptation.
    For in that breath is God’s voice the only voice that we should be listening to.
    Satan comes into our breath through thought because he is incapable of being the breath of God itself.
    Through thought, the sub human illusion that our thoughts are ours, Satan speaks and we listen unfortunately.
    And it is in thought that we become dysfunctional on every level.
    Better to leave thought well enough alone and hug a tree for the tree will say nothing to confuse you and it is part of the universal essence of God in everything.

    Nice discourse on temptation John, and I thoroughly am enjoying participating along with you on your journey of discovery.

  2. John, everytime I read one of your posts I go away feeling so blessed. I thank God for your inspiration and I thank you for sharing so much. God Bless You!!

    • Hi Kimberly, thank you for your kind words and I feel blessed and I am grateful for replies such as yours and indeed for the inspiration I get from listening to God and being guided by the Holy Spirit. I do not know why I deserve it and do not know where it will lead, but comments like yours make all that was given to me extra worthwhile in terms of sharing it with the world.
      Love and blessings, John

  3. Pingback: Further Thoughts on Temptation: Mike and John exhange further thoughts « The Desk of the Renaissance Man

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