Temptations come in all shapes and sizes (ha-ha, pun sort of intended). Right? What about tests? or trials? Do we categorize situations as belonging to either one or the other but not both?
This is to say, any interaction or confrontation externally with a specific person, word, action, event or circumstance, etc., or internally with one’s own make-up, which God plans as a trial, Satan exploits simultaneously as a temptation, and vice versa. In other words, God and Satan enlist the same means at the same time and in the same way.(Dr. Henry Krabbendam,Tender Love in Tough Pursuit of Total Holiness)
It’s a case of both/and, not either/or. Every situation in which it is necessary for us to make a choice represents an opportunity for trial or testing designed to encourage growth in holiness AND an opportunity for temptation designed to lead us to sin. It is also possible to succumb to temptation and not completely fail the test. How? Initially giving in to temptation does not inevitably lead to or cause commission of fully formed sin. There are steps leading from temptation to a sinful action and with each step is an opportunity for intervention. SeeJames 1:13-15
Phase 1: Internally evil desire occupies the mind, the will and the emotions of man and with their assistance self-indulgently both contemplates (intercourse) and commits itself (conception) to sinful pleasures. Phase 2: Externally evil desire bursts into broad daylight (birth) in sinful practices, and consolidates its gain in self-deception (adulthood). (Krabbendam,Ibid)
occupation – contemplation – determination – operation – deception
Between regeneration and glorification, while in this life, the believer struggles with indwelling sin. He has a new heart (nature) with a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” and holiness that is opposed by the power of remaining sin. That indwelling sin does not need to dominate (see Romans 6:12-14,18) but without the grace of God and aid of the indwelling Holy Spirit we cannot successfully resist it.
At the same time, we can’t expect God to do all the work while we passively go along for the ride. He doesn’t resist sin for us, he gladly and graciously equips us so we can resist it. He has given his Word written and living, also his Spirit to teach and guide us as we actively engage in the battle against our old habits.
Solomon addresses specifically the sin of adultery. However, …as we have seen especially from James, his words of wisdom have application to every sort of temptation – food, TV, possessions, social networking, substances, porn, self-pity, idolatry – the list is a long one.
The Evil One never tires to foist temptations on man. Next to the lust of sex, he puts a suggestive picture. Dwell on it! Next to the lust to steal, he puts an unguarded residence. Burglarize it! Next to the lust of self-pity, he puts a disappointment. Succumb to it! Next to the lust of pride, he puts a shady opportunity of a life-time. Go for it! Next to the lust of anger, he puts an insult. Get even. (Krabbendam, Ibid)
So what are some things we can do that will enhance our resistance to and defense against these kinds of temptations? Remember success in resisting means success in passing God’s tests “to establish the genuineness of [our] faith and practice, to facilitate [our] perseverance and to stimulate [us to] practical godliness”.
A. guard your heart (v. 25a)
Two forces are at work that lead to temptation – our unchecked desires and Satan’s attempts to encourage/incite those desires. Two responses are in order, one directed at desire and the other at Satan’s working.
First, desires. We are already in danger when we begin to desire and long for something sinful. Fantasizing about how we might satisfy desire is one symptom that we are in danger. What should we do to reduce the danger, and once in danger get out of it?
1. Cultivate a heart/mind environment that is hostile to sinful desires.
That is how our bodies are designed to respond to invasion from bacteria or viruses – spike a fever, conditions outside the temperature range where the invaders can survive.
Couple occasions, someone trying to quit smoking. Ask, “Can you smoke and read your Bible?” Occupy/fill mind and heart, thoughts and desires, with what is good and godly.
Listening to Christian radio instead of talk radio.
Watch carefully chosen videos promoting Christian values, not commercial TV
Spend time in Bible reading, study, reading wholesome material – missionary stories, biographies of great Christians, classics of Christian thought – Pilgrim’s Progress, Milton’s Paradise Lost/Regained
2. Satisfy wrongly-directed desires with right things
We must exercise restraint upon our desires but we can’t “just say no” all the time. We must say “yes” to some things and they need to be ones of which God approves.
If this desire were properly directed, not influenced/corrupted by sin, what would be the godly way to satisfy it?
a. Instead of being attracted to someone else’s spouse, be attentive to your own. If you’re single, minister to others in the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 7:32-35)
b. Instead of spending excessive time on Facebook, cultivate a relationship with your neighbor.
c. Instead of pigging out on cheesecake, munch on veggies and make a meal for a shut-in.
B. guard your steps (v. 25b)
Second, to minimize/reduce opportunities for Satan to capitalize on
1. Do not go near or stay near someone/something that appeals to a sensitive area of your life.
Set boundaries & develop habits that will reinforce A.1 & 2.
a. Schedule regular “dates” with your spouse – can even be candlelight dinner @ home with a tea light and sandwich!
b. Set a time to walk daily with a neighbor and plan how you will speak to them of Christ or encourage each other in godliness.
c. Put the cheesecake in the back of the fridge with other things in front.
2. Have a system of accountability
If creative avoidance is not possible, take someone with you.
Have someone else agree to check on your activities – give them your password, ask them to keep tabs on the fridge, only have cheesecake or chocolate at a restaurant
C. guard your future (vv. 26-27)
Remember the consequences of sin before you get involved.
Don’t add to your temptation by testing your own toughness.
Question from OVCS student: Is it dangerous to be fascinated with other religions such as cults or non-Christian groups (excluding the idea of practicing these things)?
Note well, that Scripture does not enjoin us to resist temptation, and to flee from the devil, but rather to resist the devil (Jam. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9) and to flee temptation. Scripture could not be any clearer (Prov. 5:8; 1 Tim. 6:11). The first one of God’s ways to escape temptation (1 Cor. 10:13) is to run from it! (Krabbendam, Ibid)
Flirting with temptation instead of fleeing from it is really the second step in succumbing to it – if the source of temptation is “in your face”, it’s impossible not to contemplate giving in to it. To pass the test we must turn our faces away from sin and toward godliness at the earliest possible moment. Remember Lot’s wife!!
D. guard against legalism
Remember, your specific limits don’t necessarily apply to others. The principles, yes; but what represents a particular temptation which you need to guard against is not always an issue for someone else. Legalism/Pharisaism comes in when we try to mandate safeguards we need for our own protection to someone else, giving them the weight of law and going beyond the bounds of Scripture.
Example: alcohol – someone with a weakness can be tempted to excess by a single drink; someone else may have no problem limiting their consumption so as to neither approach drunkenness nor cause a brother or sister to stumble.