When I asked a Bible Study group what came to mind when I said “temptation,” one woman squealed, “Fun!” Our group laughed with her, imagining the thrill of indulging our desires.
But real temptation, like a fishing lure, holds deadly hooks beneath its beautiful facade. Jesus pointed out their destructive intent when he called the devil “the father of lies” who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (see Jn. 8:44; 10:10).
Recognizing the deception of temptation can help us win our battles with it. Here are three truths to tell temptation when it knocks.
1. I know you’re lying.
Temptations are destructive lies wrapped in enticing packages. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, they make promises that aren’t true. Eve did not become like God when she ate the forbidden fruit. She became like Satan, ousted from her preeminent position and paradise. Sin not only corrupted her but also infected her children. One son murdered the other.
The flirtatious affair that promises excitement ultimately delivers regret and heartache. The satisfaction that comes from indulging destructive cravings is short-lived, but the pain can last a lifetime (Heb. 11:25).
Have you noticed that once you cross a line it is more difficult—not less—to refrain the next time you’re tempted? The relief promised if we will only yield to our lusts is nothing more than another link in the chain sin uses to control us (John 8:34, Romans 6:16).
Temptation hisses, “One time won’t hurt. No one will know. You can quit when you want.” But God’s Word counters, “Your sin will find you out,” (Num. 32:23 NASB).
2. I don’t want that.
The Bible calls temptations “deceitful desires” (Ephes. 4:22). They masquerade as our longings. But the new nature given to every true believer wants to please God, not grieve the Holy Spirit within us (Ephes. 4:30). We want healthy relationships, not broken ones. We want freedom from sin, not bondage to it. Screaming at my child may get her to comply in the moment, but it won’t gain the respect and relationship I deeply want.
Giving in to sin alters us. When I met identical twins, no one had to tell me which one walked with the Lord. Their unalike hearts showed in their different countenances.
Sin ultimately limits our freedom. Sexual exploits later haunt the marriage bed. Pornographic images burned into the participant’s memory later interfere with his ability to enjoy female company. Excessive alcohol and rich foods harm digestion and ruin the enjoyment of nutritious food. Bickering limits closeness. Overspending robs families of enjoyment because Mom and Dad are stressed or overworking to pay off the debt.
Someone has said, “Sin will take you farther than you ever wanted to go, cost you more than you ever wanted to pay, and keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay.” Who wants that?
3. I’m dead to sin and alive to God.
We don’t expect roadkill to move out of the road when we honk our horns. Dead animals don’t respond to anything. We can cajole, tempt, or threaten, but the dead don’t respond.
On the other hand, a trained family pet tunes into his owner’s voice. He responds to gestures and is aware of every movement. He is physically and relationally alive to his master.
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:11-14).
Jesus’ work on the cross has given us the power to act like roadkill with temptation and to be well-trained pets with God.
We Have Help
In addition to speaking these truths we must draw near to the throne of grace.
“But Jesus the Son of God is our great High Priest who has gone to heaven itself to help us; therefore let us never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses since he had the same temptations we do, though he never once gave way to them and sinned. So let us come boldly to the very throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 Living Bible TLB).
Because Jesus was tempted with the same temptations we face, He is able to help us win our battles (Heb. 12:2,4). And because He died for our sins He is able to cleanse us when we fail. What a Savior!
Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. They, along with their two grown children and two standard poodles, enjoy calling North Carolina home. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.
Publication date: July 19, 2016