I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he asked me the question, “How can I become better at resisting temptation?” Now, he was referring to a specific sin, pornography, but I feel like the advice I gave applies universally to any temptation a Christian will face. I have learned a lot this past year regarding temptations and spiritual warfare and I have decided to share some of that knowledge here. Personally, I do not think it is a subject that gets spoken about very much, even though it is something we all struggle with.
One of the most important things to remember is that temptation itself is not a sin. I think almost every Christian knows the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in Matthew 4:1-11:
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Temptation is what Satan uses to try and get us to sin, but it in itself is not a sin. Temptation is Satan’s favorite weapon. I say ‘weapon’ because as Christians, each one of us is facing a battle. Evil forces around us are constantly attacking us, trying to knock us off track. They know that sin separates us from God, and that is exactly what they want to do.
My friend is a good man, and a ‘good Christian’ who wanted help in knowing how to fight back. I gave him three pieces of advice that I have been taught by other people this past year.
- Read Scripture. One of the most significant things to note from this passage in Matthew is that each time Jesus was tempted by Satan, he responded with scripture. Scripture is our most powerful weapon. That’s why God calls it the sword: “16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” Ephesians 6. Arm yourself with knowledge of God’s word. Read your bible daily, like you are preparing for battle. Memorize your favorite verses. When the temptation gets too strong, the first thing I do is open my bible and start reading out loud. Satan feeds us nothing but lies. God’s word is truth. Truth conquers.
- Get some Christian friends. We aren’t meant to do life alone. You need people that will pray for you and influence you to be more like Christ. Surrounding yourself with Godly people will help you stay focused on him and his will for you. Not only that, but having people you can call and be honest with when you are feeling attacked is necessary. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Who wants to go into battle without backup? Join a bible study group, get lunch with friends after church. Build yourself a strong support system.
- Remove what is tempting you. If you are being tempted to eat doughnuts, it would be foolish to keep a box by your bed. Get rid of it. My friend was being tempted to look at things on his computer/iPhone, so he set up filtering software. You can’t expect things to change without making a few sacrifices. Matthew 5:29-30 says “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” if you truly love the Lord, you must be willing to give up anything that could keep you away from him. Even if that means filtering your internet, dumping a friend, poking your eyes out, or cutting off your hands. Love the Lord first. Without him, nothing in this life matters.
Now, obviously, sometimes you are going to sin. That, unfortunately, is human nature. When I mess up, the only thing I want to do is run and hide from God. Sometimes I think he might be mad at me, or that he just doesn’t want to see me. But that isn’t true. God hates sin, yes. When we sin it makes him sad. But, he loves us. He wants us to come to him when we’re struggling. He wants us to bring him our sins. Our repentance is his glorification. He doesn’t hate us. He isn’t mad at us. We should not be ashamed. Shame is an emotion that does not come from God.
The holy spirit convicts us to change us for the better. John 16:8 says “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”. The conviction of the holy spirit comes to renew us and make us holy. God doesn’t want us to run away from him when we sin, he wants us to run towards him; he wants to make us new.
All of that shame and embarrassment that you feel is not from God. Do not mistake it for conviction. Conviction comes from God to sanctify us and restore us. But condemnation comes from the devil. Condemnation is that voice inside your head that says “wow you really messed up this time. God won’t forgive you.”, “God doesn’t want to see you right now.”, “You should just give up, you’re never going to get it right.” That is the voice of the enemy.
The devil is the accuser. His goal is to keep us away from God. But God will always be there to welcome us back.
When Satan says run away, God says run to me.
When Satan says you’re a failure, God calls you his child.
When Satan says that you’ve messed up, God calls you redeemed.
If you have the holy spirit inside you, there will always be a path back to the one who created you. You do have the power to say no to temptation. Don’t forget who you are! You are a child of the KING. I keep referring to this as a battle, and it is. But this battle is unique. The war has already been one. God has already conquered. There is nothing you can do to mess that up. Satan is nothing to the power of your God. Satan is nothing to you when you’ve got God on your team!
When you become overwhelmed with temptation and condemnation, and the devil tries to bring you down with him, just say this:
Not today, Satan. Don’t you know who my Father is?
Pastor Travis Davenport, Covenant Church, Restored, 2017