One bite of fruit wrecked the world. When Adam & Eve sinned by disobeying God, everything changed for them and for all of humanity. How did they get there, when they were living in paradise and had everything they could ever need? They were tempted, just like you and I are every day. After they were tempted, they sinned, and nothing would ever be the same.
I doubt that Satan tempted you today to take a bite of literal forbidden fruit, but you were probably tempted to do something like lust after someone else’s body, covet someone else’s stuff, tell a “little white lie,” cut corners at work, act selfishly, or bring the pain on some fool in traffic. Maybe you even gave in to that temptation. Not good. Sin.
Like we talked about last Tuesday at the Porch, Adam and Eve’s choice to sin started with temptation (considering sin) and ended in death. Your choice to sin doesn’t have the cosmic implications that theirs did, but sin still brings death, and fighting and overcoming temptation is incredibly important to your spiritual life and health. So how can you do it? Hint: you can’t do it alone.
If you know temptation is coming, it’s easier to fight. And trust me, it’s coming. It can come from inside you, fueled by your own desires, or from the devil, who’s looking to destroy you. Satan is a lying killer and a schemer, and he’ll stop at nothing to try to lead you away from Jesus. He’s going to hit you where you’re weak and most likely to give in. Tempted to look at porn while you’re struggling with loneliness? Or to drink or take a hit when you’re bored with life? Or to find happiness in “retail therapy” when you’re battling negative thoughts of comparison? These are not accidents.
Being tempted isn’t sin – even Jesus was tempted in every way but stayed sinless. Temptation is a common part of being human. But temptation will lead to sin if you don’t fight it with the tools God has given you. Being aware of temptation is the first step to fighting it.
The Bible promises that when you are tempted, God will provide a way out so that you can endure it without sinning. But what does that actually mean? Will your phone suddenly lose power as you go to that website? Or your car not start when you’re about to drive to that guy’s house? Or the lid on that drink be impossible to open? Probably not, since God giving you a way out doesn’t mean that He has to physically prevent you from sinning. Instead, it means that if you’re a Christian, you are no longer a slave to sin, and God has given you the means to choose righteousness and holiness instead of sin. He gives you the ability to say no!
Just because there is a way out from temptation, though, doesn’t mean that it’s the easy way out. You’ll have to fight hard for it! And God has given you the weapons and armor that you’ll need – use them. Knowing and following His Word will keep you on the path of purity. Living with other believers in authentic community will help keep you from being hardened or deceived by sin. And as you pray, the Holy Spirit will help you remember what Jesus would have you do. Fight sin, and fight hard. Make war! (trust me – click that link. It will get you pumped!)
No matter how hard you fight, since you’re not perfect, you will blow it at some point. That doesn’t mean that you should just throw in the towel and binge on whatever sin you gave in to. Not at all! Your sin is covered by God’s grace, but that doesn’t mean you should keep on sinning. Instead, God’s grace means you can approach Him with confidence, knowing that He will help you. He has compassion on you as your loving Father. His desire is to heal you and free you from sin and its effects.
When you sin, God wants you to confess and repent. Confessing just means humbly admitting all of your sin, first to God and then to other believers in your life. Repenting means that you turn away from your sin and turn to God, showing by your actions that you actually want to change. When you are brokenhearted over your sin, it may feel like God is far from you, but He’s actually never been closer.
Also, don’t waste your regret after you sin. You know the feeling – “I NEVER want to do that again!” That feeling is a gift, and you should use it to set up barriers that make it harder for you to access that sin the next time you’re tempted (which you will be). Rebuild your defenses and re-arm your weapons. For example, in your moments of regret after looking at porn, that’s the best time to do whatever it takes to help you stop.
Sometimes you will handle temptation well. Satan will throw something at you, and you’ll dodge it, deflect it, or dominate it with the tools God has given you. Celebrate that you are walking in freedom! But even then, Satan’s got at least one more trick up his sleeve. If you resist temptation, and then think that you deserve all the credit instead of God – boom. Satan got you with the sin of pride. And when you’re prideful, you’re vulnerable, and God is actually in opposition to your pride. If you think you’re doing great, be careful that you don’t fall! Stay humble.
The hits will keep on coming. As long as you’re alive, you’ll be tempted by sin. It may not always be the same sin, but you can be confident that it will be something. Since you know that danger is coming, the wise thing would be to prepare for it, instead of thoughtlessly charging ahead and paying the price.
The most important thing that you can do to prepare for temptation is to stay connected to Jesus. It’s His power at work in you that gives you the ability to think and act in a way that honors Him. In His words from John 15:5, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The things from step #2 that help you fight temptation when it happens, are the same things that help you get ready before it happens next. Soak in the wisdom of God’s Word. Surround yourself with others who know and love God and who will encourage and admonish you. And pray for the ability to choose righteousness instead of sin when temptation hits.
You don’t have to bite the apple!