Why I Quit Resisting Temptation

hand-stop“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Ephesians 6:10.

Have you ever resolved to resist temptation?  How’d that work out for you?  Yeah, pretty much the same for me too.  No matter how hard I gritted my teeth or how many times I told myself, “Don’t do this!” the outcome was usually the same.  Humiliation, regret, and failure.  I crept before God with guilt and shame asking for forgiveness—again.  I get so frustrated with myself for this repetitious cycle of determination followed by a side glance at my old faithful “guilty pleasure” and finally defeat at my own hands.

I believe the reason we have so much trouble with temptation is because we’re doing it all wrong.  I grew up like most of you hearing the mantra: “Resist temptation and flee from the devil!”  But a closer look at Scripture reveals that the Bible doesn’t tell us to resist temptation.  Nor does it say we must flee from the devil.  The Bible actually turns the statement around; we are commanded to resist the devil and flee temptation.  No wonder we’ve had such a hard time with temptation!

Consider Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6:10-20, the Armor of God.  In fact, go grab your Bible and read that passage.  I’ll wait for you right here.  Notice that four times in verses 10-14, Paul tells us to “stand.” For three of those “stands” he uses the Greek word that means to stand firm, to establish— saying we must take a firm stand on the truth.   However, the first “stand in verse 13 is anthistemi, which means to oppose, rebel and withstand.  Paul is saying “when the day of evil comes, you strong stand and actively oppose and rebel against the evil attacks.  And this is the purpose for all the pieces of the Holy Armor.

Peter agrees as he says in 1 Peter 5:9 “Resist the devil, standing firm in your faith.” Peter uses similar terminology as Paul; again commanding us to actively resist the devil while we stand firm in our faith in Christ Jesus.

However, when it comes to temptation, we don’t resist, we are told to flee!  The Bible couldn’t be any clearer: run away from temptation.  Don’t stand there trying to stare it down and think you’re going to win, because you won’t.  Paul commands us to “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14), “flee from false teaching and from greed” (1 Timothy 6:3-11), and “flee from evil desires” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Why this dual command to resist the devil and flee from temptation?  One reason is because if you are in Jesus Christ, you have already claimed the victory!  The devil is a defeated foe, and he knows it—and you need to know it too.  Remember the word anthistemi?  One of its definitions is to rebel.  You can rebel against him because, as a child of God, the devil has no authority over you. None.  You can stare him down and say, “You’re not the boss of me!” and he can’t argue with you.

The other reason is because temptation taps into what is within us.  Hear James on this: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14).  That temptation reaches in to that sinful nature that lives in every man and battles for control of the believer.  Though we are new creations in Christ, those sinful desires still exert a tremendous amount of influence, and this is where the devil throws those powerful enticements in our face.  He’s playing on our weakest area, our old sinful passions.  So we must flee temptation if we want to walk in the victory Christ won on our behalf.

God has not left us to fight on our own.  He is so faithful to help us in this battle of the flesh.  The Greek word Paul uses for flee means to run away from, elude, to escape.  Now keep this thought in mind as you read 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (RSV).   God provides the way out of temptation.  You don’t have to stand with fists clenched and face it.  Take the escape hatch and run—don’t walk—from the thing that causes those sinful desires that rise up within you.  That may mean shutting off the computer, turning off the television, walking out of the bar, finding other people to hang out with it, or not going someplace where you know temptation lives.  God makes the way of escape, but you must take it.

When you put yourself in God’s hands and follow His commands you will gain the victory over temptation and sin.  Here is a promise from James on which you can firmly stand:  “Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, emphasis added).  Run away from temptation, but take your stand against the devil.  Now we have this in the right order!  Ready to send the devil running?

Mighty Jesus – because of Your blood I have been set free, because of Your resurrection, the devil has no power or authority over me.  Teach me to walk in victory every day as I both run from temptation and stand against the devil.  No power on earth can defeat me because I’ve already won in You!  Amen.

 

By Faith

faith“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

Since the day the stone was rolled away from His tomb, many have rejected the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, the foundation of the Christian faith.  The Jewish religious leaders concocted a lie to deny His resurrection, claiming that His disciples stole His body away.  But His followers were certain that He had returned to life because they had seen him with their own eyes, and touched Him with their own hands.  They shared meals with Him, walked with him, and marveled in His presence.  Saul encountered the resurrected Lord on the road to Damascus, and though he did not physically touch Him, he heard his voice with his own ears and saw Him in glory so bright that it blinded his human eyes.  These were the last eyewitnesses of Jesus.

To us, they are specially blessed because they had seen and heard and touched.  They had the advantage of His physical presence to bolster their faith.  Who could doubt after witnessing the resurrected Lord?  (Believe it or not, some did-Matthew 28:17.) But what about you and me?  We have not physically seen Him or touched Him or heard Him, and that makes faith a challenge for us.  We like proof that we can affirm physically.  Isn’t that what our culture has taught us?  Don’t trust anything you can’t prove.  I’ve talked with several people who are firm in their unbelief and they always come back to the same manta:  “When you can prove God scientifically, I’ll believe.”

But hear what Jesus said to one of His disciples: “Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29-italics added).  That’s you and me and every believer since the Day of Pentecost when the Church was born (ref: Acts 2).  Jesus is saying that we are more blessed because we haven’t seen than are those who have.

Why would that be?  Because when we “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), we show that we believe God is truthful in all He has said and promised.  Our faith is a testament to who God is.  That is why John said “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has [God’s testimony] in his heart” (1 John 5:10).  God’s testimony is twofold: is it the declaration that Jesus is His Son (Matthew 3:17), and it is the promise that God has given us eternal life through His Son (ref. 1 John 5:11).  In other words, we affirm to the world that God is truthful.  It’s not as though God needs our affirmation, but the world needs to be convicted of the truth of God.

By contrast John says, “Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son” (1 John 5:10).  When men reject Jesus Christ, they are saying that God is not truthful nor trustworthy.

The heart of faith is what we believe about God and about what He has said through His Word, His Son and His Spirit.  We see that in Hebrews 11—the “Hall of Faith”—as saint after saint hears God, believes God and acts on what God has said. God told Noah, build a boat, because a flooding rain is coming.  Until the flood, rain had never fallen on the earth, so Noah had to decide if he was going to believe what he had known all his life, or believe what God told him.  Noah believed and built the ark, and God declared him righteous because of his faith.  Abraham, an old man, married to an old woman heard God say – your wife will bear you a son who will become the seed of the promise I have made to you.  Abraham, though he faltered at first, believed God, and Isaac became their joy and delight.  When God commanded him to sacrifice this same son, Abraham weighed God’s promise against what would be the physical outcome of this action, and he believed God and acted in obedience. God spared Isaac’s life and fulfilled His promise.  The Bible is full of faith-filled people like Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Esther, and many more.

When I say I am a Christian, I am not making a statement about my assent to the truths of Christianity; I am making a statement about the truthfulness of what God has said about Jesus Christ: “This is my Son” and “Eternal life is through Him.”  I believe these words are true.  When I say that I believe in Jesus, I am putting all my hope and confidence is God’s power to save me as He has promised.  That is why “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 13:1).  I cannot see Jesus with my own eyes, nor have I ever seen heaven.  But I believe that He is the risen Lord and that His sacrifice is sufficient to save me and give me eternal life.

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are blessed in every way; for this life and life eternal.  You are blessed because you stand on the confidence of God’s testimony, not on the traditions of men.  You are blessed because

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepare for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

But for us who believe, “we will see the glory of God” (John 11:40).  Our faith will be made sight and our hope in Christ will be confirmed.  In the chronicles of heaven our names will be recorded among the great saints of human history, and we will be commended with who pleased God by their faith.  What a blessing it is to believe!

Holy Father, I believe, not because I can see, but because You have said, and I know Your words are true.  My faith is in Your Son, Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come.  In Him is all my hope and trust.  Amen.