BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
Temptation is different from sin. Temptation is an invitation to violate the Word of God; it’s a seduction to sin. Sin is the product of yielding to temptation. God does not tempt anybody but each person is tempted by his own evil desires. The desires when conceived give birth to sin and sin results in death (James 1:13-15). The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). This is the progression: from evil desire to sin and from sin to death.
Temptation is a reality of human existence, and you must have yielded to temptation sometimes in the past. If you learnt your lessons from falling into sin, it’ll help you to stand strong and not fall flat another time.
Satan is very crafty. We see how the serpent cunningly deceived Eve to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-7). Eph 6:11 says, “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil” (NLT). A cunning Satan usually leaves for a while if he can’t get you to yield to his temptation, but comes back later. The Bible says at the end of tempting Jesus, Satan departed from Him until an opportune time (Luke 4:13). That suggests that he came back sometimes later. Satan never gives up; he’ll come again to see if you’ll be careless enough to yield to his temptation.
That’s why it’s possible for somebody who has been standing for years to fall for a temptation that he didn’t fall for when he was a young convert. “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin” (1 Cor 10:12 NLT). I like the way The Message renders it: “Don’t be naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.”
If Satan gets you to fall for a temptation once, you’re more prone to fall for that temptation again if you don’t genuinely repent, confess and ask God to forgive you, and then continue to resist him by faith. “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7 NLT). If you allow temptation to overcome you, and you continue in sin, your heart will become hardened. Be sure that your sin will expose you one day. Your sin will find you out (Num 32:23).
Every temptation is a lie by Satan. Satan entices you, telling you what you’ll gain, but he never tells you what you’ll lose. And what you’ll lose is far greater than what Satan says you’ll gain. Think about that. For example, Satan never told Eve she and Adam would see themselves naked and God would evict them from the Garden of Eden. Friend, why lose your garden because of one fruit of disobedience you eat?
How to Overcome Temptations
1. Accept personal responsibility for your actions. You’re going to give account to God for all your actions on earth (Rom 14:12). Don’t say it’s God that’s tempting you or someone else. Don’t say that you don’t know it is sin or that everybody is doing it or you’ve tried your best and you couldn’t help it. Don’t say that nobody knows what you’re going through or your case is peculiar. That means you’re not accepting personal responsibility for your actions. God doesn’t listen to buck-passing; He holds you accountable for your actions.
When Adam and Eve passed the buck in the Garden of Eden, God still passed His judgment on them. (Gen 3:16-19) Somebody may tempt you, but it’s your fault if you sin. Face your own situation and leave God to judge them for causing you to stumble (Gen 3:14-15; Matt18:6).
2. Constantly renew your mind with the Word of God. To ensure that the seed of sin is not sown or doesn’t germinate in you, daily renew your mind with the Word of God. This is a continuous exercise that you must do till Jesus comes (Rom 12:2). No one can live a victorious Christian life without the Word of God. You must daily study the Word of God, hear the Word of God, meditate on the Word of God, confess the Word of God and finally obey the Word of God. “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps 119:11 NLT).
Taking in the Word of God daily will help you to develop a strong human spirit that can resist temptation like Jesus did when Satan tempted Him, quoting scriptures out of context, but Jesus resisted him correctly with “It is written” three times.
3. Habitually obey the Word of God. Discipline yourself to act according to the Word of God in all situations, and you’ll make it hard for yourself to yield to Satan’s temptation to violate the Word of God. Make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof (Rom 13:14). Don’t yield yourself to Satan. If you make yourself available to Satan in a small way, you’ll be useful to him in a big way! Judas had yielded himself to Satan to steal, so when Satan needed somebody to betray Jesus, he came for Judas. If you obey Satan’s voice, he becomes your master (Rom 6:16). To obey is still better than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22b).
4. Guard your heart with all diligence. Your heart is very central to all you do in life. That’s why Prov 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (NLT). Your heart is the source of all life. And Satan always wants to possess it by sowing evil seeds there. Your heart now becomes a fertile soil for the breeding of the seed of sin.
Matt 15:19 gives us a list of sins which it describes as thoughts, and remarks that all of them proceed from the heart. This means that before anyone commits a sin, it first exists in his heart as a thought. No wonder, Peter asked Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” (Acts 5:3 NKJV) And as a man thinks in his heart, so he is (Prov 23:7).
So what do you do to keep your heart from sinful thoughts that will eventually give birth to sinful actions? Keep the gates to your heart from any sinful thing. These gates are your eyes, mouth, ears, mind and feet (activities) (Prov 4: 20-27).
So what do you do? Don’t watch (or read), hear, say and think what will make you fall into temptation and don’t go where you’ll be tempted. There’s a time to stand to resist the devil and he’ll flee (James 4:7). And there’s a time that to resist the devil, you’re the one who must flee from temptation; you don’t stand there commanding the person Satan is using to tempt you to flee. Joseph had to run away from Mrs. Potiphar (Gen 39:7-13). The Bible says you should abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). And that is why Ps 1:1says you should avoid walking in the counsel of the ungodly, standing in the way of sinners and sitting in the seat of the scornful.“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim 2:22-23 NKJV). Strive against sin (Heb 12:4).
There’s no way you can be exposing your eyes and mind to pornographic materials that you’ll be able to withstand sexual temptation. You can’t be listening to sexually suggestive songs and be able to keep yourself holy. It’s impossible for you to be engaged in foolish talk, unbefitting jokes and not go deeper into sin (Eph 5:3-5).
You have to discipline yourself just as Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman (Job 31:1). David failed in this regard concerning Bathsheba (2 Sam 11).
5. Harbor no evil or forbidden desire. Evil desire gives birth to temptation and temptation results in sin (James 1:14). Is there any evil or forbidden desire in your heart of late? The closest person to you may not know about it unless you tell the person. You may not have gone yet into the sinful act, but the seed has been sown and is germination gradually. If you don’t uproot it now, one day, when the atmosphere is conducive, you’ll commit the sinful act. Put to death every evil desire in you now (Col 3:5).
6. Never dwell on sinful thoughts. No matter how much you guard your heart, sometimes, sinful thoughts will come in. This is different from an evil desire that has already settled down inside you, and you’re dangerously brooding over it. I’m talking of an early stage when it first comes like a fleeting thought. Don’t let it settle down; don’t meditate on it. Let it not find root in you. Get rid of it by rebuking the thought in the name of Jesus. And, immediately begin to focus your thought on something good, on something edifying, on the Word of God. Displace the sinful thought and replace it with an edifying thought. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Phil 4:8 NKJV).
The Bible says to cast down imaginations and every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). That means you should subject every thought to the authority of Jesus Christ. Don’t keep quiet. Immediately cast out sinful thoughts by speaking out against them in Jesus’ name before they’re established in your heart.
7. Pray without ceasing. Prayer is one of the preventative measures against falling into temptation. If you don’t pray you’ll be a prey! In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught his disciples (and all who believes in him today), to pray: “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matt 6:13a NKJV). At the Mount of Olives, twice Jesus told his disciples to pray so that they would not be overcome by temptation (Luke 22:40, 46). If you don’t want to be led into temptation, you must daily watch (Stay alert) and pray (Matt 26:41). Paul said, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col 4:2 NKJV). A life of ceaseless prayer will give you power to overcome temptations, particularly familiar temptations.
8. Have an accountability partner. This can be a Christian leader or a mature Christian friend you can confide in, who can help you to maintain your victory over the temptation you’re battling with, who can monitor your progress and you can share your challenges, failures and victories with (Gal 6:1-2; Eccl 4:9-10). “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16 NIV) .
Don’t pretend you’re alright while Satan is destroying you secretly. Be authentic; be real! Confess to a mature Christian who can pray with you, advise you, etc. not one who’ll make you a subject of gossip.
9. Depend on the grace of God. Grace is the divine strength that causes one to do more than one’s natural ability. It is the help of God that will help you to stand and withstand temptations. Without His grace, the most disciplined, the most spiritually sensitive person, will still fall. Without God, you can do nothing (John 15:5). Stand in the grace God offers you (1 Peter 5:12).
Conclusion: Temptation will surely come. Jesus was tempted, but unlike Adam and Eve, he prevailed. “For he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15b NLT). It’s your response to temptation that matters. You can overcome. Make no excuse for failing; don’t rationalize it. Other people are overcoming the temptations you’re making excuses for. “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it” (1 Cor 10:13 NLT). Praise God!
God’s help is available for you to overcome. Receive His help everyday, especially for the sin that so easily hinders your progress (Heb 12:1). I believe one of the most powerful prayer points you can pray everyday is that aspect of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt 6:13 NLT).
Don’t ever forget to keep yourself in the love of God (Jude 21). And remember that God is able to keep you from falling (Jude 24). I believe if you act on this message, you’ll overcome every temptation in Jesus’ name.
If you’re not born again, I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you’re a sinner and you can’t save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start to attend a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church. There you will be taught how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent and confess my sins. I confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and surrender my life to him today. I invite Jesus into my heart today. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you’ve said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You’ll need to join a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area where you’ll be taught how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things becoming all God wants you to be. I’ll be glad to hear from you. May the Lord be with you.
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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