When you think of the word “temptation”, what is the first word that comes to your mind?
Victory? Self-control? Perfection? Holiness? Godliness? Purity?
For me, those words aren’t usually the first ones that pop into my head.
The first word that I associate temptation with is sin.
It’s the reason we are born separated from God. It is the reason that there is not yet peace on earth. It steals our joy, kills our ambition, and destroys the unity & peace on earth. It not only hurts us personally, but it also hurts everyone around us whether we realize it or not. Sin is a bad thing, yet it’s not bad to be tempted. Jesus was tempted by satan during his ministry here on earth, & he didn’t once sin. He lived a perfect life, one without fault & therefore without sin. If I understand that temptation isn’t a sin, why do I feel so defeated, tense, and anxious when the topic is brought up?
I think I so often associate temptation with sin because that’s often what happens when I am tempted. Temptation isn’t a sin, but it often can lead to sin.
When I think about my life before Christ & my relationship with Jesus after 9+ years, I think about the ways I have fallen to my own sin and flesh & my inability to resist the enemy. I feel angry, defeated, & lack confidence when I think about my inability to say “no” to the things that I know aren’t good for me. I think about my inability to fight sin, & with that attitude I easily fall into sins such as doubt, gossip, idolatry, anger, jealousy, discontentment, deception, disrespect, pride, impatience, apathy, selfishness, and ungratefulness (the list goes on…). I view my temptation as a weakness, & I think that I might as well just give in because that’s always “how I have been and how I will be”.
When we give in to temptation, it becomes easier and easier to justify our sin and harder and harder to live our lives in a way that is worthy of the gospel. The “one time slip up” turns into a down hill slope of defeat and destruction. Once sin patterns are formed they are very hard to break, & can transition from simple mistakes to a lifestyle completely contrary to God. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way.
How do we escape this?
This is the gospel: From the moment we became alive we were born with an inability to resist temptation. We inherited a nature that is hostile to God from our ancestors, Adam and Eve. It didn’t take too long for Adam and Eve to realize that the temptation they faced was too much for them to handle on their own. Fast forward a few years and we see Israel, God’s chosen people. Time and time again the people of Israel turned their backs on God, & yet God never abandoned them.
Despite Israel’s actions, God always provided. He always protected. He always pursued. He always made a way. He always forgave. He always restored. He always came through.
When we fast forward a little bit (or a lot bit more) to the life of Jesus, we see the gospel unveiled & fulfilled before our eyes.
It was God’s plan to send Jesus down onto the earth in the form of human flesh. Jesus was fully human and fully God. Jesus experience every bit of temptation that we have experienced. He felt the aches and pains that our bodies go through every single day. He knows what it’s like to be tired, hungry, mistreated, mocked, abused, & to die a terrible death. He empathizes with us and he understands how hard it is to say no to temptation.
Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross so that our sin could be completely paid for. Every sin that we have ever done (and will ever do), is washed away when we surrender our lives to Jesus. The bible tells us to repent and believe & confess with our hearts & mouths that Jesus is Lord. There is no sin that is more powerful than the cross, & there is no sin that is unforgivable because of the Grace and Mercy of God the Father. Nothing. Jesus conquered sin, the grave, & the depths of hell on the cross. It is through him that we find victory.
We are promised a home in heaven where we are completely restored & made new, no longer facing our sin. Heaven is perfect & sin has no place there. Rest easy, my friends, knowing that God is fighting for us, he understands, he knows, he sees, he hears, & he does not condemn you if you are in Christ. In fact, God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world through him (John 3:17). Despite every bit of sin that you have done in your lifetime, know that you’re loved, you’re wanted, you’re accepted, & Jesus wants to save you from a life of sin and separation from God if you’re willing to let him.
Alright, so what about the temptation and sin that we are still having to deal with every single day? How are we supposed to claim victory over that?
As Christians, we are painfully aware of our inability to live a life worthy of our calling because we not only see our own sin every day, but we have also experience the glory of God, which far outweighs everything else. We love Jesus & we want to please him, & so when we give into temptation it feels like we are disappointing him. When we have the mindset of a sinner, we are more likely to sin. When we know and believe that our identity is as a saint of God, we are more likely to have the confidence to say no to the things that so easily entice us.
The thing is, Jesus knows that there is no way for us to fight temptation by ourselves. Apart from Jesus, we are nothing, & can bear no good fruit. His victory on the cross doesn’t only apply to heaven. Jesus has also equipped us to have victory in this world because he lives in us.
The main way that Jesus resisted the devil’s temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry was by combating the enemy’s lies with the word of God. Jesus knew what he believed and why he believed it; his heart was aligned with God’s truth. Satan even tried to quote scripture & use it against Jesus, but it didn’t work. Jesus was too rooted in the word of God to be swayed by any lie or opinion of other people.
One of the biggest temptations that I am currently facing is to go about my day spending minimal time with God in prayer and his word. I’ve been a christian for almost 10 years; I have confessed with my mouth and heart that Jesus is my lord & savior; I’ve been involved in church & ministry, worked at a christian summer camp, and have been on mission trips to Guatemala and The Dominican Republic. With all of this in mind, it’s really not a big deal if I don’t spend time with God every day. I know I am saved, I know Jesus loves me, & I know that I will be spending eternity with him. It’s not a big deal if I just have a 15 minute devotional and go on with my day, right?
It is a big deal. It’s a really big deal.
When I choose to not spend time with Jesus, it is saying to him, “I can do this on my own, I am self-sufficient, and I don’t need you.”
When I fall into the temptation of skipping my time with Jesus, it is so much easier for me to fall into the other temptation that I am so easily enticed by.
When I am not am not rooted in the word, I forget that my identity is in Jesus and not in my sinful nature.
When I lack time with God I lack the ability to fight back.
When I am not living by the spirit of God, which produces joy, peace, gentleness, faithfulness, & self-control, I am living by the spirit of Emily, which can be pretty rough at times.
Friends, if you have found yourself giving into temptation more than you would like to admit, please join me in 2017 by turning the tables on temptation & claiming our victory through the word and truth of God. It is only when we guard ourselves with the word of God that we are able to associate temptation with victory, joy, peace, self-control, & freedom.