10 July, 2013

Temptation is NOT the Problem

I was talking with someone yesterday who was deeply frustrated with their walk with Christ. She said to me, "I'm trying, but I just can't seem to get it right." She went on to describe her life as a roller-coaster, constantly up and down and in and out. She said she just can't seem to get any momentum in her walk with God because for every step forward she takes two steps back. I asked her just what she saw as the problem. Her response was, "It seems like I'm always tempted with something." I could tell she did not really care for my an answer. I told her, "Don't you think that I face temptation? Don't you think every person on the face of the earth is 'tempted'? Do you understand that Jesus was tempted?" I went on to say that her problem was NOT temptation, but that her problem was that she was the problem because she was not resisting temptation, but was in fact embracing her temptations.

I'd have given anything to have had a camera to take a picture of her facial expression when I said that. She looked both shocked and angry at the same time. Flames shot from her eyes while at the same time her jaw dropped and she pulled away from me with a look of "I can't believe you just said that to me!" written all over her face and in her body language. She snapped back, "Pastor, I can't believe you'd blame me for being tempted!"  I responded that I did not have any problem with her being tempted; the problem was that she gave into temptation so easily. I went on to say that temptation is part of being human, but giving into it is like giving up. I told her that we cannot avoid temptation, for even Jesus was tempted just as we are. That seemed to stun her as well. She asked, "Are you telling me that Jesus was tempted to have sex or to steal? I don't believe that pastor!"  I asked her if she wanted to believe her own thoughts or the Bible. I then read to her Hebrews 4:15, which says, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin."  I asked her what she thought that meant when it says, "tempted in every way"?  She said that she refused to believe that Jesus sat around thinking about sleeping with different women. I told her that she was absolutely right, because Jesus did not sit around dwelling on those thoughts.  I explained that she did not understand where temptation ended and sin began, and I explained to her that it was not sin when she had the thought to have sex with the guy who is flirting with her, but that sin began when she began to enjoy the attention and gave into those thoughts and started flirting back to see where things might go.  In an over simplified example I told her that my having the thought of wanting a donut was not the problem. It was when I began thinking about how I might get that donut, and began driving out of my way to put me within eye sight of Spudo's  (our donut shop) over and over. I said, "sooner or later, I'm going to pull into Spudo's if I keep driving by!"

For my friend and for each one reading this, I say again... Temptation is not the problem. None of us can avoid temptation. It a fact or reality of life... and yes, even the Christian life that we are going to be tempted. We all will face on a regular basis things that are potential stumbling blocks to our lives and to our walk with Christ. But we don't have to give in to that temptation! We can and will overcome... but that is something we do in ourselves! You cannot pray, "Lord help me to not eat a donut" while we are standing in line at the donut counter buying a dozen donuts! Understand that the enemy's job is to throw temptations at us. As long as we have breath in our lungs, we will be tempted. 
OUR job is to overcome that temptation... or not to give in to that temptation.

The Bible tells us in Luke 22:40, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  A key verse for our lives is found in 1 Corinthians 10:13, it says that God will not allow temptation to be more than you can handle and he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
The point is... there is always a way out!

Most Christians know that the Bible says, "resist the devil and he will flee." In fact, my friend yesterday said to me, "I've tried resisting the devil, but it just seems I can't!"  I said to her, the problem is you left the key to that verse off. I told her that it says, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."   We must first "submit ourselves to God."  Herein lies the problem for most people. We don't want to submit  ourselves to God, His Word and His ways. We want to do things in our own way and serve God half way... and then we wonder why we keep falling into sin.

Again... temptation is not the problem. In fact, you may overcome temptation in one area, but the enemy will attack in another. He does not give up that easily. This is where submitting ourselves to God and renewing our minds (Romans 12:1-2) comes in. As we change the way that we think, it will give us the strength to overcome every temptation.
We can and will overcome as long as we resist temptation with the help of the Holy Spirit.
I encourage you today to begin recognizing that temptation is a work of the enemy to keep you from progressing toward your assigned destination. Setting up stumbling blocks is what he does best. Our job is to resist temptation by filling ourselves with more of God, more of His Word. The Bible tells us to think on things that are pure, true, honorable, lovely and praiseworthy. When we fill our thoughts with God things... we chase out the thoughts that lead us to fall into temptation... because we are coming into agreement with God.

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