Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
Dealing with Temptation

Jesus us taught us to pray:  "Lead us not into temptation."

Martin Luther wrote in his explanation of this prayer:
God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

A famous poster of the comic strip character, Charlie Brown, says, "I can resist everything except temptation." 

The truth is, if we try to resist temptation to sin only in our own strength, we will fail.  We need God's help.  In the Bible, God promises to help us to have victory over temptation as we use the resources He provides for us.

Avoid places, people, and things that tempt you.
"Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:14 NKJV)
    "Do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (NIV)

You already know your own weaknesses.   You may feel discouraged by your frequent failures to resist temptation to a particular sin. 
  • If you often give in to a certain sin when you are in a certain place, don't go near that place.  
  • If certain friends pull you down, don't go with them.   
  • If you regularly buy something that is destroying you morally, spiritually, physically, or financially, shop at a different store.
  • If something in your home temps you beyond your ability to resist, get rid of it.
  • If your debt is out of control, cut up your credit cards.
Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts understand this principle very well.  For some people, it means finding new friends.  For other people, it means driving home a different route, in order to avoid driving pass the bars.

In the past we could tell men: "If you want victory over pornography, throw out the porn that you already have and don't bring any more home."  But now with porn easily accessible through the internet and cable TV, the challenge is greater.   So the need is even greater to make difficult choices and figure out ways to make tempting material inaccessible.

2.  Flee temptation

The Bible does not tell us that we should fight against temptation.  It says we should run away from the things (and the people) that tempt us.   Paul wrote:

New King James Version
New Century Version
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Run away from sexual sin.
1 Corinthians 10:14 Flee from idolatry. Run away from the worship of idols.
1 Timothy 6:9-11 Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God, flee these things...
Those who want to become rich bring temptation to themselves and are caught in a trap. They want many foolish and harmful things that ruin and destroy people. The love of money causes all kinds of evil. Some people have left the faith, because they wanted to get more money, but they have caused themselves much sorrow.   But you, man of God, run away from all those things...
2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts. But run away from the evil young people like to do.

How do we do this?

When you unexpectedly find yourself in a tempting situation, GET OUT FAST!  Don't be so foolish as to think you can stay in the situation but not give into temptation.   Joseph gives a good example.  (Genesis 39:11,12)

Be honest with yourself.  The real reason you stay in a tempting situation is because curiosity overwhelms you.   We foolishly think that we can enjoy temptation without actually giving into sin.

Temptation often comes to us at unexpected times and in unexpected places.  And we are not always able to get away from it.  So what should we do then?

3.  Pray!
"The only temptation that has come to you is that which everyone has. But you can trust God, who will not permit you to be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, he will also give you a way to escape so that you will be able to stand it."  (1 Corinthians 10:13  NCV)

We are not strong enough to resist temptation alone.  We need God's help.  When you see temptation coming, immediately cry out, "Lord, help me! Show me Your way of escape!"

The next steps are some of those ways that God will show us to escape from temptation.

4.  Quote to yourself a Scripture verse that talks about that particular temptation to sin.

"Jesus answered, 'It is written in the Scriptures...' "  (Matthew 4:4,7,10; Luke 4:4,8,12)

When you are facing strong temptations, you can do the same as Jesus did when He was tempted. 

God's Word is a powerful weapon against the lies of Satan.  God's Word also gives us wisdom and direction when we face difficult decisions.  

Very often God's final answer to Satan's temptation is found in the Ten Commandments.   Memorize the Ten Commandments.  After that, study Matthew 5, 6, and 7, where Jesus applies the Ten Commandments to every day life.   The Old Testament book of Proverbs and the New Testament letters of Paul are filled with wise counsel that can help defend you against temptation.  The trick is to learn that counsel before temptation hits, so you will have a defense against temptation.

5.  Recognized that temptation is a hook bated with a lie.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."  (Ephesians 4:22-25 NIV)

Notice that Bible calls sinful desires "deceitful."  That means they lie. 

The tempter says, "Do this, and you will feel good."  Wrong.  That is a lie.  Just remember the last time you gave in to temptation, and how bad you felt afterward.  Remember how disappointed you were with yourself.  The tempter did not warn you about that. 

After you experience the consequences of sin several times, you can face temptation with the memory of those painful memories.  You have learned the hard way, giving in to temptation is not worth it! 

A wise person learns from his mistakes.   A foolish person ignores those lessons and continues in his foolish ways.

6.  Remember that sin always has consequences.
"For the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23 NIV)

Our sins are never secret.  God sees and knows them all.  When we deliberately choose to sin, we reject God's authority as God, and we remove ourselves from His protection.  We see this cycle played out repeated in Israel's history through the whole Old Testament.

Even though we may not recognize it, sin always has destructive consequences.  The Bible is full of examples of "small" sins that eventually destroyed people's lives..
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23 NIV)

7.  Recognize the danger of the "second look."
"One night David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.  From the roof he saw a woman bathing..."  (2 Samuel 11:2)

King David did not sin when he first saw Bathsheba bathing.  His sin started when he decided to keep looking at her.

The moment a temptation comes, you have less than one second to decide what do to --
Flee? (or look away)
Cry out to God?
Give in?

Every good soldier trained for battle already knows what to do before the battle comes.  Every Christian needs to know how to respond to temptation before temptation strikes.

8.  Picture in your mind Christ suffering on the cross for that specific sin which tempts you.

Christ carried our sins in his body on the cross so we would stop living for sin and start living for what is right. And you are healed because of his wounds.  (1 Peter 2:24 NCV)

Our sins cause Jesus to suffer and die.  Do we really despise our Savior so much that we would deliberately add to the horrors of hell that He suffered for us on the cross?

9.  Confess your habitual sins and failures to another Christian and become accountable to him/her about your particular weakness.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen. (James 5:16 NCV)

Important:  Tell only a person whom you can trust to keep your confession secret.  That person also must be gentle, patient, wise, and mature.   And that person must know God's Word.

When we confess our specific sins and receive God's specific forgiveness, He frees us from the bondage of guilt we have for those sins.   Confession loosens Satan's hold on us to keep dragging us down.

And when a Christian brother or sister encourages us and counsels us from God's Word, we receive more of God's gifts for faithfully living the Christian life.

10.  Praise God.

The Tempter hates God.  He fears the name of Jesus.  But when our focus in on God as we praise Him for Who he is and thank Him for all that He has done for us, the devil can't stand that.  The enemy flees and the tempation fades.

Dealing with temptation
1.  Avoid places, people, and things that tempt you.
2.  Flee temptation.
3.  When temptation hits, pray,
           "Lord, show me Your way of escape!"

4.  Quote Scripture against temptation.
5.  Remember that temptation is a lie.
6.  Remember sin always has consequences.
7.  Recognize the danger of the second look.
8.  Picture in your mind Christ suffering on the cross
          for that specific sin which tempts you.
9.  Confess and become accountable.
10. Praise God.

A true story from the Autobiography of the late Senator Harold Hughes, Man From Ida Grove. 

Before becoming a Senator, Hughes was Governor of Iowa.  Before that, he was a cussing, drinking truck driver, known to his friends as "Pack."  This story is from those truck driving days, a short time after he became a Christian.
    As it takes a flame and wick to set off a powder charge, so do alcoholics suffer syndromes which start them drinking.  They find themselves in a situation where a combination of elements sets up a deadly desire.
    With me it was usually a lonely hotel room after a hard day's work.  No one would see me, and my family wouldn't know.
    Such a chain of elements was created when I checked in at the Savery Hotel in downtown Des Moines one night after a series of hectic business meetings.  Before leaving my room to go to a restaurant for dinner, I thought I'd relax for a moment.
    I had picked up a copy of the evening newspaper and was scanning the pages when I suddenly felt the urge.  By that time, I had not touched alcohol for over a year, and though there had been many urges I had been able to overcome them.  However, my longtime habit of an evening drink coupled with being alone in a hotel room generated a powerful force deep within me.  I wanted a drink.  I needed it.  I had to have it.
    Desperately I battled.  I turned back to the paper and tried to read.  Drumming incessantly within me, however, was the demand for a drink.
    I stood up, the paper falling to the floor.  Suddenly, I felt like two different people, the new and the old Harold Hughes.  The urge became overpowering.  I knew that in a very few moments I would be going to dinner at a downtown restaurant.  To reach it I would pass an old drinking spot.  And I knew as well as I stood in that hotel room that I would go into my old haunt for a drink.  I could already savor its delicious burning strength.  I felt lost, defeated…
    I grabbed my coat from the back of the chair.  This is it, I figured.  Nobody's going to know about my getting drunk.  I'll just get it out of my system.
    In the exhilaration of decision, I pushed out the door and into the corridor of the hotel, heading for the elevators.  But as I stood waiting for the elevator, something came over me.  What was I doing?
    I leaned against the wall and prayed.  "Oh, God, please don't let me do this." The chime of the "down" elevator broke the spell and I headed for the open door.  The lust for a drink was in charge again.
    I strode through the hotel lobby out into a warm Iowa evening.  The traffic hubbub did not distract me from the neon lights of the bar down the street.
    One last spark of resistance flickered within and like a drowning man clawing, at a reed, I clutched a parking meter.
    "Pack!" Above the rumble of traffic I heard my name being called.
    I looked up and coming, toward me down the sidewalk was an old friend I hadn't seen in years.
    "Imagine that!" he exclaimed, pumping, my hand.  "I step out of a cab and there you are.  What are you doing for dinner?" he asked.
    "I was on my way," I managed to say.
    "Well, come join me."
    As we walked together into a restaurant, I sensed a malevolent power leaving me.
    We had a good dinner, chatting over old times, and as we paid our bills, I realized the desire was completely gone.
    "Say," said my friend, looking up at me, a toothpick in his mouth.  "Wasn't that a coincidence, our meeting like this?"
    I thought of my feeble prayer at the elevator, and clapped him on the shoulder.  "No, Sam, no…  I don't believe it was a coincidence at all!"
[Harold E. Hughes (with Dick Schneider), The Man from Ida Grove. (Chosen Books, 1979), pp. 114-116]

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