Real Thoughts About Real Temptation
Is there such a thing as a monthly sin? Because I think I have one of those. Okay, maybe more often than just once a month.
But I tell you what: there is legitimate reason for my family to duck and cover at about that interval. Hormones tend to wear my self-control down and the next thing you know, there I am: The Incredible Hulk.
I wish that was the only habitual vortex that sucks me in, but nay. Here are a handful of temptations that lure me in every. Single. Day—
- The worship of others (people-pleasing)
- The worship of yours truly (selfish ambition, conceit)
- A weird form of coveting (like envying others’ happiness)
And a lot of others that really don’t sound good in any article like this one.
So, I’ve been thinking honestly about temptation, and here’s a little dossier of what I’ve gathered:
1. God doesn’t scorn me for being tempted; He’s with me in it.
Temptation is real, and Jesus knows—he’s been tempted too. But Jesus is not a tyrant king. He says it outright: I’m not condemned (Romans 8:1).
Why does that matter? Maybe a meme I saw conveys it best: Religion says, “I messed up! My dad’s gonna kill me!” But sonship says, “I messed up. I need to call my dad.”
Keeping in mind that our Father doesn’t reject us for being tempted helps us run to the only source of true, soul-level help.
If we gain anything from God choosing to be born in a barn, we can see that he is God-in-my-mess. No matter how embarrassing my temptation is, He doesn’t need me to get my act together before coming to Him. He’s the Lion of Judah, the fighter of my battles alongside me.
2. My temptation plays up the desires already inside of me.
James 1:14-15 explains that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (1:14-15).
American preacher and writer Tim Keller likens this to a phenomenon I’d never heard of: Did you know that if you shout inside a piano, the strings that match your shout’s pitch will reverberate back to you? (Cool, right?)
Keller explains that temptation plays on the “strings” in our hearts that are already there. Recently, I’ve realised that anxiety-producing circumstances often twang those strings of unbelief already stretched in my own heart.
We want to blame the devil, but as Keller says, the devil cannot make a good person bad. That devil makes a flawed person worse. The devil plays on what’s already in you.
Good news is, God keeps even my temptation on a leash: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
3. Follow Jesus’ example: Hit it with Scripture.
In a tempting season lately, I’m trying to have a verse at the ready–like my boys with their Nerf swords, only much more real–to take control of the battlefield of my mind. That’s where pretty much everything starts.
So I’m seeking to be alert (1 Peter 5:8), taking every thought captive and making it obedient, demolishing arguments that set themselves up against God in my mind (2 Corinthians 10:5).
When I’m wrestling with people-pleasing, I yank out Galatians 1:10 in my mind: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
If comparison tugs me toward coveting what looks like someone else’s “easy” road, I remember Jesus laying out different paths for both Peter and John, then asking Peter, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22).
4. Follow Joseph’s example: Get outta there.
I keep reminding myself (because this is a mind game, folks) to resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). I think of Joseph, taking off from Potiphar’s wife, leaving his coat in her sweaty little hand. This word “flee” comes from the same root word as “fugitive”, which reminds me to stay on the run until the threat is gone.
In my recent temptations to hunker down in worry, I’ve been seeking to take time to step away from what I’m doing so I can meditate on God—and abandon my meditation on my fear.
Honestly, it’s hard to write a post on temptation and not make it sound like I’m this stultifying person who shakes in fear at doing the wrong thing.
But you know–what if we saw sin for what it was? A cancer of the soul. Handcuffs, or even prison, of my own choosing. We would flee cancer. We would flee prison.
The GPS principle
Take it from a person who is one of the least spatial on the planet, and who could get lost in her own driveway: If you’re constantly sticking to the GPS, you get lost a lot less easily.
Paul reminds us to keep to the internal GPS:
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
Read: Keep your mind on the GPS–the Holy Spirit–rather than on getting lost. Then you’re much less likely to accidentally take a turn off a cliff. (That’s my own personal translation.)
What’s it look like to flip that on? I think of it as giving Him my attention. My presence. I need to swivel my heart’s “eyes” to what really fulfils my desire, rather than what leaves me empty (Jeremiah 2:13).
This week, may God keep you glued to your GPS.
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