A summary of CCEF booklet written by Timothy S. Lane
What are you tempted to do?
- Venting out on your children because you are constantly interrupted?
- Drinking till you drop to forget your pains?
- Watching the sexually explicit movies on the hotel pay-per-view channel on your business trip?
- Working hard to achieve and be recognized as successful even at the expense of marriage or family?
How many times have you tried to change a behavior or attitude only to find yourself doing the same thing again?
Learning how to handle your everyday skirmishes with temptation will prepare you for the times when you struggle with temptation becomes particularly intense.
Where Do Our Temptations Come From?
It’s easy to think our temptations come from our circumstances. It’s true that our external circumstances bring temptation into our lives, but God says in the book of James that we succumb to temptation because of what’s inside of us (what we want, desire, don’t want, fear, etc), not from what’s outside of us (our circumstances).
James 1:2-3, 21, 13-15
No external circumstances makes you sin.
You sin because what you want leads you into sin.
We Are Tempted in Bad Times and Good Times
1. Conditions that make obedience challenging – like poverty, persecution, difficult children, a troubled marriage, to name a few.
2. Conditions that make it easy to sin – like prosperity, obedient children, a good marriage, to name just a few.
What Are the Elements of Temptation?
1. External difficulties and blessings (the world): This element includes our past, our physiological strengths and weaknesses, and our relationships.
2. Internal motivations, cravings, fears, and desires (the flesh): This is the element of temptation that James describes as “evil desires” (James 1:14).
3. External spiritual opposition (the devil): The apostle Peter says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The Stages of Temptation
Look at James 1:13-15, and notice how James describes the different stages of temptation.
1. The first stage of temptation is seduction (“he is dragged away and enticed”).
Temptation begins with your desire life.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see what you are drawn to beside Christ.
2. The second stage of temptation is conception (“after desire has conceived”).
At this stage of temptation, what you want is becoming more important to you than your relationship with God.
3. The final stage of temptation is birth (“it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death”).
The end result of your desire for something besides Christ is being caught in full-blown sin, both in attitude and action.
At any time during these different stages of temptation, you can run to Christ, repent of your sin, and learn from your failure how to stand against temptation instead of giving in to it.
God can change your heart so that, instead of a particular sin dominating your life, bit by bit you will be tempted by it less and less.
Practical Strategies for Change
“You don’t behave your way into sinful response, so you can’t behave your way out of sinful responses. You worship your way into sinful responses, so you must worship your way out of sinful responses.”
- In reality, worship has everything to do with our temptations because whatever we worship (whatever is most important to us) changes our behavior.
- When you sin you are breaking God’s rules, but your sin is much more serious than that.
- In that moment of sin, something else is more attractive to you than God and his love for you. You are worshipping something or someone besides God.
- Fight against temptation by admitting that your behavior is wrong, but don’t stop there. Admit to God that your behavior is the result of forgetting your identity in Christ and finding your identity in what you believe you need beside him.
Fight Temptation by Knowing Yourself
What is it that makes your life worth living?
- When are you most content?
- When do you get angry?
- What are you getting that you dont’ want?
- What are you not getting that you want?
Become Aware of Typical Circumstances
One of the most helpful ways to fight temptation is to understand what are the times and places where you are typically tempted.
So ask yourself what kinds of conditions lead you in the direction of temptation and sin:
- Certain places?
- Around certain people?
- Is it seasonal?
- Does the time of day matter?
- When are you discouraged?
Don’t Minimize the Mundane Nature of the Fight
- A fall into sin develops over time.
- So don’t downplay the daily battle that is a part of the Christian life.
- So live wide awake. It is easy for daily life with all of its seemingly unimportant details and decisions to lull you to sleep.
- Your goal should be to cultivate a normal, regular, moment-by-moment awareness of your relationship with God and your need for his grace and power.
Bring Your Sin into the Light of Day
- What do you need to do daily that will keep you in good spiritual shape?
- A good place to start is with bringing your struggle into the open.
- Don’t try to tackle the power of sin all by yourself; use the encouragement of others who love Jesus to help you.
Treat the Bible LIke Good Food
- Another way to fight temptation is to go to God in his Word.
- Ask the Spirit to use the Bible to connect you to your God.
- Make a commitment to memorize Bible passages that will help you see Christ more clearly.
Be Prepared to Take Drastic Action
- You must also be willing to take drastic measures to avoid close contact with temptation.
- Be as creative as you need to be to grow in gace.
Don’t Lose Heart if Your Desires Don’t Change Quickly
- God can and will change your desire life. But that change usually happens slowly, over time.
- There are times when change happens instantaneously, but that is the exception, not the rule.
- The Christian life is lived in community with God and other Christians. If your struggle with temptation is moving you in these two directions, God will change your desires.
- The Spirit is the one who is able to fix our eyes on Jesus instead of on our own desire and/or failings.
- Knowing Jesus better will lead you to live a vigilant, hopeful life as you face temptation every day.
- Genuine fighting of temptation happens as you take your eyes off yourself and readjust your gaze on Jesus and what he had done and is doing in your behalf.
- Above all else, don’t lose hope. After all, you and your sin are no match for God’s goodness, power, holiness, and grace.