Some people think that after they accept Christ, they will no longer feel tempted to sin. They mistakenly think God promises to deliver them not only from yielding to temptation, but also from being tempted. In reality, temptations usually increase when we trust in Christ and start following Him. We end up wrestling with spiritual enemies whose powers and skills to tempt us are far better than any enemies we’ve encountered before. No amount or type of temptation should lead us to think we haven’t really found a true relationship with Christ.
Others make the mistake of thinking that just experiencing temptation is sin. They blame themselves for being tempted to do something sinful. They end up feeling condemned and discouraged. A discouraged person often falls due to the very fear of falling. Satan whispers suggestions of evil to us like jealousy, envy, sexual sin, and pride. Then he turns around and causes us to think “You’re so horrible to think such things! It’s obvious you’re not trusting God – if you were, it would be impossible for these things to tempt you.” His reasoning sounds so believable that we often accept it as true. We end feeling condemned and discouraged, and Satan knows that when we’re discouraged it’s easier for temptation to develop into actual sin.
The Bible tells us the truth about temptation. We see that Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4, Mark 1 and Luke 4). He was tempted physically (lust of the flesh) and He was tempted mentally/spiritually (boasting/pride), even though He was God and He was perfect. This was actually part of God’s plan for Him:
Jesus had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but instead we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
“For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16
So what should we do about temptation?
Be proactive: Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41
Look for God’s provision out of it. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. 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
Be aware and prepared. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1.
Don’t doubt God or blame Him for it. Call it what it is. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But 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. James 1:12-15
“The instruction and promises of God are timeless weapons in the battle with sin, as God works even through temptations to conform us to Christ and fit us for the humble service of others.” Travis Myers (on the Desiring God blog)
A number of years ago, surveyed their readers, asking them to rank areas of greatest temptation to them. The results were interesting: materialism was ranked #1, followed by pride, self-centeredness, laziness, anger/bitterness, sexual lust, envy, gluttony, and lying
Survey respondents noted temptations were stronger when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
Our individual temptations may vary but the principles of warfare are the same. Remember that it is likely that you will have to fight the battle over and over again in order to continue to win it. Know that Jesus is fighting alongside you and He has won the final victory. Thanks be to God!