The Battle of Temptation

"What sorrow awaits the world, because it tempts people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting." Matthew 18:7 (New Living Translation). At one point in all of our lives we were all curious little kids who wanted to touch everything, and typically we did. Being the curious beings we were, there is one thing we've likely all been told, "Don't touch the oven. It's hot." At one point we found ourselves hearing these words, and maybe we wanted to touch the oven before, maybe we didn't, but one thing is for certain. In that moment, all we could think about was touching the oven, simply because someone told us not to. Being told not to do something made it that much more tempting to do. If this analogy isn't working for you, let's think about temptation in terms of food. Our culture has been filled with crazy new diet and exercise programs, and our human nature has probably led us to try one or more of these diets. If you've ever been on a diet before, you know that all of the stuff you're not supposed to be eating looks so much more delicious. It's not that the food itself is any different, i's simply the fact that you know you shouldn't eat it. That's how temptation to sin works.

Temptation is everywhere, and it comes in various forms. You could tempted into the sin of gluttony by food. You could be tempted to lie, cheat, or steal for your own personal gains. You could be tempted to get drunk on various alcoholic beverages or take various drugs. You could be tempted into sex or even just a bad relationship with someone you shouldn't be with. Temptation comes in all shapes and size. All of these various temptations into sin are bad ugly sins we know we shouldn't do, but they're still tempting. Why? Why are all of the things we shouldn't be doing that are sinful and wrong so tempting to us? There are two very simple answers to this question.

The first is that all of these things come wrapped in really pretty packaging. They don't look harmful, and to be completely honest they all look really fun. When we think of sin and Satan we think of ugly images. Satan is represented by this hideous beast with a tail and pitchfork, but that's not the reality. The bible tells us that Lucifer was the most beautiful of all the angels in heaven. The devil and sin present as beautiful and fun. We don't typically associate those attributes to Satan, thus these temptations in their pretty packaging can't really be sin. Can they? Commercials for alcohol show people having fun and laughing, but they don't show the ugly parts. The parts where you can get so drunk you vomit into a toilet for hours. The parts where you get so wasted you black out and can't remember what happened to you. They don't show you the wrecks caused by drunk driving. Cheating on that chemistry final will get you a good grade, and that's all you think about. Lying will keep your parents from knowing where you really were, but God will always see the truth.

The second reason we are so easily tempted is that we are tempted with things that we actually want. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we are only ever tempted by things that we desire. Let's go back to that food analogy for a second. If anyone ever walked up to me with a plate full of peas, it will not even be slightly difficult for me to say no. I hate peas more than anything in the world, but if someone walked up to me with a plate full of tacos, even if I was full or on some weird diet where I can't have tacos (just to clarify, I would never put myself through that), it would be very difficult for me to say no. I seriously love tacos. Now, I realize some of you reading this may really like peas or really hate tacos, so just think about foods you could substitute for this to make sense. My point is temptation comes in the form of our desires. James 1:14 (NLT) says, "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away."

We are human beings who make mistakes. We are not perfect, and as the word of God has made clear, as well as my analogy about tacos, temptation comes from our desires. Knowing both of these things, it is important to know that sometimes we will, or may have already, give into our temptations. What happens when you do give in? The next verse, verse 15, in the scripture from the first chapter of James says, "These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death." This doesn't necessarily mean death in the physical way, although it can, but it can also mean spiritual death.

This entire article is inspired by a message I once preached on temptation. During that message I used an analogy about a cave. The cave represents the decent into temptation. Imagine for a second that you are an experienced cave diver. You have all of the proper gear for a successful dive, but there's this one cave everyone says you shouldn't dive into. There are of these warnings saying you shouldn't, but you know how to dive, and you decide you can handle. You say to yourself, "I don't have to go all the way in. I just want to see what's down there. I'll go in a little bit, shine some light down there, and then come back out." So you climb in, the top isn't so bad. You really don't understand why everyone told you not to. You shine your light, and you don't really see anything dangerous, so dive a little further down. Now, you've been fine up to this point, but now you're seeing some really dangerous jagged rocks surrounding you. You feel this could be a good place to turn back, but the rocks are far away on the sides, so as long as you stay in the middle you'll be fine. You go a little bit further in. The jagged rocks are getting closer, but you're too far down to stop now. I mean why come this far just to turn around and go back. You go further, then the next thing you know a rock slices your rope, and you fall all the way into the bottom of the cave.

Temptation and sin are a lot like that cave. We know not to go into it; we've been warned several times, we know it's not a good idea, but we want to see for ourselves. We start off just barely diving in, testing things out. Then we go lower and lower and lower until, we can't turn back. Then the fascinating cave we were so excited to dive into becomes a prison trapping us and leaving us for dead. When your metaphorical rope has been cut by the jagged rocks of sin, and you're lying on the bottom of that cave, there is no way to get out on your own. Only the hand of God can save us, but we're so stubborn we don't want anyone to know we were wrong. We don't anyone to see us lying in the bottom of the cave, even though we know the only way out is to confess our sins. Sin takes you farther than you want to go, and it keeps you longer than you want to stay.

Perhaps the most famous example of temptation, and the results of giving into it would be that of Adam and Eve. They had everything they could need. They were pure and sin free living in the Garden of Eden, until they did the one thing God told them not to do. They ate the forbidden fruit. Eve was tempted by the serpent, and Adam was tempted by Eve. Both of them gave in, and as a result became sinners banished from the garden. They had to suffer the consequences of their actions, and passed those consequences onto to every generation that followed them. There are always consequences for our actions, whether those actions be good or bad. There is no way to avoid the consequences.

We now have a better understanding of why we are so easily tempted, and we also have a better understanding of what can happen if we give in to those temptations, but there is another question to be answered. If God doesn't want us to sin, then why does he allow us to be tempted? The answer to this is simple. God does not allow us to walk through anything His only son Jesus Christ didn't walk through while living on earth. The part about Jesus coming to earth as a baby, so that he could die on the cross for our sins is a part of His story we know very well. Dying for us, however, was not the only purpose Jesus had for being on this earth as a man. He was also sent to show us how to live our lives. Something my mom always said to myself, and many others at our church, was the acronym WWJD. This stands for "What would Jesus do?" Now, 99% of the time I felt annoyed at her constantly saying it to me, but the question within the acronym is actually a very good question. It's a question we should ask ourselves in any situation we face, especially temptation.

The answer to this question can be found in the bible, more specifically Matthew 4:1-11. These scriptures discuss the time when Jesus was tempted by the devil. Each time the devil tempted Jesus, he responded with God's word and resisted Satan. No matter what Satan tried to get Jesus to do, every time he resisted. That doesn't mean it was easy. One of the temptations was indeed food. Jesus was fasting in the desert for forty days, likely very hungry. The devil used this to tempt him with food. I can guarantee after forty days of no food, having food must have sounded pretty good, but Jesus still said no. God also doesn't give us any more than we can bare. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) says, " The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure."

So, this article so far has shown you the problem of temptation, as well as what can happen when you give into it. It's shown you why you are easily tempted, as well as why God allows you to be easily tempted. Now, I want to show you three solutions found in the word of God that you can use when faced with temptation. I highly recommend that you use all of three of them, rather than just one or two, because they all would benefit your life facing temptation as well as just your life in general.

The first solution is found in Luke 22:39-40 (NLT). These scripture say, "Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, 'Pray that you will not give in to temptation.'" The first thing you should when facing any temptation, is talk to God about it. Opening that line of communication with God about the temptation, and praying that you will be able to resist is very important.

The second is to put on the full armor of God. This is shown in Ephesians 6:12-13 (NLT) which says, "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God's armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil." The next few verses detail what the armor is, and you should read it for a more in depth understanding.

The final solution is found in James 4:7-8 (NLT), "So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you." Drawing close to God is perhaps the most important of the three solutions presented in this article. The closer you get to God, the farther you are from sin. That's not to say you won't still face temptation, but being closer to God makes it easier to resist. There are various ways to draw closer to God. It can be done through prayer, reading His word, worship in any form, and surrounding yourself by Godly people trying to do the same. The farther you put yourself from the things you are being tempted by, the easier it will be to resist them. When you resist the temptations that come from the devil, God's word say tells us the devil will flee. Satan only has as much power over our lives as we allow him to.

I sincerely hope that this article has provided you with a fresh perspective on temptation, as well as the various ways we can resist the temptations we face. I myself have faced temptation, and I have even found myself lying at the bottom of that sinful cave, but I cried out to God, and he delivered me. I still face temptation in my life, but the closer I get to God, the more I pray, and the more I arm myself with His armor, the easier the battle is.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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