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Practical Actions to Resist Temptation Pt. 2



Pray


One of the most underutilized weapons in the Christian’s arsenal is prayer. The crowning aspect of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 is “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Eph. 6:18). We should listen to the songs we sing and take the messages to heart. We sing verses like “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged: Take it to the Lord in prayer” (What a Friend We have in Jesus) and “In seasons of distress and grief My soul has often found relief, And oft escaped the tempter’s snare, By thy return, sweet hour of prayer” (Sweet Hour of Prayer). Did You Think to Pray? Likewise admonishes us, “When you met with great temptation, Did you think to pray? By His dying love and merit, Did you claim the Holy Spirit As your guide and stay?”


May God help us to train ourselves to make prayer our automatic response to temptation! Jesus told His disciples in the garden to “watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41) and taught His disciples to pray to God, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mt. 6:13). God wants us to endure temptation more than anybody (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Thess. 4:7), we should solicit His help when we are facing seemingly unendurable temptation!  


God’s Word 


Likewise, we cannot underestimate the power of God’s Word in our fight against temptation. God’s Word is “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17) and is living, active, and sharp (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word was Jesus’ tool when the tempter sought to lure Him into sin (Mt. 4:1-11), and it should be ours as well. 


There are a couple of ways in which familiarity with and meditation on God’s Word can help us overcome temptation. In the first place, God’s Word helps us to have our minds transformed so that we can discern between what is good and what is evil (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:17; Heb. 5:13-14). Also, having the Sword of the spirit stored in our heart gives us instant help in tempting situations: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Ps. 119:11). The more we meditate on and internalize God’s Word, the better equipped we are to overcome temptation. 


The Psalms tell us that the blessed person delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night (Ps. 1:2). It is not automictically the case that those who know more of God’s Word will sin less, but it is true that God’s Word is our greatest offensive weapon against being overwhelmed by temptation and conforming to the world. If we find ourselves struggling with sin and giving into temptation more than we used to, we likely need to flee to God’s Word for refuge: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (Prov. 30:5).


Responsibility and Accountability 


Finally, to help us overcome temptation, we should take responsibility and seek accountability. If our sin is always somebody else’s fault, we are not taking responsibility as we should. God does not tempt us, but our own desires lead us astray (Jas. 1:13-15)! When it comes to sin, we are in the driver’s seat. As God encouraged Cain before he murdered his brother, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). We can choose to rule over sin. There is no sin that we must commit. So, when we sin, we should take responsibility for our actions by admitting that we’ve done wrong, and seeking God’s mercy: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13). 


God has given us Christian brothers and sisters to help us when we are struggling with temptation. Our time together in fellowship, worship, and community is designed to create an atmosphere of accountability and genuine spiritual concern for each other. If we neglect to assemble with the saints and spend time with our brothers and sisters, we will be more susceptible to caving into temptation. The wisdom of God tells us that “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1). We should confess our sins to one another, reach out for help, and be willing to be held accountable by our brothers and sisters (even if that means receiving rebuke). We are commanded: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12-12). We are told to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (Jas. 5:16). 


When we are struggling, we should be with the church more, not less! May we take hold of God’s resources to help us in the fight against temptation. 


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Practical Actions to Resist Temptation Pt. 1

We have all been tempted and, in moments of weakness or thoughtlessness, given in to our desires. Though we looked at some principles to help us overcome temptation in James 1:13-18 last week in our first worship service, there are some practical actions the Bible describes as well. Here are a few of them.  


Take Heed 


The Bible tells us, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Realizing that temptation comes from my own desires (Jas. 1:13-15), I must be honest with myself and recognize that I’m not above sinning or being drawn away into temptation. A little bit of earnest self-inspection goes a long way. We should be aware of our own weaknesses and areas where we are more likely to be tempted. Then, we should work on being transformed by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:2), mindfully seeking the guidance of God’s Word in the areas we struggle most. To do this, we may have to face some embarrassment and empty ourselves of some pride, but it will always be worth it to take heed lest we fall. 


Avoid Triggers 


One easy way to resist temptation is to try not to get into tempting situations. Obviously, it’s impossible to avoid every possible tempting situation because we don’t know the future, but we can avoid some of them. If we know there is a certain sin we struggle with, we should strive to avoid the things that make that sin easier if we can. The book of Psalms opens with this description of a blessed individual: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Ps. 1:1). Avoiding the counsel of the wicked, the way of sinners, and the seats of scoffers can help us resist temptation. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:33 admonishes us, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 


The company we keep and the activities we engage in can go a long way to us being more or less likely to give in to temptation. If I know myself well enough to know what I struggle with, I can get out ahead of temptation by avoiding those situations altogether. These “triggers” are personal to me based on my desires and my past, but they are worth avoiding whenever possible. This may require me to draw some boundaries and miss out on some opportunities, but holiness is worth that cost (Mt. 5:29-30; Heb. 12:14). 


Look For the Way of Escape 


God has promised that He has given a way of escape for every tempting situation, enabling us to endure 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 Cor. 10:13). God can help us endure and escape temptation! Sometimes that looks like literally fleeing, like Joseph who had to run from the clutches of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:11-12). Thus, the Bible tells us to “flee youthful passions” (2 Tim. 2:22), “flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18), and “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14).  


Learn to Say No 


We have all been in a situation where another person compels us to do something we know we should not do. We need to learn to say no. God’s wisdom tells us, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10). The word consent is key in that verse. Nobody can force us to do something we do not want to do. Our peers may coax us, influence us, guilt trip us, and plead with us, but we do not have to yield. When we feel the social pressure to do that which God calls sin, we must remember that we have the power to say “no.” If they make fun of us for not going along with them in sin, we will be blessed (Mt. 5:10-12)! We live for the approval of God, not the approval of people (Gal. 1:10).   

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We Serve the God Who Remembers

Have you ever felt like God has forgotten about you? Maybe you have prayed the same prayer repeatedly without receiving the answer you were hoping for. Maybe you thought things would be different than they are. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that God “is not slow to fulfill his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9 ESV). 


Many of the psalms sympathize with those who feel as if God has forgotten them. Psalm 13:1 asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” Likewise, Psalm 44:24 asks, “Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” 


Sometimes there can be a tension in faith; one that simultaneously feels as if God is not moving but trusts that He eventually will. When we feel this tension, we should meditate on the fact that we serve the God who remembers. 


God Remembered Noah 


Noah was on the ark for a lot longer than just forty days and nights. While Noah was on the ark, the Bible does tell us that it rained for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12). But the Bible also tells us that “the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days” (Gen. 7:24). Can you imagine being Noah and his family? God told you that it would rain for forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:4), but He never mentioned the 150 days of waiting! I imagine on the forty-first day, tensions began to rise a bit on the ark: “The forty days are over, where is God?” 


I imagine after sixty days, seventy days, 100 days, the nervousness only grew. Can you imagine being on the ark with all those animals, surrounded by nothing but water for 150 days? That’s five months! Meanwhile, the God who told you that it would rain for forty days and nights is silent.  


This background helps us better grasp the beauty of Genesis 8:1: “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” There was a span of time when it may have been easy for Noah or his family to think that God had forgotten them, but they served the God who remembers. In God’s anger about the corruption of the earth through sin, He did not forget His mercy and compassion for those in the ark. Likewise, God will not forget us. Like Noah and his family, we may have to wait longer than we expected, but God will always remember.


God Remembered Israel 


What kind of life would you expect the chosen people of God to live? Few of us would expect God’s chosen nation to be subjugated to slavery in a foreign nation, but that is exactly how the history of the Israelites as a nation began. While in Egypt after the time of Joseph, the Egyptians forgot how a Hebrew had saved their nation and began to oppress the people of Israel. The Egyptians “ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service” (Exod. 1:13-14). Israelites were being murdered, their young were being slain, and they were subjected to grueling conditions and mistreatment for generations. Where was God? Were they still His chosen people? Why wasn’t God acting to help them? Had God forgotten His people? 


With this background in mind, Exodus 2:23-25 becomes even more beautiful: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” 


Exodus teaches us that God hears, remembers, sees, knows, and acts. No mistreatment goes unnoticed by Him. No burden we bear escapes His sight. There is no struggle we endure that God does not know about. There is no prayer for deliverance His people pray that He does not hear. God will act when the time is right. He will remember His promises and He will keep His covenants. God knows all the details. He knows the right time to act. He knows what needs to happen. We only need to know that He will remember us. The next time you feel as if God has forgotten you, or God does not know what you’re going through, meditate on the fact that we serve the God who remembers! 


“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.” (Psalm 121:1-3)


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How Can We Overcome Worldliness? Pt. 3

Continuing our look at what we can do to not love the world or the things in the world, here are three more attitudes and actions we can develop to help us to not go along with the world’s way of doing things. 


Seek things that are above 


Writing to Christians who were struggling to understand the implications of their faith in Christ, the apostle Paul told the Christians in Colossae, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth” (Col. 3:1-2). To overcome worldliness, we will have to be mindful of what we seek, consume, and focus on what. What we give our energy and mental attention to is up to us. If we spend our time and energy craving what we do not have, longing after sinful things, or tied up primarily in the things of this. World, it will be impossible to overcome worldliness. 


Instead, we should intentionally dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise” (Phil. 4:8). We will always find what we are looking for (Matt. 7:7). When we are struggling with worldliness, we must spend some time meditating on heaven, getting involved in the work of the church, and being around positive spiritual influences as much as possible. 


Ask the right question 


It is easy to become a friend of the world when we are motivated by the wrong question. Let me explain. So often, when seeking to discern the will of God in our lives and what we should do to please Him, we ask ourselves “is this a sin?” One drink of alcohol, one step too far, one small lie, one little piece of possible gossip, one hateful word, one time forsaking the assembly just because, and we may ask ourselves, “is it really a sin?” (There are only a few “lists” of sins in the New Testament—see Rom. 1:21-32; 1 Cor. 5:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-6; 1 Tim. 1:9-10). 


The problem with “is it a sin?” being our motivating question in life is that God has called us to do more than just avoid what is explicitly described as sinful in the New Testament. We are here to shine God’s light and be ambassadors for Christ. When my operative question in life is, “is it a sin?” I can look and act just like the world in almost every single way but just not go as far as everybody else does. 


The Bible tells us that, instead of “is it a sin?”, our operating question should be, “is it excellent?” There are many things that, though not explicitly sinful, are still not good, righteous, holy things. As Christians, we must not only consider ourselves but those around us. An action might not be a sin technically speaking, but that doesn’t mean that we are letting our light shine, building others up, or becoming more like God through the behavior. We may also be setting ourselves up to be a friend of the world by seeking things that “aren’t technically sinful” but will draw us in deeper love with the world and further from our Father. 


Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is as relevant for us as it was for the original recipients: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (Phil. 1:9-10). The path to worldliness isn’t always paved with glaring sin. It’s often paved with apathy, comfort, and passivity.    


Remember the timeline


God has given us great insight into the future. We can be sure of what God’s Word says about what is yet to come because God reigns over the future. When we are struggling with worldliness, it is helpful to keep God’s timeline in mind. The Bible tells us that “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:17). The things in the world that draw our attention and stand between us and living for God are temporary. They are doomed to pass away. They are not worth trading eternity for! We must remember that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).


When we take hold of our heavenly citizenship and realize that we are just passing through this life, we can be “people of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:11-12). The world is passing away so let’s live for heaven and seek to bring as many people as possible with us!  


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