June 14, 2012

Resist Temptation

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you... ~James 4:7&8
I absolutely loath, hate, and despise reptiles, especially snakes. Watching Animal Planet documentaries on them makes my stomach knot, and I'm sure I wouldn't even be able to get past the opening credits if I ever were to view Snakes on a Plane. I've come across snakes three times in their natural habitats (sometimes hiking isn't a good idea depending on the location), and two of those occasions ended with me screaming bloody murder, running to the car, and crying until I got home. Some of you may think that's being dramatic, but in my mind it's totally justifiable to run away from a potentially venomous creature that's several feet long! (Plus, let's just admit that snakes look evil. I think it's their freakish eyes.) And it's completely understandable that I cry when faced with a irrationall rational fear. (Now I want to just mention something here to the guys for a moment: Nature centers are not necessarily the best first date idea. Especially if you want to impress this girl here. Just thought I'd let you know for future references and such.) Let me tell you, I would not have wanted to be Eve that day Satan slithered her way up to her. Somewhere in the back of my head I think "Did this woman have no concept of *fear based instincts? You know, fight-or-flight? All I'm saying is that there's no flippin' way I would've started conversing with a serpent. Satan would've had to have come as a butterfly or a puppy in order for me to converse with him. But that's not really the point. Remember how I listed out what words came to mind when I thought about the desert? One of them was hot. For the most part deserts are hotter than Hades. Do you know what cold-blooded creatures need heat in order to survive? Yep. Snakes. Snakes love their little desert oasis. Just as there are snakes living in the literal desert, there are snakes that reside in spiritual deserts as well, mainly the serpent, Satan. He slithers up to us then waits for the opportune moment to sink his fangs in, his venom poisoning us, so we can slowly die. The desert breeds snakes and temptation, and we have to know how to kill them. Because as awesome as running for the car is, we don't have that luxury when we're wandering an empty wilderness.
Be killing sin or sin will be killing you. ~John Owen
In the gospels we read of Jesus time in the wilderness, and while there he is bombarded with temptations from Satan:
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread" And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone'" ~Luke 4:1-4
In the verses that follow, Satan tempts Jesus twice more, but each time Jesus resists. Two key things stick out to me in this passage, the first one is that being tempted is not a sin. Maybe that's not a "Wow!" thing to you, but I remember the first time the light bulb went on for me and it certainly felt like a "Wow!" thing for me. Jesus was fully God, fully human, 100% perfect... and he was tempted... so being tempted is not a sin. (A small part of me felt like I'd wasted a good chunk of my prayer time asking for forgiveness for temptations when it wasn't warranted after I discovered that little tidbit.) However when acting on temptation, then it becomes sin. The second thing I noticed was that every time Jesus was tempted he resisted by quoting back the truth (God's Word) to Satan (the father of lies): "It is written... It is said...." Behind every sin is a lie that the enemy has whispered into our ears, and we've believed.
Every temptation, directly or indirectly, is the temptation to doubt and distrust God. ~John MacArthur
But Satan is a crafty. He's not going to come up to me and tempt me with just anything. Drugs? Nope, not interested in the slightest. Smoking? Nah, I've seen the episode of **Oprah where they showed diseased lungs... I'm without a doubt grossed out by the thought of my lungs looking like that. Rob a bank and steal away on a train like Jesse James would've? Uh-uh. Involves too much planning and effort on my part. The enemy wouldn't have much of a winning chance with temptations like these. Instead, he's going to target the specific desires and needs of my heart that I struggle with or feel are going unfulfilled with temptations that I'd find "appealing." So in those moments, how do we fight back?
When we are hungry for love, acceptance, importance, recognition or anything the human heart can desire, he tempts us to satisfy this hunger in a way that is disobedient to our heavenly Father. ~Marian Jordan
Fighting temptation calls for four things, the first is being aware of how, where, and when we're most likely to be tempted. Recognizing sin patterns and pinpointing our struggles is important to be aware of. In a recent blog post, Marian Jordan offer up four great questions to ask in battling temptation:
  1. What sins do you consistently struggle with?
  2. How are you tempted to find life, happiness, or fulfillment in a way that is outside God’s will?
  3. What are the specific thoughts or ideas that tempt you to sin?
  4. Sam Storms writes, “Temptation is often strong because it comes in the form of an enticement to satisfy legitimate needs through illegitimate means.” What legitimate desires are you seeking to satisfy through illegitimate means?
The second is using truth, God's Word to fight lies. I've learned that when I'm in the desert, if I'm drinking of Living Water, so often God will lead or show me specific verses to add to my "truth arsenal" (which I'll share in another post later on, if anyone would like that list). Personally, I think it's extremely helpful to write out every lie I'm tempted to believe and/or act upon, then to write out the scripture verse/passage that counteracts it (those spiral notecards come in handy for something easy to carry around... just a practical idea if you're looking for one). The third thing is prayer. We should never underestimate the importance and value of praying for God to give us the strength to thwart temptations. And finally, we need to know that there's grace for when we mess up. We're human, temptations will come, and we're not going to be able to avoid or resist them every time. Jesus already walked through the wilderness ahead of us. He resisted every temptation for us perfectly, because He knew we wouldn't be able to. We can rest in that beautiful truth when we fail and stumble.

*I get that fear was a result of the fall... so you don't need to really correct me on that.
**Please don't think I'm endorsing Oprah, ok? In reality I find her incredibly annoying. It was just one of those afternoons I was flipping through channels and watched it for couple of minutes.


  1. I hate snakes too. I went to the pet store earlier and unfortunately witnessed this small snake eating it's lunch. UGH.

    BUT, I love this post and challenges me to be immersed in the truth so that I'm able to resist temptation.
    Also I need to recognize when I am in the desert and be more aware of temptations.

    thank you for this!!

  2. all through this post I was "Mmmm, mhmm, MM-MM!, Mmmmmmmm!"

    I enjoyed and savored every word. Man, this series is God-breathed.


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