What are Temptations?
Temptations are enticements that seek to divert us from the will of God. They are decisions, actions, intentions, thoughts, and motives that are contrary to that of Christ’s. They are attractions that come from the world, the enemy, our flesh, our desires, and our passions. Temptations are always enticing man to serve, please, and uplift ‘self’ in any and all manifestations.
Forms of Temptation
Temptations come in many forms, both outwardly and inwardly. Christ says in Mark 7:20-23 (ESV) ““What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”” These things are all sin, and they stem from a temptation that we initially yielded too. Temptations must be recognized and annihilated immediately, lest we practice in the ways of demons and not in the ways of Christ.
What makes us Fall into Temptation?
What makes us fall into temptation comes from one of three reasonings:
1. A distancing from God’s presence.
When we are out of the Nucleus of God’s presence, we become much more susceptible towards giving way to temptation. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17 ESV). The more we empty ourselves of the flesh, the more of the Spirit we shall have.
Though all born again believers have an equal dwelling of the Holy Spirit within them, we do not all have an equal manifestation of Him. The more we deny ourselves and seek God, the greater the Holy Spirit’s flow will be within us. So long as we use our freewill to deny our own will, we may obtain greater strength and power in the Holy Spirit.
2. A distancing from God’s Word.
When we distance ourselves from spending time in God’s Word, we open ourselves up to the darts and arrows of the enemy. For how can we put on the Armor of Truth, if we do not spend time in the Truth? Yes, we may know Truth and have memorized a few verses, but we must stay in the Word continually. When we neglect to do so, we neglect a fresh touch from God.
We must understand that if we are not spending time in God’s Word, then we are spending time in one of too many things. It may be the news, a love of leisure, a continual need of being surrounded by people. Whatever is disallowing us from spending time in God’s Word must be put in its proper place. Eternity will shine light on the truth of this matter, for in time, all will be revealed.
Let us remember Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV): “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” When we take time to stay in God’s Word, we will be continually renewed, sanctified, encouraged, strengthened, and cleansed by It. For faith is not a feeling, but an action. When we take time to read God’s Word, our Armor becomes stronger. We will not be as susceptible to giving way to temptation, for the Holy Scriptures are the Invisible Armor that has been given to us by the Immortal One. It brings protection to the mind and gives us clarity and focus.
3. An increase of self.
Sin is easily recognized by born again believers. Self, however, is not. For self is the root of all sin. Deeper still, when we believe self has been conquered, there is a hidden self within self. This self may do good with wrong motives. Deeper than this, there is a self that may do good with good intentions, but its end result is not entirely for God. Examples of the following shall be in the realm of donating money:
Temptation to donate money and then share that it was done. This would be ‘self’.
Temptation to “unintentionally” donate a visible amount of money before others to appear as a good individual. This would be a hidden self within self - one that consists of doing good with wrong motives.
Temptation to donate a hidden amount of money that will not be seen by anyone, but done for the feeling of having done right. This would be a form of a hidden self that has good intentions, but its end result is not done wholly for God.
The Meaning & Blessing of Temptation
“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” (James 1:13 ESV). Temptations are not done by God, but they are allowed by God for Divine reasons. Let us list three:
1. Temptations are allowed and meant to draw us closer to God.
When we are tempted, our first instinct must be to cling to God for assistance and aid in our quest towards righteousness. For when we are tempted and recognize the temptation, we must immediately go to the Throne of Grace. This is a way in which God allows temptation to drive us to Him and helps us live a life of continual prayer.
2. Temptations are allowed by God in order to humble us.
When other men repent of their sin, we are quickly tempted with the thought, “I don’t struggle with that”, “I’m glad that’s not me”, or “how can that still be a struggle for them?” When these thoughts come, God, in His Omniscience and Sovereignty, will allow temptation to come our way to show us that it's not by power or might, but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6) that sin and self can be conquered and abolished. It is nothing done in our own power and might. It is solely done by Him.
When we are tempted to think that something is no longer our struggle, that very element of sin (or, perhaps another element of sin) will tempt us. If we fall, God indirectly works through the mischief of the temptation to humble us. He helps us to see that it is only His Grace that has gotten us to where we are. It is only His power and Mercy that has shaken the chains off past struggles and kept us from other avenues of sin.
Therefore, humility helps us to see clearly, love genuinely, and trust God intuitively. Let us therefore take heed to Galatians 6:1 (ESV) in this matter: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”
3. Temptations give us the opportunity to grow in virtue.
Every temptation that comes is an opportunity to do what is right. It is an opportunity to fight and grow in spiritual maturity. For every temptation that is deflected (either in the mind or in the flesh) is a victory won. It is an accomplishment of eternal weight. No matter the temptation - whether it is the temptation to compare oneself to others, look at pornography, or to judge other’s weaknesses and shortcomings - we have the chance to become stronger in God.
For when temptation is conquered, we become stronger in the journey and become more Christ-like. We ascend to higher ground, knowing that it is only because of God that we did not give into temptation. What a glorious truth it is that temptations are opportunities to grow in virtue. May we see them as so, while we “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12 ESV).
How not to Fall into Temptation
Though there are many suggestions of how not to fall into temptation (for with each temptation offers branches of other various seductions and attractions), there are four main actions we must take:
““Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” Matthew 26:41 ESV
The more we pray, the less likely we are to stray. The more we remain in the things of God, the greater the strength we will have in our journey of living for Christ.
2. Seeing ourselves standing before the Great White Throne.
Every time we are tempted, we must see ourselves standing before the Judgment Seat. For Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV) says that “God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.”
By bringing ourselves to the reality that all will be exposed before Heaven and God’s eyes, we will be strengthened in resisting temptation and not giving into the flesh in the current moment. We will desire to continue down the path of holiness (and successfully do so), rather than partake in the ways of the heathens.
“For forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, He was hungry.” Luke 4:2 ESV
Christ revealed that through fasting, we can become empowered by the Spirit through depleting ourselves of being ruled by the flesh. When we deprive ourselves of wants and necessities for a time, we receive more of the Spirit. We show God our inner disposition for Him. In exchange, we will receive more power from On High to fight temptations. For our minds will have been trained to not focus on the flesh, but to deprive the flesh, in order to obtain spiritual authority over our temptations.
4. Staying in the Word of God.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:13 ESV
As touched on previously, but nevertheless important to reiterate, we must stay in the Word. For the Word of God is our Armor. When we have been in the Word and temptations come, we will be more readily equipped in defending ourselves. For selfish pleasures and enticements will be struck by the Truth of God’s Sword.
Let us now understand that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3 ESV). Let us know that “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 ESV). Let us always remember that “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” (James 1:12 ESV).
May God ““lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”” (Matthew 6:13 ESV). For it is by Him and in Him and through Him that we may live for Him. Amen.
Heavenly Father, You are the God of all. With a spoken Word You create something from nothing. O Lord, breathe newness of life into our soul. Strengthen us with Your presence. Give us a continued desire to want to know You more. O Lord, strengthen us with Your Word and Your Holy Spirit. Give us a holy hatred for sin. Keep us from temptation and give us the strength to walk in the fear of You, O Lord. We want to honor You with all that we are. Heavenly Father, mature us in the faith and grow us in the knowledge of You. We desire nothing but Your will. As the scales fall and the old man fades, may we continue to live for eternal days. In Jesus' name, Amen.