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Monday, May 3, 2010

Undressing Temptation

If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. But remember that the temptations that come into your life are not different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. (I Cor. 10:12-13)

Absolutely no one is immune to temptation – it is a tool Satan uses to trip us in our walk with the Lord. When you are “immune” to something, it has no affect on you. We often think that if we are Christians long enough, temptation should never have any effect on us. Well, this idea contains an element of truth. As we mature, that temptation we struggle with today will become less inviting to us – but as we grow, the very nature of the temptations we struggle with will change. The old temptations will not have the same appeal, but be assured, Satan will continue to find ways to tempt us!

We do our best in our daily walk to resist temptation, but when we are tempted, then give in to that temptation, we often experience overwhelming guilt. Guilt is associated with temptation – it is an end result of our compromise. The greatest challenge I had with understanding temptation is that it remains a factor as I grow up in Christ. It took a while to understand that God was just repositioning me in my walk to no longer be “caught off guard” when it came. In other words, I learned to expect it as a means of helping me to grow up. What amazed me was Satan’s ability to even make me feel guilty that I was “being tempted” – after all, if I was a changed woman, why would I be facing temptation? It was just as amazing to me when God showed me that Satan wants me to feel that I am not really changing – growing into a new creature – so he uses that temptation over and over again to attempt to get me to believe the lie that I am not a new creation.

Satan has a way of bringing up old sins that are already forgiven to make us feel guilty for them again and again! That guilt is a means of keeping us bound – allowing doubt, frustration, and fear to enter in – focusing us away from our deliverance and toward our PAST bondage. It is important for us to remember that temptation only becomes sin when we allow our emotions and imaginations to have free rein to entertain the tempting suggestions the enemy brings. We can reject the thoughts – or we can give place to them in our minds and see them through to actions. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything that you do.” When we entertain the thought – we begin to give into the temptation. It begins with rejecting the thought – because our thoughts eventually become our attitudes and those attitudes influences our actions. Several questions that we may want to consider right here are: 1) What things am I giving serious consideration to right now in my life? 2) What is consistently coming to my remembrance? 3) What do I find myself meditating upon over and over again?

All of us want to know how to overcome temptation. Recognizing that it exists and has an effect on us is the first step in overcoming – but the main way to deal with temptation is to take responsibility for it. When we blame others for our temptation, we deny our need – we are assigning the responsibility for the sinful temptation to another (even if it is Satan) and that limits our ability to see our need (getting from God what we NEED to overcome). When we acknowledge our need, God’s resources are at our disposal to do the work of overcoming the sinful temptation. God wants us to rely on him, not our self-directed ability (or inability) to resist. Our self-will is at best a flawed system of resisting temptation. At times, it may keep us out of trouble, but more often than not, it allows us to jump in with both feet. As soon as we learn that our need is best met by God, we will have the resources to keep our feet firmly planted.

James tells us, “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.” (James 1:14) Sometimes we need cry out to God to deliver us from OURSELVES. We often spend so much time simply battling the symptoms of sin in our lives – all the while missing the diseased part of us that lurks just below the surface. We need to get at the cause of the sinful response – that is where we “do business” against sin! We have a predisposition to sin just because we are born as “fallen” creatures – our “self” within is what we struggle with. A symptom is subjective – it is just an indication that we observe that lets us know that something is definitely wrong at the core.

We all give into temptation at times – it is part of daily life for all of us. As we grow up, those temptations that once caught us off guard and kept us in daily bondage may not have the same pull – why? Because we have learned from our mistakes! If we don’t learn from them, we repeat them. One of the tactics Satan uses in our lives is to make us feel that this present temptation we are facing is “unique” – not ever faced by us before. He puts a different “spin” on it when we learn to resist it one way. It is not a new or unique temptation! It is the same one, just dressed up differently! That is what Paul was saying in the verses I quoted at the beginning of this study. All temptation is common to man – we all experience temptation – but we also all experience the SAME temptations over and over again, just “dressed” differently. Satan has learned that we are committed to resisting the temptation, so he presents it in a different form in order to catch us off guard.

Now that we have an understanding of just how badly Satan works to attack us where we are the weakest (at the core of our being where sin had a foothold), we can also understand just how God has made provision for us to resist that temptation. We counteract lies with truth – so we must fill our minds with truth. When we are presented with temptation, we recognize it is just the same old sinful urge, dressed up in a pretty prom dress this time and blue jeans the next. Our conscience alone can deceive us – it is too subjective – too easily influenced by our thoughts and feelings of the moment. We need the truth contained in the Word, meditated upon in times of prayerful consideration, and recalled by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives in order to recognize sin at its roots.

As we learn to rely upon the Holy Spirit’s assistance in recognizing the “redressed” temptation, we are able to respond obediently to the truth we have come to learn in our times of spiritual discipline. It is the Spirit’s presence in our lives that helps us to conform to the image of Christ in us, learning to respond differently to the temptation’s pull, so that we are no longer pursuing it. Obedience reinforces our spiritual integrity – our character is transformed, removing the diseased part of us, chunk by chunk, until it is completely gone and we enjoy the total freedom of spiritual health in that area of our life. Integrity is a state of being undivided – not serving two masters – giving of ourselves to obedience to only one master. Count on God to “undress” what Satan has “redressed” in your life!