Don’t know about you, but I hate tests. When I was in high school, I hated preparing for them, and I really hated taking them. No matter how hard I studied or memorized material, when the test was placed in front of me, my mind went blank, stress overran my body, and I started looking for escapes – other distractions. When I was in college, I started working on testing skills, and though I didn’t master the art of test-taking, I was able to keep most of my stress under control, and focus on what was in front of me. Still, tests and me did not (do not) get along.
So it goes without saying that when my faith gets tested, either by situations, temptations, or other people, stress and the need for escape follow close behind. This is especially true when temptations storm my mind.
I’ve been re-reading a book by Neil Anderson, The Bondage Breaker. Anderson has a lot of wisdom to share with men and women about walking in the freedom Christ has given to us upon accepting Him as our Lord and Savior. I really love his thoughts and teachings about temptations, such as understanding root causes of temptation, the ways it comes about, and how to walk in victory. I’ll be honest and say that I thought I knew how to handle temptations and where they came from, but God has been opening my mind to deeper truths, which is awesome. Isn’t it just like us, though, to think that we’ve mastered a spiritual issue, only to fail at it again and again. Or maybe I’m the only one 🙂
Channels of Temptation
Here’s what Anderson has to say about temptation itself:
Every temptation is an enticement to live independently of God. The power of temptation is directly related to the strength of the mental strongholds and the carnal desires which were developed when we learned to live independently from God … [Basically, Satan’s] tactic is to entice us to push something good beyond the boundary of the will of God until it becomes sin. (p. 136-137)
Like food, clothing, drinking, music, sex, possessions, money, work, rest, exercise, friendships, etc.
The main ways Satan combats us with temptation are in three areas: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. These are outlined in 1 John 2:15-17 (insert), and correlates with the temptation of Jesus found in the Gospels (Matthew 4:1-11). Submitting to the lust of the flesh, “will draw us away from the will of God,” and happens mostly when “hunger, fatigue, and loneliness are acute” (p. 141). Giving in to temptations “to meet your own physical needs or carnal desires independent of God” yield you to the lust of the flesh (p. 142). Think of Jesus being tempted to eat during His fast in order to curb His hunger.
Submitting to the lust of the eyes, “draws us away from the Word of God and eats away at our confidence in God. We see what the world has to offer and desire it above our relationship with God” (p. 142). Life is all about me & my wants verses God & His will, especially when we buy into the lie that what the world offers us is better than what God has for us. Think of Jesus being tempted to put God to the test in catching Him when jumping from the temple. Satan was trying to twist God’s Word in order to prove a point, but failed.
Submitting to the pride of life, draws “us away from the worship of God and our obedience to God” (p. 144). Living life on your own, aside from God’s guidance, is pride. This isn’t what being a follower of Christ is about, rather “the Christian life should be characterized by humble obedience to God in worship (John 15:8-10, Peter 5:5-11)” (p. 144).
Victory in Jesus
Neil Anderson again notes, Satan “will watch you to learn where you are most vulnerable and will tempt you in any area that you leave unguarded” (p. 145). So where are you most vulnerable? What areas do you leave unguarded? Are the days filled with victories or set-backs?
This isn’t a time to get defensive or take on more guilt and shame. Instead it’s time to ask the hard questions. I know for me, this is where I struggle in regards to temptations. I know what not to look at or associate with, but when I lose my cool and allow things to happen, I tend to believe the lie that daily victories are not my portion. However, they are. God says they are. And I need to walk in this truth no matter what happens – the same for you.
Temptation’s hook is the devil’s guarantee that what we think we want and need outside of God’s will can satisfy us. Don’t believe it. You can never satisfy the desires of the flesh … but you can be satisfied in Christ … by sustaining right relationships, living by the power of the Holy Spirit, and experiencing the fruit of the Spirit (p. 145).
How is daily victory possible? By remembering who you are in Christ, taking every thought captive, and submitting to the ways of God. By knowing your core identity, you are able to stand against the accusations of Satan (more next post). By taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:13-15), we are able to discern what is of God and what is of our flesh. How do our thoughts line up with Philippians 4:8 – is it pure, honorable, right, in accordance with God’s Word? If no, then the thought is dismissed; if yes, we allow it to pass. Finally, by submitting to God, we are able to confess our wrongs and resist going any further by repenting (“to turn from”) of our ways. We align our life to God, knowing and depending on Him to work in us so that we are able to stand firm through whatever gets thrown our way.
What are your thoughts on temptation? Would you agree or disagree with Anderson’s advice? What would you add?