How to Deal With Temptation
Today Pastor David Powell preached from Matthew 4:1-11. The Central Truth he presented was this: “Winning the battle with temptation comes through the skillful use of the weapon that is God’s Word”.
See it Clearly
He answered the question of how to handle temptation with the following instructions 1. Expect to face temptation. 2. Prepare to face temptation. 3. Respond properly when facing temptation.
This post will interact with the second point in the sermon regarding preparation.
Understand it Truly
To begin by agreeing with the Puritan Pastor John Owen who said to “Be killing sin or it will be killing you” .
“13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13, ESV)
Pastor David mentioned three aspects to our preparation.
1. Knowing the strategies of the enemy
I offer the following observations from my life. You cannot trust the enemy. He uses the following three lies (at least these) to keep us under the influence (bondage) of habitual sin:
Lie number 1- “This only impacts me”
Take a harder look. I must remember that the real problem is not even the action, but it is my heart. If my heart and mind are busy seeking and hiding my sin I am surely failing in what I would try to defend as my life priorities. My festering sin will usually result in a failure to nourish and cherish my wife (Eph 5:28-31) or a failure to teach my children the Word of God and the joy of a sincere devotion to Jesus (Deut 6:4-9) or a failure to serve others by putting their needs on par with my own (Gal 5:13-14).
“22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.” (Proverbs 5:22, ESV)
Lie number 2- “It’s not a big deal”
Sin is the biggest problem on this planet. It is a big enough deal that Jesus had to die on the cross to kill it so that it would not kill every one of us (Ezek 18:4). Sin only looks small when I am looking at it sideways. Sin is not defined on the horizontal comparison between others but on the vertical comparison to Jesus. He alone is the standard (Rom 2:15-16). Remember- Original sin was eating an apple…pretty minor on the horizontal, huh? Any breech of the law that is written on our hearts is sinful beyond measure (Rom 7:13).
Lie number 3- “I am under grace and I am secure in Christ, so it doesn’t really matter in the long run”
Cheap grace is a big tool of the devil. Jude warns us against turning grace into license (Jude 4) and Paul lets us know what the real grace of God does in our life in Titus 2:11-14. In the same letter Paul also explains that there are some who profess to know God but deny him by their works (Titus 1:15-16). So what is justified at conversion? The sin or the sinner? One of these lives on because it is justified by the death of Jesus while the other dies a grim death because it has been conquered and killed in that same work of Christ…so which one was killed at my conversion and which one lives? See Romans 8:3, John 14:19, and Romans 6:11.
2. Knowing the Word of God by saturating our mind with it
Follow the wonderful instructions of Proverbs 2
“1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1–5, ESV)
Ponder the passage above and see if you agree with this list of instructions…
Step 1. Read the Word of God [verse 1a]
Step 2. Memorize (or at least remember in some fashion) the Word of God [verse 1b]. Especially his precepts (commands or instructions)
Step 3. Listen carefully to what it says (make careful observation) [verse 2a]
Step 4. Desire to understand it (heart level thing here and a huge key) [verse 2b]
Step 5. Ask God to teach you the meaning [verse 3a]
Step 6. Do this with persistence [verse 3b]
Step 7. Do steps 1-4 regularly and aggressively like you are on a treasure hunt (or like you need this to pay rent and to feed your family) [verse 4]
Now enjoy the payoff and you will understand the fear of the LORD! [verse 5]
3. Spending a good deal of time in prayer
If I fail to rely upon God in prayer than I am living the lie that I am sufficient within myself to face temptation and other tests. I need to be responsive to God in prayer and wrestle with him over how to keep my feet sure and how to ensure that I fight with his strength and not my own. If I am not in the habit of confessing my sin and seeking his working in me to bring me to a place of hallowing his name then I am not going to survive the fight.
Value it Appropriately
This message of keeping spiritually alert is critical. I cannot cruise through this.
I must engage my mind for renewal by the Holy Spirit if I am to succeed.
We can take a lesson from the wildy controversial passage of Romans 7 where Paul spoke of his own wrestling with sin and sounded like a schizophrenic. Follow his thoughts below and see if you can tell who the real Paul is…
“21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:21–25, ESV)
Two big takeaways from this
- Paul announces the truth that the real slim shady is the Paul who loves God from his mind. There is something foreign in him waging this war.
- I learn that if I default to the flesh every day, without looking for the battle and engaging my mind on God and my true identity in Christ, the result will be that I will serve sin. No matter how much I try to “repent”, I will return to this vomit again and again if I am not setting my mind on God every day!
The point of engagement for me is my mind…how do I engage it?
“1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV)
Note in Romans 2:18 Paul refers to knowing God’s will and approving what is excellent because they are instructed from the law…from God’s Word!
It is God’s mercy to me that by pouring over his Word and reflecting upon my heart and my life to discern his will, he will renew my mind, change my thinking, and through this he will transform my desires in order to make me holy…Or- I can ignore the battle and default to cruise control every morning when I wake up and I will be conformed to the world as I focus on the daily things that pull me.
My mind must be focused properly every day.
“5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5–6, ESV)
“2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2–3, ESV)
I need to find the things that increase my affection for Jesus and I must feast on those things! I need to find a lifestyle of worship. See that my daily priority in this battle is to set my mind on the Spirit…to get into the Word of God and to seek the Lord hotly, because it is precisely in Christ where my life (the real me) exists, if indeed I belong to Christ. I cannot expect any peace or hope if I am failing to set my mind on the person of Christ…
“24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24–25, ESV)
Feel it Fully
So none of this means anything to me if I have no internal reaction to it. If my soul is flat and I hear all these words and remain unmoved then I have no hope to apply this information…yet. I need to get alone with God and do some business. I need to wrestle with him over recognizing my need for repentance.
Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading us to repentance). Indeed, ‘only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross’, wrote Canon Peter Green, ‘may claim his share in its grace’.
Stott, John (2012-11-29). The Cross of Christ (pp. 59-60). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
Do it Joyfully
I am not under the law but under grace (Rom 6:14). This does not give me license but it does give me joy (Rom 6:15-16)! Our God does not delight in my self righteous law keeping (Gal 2:20-21) but in my humble obedience of faith (Rom 1:5; 16:26). As was stated today Romans 8:1 gives me the wonderful knowledge that I will never be condemned if I am in Christ and I can enjoy obedience as a consequence of my salvation and not as a prerequisite of it.
Share it Compassionately
Who can I share this message with or invite next week?
Soli Deo Gloria!