Even though we understand that God’s grace is sufficient and that He will provide a way of escape in the midst of temptation, do we really believe it? Unfortunately, it is my experience and observation that the answer is no, we don’t. I sit here in the middle of a near-overwhelming desire to binge on anything I can find to shovel in. As I contemplate the Word, God’s will for me at this very moment and how I am going to respond, it becomes clear that I can’t just sit here and think or I will give in. So here I am.
Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. What I am about to share is not new, just a reminder. When in the middle of a temptation, there are steps that we need to take to help ensure victory – confession, tell a godly counterpart, fill your mind with the Word, flee. With each of these steps that are ignored, there is a higher probability that you will succumb. James 1:15 says,
But each person is tempted when he lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
First, confess to the Lord that you are tempted. He is not surprised by this – he knows everything about you down to the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Ask Him to supply the grace, strength and way of escape that He has promised. At this point, you have not sinned there is no shame in being tempted. We may feel shame because we think that we should be “over this” by now. However, our loving Father did not give us the promises, exhortations and encouragements of the biblical writers because He thought we would be perfected in this life, but rather so that we can continue to grow into the image of the Son (Romans 8:29).
Second, tell a godly counterpart (of the same gender) about your temptation. This is necessary for two reasons – prayer and accountability. Our Lord is clear that we are to rely on the other members of the body for continued growth and strength (Galatians 6:1-5, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 3:13; 10:24-25, James 5:16). The person you choose should have a proven track record for being mature and wise in the Lord. If the person isn’t willing to hold you accountable and check up on you, then please choose someone who will. Otherwise it will most likely just lead to further discouragement and the decreased likelihood that you will take this step in the future.
Next, fill your mind with the Word. This can be done through various venues – reading a chapter or more in your Bible, listening to music or sermon, memorizing and/or meditating on previously memorized Scripture. The point of this step is that the only way to truly experience freedom from sin is through the application of the Word that is brought to life in your soul through the Spirit. The genre of music doesn’t matter as long as the message of the songs direct your thoughts to God’s faithfulness, love and mercy rather than toward self. Personally, Sovereign Grace Music is my primary go-to groups for messages that point me to the Savior. If you have difficulty knowing which Scriptures to turn to for help, Transformed Into His Likeness is a priceless resource.*
Finally, flee – get out of the general vicinity of the temptation. When we flee from anything, it actually requires a minimum of two actions – 1) Turn away and 2) turn toward. In 1 Timothy 6:11, Paul admonishes
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.
I don’t’ know about you, but I can’t pursue godliness and wallow in the filth of my sin at the same time. If your temptation is something that you desire to do with a part of your body, literally leave. If you are at work and can’t leave work for the day, go for a walk to another office or printer or to the restroom or invite someone into your office. If the temptation has to do with what you are looking at or for on the computer, move your home computer to a community are or at work change your office space so that those who enter the room will be able to see your screen before you even know they are there. In my case (temptation to binge), not lingering in the lunchroom when there are sweets around and saying no to the daily vending machine runner are paramount to my resisting my own evil heart.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in you inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.