PULLING AWAY FROM TEMPTATION
“He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray”
There is always that special someone who enjoys draining, it seems, every drop of goodness you have on any given day. You have met that person(s), and, perhaps, you are well acquainted and attached at the hip. My best offer to you is to breathe as long as it makes you live, love as long as it takes—and pray.
It is a day when, you think at your worse, all goes wrong and nothing right. Life has its moments; its difficulties, but for most people, I assume, life is, generally, good. There are happy days and sad ones—that is life.
Healthy (the way I see it) is a balanced dose of both, whereas an over-indulgence of one or the other may not be. I have never met a person who is genuinely and exceedingly happy without having the thought of there being some sort of facade. There are those who dance with joy in the rain, and there are those who are heavy and saturated.
Life changes right before our eyes. At a moment’s glance, the sky seems to be smiling, yet at another, it is crying. God never promised a rose garden free from critters that eat randomly. We spray for this…We spray for that…as though the petals listen to our every ounce of spraying. God expects His children to be happy, although he did not promise us times without tribulations.
Those testing times of faith, that seems to overwhelm us with anxiety and trouble our soul. Those times, apparently, when everything is going to plan, then, boom! It slips through your fingers, and you do not know why.
You search the bank of your mind and become over-drawn, but you make the transaction anyway pulling from anything that may give an answer or reason. Your search may be easy if that is what you are looking for. Easy is what it is. It is all round you, in your face. It is more than the sweet sound of chocolate to the desperate ear.
Through desperation, your guard dropped and less inhibited to the tempting sound that pleases the things you hear. The search is no longer the search anymore it comes to you. Widely acceptant to its lure, reeled in, shortly, cerebrally paralyzed and caught by its delusion, flowing downstream with change that is never-ending.
It is easy to say, but so, difficult to resist. It comes to you as a beautiful man or woman displaying pristine qualities, photographed and copied to a page, and flaunted on big screens. It walks along your side, talks to your face—or it says nothing at all.
DECEPTION AND SIN
If I told you that, you are dying, would you believe me? Well, it is true, but it is not the whole truth. Truth is we have been dying (from a biological sense) since our birth; however, it is a half-truth. Satan used deception to tempt Eve in the Garden based on a half-truth, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5). The body will die and wither back to dust in a physical sense, though spiritually, our souls live eternally.
Satan was well aware of this, and this is one prime example of his subtle treachery. Temptation is one of Satan’s weapons to get Christians away from God. Temptation is not a sin, although it is the result of the temptation. In other words, giving in to temptation is the sin, which Satan wants to keep our mind and heart away from thinking and feeling God’s love. Satan attempts to distract and cause shame to Christians by putting evil thoughts in their minds. Temptation is the lure that captures your attention; it is your thoughts that reel in to sin.
DISCIPLINE AND TEMPERANCE
Tempting thoughts can lead to sin if, however, it is fed by further thoughts and by further action. For instance, a young woman has her eyes on an attractive male and begins to drool. If she then carries further to lusting for this male, thinking of sexual thoughts, and so on, it leads to the very sin that God disapproves of—adultery. In this sense, it has nothing to do with marriage; it has everything to do with lust. Known commonly, that if a spouse has a sexual act with someone other than his or her spouse; it is, indeed, adultery.
Jesus tells us if we lust within our heart, we have committed adultery, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Billy Graham quoted in his book, Peace with God, what Dr. W. H. Griffin Thomas said of lust:
The original meaning of the word lust is ‘strong desire’ and not necessarily a sinful desire, since there are certain desires of our physical nature—such as hunger and thirst—which we have in common with the animal world and which, in themselves, are natural and not sinful. Hunger is a natural lust. Gluttony is a sinful lust. Thirst is a natural lust. Intemperance is a sinful lust. Adultery is a sin and is opposed to the will of God and to all that is pure in body, mind, and heart. But there are other lusts of the flesh which are sensually and inherently sinful. Such as, for instance, the desire to gratify at all costs our hatred and revenge…Sins of the flesh are in some respects the most terrible of all because they represent the yearnings of the nature to do evil.1
In this world today, Satan has exploited and demoralized sex, and he uses it to toy with minds and to destroy God’s people. God created sex between a man and his wife to be good; to be a joyful and pleasurable experience; it is a way to express love. Sex is not an ugly word, shunned unless performed in ugliness and in evil ways. Having sex, the way God intended for a husband and wife is natural and there is nothing shameful. Paul informs us of God’s intention, “Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13).
When temptation comes to you as a thought, get rid of it immediately and do not feed it, change your thought with pure thoughts. The moment you begin to feed the thought further, causes you to sin. For example, a man confronted with a very, attractive woman who is wearing provocative clothing, revealing things not revealed in public places. If this man begins to wonder in his mind about having sexual dealings with this woman, then he has sinned. The apostle Paul instructs us that we should be disciplined and obtain temperance, “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate [self-control] in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
The more correct behavior is to look away realizing that Satan uses people such as this to do his dirty work for him. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). If you entertain the thought, give it another thought, and then give it action—you have sinned.
Actually, you do not have to give it physical action, just action within your mind, and you are guilty. Remember what Christ said, “I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:8). I absolutely share the same experience as Christian author Beth Moore, who explains in her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, how Satan seduces and causes havoc in our lives:
Few things, however, accomplish Satan’s goal of inducing feelings and actions in those who are clean like sexual seduction. Somehow, Satan makes sure it seems dirtier than the rest of the dirt. He also likes to instigate falls that carry long-term effects. Sexual sin is a perfect choice to achieve his goals. It can be highly addictive. It breeds shame like nothing else and has uniquely horrendous ramifications (page 23).2
The apostle Paul warns us of the detrimental effects of sexual sin, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 18-19)? Guilty in the eyes of God, but thankful and praise God and by His grace—all sins are forgiven.
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, wrote about his thoughts about temptation:
No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. …You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded [surrendered] to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist (Page 142).3
KNOWING THE DEVIL’S STRATEGIES
If Satan knows your weaknesses, and he surely does, it would wise of you to know his strategies. Satan’s approach is to catch you off guard when you least expect it. His seductive power is at its best when you are not. If you are more vulnerable in the morning, he intervenes when your mind is a million miles away from God. He starts your day with nasty—and hopes to keep you entertained enough to stay there all day grumbling and complaining, forcing you to say things you wish you did not say.
If you are more vulnerable, you are at your weakest moment, at night, he cuddles right beside you while in your comfortable zone causing you to become glossy-eyed and hypnotic. A place where Calgon never meets a drop of water; a place where you need to unwind your tangled stresses and replenish your frazzled mind, at this moment when you are completely exhausted, both, mentally and physically is where the dance begins. Satan’s waltz carries you straight to the arena of downtime.
Martin Luther, 16th Century German theologian, founder of Lutheranism, and credited for the Protestant Reformation Christian movement in Europe, was asked once of how he dealt with the devil. He replied:
Well, when he comes knocking upon the door of my heart and asks, ‘who lives here’? The dear Lord Jesus goes to the door and says, ‘Martin Luther used to live here but he has moved out. Now, I live here’.4
Satan lost chivalry centuries ago. He knows is the 21st Century it means nothing anymore, thanks to all of his hard work. Satan is rude and inconsiderate—he comes and goes as he pleases. Forget about knocking anymore; He does not have to huff and puff, threaten, and beg at your door, he does not have to ask, “Can I come in”? You carry across the threshold and aesthetically place him where the picture is visible with definition and clarity.
Many people of this world have enjoyed their favorite programs. Relaxed their fatigued minds, and lay their worn-out bodies in front of the tube. Television, first developed in the 1920’s, has changed our lives rewarding us with leisure within the comfort of our own home. Home Sweet Home, a place where our guard is let down, and our inhibitions tend to flounder from the rules that society places on us; we feel comfortable.
CAUGHT IN THE MEDIUM
In an age of electronic technology, asphyxiated by information over-load, yet we are gasping for more knowledge. Handicapped by digital innovations, temporarily, blind and lost by the electric fog, which passively diffuses through our minds creating mixed signals.
Throughout the history of the world, we have obtained so much information, yet we know very little. The rise of television, computer, and cellular phone technology has opened many doors allowing many thresholds to be crossed. The mass population is buying what the world is selling, and it is selling more than you know. Dr Francis A. Schaeffer writes in his book, Trilogy:
The mass of people have received the new way of thinking through mass media without analyzing it. It is worse for them because they have been smashed in the face by it, because the cinema, television, the books they read, the press, magazines have infiltrated by the new thought-forms in an unanalyzed way (Page 235).5
Sex sells and beautiful woman, who are desensitized and used by media making them, feel inadequate with themselves. Bryan Wilson Key wrote in his book, Media Sexploitation:
Women are carefully trained by media to view themselves as inadequate. They are taught that other women—through the purchases of clothes, cosmetics, food, vocations, avocation, education, etc.—are more desirable and feminine than themselves. Her need to constantly reverify her sexual adequacy through the purchase of merchandise becomes an overwhelming preoccupation for the merchandisers but potentially disastrous for the individual (page 19).6
DEFEND AGAINST TEMPTATION
Temptation, in a sense,may be viewed as a good thing. Temptation is the provocative billboard saying, “I hate Christians!” Satan’s task is to distort and prevent God Divine plan. Satan does not have to tempt nonbelievers, because they are doing his will with no labor. If you see those people who seem to have their life all bundled up in a perfect little bow, now, you know why—he is not after them—he is after you, especially, if you are new to Christ. Satan has been after you the moment you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You might ask, do we have to deal temptation, and will it last as long as I live?
The answer to both is yes. But trusting and relying on God and living your life toward His will, the adversary runs and hides and will flee from you.
Nonetheless, at times you may feel as though you cannot bear temptation that it is too much to handle. Be assured, God does not let us to be tempted more than we can handle, but understand this, God does not tempt us. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone”(James 4:13).
Satan is the tempter. Satan goes after your weaknesses. I am not speaking of a chocolate fudge sundae topped with caramel nor am I referring of your favorite foods. Temptation of food is not sinful, but it is bad for your health, especially, if it tastes good and is loaded with those dreadful words called calories. My point here is not food, unless you eat more than your body needs. If food is your weakness, Satan will taunt you with it, make you greedy, and raise you up as a glutton. Jesus taught that the food that you put in your body was not the problem:
There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man…For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride,[and] foolishness (Mark7:15, 21-22).
This I want to make clear, temptation only comes to you as a suggestion or thought, by either seeing, hearing or thinking. Satan does not have the capabilities to pick your arm up and smack someone across the face, because that someone violated or damaged your ego. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14).
Satan cannot force you into sin, you choose to sin. He only has the ability of implanting the thought. It is you who yield (surrender) to temptation that causes you to sin. Through Christ, we have the power to defeat sin. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin”(Hebrews 4:15).
The key to understand temptation is to be aware of your weaknesses. If you are not sure what they are, Satan will remind you. Satan hits you with little words, such as, “oh, it is ok, everybody is doing it,” or “it is not that bad, it will not hurt anyone”. You see, this is one of Satan’s strategies by downsizing temptation as though the thought or image in your mind it is not a sin. Temptation is a test or a trial. There are three facts of temptation that the Bible gives to us:
First, as John instructs us in 1 John 2:15, “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”, it is from the world that triggers temptation on us.
Second, temptation rooted by our desires of our human nature. “Each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lusts” (James 1:14).
Third, temptation is a struggle between our self and Satan. Peter warns us, “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The point is this, if you aware of your weak moments, it is imperative for you change those moments with strength, and God is your strength. God tells you and me “For my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Temptation, initiated by the world—breathes vanity. Though it may be initiated by some person, place, or thing, its root is from our desires—our nature. James says again, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (James 1:14-15). We are not exempt to temptation nor are we to sin.
It is true that Jesus Christ died on the cross for sin, but no one, says the Bible, is without sin. God’s word reveals to us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).
Temptation may be a constant struggle. It is not some arbitrarily event that just happens; It is well thought out, planned, and activated by the adversary, the devil.
AWAY WITH SATAN!
Satan is not omnipresent, he is not everywhere nor is he omniscient, all knowing otherwise he would have known that Jesus as the Son of God in the wilderness. Satan, the tempter, came to Jesus and asked, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones be turned into bread” (Matthew 4:3). This particular scene should inform you three things.
First, Satan did not know Jesus as the Son of God. This implies, most definitively, that Satan is not all knowing and is doubtful. Second, Satan acknowledges that there is a God. Third, Satan tempts Jesus to make Him use his power, since; Satan knows that God can do all things.
The Bible teaches us how to escape from Satan’s schemes and temptation. When asked by Satan to change stones into bread, Jesus quoted Scripture from the Old Testament, “It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Jesus taught us how to overcome the temptation of the flesh, the body. Jesus was in the wilderness fasting, without food, for forty days and forty nights. Naturally, Jesus was hungry and it would have been easy to give in to Satan’s temptation, but Jesus did not yield.
Satan tempts Jesus by taking Him up on the pinnacle of the Holy city. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you’, and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up lest you shall dash your foot against a stone’ ” (Matthew 4:6).
This Scripture informs us something of Satan—he knows the Scriptures of the Bible. Jesus again quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy as Matthew writes, “It is written again, ‘you shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7).
Once again, Satan takes Jesus high on the mountain and tempts Jesus to worship him and all the kingdoms would be His. I bet you can guess what Jesus used to overcome his third temptation—He quoted Scripture. Jesus said, “Away with you Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10). Satan was unsuccessful tempting Jesus and left Him.
Jesus knows God’s plan and does not deviate from the Father. John writes to us of what Jesus said about his mission, “I can of myself do nothing…I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father who sent me” (John 5:30). Jesus recorded in the gospel of Mark, “For even the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). I thank God everyday for sending Jesus as our redemptive savior. The Bible enlightens us how to arm ourselves against evil in 1 John 2:15-17:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
This passage paints the picture of Satan’s approach and his deceptive strategy: 1.) Lust of the flesh, 2.) lust of the eyes, and 3.) pride of life. First, Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread, putting emphasis on the body. Second, Satan demonstrates to Jesus what could be His by focusing on the lust of the eyes. Third, Satan attempted to push pride into Jesus’ heart by tempting Him to use His power and authority.
Although temptation may be a constant struggle, we can overcome tempting thoughts by focusing on God’s word. When we have our eyes on God, yes, Satan attempts to lure us away causing us to sin. To defeat the diabolical schemes of the devil, focus on godly things. If your thoughts are on God, always living, serving, and praising God’s will—Satan will flee from you.
ACCORDING TO GOD’S PURPOSE
The following is a story of Barbara and James (not their real names), who both had successful professional occupations; three beautiful children, a lovely home, and lived a happy, wonderful life. Their life was perfect.
However, James wanted more. He had his eyes on bigger things and more money. He was offered a position at another corporation, which was a substantial raise in pay as well as a climb up the ladder as an executive; a position that required James and his family to relocate to another state. The corporation seemed desperate to seal the job immediately within the following week, while James, filled with excitement, was beside himself, accepted without consulting his wife and kids.
After several nights of active persuasion and commenting on how great their life would be saying, “We will be able to live in a prestigious neighborhood with a restricted covenant, where the ‘ritzy’ people live”. He told his children about how popular they would be attending one the most elite private schools in the Northeast. After a little arm twisting, the family was convinced, moved to another state, and got acquainted with their new home.
Things were better for Barbara and the kids, more than they anticipated. Other than some of their arrogant neighbors, it seemed to be better than a dream coming true. Until, James pressured at work to take on more responsibility, which required more time of him away from his wife and kids. Failed promises to make romantic dinner engagements, missed soccer games, school plays, and piano recitals, James always made the excuse of doing it for the family.
Barbara begged and pleaded with him to take his old job back and move back to their real home. James did not want to have any part of that conversation. He only replied, “But honey, we would not have this huge house, drive the cars that we drive, or the kids would not be in a private school if I didn’t work the hours that I do, and was not committed to my job”.
Barbara, while holding back crocodile tears said to him, “We had a perfect home, and I loved my other car. We never see you anymore. You are doing this…you are planning for this. When are you planning for us? I want my James back. The kids want their daddy back”.
After a few long years, James, sometimes out of town for days at time, the family cohesion was losing it bond; their loving and meaningful conversations became less and less and eventually to a halt. Barbara was having a nervous breakdown. The kid’s performance in school and in their activities deteriorated. Barbara’s life was shear exhausting. Taking kids here…picking them up there...She had lost the man she married who loved money and his job more than he did of her and the kids, at least that is the way she felt.
Fighting back her repressed emotions, she sought after an outlet, an emotional affair with a soccer coach. Friendly at first, but it led to feelings shown by hand touching and half shoulder hugs. Through coercive but friendly gestures, the emotional partner wanted more. He wanted to be more intimate.
Barbara was reluctant initially, feeling like a giddy teenager again having a crush on the high school quarterback, and could not remember having a romantic evening, much less an intimate one.
James caught wind of his wife’s affair and was devastated. Depressed and angry, his job performance began to decline and as a result, the corporation, at the time, having financial strain, asked for his resignation, luckily with a severance package. Nonetheless, Barbara got her wish of living in their previous home, though the car did not make the trip back. The kids were confused and complained about leaving their school and their friends.
Although the damage done without healing from either party, James’ depression became worse, and Barbara was getting tired of all the pity parties, asked for a divorce. The separation was the death of James. He began to take a long list of medications for his growing depression, but he was also experiencing severe pain all over his body, which later diagnosed as Fibromyalgia. Because of his turmoil, pain, and suffering, James ended his life with a handful of pain medications.
ALL THINGS WORK FOR GOOD WITH GOD
God never promised to us that everything in our life is going to rosy nor did He say that we would not have times of trials or testing. God, however, will test us from time to time. God allows us to experience hardship and periods of sacrifice. The bible calls this a time of testing, and it may encompass us with times of affliction, suffering, and sacrifice. The story of Barbara and James saddens my heart, and I see people in all lifestyles living their life (the American dream) according to their plan.
A few things should have popped out at you concerning Barbara and James’ dilemma. Maybe their life was fine the way it was going. However, sins, such as, pride, envy, greed, lust, and anger—destroyed their family. You know what, sins do not care, that is what they do—seek and destroy. James’ tempting heart filled with envy and greed, and he sacrificed his family to obtain it.
Did he really need to take this new job? No, I do not think so. Pride drove him, not security reasons. Their family was perfectly fine before he bought into the idea, years, possibly, of getting richer. Not once was God telling James and Barbara about their plan nor did they consult Him. God was not in their life, consequently, devastation and adversity swarmed their hearts like angry hornets stinging anyone in their flight.
So are you blaming James because he had greed in his heart and did not care about his family? Maybe, you blame Barbara being adulterous and becoming an emotional influenza.
First, James did love his family; however, he loved money more. You have heard it, possibly, that money is not everything, but to some it is everything. God tells us, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”(1 Timothy 6:10). James’ covetousness and greed stole his love from his family by two things: the lust of the eyes (the beautiful home and luxurious automobiles) and pride.
Second, it was neither James nor Barbara’s fault. Satan does easy work like this over time to destroy and shatter anyone, especially, when hearts are vacant—he moves right in. Satan does not care about your wants or desires. He wants you to die as soon as possible before Christ comes into your heart.
Satan taunts his prey swinging a carrot in front of them, and just right before the cliff, he pulls it away, watching his work fall to death with delight; it pleases Satan when people are depressed and end their life, because he works hard and wants to see his rewards. Satan will destroy all who are involved; it trickles down like falling dominoes affecting the innocent.
If you adjust your life according to your plan, it will not work. If your plan is not working, it is because it is not your plan. God has a plan for me, and He has a plan for you. Let God work the plan He designed for you, and by doing so, you will understand what your plan is. This is understood by faith, trust, and obeying God.
Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). If, however, you have just a wee bit of doubt in God’s plan, get rid of it. Jesus told to his disciples, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith” (Matthew 8:26)? Put all your trust in God and not into your plan—it is God’s plan.