Introduction ~ While all temptation is not preventable there are positive steps you can take in advance to reduce the volume and severity of the temptations you will face.
Recognize (be a realist) ~ Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden all mankind have a sin-nature and consequently sin! “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. … If we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and His Word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10). It is our sin nature—inherited from Adam—which causes us to sin. “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Since temptation will come to you it is best to be prepared and ready for it. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Run (don’t look back) ~ We should try to avoid temptations. Jesus illustrated this principle this way, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30). It is also critical to realize victory over temptation is possible: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). When you anticipate (or see) temptation ahead turn around and run from it!
Resist (use your spiritual armor) ~ You cannot avoid all temptation. Therefore “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:9-10). Take up your spiritual armor (listed in Ephesians 6) especially the Word of God. “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. … And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:13, 17). “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7-8).
Repent (admit failures to God) ~ Keep short accounts with God—confess quickly when you sin. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Short accounts are necessary to stop the snow-balling effect of sin. “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).
Redirect (think on positive things) ~ The most effective way to change negative thinking is to displace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Take your focus off yourself, your desires, your circumstances, and instead focus on God and the many blessings He has given you.
Race (sieze the moment) ~ Don’t wallow in the past or worry about the future—live in the moment. May we follow the example of the Apostle Paul: “I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you” (Philippians 3:13-15).
Conclusion ~ Someone has said, “While you can’t keep a bird from landing on your head, you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair.” This is the differentiation between temptation and sin.
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