When Temptation Comes Our Way

Let’s face it, each of us experiences temptation, and each of us has succumbed to it from time to time. This comes with being sinful humans in a fallen world. However, in Christ we can experience victories over temptation, and we don’t have to be defined by our sins and failures. The following list contains several things to consider when temptation comes our way.

  1. Temptation is not sin. Sometimes persons will beat themselves up for feeling tempted to do something wrong and immoral, but temptation is not sin. Temptation is merely an attempt to seduce and get us to sin. The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). There is a great distinction between being tempted to sin and yielding to sin.
  2. Temptation promises more than it can deliver. Temptation always offers big promises to bring fulfillment, but it never follows through. This is not to say there is never an immediate pleasure, but it’s only temporary. When it comes to sin, one will always pay more than what the pleasure is worth. Ultimately, when it comes time to pay, the pain and regret will always surpass the amount of pleasure. Moses understood this. We read of him, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25)
  3. The breeding ground for sin is the entertaining of temptation. As mentioned, temptation is not sin. However, to dwell on and entertain the temptation can certainly lead to sin. One needs to squelch temptation early on. If not, the temptation will increase in strength and eventually lead a person into sin. James writes, “But each person is tempted when he is 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” (1:14-15). In other words, the temptation caters to a person’s desire. As the person continues to entertain the desire it only becomes stronger until he no longer resists. The result is lethal in various ways.
  4. The inner battle is real. The inner struggle with temptation and sin is real. Even the great apostle Paul writes, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). We are bombarded with various kinds of temptations to disregard God and His Word in order to do our own thing and to fulfill our desires in illegitimate ways. Elsewhere, Paul writes, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (Gal. 5:17). The purpose of temptation, as seen in Genesis 3:1-5, is to get us to doubt God’s Word and His goodness, and to seek to find fulfillment apart from Him.
  5. Resist, flee, and submit to God. The Bible refers to Satan as the tempter. Satan plants seeds of temptation in our minds, but he also uses ungodly people to tempt. I’m either case, we are to resist temptation, in some cases we are to flee from it. In all of this, these are to be done in yielding ourselves to God. James writes, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you’” (4:7-8). Paul tells the Corinthians, “Flee from sexual immorality,” and “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 6:18; 10:14). To Timothy, the apostle writes, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).
  6. Take sin and temptation seriously. Sin is applauded, condoned, and trivialized by the world and in some churches. However, sin’s devastating effects are far reaching, and its impaling goes deep. Jesus teaches our dealing with our temptations and sins must be severe. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matt. 5:29-30). Jesus also gives strong warning to those who lead others to sin: “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (Matt. 18:6-7). In Genesis, God warned Cain, “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (4:7).
  7. If you sin—confess and repent. The apostle John is honest about the reality of sin in our lives. He writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). He goes on to urge us to not sin, but notes that the true follower of Christ has hope through Him. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins” (2:1-2). Jesus bore the wrath of the Holy Father against our sin on the cross, satisfying His holy and just righteousness. This does not give license to sin, but should help us understand the severity of sin.
  8. Sin has consequences. “I’ll sin now and just confess later.” “There is security for the believer.” How many Christians have said things like these to talk themselves into sinning? These statements are true, but even for the forgiven saint sin has unpleasant and painful consequences. King David, a “man after God’s own heart” is a prime example. By all rights, and by Old Testament law, David should have been killed for his adultery and murder. Yet, he was honest and repentant of his sins, and the Lord forgave him. Still, the Lord allowed David’s reputation to be tarnished and his once peaceful kingdom to be filled with unrest and revolt—even by his own son. David was forgiven, but there was a limp and deep pain in his heart he bore for the rest of his life. It isn’t for no reason Paul warns us, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Jesus gives dire warnings to those who refuse to turn from sin and come to Him for salvation. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3). Revelation tells the fate of all those who choose to love unrighteousness and ungodliness, and who refuse to repent of sin and turn to Jesus in faith. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (21:8). Jesus describes the second death as a place of darkness, fire, and of weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:41). To reject Christ is to reject the very Source of life, light, joy, peace, holiness, justice, equity, and love. Eternal separation from Him is the tragic consequence of rejecting and renouncing Christ.

Hopefully the church in America will recapture the understanding of the seriousness of sin, and that each of us will see more clearly all that is at stake when temptation comes our way. An ounce of pleasure isn’t worth the price of a hundred pounds of pain and regret—or worse.

6 Important Actions to Take When You Blow It

Let’s face it, we all blow it at times. We hardheadedly do our own thing instead of following instructions, we speak unkind words in anger, we make a foolish, costly decision, we break a trust, etc. As the saying goes, “to err is human.” Breaking and destroying things is easy; however, fixing and rebuilding them, well, that’s a whole other matter. The following are helpful steps to remember—and to put into practice—if you find yourself in a situation where you have blown it.

  1. Own Up to Your Mistakes. This sounds easy, but it is far more difficult than one realizes. Our first instinct is to blame others and make excuses. Too often people blame their parents, schools, environment, the system, the incompetence of others, etc. Blame shifting is easier than swallowing one’s pride and owning up to one’s own folly, poor decisions, and incompetence. Pointing fingers is what children do. Unfortunately, too often this childish tendency is carried into adulthood. “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Pro. 28:13).
  2. Confess Any Sin(s) and Where Others Are Affected By Your Poor Decisions. This part requires honest, albeit sometimes painful, reflection. There are so many different ways one can blow it at school, at work, and in the home. There are so many ways one can add to a mess, making a bad situation worse. The inconvenience and added work are bad enough. But the wounds we inflict upon others by our words and actions can go very deep. Whether one wants to admit it, regardless of being unintentional, such folly, selfishness, and inflictions are sin. One must be honest before God and acknowledge the mess that has been made, the burdens placed upon others, and for all the wounds one has caused and inflicted. Such things are not trivial. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
  3. Be Willing to Say, “I’m Sorry”—and Mean It. Two small words, yet for many, saying them is the equivalent of trying to push a freight train. For others, the words are easily enough spoken but any significance evaporates like a vapor. Yet, if spoken appropriately and honestly, apart from being diluted by any excuses or blame shifting, these words can be powerful. These words can begin the process of healing and repairing, as well as opening the doors for needed communication. Mind you, there is nothing magical about these words. Sometimes the damage is so great and the words are so deep that these words will roll off like marbles on a beach ball. Even so, the ones affected and wounded by ones folly and poor choices deserve to hear the words spoken with sincerity. Furthermore, one is in no position to expect or demand forgiveness. This is to be the choice of those who’ve been affected. Regardless if they choose to forgive or not, they still deserve to be told, “I’m sorry,” spoken with sincerity.
  4. Repair Where You Can. We live in a time when self-centeredness is at an all time high. Many can break people’s hearts like glass, rob of possessions, destroy reputations, grind dignity into hamburger, and impale with words, then expect forgiveness to come easily and smoothly. Even in churches the principles of restitution and reconciliation are often times pooh-poohed. However, if one has offended and wounded others, he is to be active in cleaning up the mess and making restitution where he can. Exodus 22:1 reads, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” Some will argue, “That’s Old Testament! We’re under grace.” What? Does Jesus enable us to shrug our responsibilities? No, He tells us,  “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). There are times the messes cannot be cleaned up, the total cost cannot be paid, or another’s forgiveness will be received. However, one is to make any repairs he is able.
  5. Learn from the Experience. This sounds obvious but it is often neglected—to the point of being sickening. This is precisely where blame shifting hinders people from growing and maturing. Whenever a person blows it, they should step back and observe what they did wrong and learn from it. Instead, we have kids partying and goofing off, then telling their parents the teachers are out to fail them. Teens and adults continually committing crimes, then saying the cops are simply out to get them unjustly. Persons verbally tear down and nag, flirt with others, refuse to talk, withhold sex, then blame their spouse for all the problems in a marriage. A friend betrays a friend, then blames him for the broken friendship. As for you, don’t let these describe you. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t flunk out of the School of Hard Knocks. “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool” (Pro. 17:10).
  6. Move On. This final step must not be separated from the former steps; however, sometimes the blow ups are beyond repair. For example, King David and his adulterous affair and having Uriah killed. David sinned greatly and owned up to his guilt. Still, there was no taking back the affair, and there was no bringing Uriah back from the grave. This is the reality for some of one’s foolishness. However, in Christ he can be forgiven and doesn’t have to be defined or kept down by his folly. He can learn from his mistakes and still have a fruitful life—if he yields himself unto Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phi. 3:13-14).

Friend, if you have blown in, then learn and grow from the experience. Don’t make excuses or blame others. More often than not, people will forgive you, and even gain a measure of respect for you, when you man up and own up to your mistakes. Furthermore, you can move on and still live an amazing life founded upon humility and grace.

America’s Perilous Situation and How We Got Here

The political climate has become extremely divided, hostile, and in some cases violent. The hypocrisy in the accusations thrown around is unbearable. “He is such a liar!” As opposed to whom? “He is so corrupt!” As if the other candidate is not? “He is so evil!” Ah, but it is here we need to ask ourselves, how did we get here?

As Americans, we should be disgusted with both political parties. Both parties have lied to us, both parties have accepted money from lobbyists, both parties have had scandals, and both parties have individuals walking free, yet guilty of crimes the average person would be imprisoned for. We can complain all we want to, but do we, the American people, not bear much of the blame?

I hear people on both sides accusing the other of being liars, all the while ignoring the lies spoken by the candidates they support. I hear people accuse candidates and officials of being “Hitler” or “Nazis,” all the while fully endorsing abortion on demand. I was sickened a few years ago when one particular candidate’s platform was nothing less than a celebration of death. Yet, as a society we want to label candidates as “evil” when our own hearts are void of compassion for the most helpless and innocent?

Oh, let me not ignore the great hypocrisy of Hollywood, those who like to “instruct” us in morality and decency, although many of whom practice neither. Ricky Gervais is correct when he stated that those at the Oscar Awards ceremony are in no position to lecture on such things.

Again, the question must be asked, how did we get here? Consider the following passage:

Thus says the Lord: “What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’ And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit….Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. ~ Jeremiah 2:5-8, 19 (ESV)

We, as a society, always want to point fingers and shift the blame, but do we not bear much of the blame? Consider the last election, for example. How did our main choices come down to Hillary and Trump? We can state our negative opinions of either of these individuals; however, society rejected candidates who have more integrity than either of these individuals. Why? What hypocrisy we must own whenever we accuse others as being “evil,” “immoral,” and “liars” when we reject those who are righteous and persons of integrity. What hypocrisy when we condemn persons as being “immoral,” yet idolize actors and musicians who glorify the raunchiest acts of immorality. What hypocrisy when we accuse others of being “evil” when our own lives are godless and self-indulgent.

Let us not think that the church is guiltless. Consider another passage:

The conspiracy of her prophets in her midst is like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in her midst. Her priests have done violence to my law and have profaned my holy things. They have made no distinction between the holy and the common, neither have they taught the difference between the unclean and the clean, and they have disregarded my Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord has not spoken. ~ Ezekiel 22:25-28

Many who profess the name of Jesus Christ, too, are guilty of condoning, applauding, and promoting behaviors and practices that God condemns. Furthermore, pride, greed, and various forms of immorality are known to be condoned and/or “whitewashed” among both Catholics and Evangelicals. There are many churches who make no distinction between what is holy and what is profane, and instead of seeking to be true to the Scriptures, many want to simply “agree to disagree,” lest they appear as “judgmental” or “divisive.”

I believe America is in dire straights. Although many will mock, I believe God has already begun judging America (read Romans 1). How did we get into the situation we presently find ourselves in? We have turned from God (and I mean, specifically, the one true God of the Bible) and have rejected His Son Jesus Christ whom He sent to redeem us. More and more society vehemently denounces and opposes God in nearly every sector. Increasingly our society condones what God condemns and scorns what God commends. Even in many churches preachers are casting doubt on the Scriptures and adapting to the world’s philosophies and code of “ethics” instead of what God reveals. Thus, we as a society are guilty of great evil.

I hear people crying, “Trump is ruining our country” or “Biden will destroy America!” But let me be clear, neither man is America’s savior, nor is either man to blame for her path to destruction. Only God can heal our nation, and this can only happen if we, as a nation, repent of our wickedness. Otherwise, not the best of our cunning and strategizing will prevent God’s judgement.

Will God choose to grant further mercies for America? I do not know. However, Nehemiah’s prayer is quite instructive for us, as he humbled himself, confessing the sins of his nation, as well as his own sins and those of his father’s house:

O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded. ~ Nehemiah 1:5-7

We can choose to try to erase history rather than learn from it. We can choose to mock God’s judgment, but it has already begun. Woe to us if we choose to “take our chances” and refuse to repent. We are already walking a thin line, and it is getting ever closer to snapping. What do we have to lose? Far more than we realize.