As a young man I was not raised in a Christian home. I never attended church. I never opened a bible. I didn’t believe in the existence of God–I was an atheist. I wallowed in drunkenness, womanizing, illegal drugs, lawbreaking, rebellion to parents, arrests, nights in jail, deception, theft, and pride. These actions were acceptable to me because everyone else was doing them. It was not rebellion, it was life. Sadly, I ignored the pain my behavior caused to those around me and didn’t know I was grieving the very heart of jesus, let alone my own heart. Accepting Jesus as my God and Savior and reading God’s word made me realize these behaviors were rebellious, immoral, and hurtful to my family, myself and most importantly my Creator, Savior and Lord, Jesus.
If I write this article not confessing the very temptations I battle and overcome through Jesus each day this would be a page of empty words. I have a serious addiction to nicotine via chewing tobacco. It’s been an ongoing battle since the age of 15 with many victories and countless failures (I am currently 28). I am able to quit for months at a time, however, when stressful times come or I am alone, bored, or my mind starts to drift I could find myself behind the wheel of my car contending the urge to not drive to the nearby gas station to purchase tobacco. Jesus teaches me that if I conceal my addiction I would not do well, but if I confessed and quit then I would obtain mercy and forgiveness from both God and people. I came clean with my lies. I therefore confessed to Jesus, Jamie (my wife) and friends that I was a liar. Even more, I was grieving the heart of God by lying about, and hiding my sin. The look on Jamie’s face when I confessed after having told her I had previously quit was enough to never put another shred of tobacco in my mouth. In our eight year relationship Jesus has frequently used people close to me to convict my heart. This time he used my wife’s face to get me to stop.
[bctt tweet=”Jesus modeled strategies to resist and overcome temptations.”]
My struggles don’t end with nicotine. An initial reaction to a beautiful woman was to look with lust and not to mention I vividly recall “friends” incessantly pleading with me to join in their drunken debauchery having previously struggled with alcohol. I willfully chose to avoid parties and instead shared how Jesus had changed my heart having completely removed the urge to drink. I battled sexual impurity with my wife before marriage. Jamie and myself desired to remain pure before entering into marriage to keep the sacredness of marriage and most importantly to honor God. To help overcome these issues I enlisted the help of an accountability partner whom I can call/text at all hours in order to receive prayer or a word of encouragement. And I was under the impression that once my life was given to Jesus that it is smooth sailing! Sadly though, my heart is corrupt. It is continually conceiving new opportunities to grieve God’s heart by lying, being drunk, and having lustful thoughts about women other than my wife, to name a few. (see Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:14-15)
The good news is that aside from accountability from others, Jesus modeled strategies to resist and overcome temptations. Did you know Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil?
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”
“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11 NLT)
To persevere in life we must understand what the Bible teaches, be in constant prayer, and have a relationship with Jesus. Jesus’ reply to each of the three temptations is: “The Scriptures say.” Each time quoting from the book of Deuteronomy. If Jesus persevered utilizing the scriptures, walking with his Father daily, and accepting his trials with joy how much more should we because Jesus himself walks with us through it all! As our example of living a perfect life in obedience to God the Father, Jesus demonstrates all things – including overcoming and resisting temptations.
To persevere in life we must understand what the Bible teaches, be in constant prayer, and have a relationship with Jesus.
When tempted, Jesus quoted the Scriptures and the devil fled. This isn’t an isolated incident. The same scripture Jesus used to resist Satan we use–and Satan must flee. I vividly recall nights where I began to sweat because I wanted a drink so badly or chew. To this day, I still drive past gas stations with difficulty. I often call Jamie and ask her to pray with me. I regularly pray: Father, please remove my anxieties (1 Peter 5:7). Father, please give me the Holy Spirit, that I not give in to my evil desires. (Luke 11:13) I daily use scripture as prayers to resist temptations: Father, help me to be strong and courageous. May I not be frightened, nor be dismayed, for I know You, Jesus, are with me wherever I go. (Joshua 1:9) Father, command Your angels concerning me to guard me in all my ways. Have them lift me up, so I not stumble. (Psalm 91:9-12) Teach me your way, Jesus, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to Yours. (Psalm 86:11) Psalm 121 is a great prayer and reminder of who our help is. I recommend committing the Lord’s prayer to memory: “Father lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil” (Matthew 6:9-13). All scripture can be utilized as powerful and effective prayer. To humble ourselves before God is to ask Jesus for help–you cannot overcome temptations by yourself. Let us not be proud; for God opposes the proud but he gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves before God, ask for help. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
It’s important to remember that you and I are never “being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to disobedience to God, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (physical and spiritual)” (James 1:13-15). The temptations we face don’t become rebellion until we give in to them and death doesn’t occur until we are so entrenched in our lifestyle of rebellion against God that it’s too late to turn back from our error. Jesus will always accept us, we have forgiveness for every act committed against him even in our final breathe of life in this world we can cry out for him in belief, but there can come a point when we just don’t want to have anything to do with him and our hearts are hardened against the idea of a Savior. You see, we sometimes understand our rebellion, however, we have no real desire to change. God wants to change our hearts toward him and if we don’t allow him too then we have already made our decision and we live in our rejection of him. The repeated choice to chew over obedience to the Lord made me a liar because I told those closest to me I had quit and I hadn’t. I made a promise to Jesus and my wife that I would no longer use chew after he had asked me not too. The Bible teaches that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) therefore we were not created to lie. When God says “Do not lie” (Leviticus 19:11) he is not condemning us, he is informing us that when we do lie we are not reflecting his character. This is for our own benefit. Jesus is aware of the very real consequences that accompany lying: distrust, disobedience, deception, death, and a consistent sinking deeper and deeper into our lie until we are so chained down by our web of lies that we are no longer walking anywhere near the truth, in fact, our lies have become our truth. To lie is contrary to God’s character who relentlessly desires a deep relationship with him, that’s why he created us to know us and love us as a Father loves his children, unconditionally. I am now a broken image of God. I cannot reflect God’s perfect image anymore due to the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, who in themselves were tempted with a lie (funny enough I am talking about lying and it’s consequences) from Satan that they could be like God–knowing good and evil. The irony in this is that they were already “like” God, being created in his perfect image. Unfortunately, because of Adam and Eve’s belief in Satan’s lie we too must live with the consequence of their actions. A selfish desire to be our own God, that is lord’s of our own lives. (see Genesis 3:1-7) The consequences of rebellion against God impacts everyone around you. The lies we can choose to perpetuate are only one example. Anything you or I do that is contrary to the character of God (in whose image we are created) is considered an act of rebellion.
When tempted, Jesus quoted the Scriptures and the devil fled. This isn’t an isolated incident. The same scripture Jesus used to resist Satan we use–and Satan must flee.
The way we live should reflect Jesus. The moment you establish a relationship with Jesus you receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit lives in you and guides you into all truth. (John 16:13) What once seemed normal behavior (lying, sexual immorality, stealing, etc) now is abnormal and is now one of many temptations you will face and overcome with Christ. Once suppressing Jesus–you now embrace him. “If you abide in Jesus’ word, you are truly his disciple, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”(John 8:31-32). To abide in Jesus’ word is to allow it to transform your way of thinking and your life should reflect this transformation. If you claim to know Jesus yet continue to live opposed to God you will remain rebellious. Jesus is the only one who can shed light on your temptations so that you are able to even identify them and he never allows you more than you can handle and he always provides a way out. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Our attempting to overcome temptations without Jesus will only create more opportunity for failure. Of course when your way of thinking and life change dramatically, your friends are surprised when you no longer live as you once did. So they won’t understand your new way of life. Explain to them, not casting them aside, your relationship with Jesus. Consider what is right, and stop choosing the old way of life over Jesus. Jesus died to give us freedom from our old way of life and thinking. Live as people who are free, not using the freedom Jesus gave us in his crucifixion and resurrection as an excuse to continue in rebellion, but live life walking with God accepting the gift of grace.
We are not alone in the temptations we face, Jesus faces them with us. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4 NIV). The abuse we incur comes because we no longer walk in the dark but have the light of Jesus. People are astonished by the strength we have (in Jesus) over these temptations which once seized us. The victories over temptation serve as witness to others of Jesus’ heart changing power because they see your changed life and commitment to him as Lord. Even so, we all will continue to struggle. My daily struggles to resist alcohol, tobacco, women and illegal substances keep me humble and continually relying on Jesus and the prayers and encouragement of friends. Of course I plead with the Lord that they should leave me. But he continually says to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore we can boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon us. For the sake of Christ, then, we are content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and tragedies. For when we are weak, then we are strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 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. Let us then with confidence draw near to God, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). God tests our faith to strengthen it and to see if it’s genuine. Our capacity to endure trials measures our true commitment to God. Are you sincerely a disciple of Jesus? Are you authentically walking with him daily? Are you no longer conforming to the pattern of this world but rather, being transformed by the renewing of your mind by him? As disciples we will experience trials and temptations so that we may overcome and give glory to Jesus and in the future also be able to comfort those afflicted with the same hardships. I encourage you to hear me out if you haven’t changed your mind about who Jesus is. Jesus is the way you and I are made right before God. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved and receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 10:9) who helps to steer you from all temptations. The time has come to cleanse hearts, purify minds, confess rebellion and completely submit to the Lordship of Jesus in our hearts. Please understand that walking with Jesus is a life-long process and things won’t change overnight. However, “I am certain that God, who begins the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns” (Philippians 1:6). We are daily becoming more like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, prayer and study of the Bible. You are a “work in progress” and Jesus is the craftsman. In collaboration with Jesus we overcome trials, temptations, and hardships. We don’t walk alone in this life through hardships, Jesus walks with us. He is our strength to overcome.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Go to Jesus. Get away with him and you’ll recover your life. He’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Jesus and work with him—watch how he does it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. Jesus won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with him and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. Jesus is a Savior who can sympathize with our weaknesses” (Matthew 11:28-30 MSG).
Jesus knew hardship–and endured it. He willingly went to the cross and died for us. He was betrayed, falsely accused, called a bastard child, spit on, mocked, scorned, flogged, beaten, denied, and abandoned by his closest friends. Jesus knows what temptations you face. Let him bear the burden. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our daily temptations won’t cease but what we take away from this is that we aren’t alone in facing them; trust Jesus. I’m encouraged through God’s word knowing that Jesus is the way to peace. So let’s endure another day, for even while the days are evil, we face them with the one who overcame evil for us. His name is Jesus.