The young man told me that he wanted to be sober, that he really loved his family, that he hated the person he became when he was drunk. And yet, alcohol controls him. He craves it, plans his life around getting a drink, and is gradually being destroyed by his continuing addiction. He knows that life could be different but his body’s needs overwhelms his best intentions and he believes the lie that ‘just one more drink’ is all he needs.
This is the way all temptations work. Despite knowing what is ‘right,’ we experience a strong desire to do something else. We know that we should be making a change, but we are tricked by the lie that to be happy we need do give ourselves permission ‘just one more time.’ Jim (not his real name) is a great guy who is deceived, with places of brokenness that go much deeper than just his alcoholism. He cannot grasp the amazing grace of God nor is he able to take hold of the truth that God has made him a person of value and worth. The pain of what he thinks is ‘reality’ overwhelms him and he gets drunk.
He is not unique in his struggle! We all wrestle with temptation. Paul reminds us that “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face.” It may be alcohol or perfectionism. It may be pride or materialism. It may be pornography or gossip. It may be obsessions with appearance or laziness. The fact is that as long as we live in this world which is broken by sin, temptation is a fact of life! But, we are NOT victims destined to fall. In Christ, we find a new truth that gives us hope. “All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, The Message)
Temptation grows from a seed of desire that takes roots wherever there is an ache, an unmet need, a longing, or a lie. Remember how Satan approached Jesus in the story of His temptation? Jesus was alone, fasting, seeking God. Evil met Him first at the point of hunger! “Hungry, Jesus?” Satan asks. “Then, misuse your power and make these stones into bread!” When we leave a basic physical need unmet, we create a place for temptation to enter our lives. As simple as it seems, Christian a first line defense is to stay whole. Get your rest. Properly feed your body. Find friends, forgive, strengthen family ties.
After failing to exploit Jesus’ hunger, Satan tried to introduce a lie to Him about His mission, offering a shortcut to success. “I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world if you will fall down and worship me!” he lied. His tactic has not changed. Temptation often comes to us at our place of strong desire to do good! Cutting corners, bending the rules, and replacing principle with expedience corrupts the highest calling. With the loss of integrity, the whole endeavor collapses.
Are you feeling the tension of wanting one thing and willing another? Is the whisper of temptation telling you that you could be happy or fulfilled if only you could do what you want to do? Remember you’re not especially evil in that place. You’re not unique. You’re not alone. Christ Jesus is your hope, your advocate. He has defeated sin once for us all. Christian, commit yourself to Truth and Light! Much of the glitter of temptation is lost when we take it out of the dark of our imagination and hold it up to the Light. Truth is sometimes ugly, but it will bring us freedom. What seems so good in our mind is not nearly so wonderful when we talk about it and the consequences that will follow if we go ahead and follow our impulse.
Don’t wrestle with temptation alone! Bring your struggle to Jesus. All the pain, all the shame, all the guilt – He will forgive, cleanse, and restore. The Word reminds us that He has experienced temptation, too. “Since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15, NLT) Let someone who is filled with the Spirit of God, who is wise and gentle, partner with you in prayer. Amazing power is released into our lives for good when we agree with another about the way and will of God and together invite the Spirit to bring about change. Isolation is spiritually deadly. We are called into Christ’s church, to walk with others who were once sinners, who are seeking wholeness. Together, we find victory over the world, the sinful nature, and the Devil.
Here’s a word from the Word to fill your mind today. Revel in the wonderful promise found here. “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin. So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 7:24-25; 8:1, NLT)
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God- Luther, Martin
A mighty Fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
And though this world,
With devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear,
For God hath willed,
His will to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him.
His rage we can endure,
For, lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours,
Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever.
Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, (The Head of Heaven’s Armies) His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
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