Temptation . . . we face it many times every single day and give into it more times then we can count. It can be disguised as giving in to anger over a particular situation or person, listening to and spreading gossip, eating food beyond what we need that does more harm then good, indulging in sexual immorality whether in the mind, on the internet or other media, or in actual action such as fornication, if you are single, or adultery if you are married, or greed–materialism, love of money, wanting “more, more, more.”
The list of temptations is endless, but for Christians there is a way out. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (I Cor. 10:13-14). Unfortunately, we have so acclimated to our culture that we don’t really want a way out of many of our temptations until it is too late and it has destroyed our lives.
Temptation is linked to idolatry. And idolatry is anything or anyone that takes the place of Jesus Christ and His influence in every area of your life. Yes, every area. If you truly seek to follow after Jesus Christ with your whole heart you don’t get to keep any secret areas in your life just for your own indulgences. None. And if you think you can, you are only fooling yourself.
I’m not pointing fingers. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve had to learn an incredibly hard lesson late in life that God doesn’t fool around if you really belong to Him. In previous posts (Zero Tolerance, Second Chances) I’ve confessed the idolatry that had a stranglehold on my life for fourteen years and affected my relationship with Jesus Christ. And, once I repented of the idolatry and got it out of my life, He restored my relationship with Him.
Understand this . . . once you have allowed something or someone to control your life outside of Jesus Christ, that something or someone starts eating away at other areas of your life. Whether it’s another person who takes His place, or your profession, or your desire for materialism and money (wealth), or a quest for power and recognition, or your anger or love of gossip, or pride, or fear . . . and the list goes on . . . ultimately, if you do not heed His voice when He brings about circumstances in your life that tell you to “pay attention,” repent, and turn from it and turn back to Him, it will eventually destroy you (see my previous post, “Choices”).
In my case, I reached a point where I was forced to make a decision and as excruciating as it was for me to end a very close friendship, I knew I had to make a clean break and repent or face some very serious consequences. So I ended the friendship, humbled myself before God, and repented. And, amazingly and almost immediately, the deep emotional attachment I had to this person that I allowed to rule my life was broken off of me and I felt absolutely free. It was also the beginning point of getting other detrimental “stuff” out of my life over the course of the past almost three years since I ended the friendship–things like anger that had built up over my lifetime; fear of people who tried to control me; and a poor self-image (because I was finally able to get beyond my “self”). And those things were and are continually being replaced with a deep love for God and His ways, and a love for others that goes beyond how they treat me (though I must admit I’m still working on this but, day-by-day, there is improvement and a “letting go” of attitudes that hinder my relationship with God and others).
Because of the culture that we live in here in America it is so easy to give in to temptation. In fact, I venture to say that we don’t even recognize some of the things we do as giving in to “temptation” because we’ve done it so many times in the past. As an example (and I’m guilty of this one), take overeating–the Bible calls it gluttony and sin. In our land of plenty we have fast food restaurants on every corner all across America that are open 24/7 as well as grocery and “convenience” stores. How often do any of us who overeat even give thought to the fact that what we are doing is sin? We like to call it names like “emotional eating” which fits in with the mindset of the culture all around us. And, that sounds better than sin, right?
As the Newsboys sang in their song “Stay Strong,” we live in a culture where sin has become cliché. We fall for temptation and excuse it off, and then we become so entrenched in it that we no longer see it as sin. And we do suffer the consequences. America has one of the highest obesity rates in the world—maybe even the highest. Not only are we ruining our health but we empty our wallets spending billions on the latest fad diets, only to fall off the wagon and repeat that vicious cycle all over again. Or look at the divorce rate even within the Church which is now at levels comparable to the culture at large. Adultery takes a devastating toll all across our land. Or what about the multi-billion dollar porn industry that destroys relationships, treats people as objects, and also empties our wallets? And look at what greed has done to people at all socioeconomic levels. Wall Street is just a microcosm of the greed found in the culture at large.
We pay a very heavy price for sin. When we yield to temptation, it always leads down a path of destruction. Gratification may be immediate, but the long-term effects and consequences are devastating. Unfortunately, we have become a people who are extremely short-sighted and are more concerned with immediate gratification then doing the right thing by resisting temptation in the first place. We need to get back to our first love, Jesus Christ, and keep our eyes on Him and not on our “lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life” (I John 2:16).
We do have an option and one we don’t take very often. It’s in the two verses quoted at the beginning of this post: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry” (I Cor. 10:13-14).
It starts with us. We are in need of being changed. God has said that He will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear and that He will provide a way out so that we can stand up under the temptation. Therefore, we are without excuse. So, will we continue to give in to temptation?
The good news is that Jesus Christ can show us the way out. It starts with repentance and a willingness to let Him change us.
What will you choose to do today?
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
“See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
YouTube Video: “Change Me” written and sung by Shannon Wexelberg (CD: “Faithful God” 2007):
Photo credit here