Escaping Temptation: Part One
This article originally appeared in the June 18th edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle
© 06.16.09 By D. Eric Williams
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Session four in the Fireproof curriculum is about dealing with the temptation and sin that endangers your marriage. The principle presented by the key Scripture is familiar to most Christians: God promises a way of escape whenever we are tempted. If this is true (and the Scripture cannot lie), why does it often seem there is no escape from temptation? Why is it when we find ourselves confronted by temptation we quickly surrender? The first step in understanding how to escape temptation is to understand what it is that hobbles us.
When we say a man or woman is born again we are saying they have been made a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15). Thus, we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6 ESV). The old nature is gone. There is no longer an "old man" present who is at enmity with God. Christians are not people with dual natures. If we belong to Christ Jesus, we have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).
The problem is, the old man has left behind an impression. You might say the former tenant has left behind a bunch of trash and unless we clear out those boxes of garbage we will find they trip us up. We will find they attract our attention and we end up rummaging through the rubbish rather than meditating upon the ways of God.
The Bible tells us each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14). This is not to say all desire is bad; it is misdirected desire that can lead to sin. And the primary way desire is misdirected is through the influence of the garbage we allow to remain in our life. Too many Christians are more interested in going where their misdirected desire leads than in walking the path of righteousness. Too many Christians rather reinforce the impression of the old man (garbage in, garbage out), than be transformed by the renewing of their mind.
The other obstacle to escaping temptation is the attempt to do so in our own strength. Even when a Christian is convicted of his lack of love for the Lord and decides to buckle down and really work at overcoming temptation he finds himself quickly falling back into the same patterns of ungodliness. Within a few days the arguing, the gossip, the bitterness, the pride, the lust - or whatever besetting sin he or she may deal with - those old habits reemerge. He finds he cannot turn away from temptation even though he knows he should. This is so because he attempts to live a Christ-like life by his own ability.
It may seem simplistic to reduce the obstacles to a godly life to these two issues. Yet, the lack of desire for godliness and the lack of reliance on God's strength are the reasons we do not escape temptation. In Christ we have the ability to overcome temptation and sin and there is always a pathway to exercise that power made available to us. Yet, we often prefer to pick through the refuse heap rather than cultivate the new creation. Next week we will discuss how to overcome these obstacles.