Biblical Advice on How to Overcome TemptationWe learn from Scripture that temptation begins in the mind:
You can overcome temptation
The battle is for our mind. The victory is first attained in our mind. If we wait until we face the temptation to try to gain the victory over it, only the very strong-willed person might occasionally see a victory; but even that victory is a failure since it is really a victory in the flesh and not in the spirit. Such victories result in dead works. The only true victories are gained in the spirit, attained first in our minds and then revealed in our lives when the temptation comes.
James recognized the role of the mind plays in temptation when he wrote:
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when the lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." James 1:4-15.
That temptation prompts a response in our sinful nature. We have a choice. We can either be drawn away toward it and can see that in our mind, which will result in the sinful act; all we can immediately reject the thoughts that temptation stirred up and turn our mind to God's Word thanking him for victory over that temptation. The battle always begins in our mind and will be either won or lost there.
How does this actually work? Let's use the example of an alcoholic named Jim. Jim has been enlightened by God's Word that drinking is wrong and that the alcoholism is destroying his body. The Spirit has put the desire in Jim to stop drinking. So Jim tries very hard not to drink. However, when problems come his way and stress builds up, the temptation becomes very strong within Jim to go to the bottle. He also sees the ads for alcohol everywhere and thinks about the local bar he often frequented after work. Jim struggles with alcohol time and again and is defeated time and again. This is all very discouraging for him. He pleads with God for victory, but such victory seems out of reach. His promises to do better are constantly broken, and his will to stop drinking seems powerless. The fact is, Jim's will is powerless. Also, Jim's promises can't help but be broken. Why? Jim has not discovered where the battle is actually won, in his mind. Then one day Jim reads the Scripture:
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what the nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5 NIV
Jean realizes he has been focusing his mind on the wrong things. He has been focusing on the temptation to drink and wrestling with the sinful desire to use alcohol as an escape to help him handle the stresses of life. Now Jim realizes that he must begin focusing on the Spirit's desire for him. Immediately Jim prays:
"Father, forgive me for my sin of alcoholism. Thank you for forgiving me. Fill me with your Spirit and manifest the fruits of the Spirit in my life. Especially manifest the fruits of self-control over alcohol. Thank you for giving me the victory over alcoholism."
Now Jim does more than just pray. He remembers the Scripture that says he must "focus his mind on the Spirit's desire for him." So Jim avoids all advertisements for alcohol. He fills his mind with God's promises of victory and focuses on them as soon as the thought of alcohol tries to enter his mind. When problems and stresses come Jim's way, he immediately concentrates on God's promises to see him through the problems of life. He also claims God's promise to manifest the fruits of self-control in his life and thanks God for the victory. He does not allow himself to think about anything related to alcohol, for those thoughts are of the "flesh" and not of the "Spirit."
The principle is simple. What we dwell alone is what we will do. The mind focused on the sinful nature or flesh will dwell on whatever is temptation for him. In Jim's case, it is alcohol; for others, it might be lust, or food, or money. However, the mind focused on the Spirit will dwell on biblical truth and the fruits of the Spirit God desires to manifest to us (Gal 5:22-23).
Author: Pastor Dennis Smith
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