Jonathan's Perspective  

Jul 3

'Overcoming Temptation'

'You can't keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from making a nest in your hair.' (Martin Luther) Luther's point was that everyone is going to face temptation.  We can't avoid temptation, but we don't have to allow temptation to make a nest in our minds and hearts.  Here are a few ways you can overcome temptation with God's help. 

  • First, remember that your temptation or sin is nothing special. In fact, Scripture says, 'No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.' (1 Cor 10:13) Don't let the temptation or sin grow by thinking it is unique and overpowering. Don't keep it a secret, because secret sins gain more and more power over you. Name it and take responsibility for it. You and God are bigger than any temptation that comes your way. 
  • Second, replace a temptation with a beautiful vision of a life in Christ.  What would it look like and how would it change your relationships for the good?  When you get a concrete vision of the wonderful life God has for you, it overcomes the temptation to do something that will lead in a bad direction. 
  • Third, imitate someone who is imitating Christ.  Is there someone you know who exemplifies the characteristics and qualities you want?  Let that embodied reality of God at work in their lives give you assurance that you can live a beautiful life in the Lord.  Follow their example as they follow the example of Christ.
  • Fourth, put off temptation for just 15 minutes.  This sounds strange, but it really works.  Most temptations come from immediate desires and emotions that are fleeting.  When you say 'No!' for just 15 minutes, your brain will have a chance to kick in so you can make a thoughtful decision to avoid the sin you are tempted to commit.  It also gives you time to shift your attention to something else.  It creates opportunity to be distracted from the temptation and get involved in something that is beneficial.
  • Fifth, observe boundaries.  Most boundaries created in Christian life are there for a reason.  Instead of rebelling against boundaries, ask yourself why they were set up and why they might be good for you.  If you go right to the edge of a cliff, you are far more likely to fall over than if you had observed the sign and stayed a good distance back.
  • Sixth, enlist friends to help you.  If you have friends who are accomplices to your 'crime', then let them know that you want to change that part of your life.  Most of the time they will agree not to put temptation before you, and sometimes they will hold you accountable.  In fact, when you tell key people in your life how much you want to change, they will help you out of love for you. 
  • Seventh, remember that change usually happens incrementally.  Most bad habits - temptations that you repeatedly succumb to - were created over time.  They will also be defeated over time.  Count on setbacks, but don't throw up the white flag when you stumble!  Failures do not define you.  Where you are headed is what defines you.  Two steps forward and one step back is still getting you toward your goal.
  • Finally, remember that God is on your side.  God is counting on you, and you can count on God.  Life in Christ is a partnership.  "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 endure it." (I Cor 12:13)  With God on your side, who can prevail against you?  Ask for wisdom, discernment, strength of will, and the next step toward life that is truly life. 

This may seem like a long list - and I hope that they are useful to you - but there are many other ways that you can use your mind, spirit, and strength to overcome temptation.  God has given you an endless arsenal to shoot down the temptations that fly over your head.  I encourage you to talk with a good friend about how you can help each other live in the truth of Christ that sets you free.

 

Seeking Life that is Truly Life,

Jonathan

 

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