When we are tempted to sin, it might be helpful to look at it like this: It’s our old nature ‘v’ our new nature. It’s as though we have two dogs inside our heads – a good dog and a bad dog – and both of them are constantly squabbling for the same piece of meat; they are fighting to take control of our lives, to dominate our thinking and attention and make us their slave. Whichever dog we feed the most is the one that grows dominant and gains control over us. What we have to do, then, is to feed the good dog and starve the bad dog. In other words, we need to do what is right, not what is wrong. And when we find ourselves sinning – as we will – we must immediately cut off the food supply, we must repent and turn away from the sin, we must starve the bad dog by consciously feeding the good dog!
R. Ian Seymour
I saw a “Cathy” cartoon strip that illustrates how a tempting thought, if left unchecked, can manifest into full-blown sin – (it’s about a lady trying to diet):
Frame 1: ‘I will take a drive, but won’t go near the grocery store.’
Frame 2: ‘I will drive by the grocery store, but will not go in.’
Frame 3: ‘I’ll go in the grocery store, but will not go down the aisle where the candy is on sale.’
Frame 4: ‘I will look at the candy, but not pick it up.’
Frame 5: ‘I will pick it up, but not buy it.’
Frame 6: ‘I will buy it, but not open it.’
Frame 7: ‘Open it, but not smell it.’
Frame 8: ‘Smell it, but not taste it.’
Frame 9: ‘Taste it, but not eat it.’
Frame 10: ‘EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT!
I remember some time ago being on the treadmill at the gym, and I got a bit bored of the monotony and figured the treadmill was so repetitive that I could do it with my eyes closed… so I did a rather foolish thing, I tried it! – I put my hands over the safety bars (not that it helped), closed my eyes and counted to five. That was easy enough, so I tried it again, this time see if I could reach 10 seconds. What I forgot is that our eyes help us to maintain balance… by the time I got to 7 seconds I fell head over heels and ended up crumpled on the floor with my head continually bouncing up and down off the moving belt! I hurt myself (not badly) but it was nothing compared to my pride. The whole gym came to a standstill as people looked over to see what had happened. Totally embarrassed I jumped up and blurted out without thinking: “It’s alright. ‘I’m okay… I just closed my eyes for a second!”
If we take our eyes off the goal that Jesus set for us – to live holy lives, pleasing to God – we run the danger of losing our balance, of falling and injuring ourselves, or others. We need to realise that sin is serious, and the damage it causes. Keep focused and don’t give in to temptation.
R. Ian Seymour
We have all been there, haven’t we? Unfortunately, many people today – Christians included – don’t take temptation seriously enough. Many think of ‘temptation’ as wanting to indulge in something that’s naughty but nice: like being tempted to have another chocolate or piece of cake; or being tempted to stay up and watch the late film; or have another half hour in bed… naughty, but pretty nice really! That’s not the biblical view of temptation. Temptation, if left unchecked, leads to sin, and sin is serious; deadly serious. Sin offends God and it affects our relationship with Him. Sin always has consequences and it separates us from God… until it has been dealt with.
Why do we sin, or flirt with temptation and do what is not right? Isn’t it because, in one-way or another, we’re tired of living God’s way? We may feel that we’re literally too exhausted, or that we’re bored of it; or that we’ve lived God’s way enough today, or that’s it is all too much effort. Always we sin when we are weak or vulnerable. – When the devil turned up and tried to tempt Jesus to change the stones into bread, it was at the end of Jesus’ 40-day fast… when He was hungry, tired and vulnerable. – The devil still uses the same tactics today. Recognise when you are vulnerable: How is it with you? When you are away from home on business; on a works do and the drinks are flowing; scantily clad women in the office; the boss who compliments you, flirts or strokes your arm and delays his touch longer than just fleetingly; when you are tired or stressed? Recognise when you are vulnerable, arm yourself beforehand and avoid those situations whenever you can.
We can’t help being tempted – there is no sin in that, Jesus himself was tempted – but we must not give in to temptation, instead we must flee from it, and quickly. Tom Wright makes an important point here in regards to sexual temptation: He says, “As clearly implied by Hebrews 4v15, experiencing sexual temptation is not itself sinful. Sin begins when the idea of illicit gratification, presented to the mind in temptation, is not at once put to death, but is instead fondled and cherished.”
Source: N.T. Wright, (1996), Colossians and Philemon, Tyndale NT Commentaries, p.134
One of the best ways to fight temptation is to memorise Scripture. Build up an arsenal of Bible verses to use in times of need. That’s what Jesus did to fend off the temptations of the devil. Quoting Bible verses is an important weapon in helping us resist the devil’s attacks. John Ortberg shares this illustration to make the point: ‘I am thinking of a song that I bet you can sing even if you have never heard a recording of it. We don’t know who wrote the lyrics. In fact, it doesn’t even have any lyrics. It was written by some anonymous genius, and it doesn’t contain a single word. But it’s the most important song you ever learned. It’s the ABC song; the “alphabet song.” You memorised this song because it helped you to identify letters and to read and write. We should memorise Bible verses to fend off the temptations of the devil and also to remember God’s promises to us.
John Ortberg, 2010, ‘The Me I Want To Be,’ Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p.108-9] You remember… [sing, A,B,C,D,E,F,G… signal for congregation to sing back, H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P…
We need to be aware of the attractiveness of sin – it keeps teasing, tantalising and tempting – it tries to justify wrongful behaviour by saying things like, it’s not that bad, don’t be so prudish, it’s the 21st century everyone’s doing it, it’s not like you are deliberately hurting anyone, what harm can it do? All of which sounds very much like: “Did God really say you mustn’t eat from any tree in the garden? You won’t surely die!” – Satan always tries to put a comma where God puts a full stop!
In talking about handling sexual temptation, Max Lucado writes: ‘I’m at my desk in a hotel room far from home. The voices that encourage me are distant; the voices that entice me are near. A placard on my night stand invites me to the hotel lounge “to make new friends in a relaxing atmosphere”. Another on the top on the TV promises late-night movies that will “make all my fantasies come true”. In the phone book several columns of escort services offer “Love away from home”. Voices! Some for pleasure, some for power. The world hammers at your door. Jesus taps. The world promises fleshly pleasure; Jesus promises us a quiet dinner with Him: ‘…I will come in and eat with him, and he with me’ (Revelation 3:20). Which voice will you obey? So how should we handle tempting situations? In two ways: First, by filling your mind with Scriptures so that your first response is always, ‘It is written.’ Second, by keeping your eyes on Jesus. – Years ago my father used to put a bit of meat on the floor near his dog and say, “No!” The dog never touched it. But he never looked at it either, because if he did the temptation to disobey would have been too great. He just kept looking at my father’s face. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Psalm 34v5 says, ‘Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.’
Cited in The UCB Word For Today , 10/11/2013
We can never say I will not sin again… but, friends, we can say, I will not sin now!
We are resurrection people… we have resurrection power to say ‘no’ to sin. At the end of the day we have a choice: we either pacify self and give in to temptation or we crucify self and flee from it.
When John Wesley’s students met each week they would ask each other these four questions: (1) What sins have you committed since we last met? (2) What temptations have you faced? (3) How were you delivered? (4) What have you thought, said or done, of which you are uncertain whether it is sin or not? – Those four questions will keep you spiritually alert and on track.
Source: The UCB Word For Today devotional
John Stott put it like this: ‘we need to learn to talk to ourselves and ask ourselves the questions: “Don’t you know who you are? Don’t you know that you are united to Christ and enslaved to God?” We need to go on pressing ourselves with such questions until we reply to ourselves, “Yes, I do know who I am, a new person in Christ; and by the grace of God I mean to live accordingly.”’