Temptation is enticing. Why else would restaurant menus use descriptions of their deserts like, “A tempting combination of rich chocolate and smooth caramel.” If sin was never tempting, we’d never do it. But there’s something that grabs us and pulls us into the promise of sin, and next thing we know we’ve given in.
If a Christian wants to overcome temptation, he or she needs to recognize how temptation works. When you understand how temptation works, then you can be better prepared for where it may be lurking to overtake you.
In many ways, this is part two of last week’s article unpacked the two types of sin: Sins of Commission (doing something you’re commanded not to do) and Sins of Omission (not doing something you’re commanded to do). If you haven’t read the other article, you may find that helpful as well.
In all this, it’s worth remembering that sin begins in the heart and in the mind. It is more than what you do; it is an expression of what began in the heart and mind.
It’s worth a short tour through the first sin (Genesis 3:1-7)… this is a pattern we can all identify in our lives too.
Step 1: Temptation
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
The serpent (satan) tempted Eve with fruit from the forbidden tree. Temptation is not sinful, but failure to resist and flee temptation will lead to sin. When we entertain sin, we shouldn’t be surprised when it becomes so enticing we can’t resist.
This is the point at which we must fight and flee.
Step 2: Forgetting God’s Word
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Eve’s answer made God’s Word more restrictive than what God actually instructed. She said they were not allowed to even touch the tree. Why would they want to touch it, unless they’re trying to entertain temptation, but God did not say that.
If we have not yet resisted temptation and closed that door, this is where we must respond to temptation with the power of the Word of God. (This is why Scripture memory is so important and helpful.)
Step 3: Believing Sin & Forgetting God’s Promise
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Eve entertained the serpent’s promise and forgot God’s promise. Satan promised that she would “become like God.” But God had already created Adam and Eve “in the image of God.”
Eve forgot God’s promise, and believed Satan’s instead. This is where temptation started to take root in her heart.
Step 4: Temptation Leads to Sin
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Finally, once Eve believed the promise of sin over the promise of God, she was enticed and curious. When the fire of temptation gets fueled, the fire will only spread. Notice what happens next – she gives the fruit to her husband. Sin always multiplies.
Keys to Fighting Temptation
- Be Prepared to Battle Temptation. We will all be wise to heed the warning God offered to Cain before he killed his brother, Abel. “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7 ESV)
- Don’t Fight Alone. Notice Eve gave the fruit to her husband “who was with her.” Ugh… Adam was the worst accountability partner ever. But bring another believer to pray with you and for you. We need truth and grace – beware of those who only speak one or the other.
- Cling to Faith in Christ’s Victory. Praise God that there is hope for sinners like you and me through the gospel of Jesus Christ! As Paul wrote in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self[a] 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.” By faith, the power of sin’s guilt and shame have been removed, but we have also been given the Holy Spirit who strengthens us in the midst of temptation.
- Do Something Else! This isn’t too theological… just do something else. Leave that conversation. Turn off the computer. Go to the gym. Call a friend. Read a book. If you stay where you’re being tempted, then you’re only fueling the fire.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”