The battle between flesh and the Spirit, a more general description to this battle is temptation…
Definition: Biblically, the temptation is a physical and/or mental desire to sin – a deep craving for something that stands in direct contrast to the Word of God.
As Christians, we live in a broken world. We still face difficult situations and pain that appears to have no answers. Still, we can rest on God’s Word and the firm truths within.
There is something that all of us have in common, no matter who you are or what you are or what your position in life is, how educated you are or how uneducated you are, how spiritual you are, there is one experience that all of us have in common. And that is the experience of temptation. The Bible makes it truly clear in several passages that temptation is the appointed lot of all of us.
Temptation begins in your mind. It starts with desire; temptation usually starts in a small way – it’s just that ”one little area.”
Temptation arises from three major sources. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life: “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father but from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)
Everyone experiences temptation. No one is exempt. Even Jesus experienced temptation when He was in the flesh, but He did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15).
Temptation is not sinning. Being tempted is not sin but acting upon it, is sin.
One purpose of resisting temptation is to glorify God. “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honour on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7 NLT).
There is always a way of escape. You do not have to act upon temptation.
In every temptation, God provides a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Jesus Christ suffered and died to provide a way for people to be reconciled with God. We as humans now have two choices: we can come to Jesus for forgiveness and cleansing from our sinful hearts. It gives us the right to enter into the kingdom of God. Or we can reject Jesus’ offer and stay out of the kingdom of God….
When Christ died, he was resurrected and ascended to heaven, he began what I would call the “new age,” by which I simply mean that to some extent, God’s kingdom has already begun. For example, Paul says in Ephesians 2:6 (NLT): “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”
In other words, Christians are already with Christ in heaven! However, we are clearly still living life here and now on this earth – we are still members of this ‘present world’ (Titus 2:12). There is an “overlap” between these two periods. As a result, we experience a tension between what we were (and to some extent still are), and what we are going to be (and to some extent already are).
This is the reality of the Christian life: we are not what we once were, but we are not yet exactly what we will be. Therefore, on the one hand, we are free from sin – righteous, but on the other hand, we sin and fight against it daily. Martin Luther put it as follows, ‘simul iustus et peccator, both righteous and a sinner. This is exactly what Paul says in Galatians 5:17 NLT: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.”
If you know your Bible, you are probably not surprised that Paul spoke so frankly about his struggles with temptation and sin.
Paul’s consistent appeal is that Christians live out who they are now in Christ (read Colossians 3).
Paul explains this further in Romans 6: “For we know that the sinful man that we were was crucified with Christ, that our sinful existence might be ended. So, we are no longer slaves to sin.” Also “We know that the sinful man that we were was crucified with Christ, that our sinful existence might be ended. So, we are no longer slaves to sin.”
In other words, Christians are at war: The war between the desires of the flesh and the Spirit.
Therefore, when you fight sin, you must be courageous it is a sign of a truly spiritual life!
• Mantra: The devil whispers, “You are a sinner and you have failed God. You are not worthy.” But you boldly say what God says about you, “I am the righteousness of God.”
• Memorize and meditate on 1 Corinthians 10:13.
• Declare John 3:17 is true: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”
• Pray a daily prayer: Jesus, Your Word states, “the Grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness.” By Your Grace, Jesus, empower me to reject sin. Fill me with Your Spirit and remind me that I am a new creation in You. Although I once walked in sin and darkness, by the salvation I now possess, I no longer am bound to walk in those former ways. To You, who gives the power to be witnesses in our lives, and by Your Son’s name, I pray. Amen.
• Reprogram your mind: Your life will always move in the direction of your strongest thoughts. Temptation starts with desire, stop tempting thoughts the minute they enter your mind. Write the thoughts down, reframe the thought. (Reframing: creating a different way of looking at a situation, person, or relationship by changing meaning. Reinterpreting the meaning of our lives based on God’s truth.)
• Read the Bible; Bible studies are essential to living a life of victory over temptation. Meet temptation with the Word of God. Study the temptation of Jesus recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. He met every temptation with the Word of God. You can do likewise even David declared that he has hidden God’s Word in his heart to keep him from sin (Psalm 119:11).
The Bible says that in every temptation there is a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Look for the alternative and use it!
Follow these ways to deal with temptation:
• Remove yourself from the situation – You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. When temptations are at their worst, it is best to avoid putting yourself in a troubling situation.
• Distract yourself- When you feel a temptation coming over you, do your best to distract yourself. Take your mind somewhere else, do something else.
• Predict and prioritize the outcome – predict the outcome of giving in to your temptation and ask yourself if it is worth it. If you focus more so on the aftermath, you are more likely to resist your temptation.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3: 5-6
“Darkness comes. In the middle of it, the future looks blank. The temptation to quit is huge. Do not. You are in good company… You will argue with yourself that there is no way forward. But with God, nothing is impossible. He has more ropes and ladders and tunnels out of pits than you can conceive. Wait. Pray without ceasing. Hope.” – John Piper
Ask God to lead the way, and He will direct your path.