Overcoming Temptation Is It Your Master or Your Slave?
Summary: We are all tempted. Even Jesus had temptations (Hebrews 4:15). But unlike us, He never gave in to them and sinned. Thankfully, God in His bible shows us how to overcome temptation and to make it our slave, not our master.
James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.
• Let’s be very clear on this first point — God does not tempt us with evil. We can never blame God for our temptations. Forget about excuses like, “Well, God, you made me this way.”
James 1:14 Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
• We are tempted by our “own lusts” (KJV). In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve brought sin into the human race. Temptation in most cases simply originates from our “own evil desires” that proceed from our fallen nature.
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
• Sometimes it’s a direct temptation from the devil, as Jesus experienced here. Verse 3 specifically calls the devil “the tempter.” Satan has a long history in this, going all the way back to the garden of Eden and his enticement and successful entrapment of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).
Acts 5:1-4 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
• At times our temptations come from the combined influence of Satan (who “fill[s] your heart” — vs. 3) and our own carnal natures (“What made you think of doing such a thing?” — vs. 4).
Proverbs 1:10, GNT My child, when sinners tempt you, don't give in.
• Another source of temptation is the evil influence of other people upon us.
• I recall as a teenager falling in for a short time with a bad crowd, who successfully tempted me into several episodes of illegal, underage drinking.
What Is the Nature of Temptation?
1 John 2:15-16 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.
• This very important verse reveals that temptation often comes from any one (or more) of three sources:
• the lust of the flesh, of our carnal natures inherited from Adam and Eve
• the lust of the eyes, a common source of downfall to many
• the pride of life, which leads to a fall (Proverbs 16:18)
Genesis 3:1-6 …When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
• All three of these sources of temptation were experienced by Eve:
• She saw that the fruit of the forbidden tree “was good for food” — the lust of the flesh.
• The fruit that God had forbidden was “pleasing to [her] eye” — the lust of the eye.
• And she felt it was “desirable for gaining wisdom” — the pride of life, in that instance trying to be like God in knowing good and evil.
How Do We React to Temptation?
2 Samuel 11:2-4 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.
• King David was tempted and fell. Look at the process: first, from his roof he saw with his eyes a woman bathing. He should have resisted this tantalizing situation then and there and turned away, but he did not. Then with his fleshly desires now stirred up, he sent someone to find out more information about the woman. And finally, he sent for her and took her to bed. Although not directly stated, I think it is a reasonable assumption that he thought his royal position somehow gave him a sense of entitlement — the “pride of life.” I leave that conclusion to your own judgment and discernment.
Genesis 39:7-12 And after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused…  And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
• A clear contrast to King David’s fall is the account of the patriarch Joseph successfully resisting the seductive, adulterous advances of his master’s wife. He steadfastly refused her overtures and, very wisely, refused“even [to] be with her.”
• James 1:14-15, NASB But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. This verse is very important. Just having a temptation come at you is not yet a sin. How you respond to that temptation makes all the difference.
• David was tempted by seeing the woman Bathsheba bathing. His lusts were stirred, and he proceeded to pursue the object of his desires. In his case, “when lust [had] conceived, it [gave] birth to sin.”
• Joseph reacted in an opposite, victorious way. Surely we can imagine that the temptation was great. His master’s wife was openly soliciting him for a sexual union. But Joseph did not allow the temptation itself to develop into sin. He refused her advances and even refused to “be with her.” This was a very wise and godly response. He chose to flee temptation, rather than to stay there and see if he was strong enough to overcome it. He practiced what we used to call in my youth “avoiding the near occasions of sin.”
How Do We Overcome Temptation?
Galatians 5:16, KJV This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
• A spiritual walk tends to give you the victory over your carnal nature. Prayer, Bible study, worship, church attendance, and similar spiritual exercises strengthen you within to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
• Specifically, watchfulness and prayerfulness, said Jesus, will help us not to fall into temptation. He reminded them (and us) that our spirit may indeed be willing to follow God and serve Him, but we must be ever mindful of the fact that our flesh is weak. So we are exhorted to “watch and pray so that [we] will not fall into temptation.”
Ephesians 6:13-18a Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray…
• Put on God’s full armor! Take advantage of every offensive and defensive spiritual weapon He has made available to you. You can repeatedly “stand firm … [in the] day of evil” if you put on:
• the belt of truth
• the breastplate of righteousness
• the gospel of peace
• the shield of faith
• the helmet of salvation
• the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God
• and prayer
James 4:7-8Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
• When it’s the devil doing the tempting, we are told to “resist the devil.” But notice that we resist him successfully (“he will flee”) when we are continually submitted to God (vs. 7) and are living a life of drawing near to God (vs. 8).
Ephesians 4:27 Do not give the devil a foothold.
• This one is quite clear. Give the devil and your flesh no opportunities to tempt you. Stay away from immoral movies. Don’t read trashy books or magazines or watch TV shows that glorify evil. Control your eyes (Job 31:1) and do not set “wicked things” before them (Psalm 101:3). Take your thoughts captive (2 Corin. 10:5).
1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
• Very important! — Watch out for bad company. It will have a corrupting influence on you. Yes, of course, you might influence them positively with your testimony. But this doesn’t seem to be referring to some type of biblical witnessing situation. Rather, my sense of the verse is that it is forbidding us from establishing casual, ongoing relationships and spending time with those openly living a wicked life. If you think you are too strong to be negatively affected by this, then the Scripture we quoted tells you that you are “deceived.”
Matthew 4:5-7 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
• Three times in the wilderness temptations by the devil, Jesus countered the temptations with “It is written!” The word of God from the Bible is a powerful weapon in resisting temptation. Learn the word and quote it in the face of your temptations. That is how Jesus conquered Satan’s strategies, and that is how you can too.
1 Corinthians 10:12-14 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And 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.
• Each temptation may be different from the last. But these verses give three good keys for conquering all of them.
(1) “Be careful … take heed (KJV)”. Be wise, be vigilant, expect temptations to come, be alert, and don’t be blindsided by them.
(2) Realize that you can be an overcomer, that “you can bear” up under the temptations and conquer them. Don’t be a pessimist, a defeatist. God is ready and willing to give you victory in times of temptation.
(3) In temptations, God will give you “a way out … a way to escape (KJV)”. Oftentimes the way to escape will be, like Joseph, simply to flee! For example:
• Flee fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18).
• Flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14).
• Flee the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10-11).
• Flee youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22)
Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16 Because [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted… [4:14] Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
• I remind you that “Jesus the Son of God … [is] touched with the feeling of our infirmities … [having been] in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (vss. 14-15, KJV). Jesus faced an onslaught of temptations, as we do, and in every instance he overcame them and did not sin. In light of His victory, He wants us to come boldly to Him, to the throne of grace to “find grace to help us” in our own temptations.
• The ultimate help in overcoming our temptations is to come to Jesus Christ for help.
• “He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
• “[God] always causes us to triumph in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:14, KJV).
• “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).