For those who are coming to Jesus one of the great challenges is the need to resist temptation. In this section of scripture Jesus makes it abundantly clear that temptation to sin will surely come just as night always follows day. So it is important that we understand how to resist temptation and to know to expect temptations to sin will come. And knowing these things we can do something about them.
Temptation to Sin Will Surely Come
Jesus said here, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come.” (Verse 1) For any person coming to Jesus one of the first things they need to understand is that they are entering a war zone. It is a spiritual war between the forces of good and evil.
To that end the forces of evil are trying to destroy the forces of good, and one of their key weapons is temptation to sin. We are warned about this in many places and Peter makes it very clear saying, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) He shows us that we will be tempted and we will go through ordeals and not to be surprised by this. This is all part of being a Christian. What we need to do is to learn how to resist temptation and Jesus has not left us without a means of defence as we shall see shortly.
Woe To Him By Whom They Come
The second aspect of this scripture is a warning to those who would tempt the Lords people. Jesus says, “…but woe to him by whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Verses 1-2)
The one who brings temptation to another is standing in a dangerous place. Whoever brings about the fall of one of the Lords people is looking for serious trouble. The Lord clearly takes a VERY dim view of tempters.
And don’t think that it will be just evil people who will bring temptation to the people of God. We saw that even Peter was used by the devil to try to tempt the Lord when Jesus told them that he was to go up to Jerusalem and be put to death. Peter said to Jesus, “Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23)
The Lord recognised it was by the hand of Satan that Peter had been used to try to have Jesus escape the fate that awaited Him. But if Jesus did not resist temptation, then mankind would not have the means to escape bondage to sin and death, for this was the purpose of Jesus dying.
So we see there are two aspects in the above section. One is not to be the cause of temptation to the Lord’s people and the other is to recognise that temptation to sin will come.
But how do we resist temptation? As mentioned, we are fighting a spiritual war and we have been provided with weapons. Not guns, bombs and cannon but spiritual weapons.
Paul wrote, “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
We are able to resist temptation by using these weapons of spiritual warfare. And these weapons are described in Ephesians 6:13-17 for those who would like to search further. And one of the keys to be able to resist temptation comes in the following verse, which says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance” (Ephesians 6:18)
Walking in the Spirit and praying in the spirit are the keys to resist temptation. When we walk in the Spirit we set our minds on the things of the Spirit. But when we are tempted we are setting our minds on the things of the flesh. Paul discussed this exact issue in Romans 8:1-8, and the last couple verses of that section are pertinent to being able to resist temptation. “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:6-8)
When your mind is set on the Spirit you will not succumb to temptation. Through the power of the Spirit you will be able to kill the temptation before it stimulates your passions and desires and causes you to fall. How? By taking your mind off the temptation and replacing it with something else, something good.
There are many ways to walk in the Spirit and to set your mind on the Lord. Prayer, Bible study, listening to Christian music, singing choruses and much more.
So tell me, how do you deal with temptations as they arise? What methods have worked for you to resist temptation? Feel free to comment so others can learn by your experience.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Iwan Beijes)