Skip to content

Overcoming Temptation

July 11, 2014

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come…” – Luke 17:1 

Have you ever found yourself suddenly tempted? Out of nowhere, lustful thoughts captivate your imagination; or some unexplained discontentment washes over you.  Maybe you’re at work and suddenly you find yourself envying a coworker’s position (and paycheck!).

Many times, we have these experiences but don’t really think about why. Why did I suddenly have that thought? Where do temptations come from? How can we overcome them?

For starters, temptation is everywhere! Our society laughs at it. Corporations try to leverage it. The media glorifies it. Appeals to indulge are ubiquitous.

When you think about it, we really live in an absurd culture. It’s a place where people are constantly seduced but then mercilessly  prosecuted. Like a boy given matches then punished when he starts a fire, our society sensors nothing, but then passes law against the very actions those seductions provoked.

So how can we live as “children of God” in this “crooked and twisted generation” so we can “shine as lights” (Philippians 2:15)?


A Helpful Lesson On Defeating Temptation:

Although it may not seem so, temptation doesn’t actually start outside of us. It begins within us. Temptation is an answer to a question that our heart is asking, whether we realize it or not. It is a response to a desire that exists within us. So, if we lacked desire, we would lack temptation. At this point, it is important to understand the answer to defeating temptation is not the elimination of our desires. That’s Buddhism, not Christianity.

However, to understand how to overcome temptation, we must understand this desire/temptation link.


Truth #1: God created us with an innate desire for Him.

Actually, Christianity couldn’t disagree more with Buddhism on this point. Rather than seeing desire as something to be purged, Christians believe God intentionally created humankind with desires. They move us, motivate us, enrich us, and when properly met, fulfill us.[1]

As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.”[2] Human desire didn’t begin after the fall; God created us to find fulfillment in Him. He was to be our daily and constant resource. He provided us with all we needed (existentially and physically) in a relationship with Him.


Truth #2: The fall of man infected our affections.

When humankind fell, our desires became disordered. The truth is we don’t realize this. But the fall has blinded us to what we really need—that is, God. So disordered desire is our true problem. Rather than living with a clear awareness that God is our treasure and the source of our need, our heart is now imprisoned to our selfish desires. This primal enslavement leaves us vulnerable, born with a predisposition to look to things that satisfy the disordered demands of the self. So every temptation is an attempt to satisfy the demanding desires of a sin-infected self. And since we find temporary fulfillment when we succumb to temptation, sin’s deception holds sway over us. It’s only after time passes do we realize, sin’s destructive cost to others and ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle of looking for fulfillment only to be further enslaved.


Truth #3: God is our salvation!

The miracle of salvation is that God enables me to look away from myself and trust utterly in what God has done.[3] The marvel Jesus accomplished was setting us free from ourselves (John 8:32-36).[4] The New Testament discusses the work of Jesus from many angles, but perhaps the most practical is in this sense: in Jesus’ death, I have been set free. If I choose to die with him, he can live within me, victoriously.[5] I can be freed from the disordered, enslaving desires I was born with.


Truth #4: Training is necessary to “live free.”

As a follower of Jesus, we must now retrain our mind on how to think. Ever since we were young, we followed the desires of our sin-enslaved self (c.f. Ephesians 2:1-3). We all have developed mental habits that made sinning seem “natural.” In order to defeat temptation, we will have to develop a new way of thinking. We must train ourselves to go to God in times of temptation despite the fact it will not seem natural to do so.



Maybe the best way to end this is by providing an illustration to help clarify this teaching and show how this works in practice.

Suppose I have a rare condition that causes me to be unaware of hunger pains. Suppose further that instead of hunger pains, my brain receives a sensation to scratch an itch. So each time I would, under normal circumstances, have experienced hunger pains instead I experience a strong sensation to scratch an itch. Imagine somehow, temporarily, scratching alleviates the sensation (which was really caused by my hunger) and so I am able to continue with my day. Eventually, scratching will lead to my death. I am blinded to my true condition. What I need is food, and scratching an itch doesn’t put any food in my stomach.

This, I suggest, is the true spiritual condition of man. Sin has disrupted the proper function of my heart’s awareness for God’s nourishment. Instead of running regularly to God, I am deceived and confused into thinking that I need to sin. I scratch when I really need to eat.

What would be the solution to such a strange condition? I must train myself to eat every time I itch. The truth holds here. When I find myself tempted (itchy) I must see through this and train myself to go to God. God is my food; He satisfies. The more tempted I find myself, the hungrier for God I actually am. Sin has disrupted this, and my disordered passions seek to keep me enslaved.

So next time I’m suddenly lustful and tempted to satisfy that lust in my regular ways, I must tell myself of my true need. Next time discontentment washes over me, it’s God that I must run to. When I am envious, I immediately begin to thank God for His blessings.

What if I trained myself to see each temptation as something that corresponded to something I can find in God Himself? Depression and loneliness are symptoms of neglecting His fellowship. Anger and anxiety result when I’ve walked away from trusting Him for my situation and future. Lust and pride occur when God is not the center of my thoughts.

It’s difficult to think about God and sin.


[1] In fact, a classical argument for God’s existence come from the fact that human beings universally experience a desire for something that transcends this world and a role only God can fill.

[2] C. S. Lewis. Mere Christianity. Macmillan Publishing. 1978. pg. 54

[3] N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. pg. 954

[4] For more on this see:

[5] Matthew 16:24-25; Romans 6:8; II Timothy 2:11; Galatians 220-21. Dying with Christ is a metaphor for the absolute surrender of your will to him. A disciple of Jesus, has completely identified with a crucified messiah with the hope that just as he was raised in power, so we who have died with him will be raised to live in his resurrected power, not just at the end of time but now empowered by his grace to live victoriously over sin.


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: