"Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom"
2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
Lions in the wild kill prey by stalking deftly and patiently, watching for the slightest opportunity to pounce. The Bible tells us that Satan, the enemy, does the same thing, looking for ways to destroy the lives of believers.
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9 NASB).
One of the foremost tactics the prowling lion (Satan) uses to attack and destroy Christians is temptation. In fact, as Jesus entered the wilderness in Matthew 4, Satan, the tempter, immediately confronted Him. Jesus, however, through perfect obedience, conquered temptation without sinning.
Passing this supreme test opened the door for Jesus to fulfill the divine instructions God had ordained for Him. Since the beginning, Satan has had one chief goal: to separate men and women from the love and care of God the Father. Temptation is one of the methods he uses to entice people to disobey God and fall into the bondage of sin and unbelief. This was true with Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1).
Although Satan is called the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), believers have authority over him (Luke 10:9, Romans 16:20). Christians can defeat the enemy and reign victoriously because of the authority Jesus won on the cross.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments [lies] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV).
“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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:15 NIV).
Satan uses three main realms of temptation to try to lure believers away from God: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 NIV).
The flesh possesses appetites, desires, and attitudes that oppose the nature and character of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:19-24). The lust of the flesh can be placed in one of the following five categories: uncontrolled sexual appetites, rebellion, false religion, hatred, and envy. All of humanity is born into a broken and sinful world, with a strong desire to satisfy the flesh. Scripture teaches believers to put the desires of the flesh to death by nailing them to the cross and crucifying them there (Galatians. 5:24). However, the flesh wants life to be completely controlled by its desires.
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34ESV).
The lust of the eyes can include fleshly appetites or can be as simple as focusing on that which is unholy, unlovely, and unworthy. Paul wrote in Philippians 4 that believers should fix their thoughts on what is true, pure, righteous, and admirable. Additionally, King David said,
“I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3 NKJV).
To have pure thoughts, the believer must be ever aware that the eyes are the lamp of the body.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2 NIV).
Sometimes the most difficult temptations to overcome are the ones that are not visible on the outside. Fleshly desires, and lusts of the eyes often have tangible attachments. Pride, however, is a silent temptation which creeps in through the most innocent means. Though pride may seem harmless, or remain unnoticed, it is followed by dishonor and a long fall.
The most immediate response to temptations should be talking to God. The Holy Spirit gives power to fight sin. In prayer, Scripture can be used as a weapon in the battle with temptation. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Just as a sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon in a physical battle, so is this spiritual sword of God’s Word.
Resisting may seem like a passive approach to temptation, but if done correctly, it is an aggressive attack. Submitting to God and resisting Satan will cause him to flee (James 4:7). To resist the enemy, the believer must first submit to God. Jesus’ time on earth revealed a submission to the Father first, which strengthened a resistance to Satan’s attacks. Spiritual resistance is rooted in a future hope of what is to be: an eternity free from sin and in the presence of the Heavenly Father. Use this hope as a firm stance in resistance to temptation.
Temptation is part of the believer’s life. Being tempted to sin does not mean regression; it only means that this is still a fallen world. However, it is not necessary to live as a victim of constant temptation, forever succumbing to sin. As has been stated before, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the adversary, Satan, has already been defeated. As children of God, believers can walk in victory over temptation and assault. Be encouraged by Paul’s words:,/p>
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10: 13 NLT emphasis added).
Prayer, the Word of God, and fellowship with other believers will encourage strong growth and build resistance to temptation. Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 4, observed that people who live a life isolated from others are prone to more attacks. Those who are standing alone can be attacked from any side; however, when a second person comes alongside them, they are protected on all sides, especially from blind-side attacks. Strength comes in a community of like-minded believers and through the testimonies of others. Being connected to others in this life can help believers endure the duration of the temptations they face.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11 NKJV).
Pray. Resist. Endure. Connect.