Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury --http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .
From: Money Sex and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
When will temptation stop? Is there ever a point in your spiritual life when you can expect to be beyond temptation? Will you ever be delivered from persistent attacks by Satan trying to trip you up? Can you hope for rest sometime in the future from ensnaring temptations? No. It is no use misleading you. You will be continually tempted to sin through all your life.
So, if you're stuck with it, you might as well learn how to beat it. There are some basic truths about temptation which, if you know them, will help you defeat the devil.
1. GREAT TEMPTATION OFTEN FOLLOWS "SPIRITUAL HIGHS."
The devil is sly. He knows we are especially vulnerable to his attack after we have "come down" from a great spiritual high. Take Jesus, for example. He came to be baptized by the most famous evangelist of the day, John the Baptist. John recognized him as the Messiah. As he was being baptized, Jesus actually heard God's voice from heaven, and the Spirit descended on Him. Quite a spiritual high!
What happened next? He went directly into the wilderness and was tempted for 40 days by the devil (Matthew 3,4). The devil does not tempt at random. He tempts as part of a comprehensive strategy to entice us to sin. He1 knows our emotions are especially vulnerable following a spiritual high time. Perhaps we have let down our guard.
What to do? Watch for these attacks after retreats, camps, conventions, revival meetings, or special services. Immediately following the times when things are going great the devil drags out his biggest cannons of temptation. For me temptation if often absent or suppressed while I'm having a great meeting or revival. But I've learned to get ready for an attack the moment I get into the car or plane and head home. I may have made a fabulous crossing of the Jordan river -- but just inside I come face to face with the towering walls of Jericho. Watch of for a big temptation right after a spiritual high.
2. GOD SOMETIMES LEADS US INTO TEMPTATION.
Although God never tempts us (James 1:13), He does lead us into places where the devil can tempt us. Even Jesus was led "by the Spirit" into the wilderness to be tempted (Matthew 4:1).
Why does God do this? It almost seems like God and the devil are somehow cooperating in a diabolical plot. Why? Because God sees temptation as a "test." Luther was once asked what he thought was the best preparation for the ministry. His one word answer: "Temptation." God knows that the greatest training for overcoming temptation is...overcoming temptation. The more often we refuse to give in to the devil, the stronger we will be in the future. 2 So, God sometimes leads us to be in a place where the devil will tempt us so that we can resist and become stronger.
Now, don't get me wrong here. A lot of temptations we face, God had nothing to do with. Sometimes, we lead ourselves into temptation! But, still God sometimes leads up to a place where our resistance can be trained and strengthened. We fear this fact about God -- so much so that we pray "Lead us not into temptation." But knowing that God does indeed lead us into temptation at times we follow that quickly with "But, deliver us from evil." God knows that repeated experiences in resisting temptation will strengthen our will and make us stronger than ever.
But there is another thing which encourages us: He will never let us be tempted in a way which we will be unable to resist (I Corinthians 10:13). There are some temptations which, if we faced them, we would certainly crumble and sin. We are not yet strong enough to resist them. But God will not allow these temptations to come our way. In fact, if we are being tempted, we know for sure that God has already approved that temptation to come our way. He has already decided that we are strong enough to resist it.
So the next time you're tempted, keep in mind that God has not lost control of the game and somehow the Devil snuck on around Him. Rather this temptation has been "approved" by God to be sent my way -- for God knows that I'm strong enough to beat it, with His help. To God, it's a test or training for me. And when I do overcome, I'll be stronger for it.
3. THE DEVIL TEMPTS US AT OUR WEAK POINTS.
Satan isn't stupid. He does know all things, but tempting is his game, and his one of his names. He and his invisible demons recognize our strong and weak points. It would be foolish for him to continually attack you at an area where you are strong! He didn't read to ready the point above to know that the more you resist temptation the stronger you'll get. If he continually attacked you at your strong points you would merely resist repeatedly. This repeated victory would produce great spiritual power for you!
So, Satan attacks at your weak points--the points where you are most likely to give in. This way he has the best chance of beating you. He finds a weak link in your chain, a soft spot.3 He often tempts through your natural, God-given desires by suggesting that you pervert them for wrong purposes. For instance sex is a good God-given drive, but God wants an unmarried youth to wait until marriage, and a married individual to focus all their sexual energy on their spouse.
The way to discover your own weak point or "besetting sin" is to ask yourself, "What sin am I coming the closest to committing?" Build your defenses in this area.
4. THE MIND IS A BATTLEFIELD.
It's a funny thing. The devil somehow has access to our mind. He is able to conjure up thoughts there which are contrary to God's will for us. He even has access to the mind of a Christian. This whole thing can get quite confusing! Since Satan can insert thoughts in our mind, sometimes we are not sure where they are from. How are we to know if a particular thought is "my own thought" or the devil's?
All this goes on in our minds: God speaks to our minds through His Holy Spirit, we have thoughts that are our own, and the devil speaks to us--it becomes quite a jumbled argument at times.
The point is this: if we are going to defeat Satan in our daily life, it will have to be done in our minds. The seed thoughts he plants there can take root, conceive, and finally produce sin (James 1:14,15). It is in the mind that the battle is won or lost. If he gets our minds, sooner or later he gets all of us. As a person thinks in his heart, so he becomes. Never get the idea you can allow your thought life to go wild without ever actually acting like you been fantasizing, You can't Sooner or later we all become what we think about. Fight the devil off in your mind, and you'll win the battle in your daily walk.
5. THE BIBLE IS OUR WEAPON.
The best way to ensure consistent victory over temptation is a regular habit of taking in God's Word. The Bible promises this itself (Psalms 119:11). God's word is the single best "sin preventative." This happens two ways:
a) God uses the scripture on us.
Have you ever been tempted to do something wrong when a Bible verse or person from the Bible came to mind? Why does this happen? Because the Holy Spirit brings the Bible to our memories in order to remind us an action is sin or stupid. It's as if the Holy spirit rapidly flips through the filing cabinet in our memories and finds the perfect scripture to help us recognize that this is sin we are being tempted to do. Has this even happened to you? If not, could it be that the Holy Spirit finds the "Scripture" memory file almost empty in your head? He won't dictate new Scripture to you -- that's not how it works. He merely helps you recall what you've already got in there. How's your Scripture file?
b) We use it on the devil.
The second use for personal scripture memory files is for a weapon. The one thing that will chase Satan away is God's Word -- the "Sword" of the Spirit. The Bible is our only offensive weapon. Even Jesus, when he was tempted, repeatedly quoted the scripture in order to get rid of Satan(Matthew 4:4,7,10). God's Word has an authority we will never have ourselves. Have you ever tried to use logic and argument in your head against a temptation? If you have, you know that you are no match for Satan's superior debating and rationalizing skills. It is a dangerous thing to go up against the Prince and power of the invisible world with nothing more than your powers of logic. You need a powerful weapon -- God's Word. So, having a time alone with God to read and remember the scriptures may be the single most important discipline in beating temptation.
6. THE DEVIL DOESN'T GIVE UP EASILY.
Don't be surprised if you resist the devil's temptation, quote scripture to yourself and to him, and command him to get away from you, yet he doesn't listen! After all, tempting is his "job description." The devil is "the tempter." His business is trying to get people to disobey God. If he is especially bugging you, it may be because God has some great plans for you, and the devil suspects it. If he could get you to sin, he may be able to throw a monkey wrench into God's plans for you.
So, he especially tempts some people. For instance, those in full-time Christian work or in positions of leadership and influence are his favorite targets. He keeps coming back and trying to get you to fall. He may leave you "for a season"--but, watch out, he'll be back. When he tempted Jesus, he didn't give up after getting defeated over the "stones to bread" temptation. He kept coming back (Luke 4:1-13). You can expect temptation all your life. There is no level of Christian living above temptation. After you continually beat him in one area, he'll find another crevice in your fortification and come at you from that side. You might as well learn to beat him now, since you will be tempted through your whole life. 4
7. REMEMBER, TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN.
One of the tricky devices the devil uses is to try to discourage you when you are being tempted, yet haven't even given in. He puts thoughts in your mind, like, "If I'm being tempted to do such an awful thing, I certainly must be an awful person." Or, "Someone tempted to do that certainly could never be used by God." Wrong. Temptation is not sin -- it is yielding to temptation that is sin. If the devil can't get you to give in to temptation, sometimes he will try a backup plan of getting you discouraged just because you are being tempted. Don't let this subterfuge fool you. Remember, Jesus Himself was tempted -- even tempted to "bow down and worship Satan." So, don't get down on yourself just because you're being tempted. Everyone is tempted. And the closer you get to the Lord, the more powerful these temptations may become.
8. FIGHT TEMPTATION -- BETTER YET, FLEE IT.
Sometimes, we are pretty "easy pickings" for the devil. He dangles out some morsel of sin, and we gulp it down like hungry fish. It is hardly even work for him. Just because God won't let us be tempted above what we're able to resist doesn't mean it will be easy to resist. Resisting temptation is hard work. It's a fight. But that is what we're involved in -- universal warfare against the devil, his angels, and sin. When temptation comes, fight it! Don't crumble under without a fight. Some of us are like the quarterback who crumbles to his knees as soon as he sees a lineman let somebody through. Instead run with the ball yourself! The Bible promises if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4:7).
So, when the devil marshals his forces to try to get you to disobey God, marshal your own forces -- the name of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, your desire to obey God, the prayers of your Christian friends, and all the forces of God which are immeasurably more powerful than the devil's. If you will resist him, you can beat him!
But there is an even better strategy than fighting -- fleeing. Ask yourself "What tempts me? Are there certain places where the devil is better able to tempt me?" Stay away from those places. "Are there certain people Satan uses to get me to do wrong things?" steer clear of those people. "Are there some things which get a grip on me and entice me to do wrong -- books, videos, magazines, TV shows, habits?" Stay away from those things. Sometimes we fall into temptation because we hang around it too long! There is a time to stay and fight, but there is also a time to run!5
9. YOU CAST THE DECIDING VOTE.
Really, temptation is not just between you and the devil. It is a three-way situation. God wants you to live right. The devil is hell-bent, and wants to take you with him. You cast the deciding vote. In a temptation, Jesus is on one side cheering you on, praying that you will be victorious. The devil is on the other side enticing you into rebellion against God. and you are in the middle. You cast the deciding vote -- with Jesus Christ who died for you, or with the devil who intends to destroy you and drag you into hell with him forever.
The next time you are tempted, visualize yourself on the playing field of a great coliseum (Hebrews 12:14). God and His angels watch from one side, the devil and his demons from the other. God and His people are encouraging you to vote with Him. The devil and his demons are enticing you to vote with them. Visualize yourself surrounded by this "great cloud of witnesses." Temptation seems to be a private affair. It's not. Visualize this great unseen crown around you and then make up your mind to go with God.
So, let's win it for the Lord!
Temptation can be turned to spiritual power (Luke 4:14). It's a trick you can use on the devil. When he tempts you to do wrong, resist him with all the guts and determination you have. When you overcome temptation you will find a new spiritual power in your life. This is a great trick you can play on Satan. Every time he tempts you, you resist, and thus get new power. This is the ultimate trick on the devil -- his temptations only make you stronger! He becomes a mere tool of God.
Keep hanging in there -- you beat the Devil!
1. He knows our emotions... Actually temptation is not necessarily directly from the Devil himself. Satan is not omnipresent and thus could not tempt all people everywhere at one time. Apparently he has at his disposal untold numbers of demons -- probably fallen angels -- who carry out the tempting work at the speed of light. Some even feel each person may be assigned a personal demon or demons, sort of the equivalent of a personal guardian angel. Though we in the church often talk of "struggling with the Devil" just as we refer to "sensing God talking to me" both instances may often be mediated through invisible angelic beings -- angels and fallen angels. 2. ...the stronger we will be in the future. This "Habit Track" is a great secret of "power living" many Christians have not discovered. A believer may lay down a "Habit track" for either good or bad. Falling into sin, for a Christian often runs through these four stages: (1) The Christian faces temptation. (2) Christian struggles -- not wanting to give in, yet at the same time wanting to. (3) He gives in, falling into sin. (4) The Christian feels guilty and confesses to God. What does Satan discover? A weak link, a soft spot. He will return with this very temptation again. This time it is harder to resist. Let's say the Christian falls again. The Devil returns again, and again, and again. What happens? Gradually the second stage disappears. The Christian quits struggling. Getting this person to sin is easy -- (1) Satan delivers the temptation; (2) Christian responds with a knee-jerk sin; (3) Christian is devastated and confesses. If a Christian gets into this repeating defeated pattern he or she has laid down a stubborn "Habit Track" in their life. They have turned off the road at that point so often they do it almost automatically. They only way they even know they are still even a Christian is that they continue to feel guilt and respond with grief and confession to God. A Christian with a sinful "Habit Track" is in a precarious position.`b But there is another side to this. "Habit Track" works both ways. Using the same picture lets say that (1)Satan delivers a temptation, (2) the Christian struggles, but (3)the Christian resists and refuses to sin. What happens now? Will the Devil give up? Not yet. He will return again another day and serve up that temptation again. Let's say the Christian resists again, and again, and again. What does Satan discover? A Strong link, a well defended spot. He is less and less likely to return with this temptation again. Each time he does it is easier for the Christian to resist. What finally happens? Gradually, the second stage disappears. The Christian quits struggling. It works this way: (1) Satan delivers the temptation; (2) Christian responds with knee-jerk obedience; (3) Satan is defeated and discouraged. If a Christian gets into this repeating victory pattern he or she has laid down a stubborn "Habit Track" of obedience. They have turned toward obedience so often at this point on the road they do it almost automatically when tempted. This is a "Habit Track" of obedience. `b For more on habit track see Strategetics a tape series by the same author.
3. ...a weak link in your chain, a soft spot. These weak links are not necessarily a "stronghold" of the Devil. Spiritual strongholds of the Enemy are areas inside us under the command and control of the Devil. If we are saved I am foreign territory to the Enemy. However, like the Philistines, Satan's forces can move in and occupy territory inside us which becomes a launching place for other attacks. The "Habit Track" mentioned above relates more directly with the "spiritual stronghold" inside us. Here I am referring mostly to natural weak points which we have as a result of our genes, temperament, and how we were raised. Weak points are areas where its easier for the Devil to get us to sin.
4. ...since you will be tempted through your whole life. I do not mean here that you will experience the same temptations through your life, but that you will have some temptation all throughout life. Satan is not so foolish as to repeatedly tempt you in an area where you have developed a "habit track." Rather he moves on to other temptations which may be more effective on you at this time. And when you have repeatedly defeated all of his temptations toward acts of sin, he switches to attitudes, holding back his best cannon of all for the final battle -- temptation to spiritual pride. In this sense a particular temptation may cease, especially after a victorious habit track is established, and you may go for years without facing that temptation. However, the Devil never throws out his old card file on you! Sometimes after you have totally defeated him on a particular point, and years have passed without a single temptation in that area, the Devil reissues an old temptation with such vengeance that it is as if you have never overcome it in the first place.
5. There is a time to stay and fight, but there is also a time to run! Consider the story of Joseph (Genesis 39). Here was a situation where hanging around to resist could have been deadly. Running away from some temptations -- even if you leave your coat behind -- is sometimes the best strategy to stay out of sin.
From: Money, Sex, and Spiritual Power by Keith Drury
(c) 1992 Wesley Press
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