Avoiding Temptation – Easier Said Than Done
Three days ago, I woke up with the below passage on my mind. It is a verse from Romans 7 where Paul writes a letter (57 A.D.) to the Roman church to share with the Christians in Rome the truths of the Gospel and highlighting God’s grace and sanctification*. In this letter, he emphasized, despite years of being a Christian and knowing what is right under the Law, he continues to struggle with his sinful nature but also knows that through Christ, he will be delivered.
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
Romans 7:14-15, NASB
What Paul is acknowledging, is that despite being a Christian and redeemed through Christ’s death for his sins, he still is flawed. We are at constant battles with our flesh. Our sinful natures are inherent and continually seek to bring sin to the forefront through this ongoing spiritual warfare that we face daily. Satan loves nothing more than to continue to tempt us and steer us away from God.
I am not always proud of my behavior as well. I deal with regret for things I have done and for things I have said. I try not to dwell in the past and continue to remind myself that tomorrow I will do better. My prayers to God continually ask for forgiveness and I pray for His help to make me a better person. The truth to my fallen nature, is the reality of what we all face, we are flawed and sinful by nature.
I can attest to Paul’s frustration, because I gave my life to Jesus and was saved in my teen years and yet I continue to act in a manner that I would be ashamed of and be brought to tears if Jesus physically stood in front of me today. Thankfully, through the nudging of the Holy Spirit, after we recognize our sinful behavior, we experience guilt. Through God’s grace this conviction allows us to improve, make better choices and seek God each time we fall. Although I strongly believe that we should not dwell on guilt and feel condemned to the point of immobilization on moving forward, I do feel, that the twinge we get in our souls is the Holy Spirit trying to get us back on track. Let me share with you a story of an event that happened in my past that I will call, “The Wooden Spoon”.
My mother and father used to visit me here in NY. Back in 1987, they moved to California seeking change and better weather. They continued to visit me and my family often. My mom on many occasions, to help, would start dinner for my husband and me. I was still working at the time and on one of the occasions, she started making a pot of sauce. My mom always had a habit of placing her metal spoon across the top of the pot and laying the cover over that spoon to hold it in place. I have several stirring spoons as I love to cook…..metal, plastic and wooden. I am obsessed with kitchen accessories so there’s no lack of a proper tool to get the job done right. I’m also a little bit of a perfectionist (I say that with a heavy heart and not pride because a lot of my failings revolve around my need to control things perfectly).
On one of these evenings, where my mom prepared dinner, she grabbed a wooden spoon and as customary, she laid it over the large sauce pot that was on the stove. When I arrived home, my eyes quickly saw that the wooden spoon had a very dark burn mark around it where the handle rested on the pot. I have a shrewd skill of always noticing what is wrong instead of what’s right. I blame my perfectionist nature on this and admit that my sinful flesh focuses on things that are not important in the grand scheme of things. Instead of worshiping my mom with praise and gratefully thanking her for helping us, I scream and yell that the darn “wooden spoon” is damaged. I am sure that when I go before God at the end of this journey, He will not ask me, “Grace, how well did you take care of that wooden spoon I gave you?”
I still have that darn spoon. However, sadly, I don’t still have my mom; God called her home back in 2018. So now I am left with the memory of a time I acted so poorly where my sinful nature took over and pushed me to behave in a manner that is not fitting for a child of God.
I share this with you because I know the struggle is real. Whether you have given your life to God yet or not, we have an unredeemable sinful part of us, a constant foe. As God tugs at our souls to get closer to Him, even subtle sins like this, can convict you and speak to your conscience with a dire prompting for change. We are in an unrelenting battle with ourselves. In a commentary to Romans 7, Chuck Smith puts it this way (more persuasively than I can elaborate):
I found that there is a dual nature: the flesh and the spirit. These two are warring against each other, and there are times when I yield to the flesh. And I hate myself for yielding to the flesh, because my spirit wants to live after God and please God. When I yield to the flesh I feel miserable. I hate myself for doing what I have done. The real me after the spirit wants to please God. There is another part of me, the flesh that wants to please the flesh. ……..I want to live a righteous life; I want to live the life that would be pleasing unto the Father.
So, what are we do? I recall an Indian story that a pastor retold during his sermon that might shed some light on what our course of action should be:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.
“A fight is going on inside me,” the grandfather said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandfather went on, “This same fight is going on inside you and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
His Word is a weapon against the enemy and temptation. We will never be perfect because our flesh will make sure of that; however, we can feed our spiritual nature and we can keep pressing on to do better, make better choices, remove things that tempt us and always surround ourselves with people that strive for the same thing. Immerse yourself in the Word daily so that you are continually reminded and guided. We are promised victory through Christ. In Hebrews 10:10, we are told that we are made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.
Take comfort, we are not in this fight alone. God knows our shortcomings. Although our flesh can’t be reformed because of our fallen nature, we have God’s Son to redeem us. We can’t do this in our own strength and surely are not going to win battles without Him. Jesus is not out to condemn us. On the contrary, he welcomes us with open arms and is always waiting for us to return to Him each time we take a step back.
In Luke, we see that Jesus knows that Peter (Simon) is about to deny knowing Him to others. Despite knowing that Peter will experience the consequence of his flesh, He says:
Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.
Luke 22:31-32, NKJV
I leave you with two more passages that might encourage you:
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:12-14, NLT
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.
1 Corinthians 10:13
Love, Blessings, and Prayers,
*….a mere moral reformation of character, brought about by the power of the truth: it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration.
(Easton’s Bible Dictionary)
*…..is ordinarily meant that hallowing of the Christian believer by which he is freed from sin and enabled to realize the will of God in his life. This is not, however, the first or common meaning in the Scriptures. To sanctify means commonly to make holy, that is, to separate from the world and consecrate to God.
(International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)