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 (A New Life in Christ)
Week 8: Overcoming Temptations and Sin
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Week 8: Overcoming Temptations and Sin

In the arctic, people hunt wolves as a source of food and clothing. They dip a long knife into animal’s blood and allow it to freeze. Then they stick the knife into the snow with the blood-covered blade pointing upwards. Wolves detect the blood from miles away with their highly developed sense of smell. Attracted to the smell and taste, they come to lick the bloody icicle pop. As the wolves lick the blood away, they expose the blade and it begins to cut into their tongues. Pretty soon, the blood they are drinking is now their own, but they are too oblivious or engrossed to care. Finally, the wolves bleed to death from drinking their own blood.

Like a hunter, Satan entices our sinful desires and draws us away from the Lord. He appeals to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (cf. 1Jn 2:16). Temptations often offer us instant gratification or immediate solutions to our needs. They blur our vision and distract us from the everlasting blessings of God. Those who obey their desires rather than God’s will and those who are not spiritually discerning will fall for Satan’s bait.

Temptation is deceptive. It makes us question God’s authority and justifies what is wrong. Unless we are watchful, we will ask ourselves, “why not?” Then we will soon find ourselves “licking the icicle pop.” But the consequence is fatal. Those who indulge themselves in their temptations will find hidden inside a spiritual and emotional emptiness. Underneath the beautiful surface of sin is spiritual death.

Some Basic Principles

Temptations and Sin Are An Ever-present Danger.

As it was with Adam and Eve (Gen 3), temptations come to every person in very ordinary circumstances. No one is immune. The young child may be tempted to lie about sticking his or her hand in the cookie jar. The adolescent may be tempted to fudge on a take-home test. The college student may be tempted to download a term paper off the World Wide Web. The employee may be tempted to take some company office supplies home. The businessman or woman may be tempted to deliver less than what the client has paid. No one place is safe. The housewife may be tempted to gamble on a lotto ticket or two at the supermarket. The driver on the road may be tempted to drive a little faster over the speed limit. No time of day is safe either. Notice that temptations come when you are wide-awake. Temptations put you in situations where you make wrong and unwise choices. For the general public, yielding to temptations is an acceptable way of life. However, believers must learn from the first book in the Bible and know that when we give in to temptation, we sin against God.

Walk By Faith.

Just as we need light to see where we are going, we need faith to see where we’re heading spiritually. Sin and temptations will cloud our vision, making us lose sight of what we are walking towards. Many people today get so caught up in their life in this world that they forget they are merely pilgrims on the earth, travelers of faith (Ps 39:12; Heb 11:13; 1 Pet 1:17; 2:11). They make choices based on what they can see and feel without considering the consequences on their own spiritual life. Paul says that we should put our hope in what is not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, whereas the things we can’t see are eternal (2 Cor ). When we conduct our daily lives with faith with our eternal blessings in view, we will not easily be swayed by the tangible things of this world.

Count Yourself Dead to Sin, But Alive to God.

When Paul wrote to the Roman believers about living a sin-free life after conversion, he said, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:11). What does this mean? According to Paul, after we have been baptized, our sinful self has died. Temptations do not work on “dead” people. If you are dead to sin, sin is no longer appealing to you. To reckon ourselves dead to sin means that we say no to everything that is against God’s commands. It means showing no interest whatsoever in sin. Sin should no longer exercise control over us. We have to submit to our new master, Jesus Christ, and live a life to please him. Our bodies have been redeemed by his blood, so we must surrender to his will rather than our own desires.

Suggested Guidelines

Avoid Temptation.

Apostle Paul encouraged Corinthian believers to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor ). He told Timothy to “flee also youthful lusts” (2Tim ). The spiritually wise fears God and shuns evil (Prov14:16). Instead of lingering around sin, he runs away from it. Joseph did just that when his master’s wife tempted him daily to have sex with her; Joseph resisted by ignoring her, avoiding her, and finally running away (Gen 39). Joseph’s example of overcoming temptation is a model for us to follow in all types of temptation, not just sexual temptation. If you do your best to avoid tempting situations, then it’ll be much harder for you to actually engage in sinful activities.

Deal with Your Evil Desires.

Avoiding temptation is only a means of removing temptation from your sight. It doesn’t attack the root of the problem. Just because you hid that packet of cigarette doesn’t mean you are not longing for a smoke and endanger your health. Just because you stay away from casinos doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel the urge to gamble. Jesus taught, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Mt 5:29). Of course, Jesus didn’t really teach us to literally pluck out our eyes. Jesus’ message was that we should get rid of that part within ourselves that might cause us to sin. Although it may be a painful process, we can accomplish this by making a determination and asking God to change our hearts. If by God’s spirit a believer puts to death all of his or her lustful desires (Rom ), the person has overcome temptation because what was once temptation would no longer be temptation (see Jas ,15).

Confide In And Get Help From God-fearing People.

 If temptation is getting the better of you or you feel like you’re going into a spiritual tailspin, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many times, just confiding in someone you trust about your struggles and asking that person to pray for you can make you feel better. There’s a healing in confession because it allows you to recognize your sinfulness as opposed to covering it up. So James says “confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” (Jas 5:16). Don’t be afraid to admit your sin and weaknesses. No matter what the sin, no matter how embarrassing, you can always confide in God. But we often also need the comfort of other people, because, in sin, we can’t really see God as clearly anymore. So don’t forget to turn to God-fearing brethren when you’re struggling with temptation or have given into sin. Another brother or sister may have a testimony about how they faced the same or similar temptation; they can share their struggles and how they overcame their temptations. God’s Word says, “Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion…” (Eccl 4:9,10).

Watchful and Pray.

If we are constantly watchful in prayer, temptation won’t catch us in a spiritual slumber. So Jesus once encouraged his sleeping disciples to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Mt 26:41). Many people fall into temptation because they don’t realize they’re being tempted. Hunters often catch their prey unawares. Likewise, the Bible describes Satan as a hunter, describing him as “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8). If we’re to avoid Satan’s traps, we must be watchful in prayer. If we don’t take Jesus’ encouragement to watch and pray seriously, we’ll be easy prey for Satan’s temptations. Ask the Lord for spiritual strength and deliverance. Prayer gives us the strength to overcome temptation. Jesus told us to watch and pray so that we would not fall into temptation, because “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Mt 26:41). Prayer can be likened to physical training because it strengthens our faith “muscles.” We need prayer to increase our spiritual strength. Trying to overcome temptation without prayer is as if you are trying to lift a 100 LB weight without proper training. You will either fail or get injured in the process.

Read God’s Word.

When we are faced with temptation, we may try to find ways to justify our sin. The line that separates right and wrong suddenly becomes fuzzy, and sometimes it disappears altogether. But the Bible sets clear standards on what is right or wrong. God’s word is sharp and living, even discerning the hidden intents of our heart (Heb ). Apostle Paul says, “All Scripture…is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2Tim -17). Filling our hearts with God’s Word will keep us from veering off the narrow path (Ps 119:11) and guide us back when we have strayed.

Pursue Righteousness.

To only avoid sin is passive spiritual living, but we must do more—actively engaging a righteous and spiritual life. Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace…” (2Tim ). Passivity leads to complacency, and complacency leads to spiritual slumber, which in turn leads to sin. So, for example, king David’s complacency, after he became king, led him to lose his spiritual watchfulness and fall into temptation. At that time, David committed the worst sins of his life (2 Sam 11). If David had been more watchful and had actively pursued a righteous life, drawing closer and closer to God, he would have been able to resist Satan and overcome his temptations (Jas 4:7-10).

Questions

1.      How does walking by faith rather by sight help us overcome temptations and sin?

2.      Was there a time when you prayed and God saved you from falling into temptation?

3.      The apostle Paul tells us, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality ______________________________________________” (1 Cor 6:18).

4.      When you have removed temptation from your sight, you have overcome temptation. T/F.

5.      Read Rom 8:13. What did Paul say?

6.      Memorize Mt 26:41, and write it down.

7.      If we don’t take Jesus’ warning to watch and pray, we’ll be easy prey for ____________ __________________.

8.      When we are faced with temptation, we usually try to find ways to justify our sin. T/F

9.      How can you hide God’s Word in your heart? (Ps 119:11)

10.  “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue ________________, __________, ____________, _____________ with those who call on the Lord out of a ___________ _______________ (2Tim 2:22).

Case Studies

1.      Brock, a church brother, confides that he has been watching adult movies on cable television late at night. Recently, he has had difficulty praying because scenes from the movies flash in his mind every time he closes his eyes. He has completely stopped reading the Bible and has lost interest in attending church services. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but he lacks the strength or the will to stop. What practical advice could you give him? What could you share from personal or others’ experience that could help him? What other action might you take?

2.      Jane, a recent college graduate, confides that she’s been tempted by a recent job opportunity. She says the job pays so well that she could pay off all her student loans in no time at all. Unfortunately, this would mean that she must miss every Sabbath service. She tells you that she knows God made the Sabbath for her to rest. Jane tells you that she doesn’t want to forsake the fellowship she has with other brothers and sisters on the Sabbath. But she also tells you that she can’t bear the burden of the loan any longer. It is as heavy as the burden of her parents’ disowning her from the family ever since she became a believer in her freshman year at college. How would you counsel her? What could you share from personal or others’ experience that could help her? What other action might you take?

Activity

1.      List out some of the external temptations (a thing, event, or action) that you feel could or does draw you away from God. Beside each item you listed in the “Outside” column, put down what you think it is “Inside” yourself that attracts you so much to the external temptation (i.e., the thing, event, or action).

Outside

People praise and flatter me.

Inside

My vain glory and pride.

Prevention

Don’t get excited to hear such praise and try to turn my ears away.

Know that everything I have is from God. There is nothing to be proud of.

 

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Publisher: True Jesus Church
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