“Nothing is certain except death and taxes” – Benjamin Franklin, 1789
A timeless saying with eerie implications. Death is a reality that awaits every millionaire and every poorest of men. No human being can escape from its grip (see this article).
However, death is ultimately a reminder of the Earth’s degradation that began in Eden when Adam & Eve committed the first sin by mankind against God.
Now, every single one of us are born sinners by nature, and we must deal with this reality daily (Romans 5:12).
To sin is to disobey God or to miss the mark of righteousness.
Christians are not exempt from this reality as the Bible makes it perfectly clear that we would not be made perfectly sinless on this side of life.
This is clearly pointed out to us in the following passage:
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us1 John 1:8-10 ESV
This scripture provides a level of comfort and assurance that God is the forgiver of sins, for those who believe in Jesus Christ.
However, in the same book we are reminded that those who continue in sin do not know God (i.e., do not believe in Jesus Christ).
6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him1 John 3:6 ESV
Based on these scriptures we are left with three realities:
- Everyone sins, including the Christian
- Those who believe in Christ will be forgiven for their sins if we ask God for forgiveness
- Despite our imperfections, we are expected to not make a practice of sinning as the scripture says “no one who abides in him keeps on sinning“
I write all these things to remind the believer of the forgiveness we have in Jesus Christ while remaining steadfast in our fight against sin. Paul says it best in the passage below
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worshipRomans 12:1 ESV
We offer our lives as a living sacrifice BECAUSE of God’s mercies towards us…not to GAIN his mercy. Our fight for holiness is one that begins from the victory God has already won and bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus.
With that being said, how do we fight against our temptations to sin?
We will answer this question by unpacking 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Apostle Paul begins speaking to the church of Corinth about how the people of ancient Israel used to walk before God. He spoke of how they walked under the pillar of God’s cloud and how they crossed through the red sea and ate spiritual food from Him.
However, according to 1 Corinthians 10:5, God was displeased with most of them.
Why? Well if you read the Old Testament long enough you will see several reasons, but Paul emphasized on the following 5:
- They desired evil [1 Corinthians 10:6]
- They were idolaters [1 Corinthians 10:7 + Exodus 32]
- They indulged in sexual immorality [1 Corinthians 10:8+Numbers 25:1-9]
- They put Christ to the test [1 Corinthians 10:9]
- They grumbled at God, ungrateful for the fact that they had been delivered out of Egypt and for the spiritual food that God had provided them [1 Corinthians 10:10+Numbers 21:4-9]
In essence, God was displeased because Israel (God’s chosen people) were disobedient to Him.
Now back to our question:
How do we fight against our temptations to sin?
Let’s continue to our first point…
1. TAKE HEED
To take heed means to…
- To be observant
- To be watchful
- To be careful
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.1 Corinthians 10:11-12 ESV
Paul makes clear that what we read in the Old Testament was written down for our instruction, so that we do not follow the same footsteps as most of them did.
As christians, often times we may think to ourselves:
“If I saw the great miracles of the Old Testament, I would definitely have more faith in God and be on fire for Him”
However, the people of Israel LITERALLY walked under the pillar of God’s cloud in the days of God…yet they still fell into sin (1 Corinthians 10:1-9).
Even Moses himself (who was shown a glimpse of God’s glory according to Exodus 33:17-19) disobeyed God at some point, which prevented him from entering into the promise land (Numbers 20:1-13)! The man that literally spoke to God through a burning bush… (Exodus 3)
All this to say, we must ALL take heed, regardless of how spiritual we may perceive ourselves to be.
This does not mean that we should be cripplingly fearful every moment of our lives for impending sin. However, we should be mindful and accepting of the fact that we my encounter temptations of all kinds.
We are not immune.
As a matter of fact, Paul was specifically talking to those who thought themselves to be strong. The text says “let anyone who THINKS that he stands take heed”.
Sometimes we may read this verse and perceive that it does not apply to us.
“That can never be me“
“I can’t believe Person A did that to Person B, I would never do such a thing“
“I don’t understand how people can be this evil“
“I would NEVER do that, those are not my vices“
Ironically, this scripture is written especially for those who posses this way of thinking.
Even the Apostle Peter…like the one who had literally walked on water with Jesus, made this mistake when he denied the thought of rejecting Christ (Matthew 26:30-35; Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-62)
Like Peter, we too overestimate our capacity to love Jesus in the midst of trials. Truth is we cannot do anything apart from Him (John 15:5)
So, how exactly do we practically “take heed?”
Simply be aware of the fact that outside of the strength you have in Christ, your efforts to fight temptations are futile.
Be mindful of the fact that you are one measure of grace away from being the son or daughter of Satan. It is by grace you have been saved (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Be attentive to your surroundings, and if you must, stay away from things/ crowds that lead you into temptation (Matthew 5:29-30, 1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
Ask for accountability (Galatians 6:1)
Ask God to search your heart to reveal the sins you are prone to (Psalm 139:23-24)
Possess a mindset of humility, that outside of Christ you are truly at the mercy of your inward sins (Ephesians 4:17-32)
2. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man…1 Corinthians 10:13a ESV
Whether you are prone to temptations involving alcohol, drug abuse, anger or sexual immorality of any kind, it is important that we remind ourselves of this fact.
Nothing that you are being tempted of is unique. It is not unique to the people in this generation, nor were they to some in times of old.
Let me provide you with 3 examples of people who can relate to you, personally regarding your temptations.
A) The People of Ancient Israel
Recall the 5 types sins that the people of Israel committed in days of old (see the “Context” section above as reference)
If you look at the world today, we ourselves are still ungrateful to God when things do not go their way.
We also test Christ, taking his grace as a license to sin. Furthermore, we are still being tempted of sexual immorality of various forms, desire things that are evil and idolize created things rather than worshipping the creator.
These sins that Paul mentioned regarding the people of Israel are still alive and active today. There is nothing new under the sun.
B) People in the World…Today
I am almost certain that if I went around and asked every single one of us about the personal sins or temptations that we are currently dealing with, many of us would share similar situations and will soon realize that we are not alone.
If you were to go on Google and type out:
“I am a Christian struggling with _____”
You will more than likely find a community of people dealing with the exact same thing. Go ahead, do it right now if you have to!
I say these things not to make light of any sin, but to encourage you that no sin has overtaken you that is unique to the human experience, even today.
With this in mind, we ought to have compassion for one another, bearing each other’s burdens and restoring people who have sinned with gentleness (Galatians 6:1-2)
C) Jesus Christ
The final example of “people” I will mention is not a people but a person.
Jesus Christ Himself can empathize with those who struggle with temptation.
Take a look at the scriptures below…
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinHebrews 4:15 ESV
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being temptedHebrews 2:18 ESV
God is so gracious.
It wasn’t enough that Christ had come to Earth, lived a perfect life and died for the sake of our sins.
No, God made sure that Christ would also SUFFER in temptations, so that He can sympathize with our weakness in our temptations.
The beautiful thing about all of this is that Jesus never sinned.
So not only can he empathize with our struggles because He was tempted in EVERY respect as we are, but He is certified to help us in our temptation because He has overcome it.
Whatever it is that you are dealing, the Saviour Himself has been tempted by it…if no one else can empathize with you, Christ can.
3. GOD IS FAITHFUL
…God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape…1 Corinthians 10:13b ESV
One of the greatest comforts to know as a child of God is that He is faithful…all the time.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself – 2 Timothy 2:13.
If this is true, our obligation as followers of Christ is to believe in this promise.
“He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability”
Do not believe the lie that repeatedly falling into [“enter habitual sin here“] is your lot in life as a child of God.
God knows you, and He has sovereignly permitted us to be tempted in various types of ways knowing that there is always a way of escape.
It is a lie to be convinced that there is no practical means of escaping our temptations, we simply lack the faith to see it or walk through it.
As mentioned earlier, when Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray, he implies that they ought to be praying everyday. We see this in Matthew 6:11 – “give us THIS day our DAILY bread”.
Another component of this DAILY prayer is that we plead with God to “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” according to Matthew 6:13.
With that being said, we ought to plead with God, every day that we may SEE the way of escape He has provided us and give us the strength to run through it.
…that you may be able to endure it1 Corinthians 10:13c ESV
In this verse, to endure means to “bear by being under”.
The physical depiction is you are carrying something over.
To endure means to suffer patiently.
No matter how you look at it, temptation is not something you always easily breeze through. Recall that the Jesus Himself SUFFERED when faced with temptation (Hebrews 2:18).
Practically speaking, some may be easier to fight off than others. However the Bible does not negate the reality of struggling through our temptations in order to overcome sin.
No, the Bible is not giving a “license” to sin because of how difficult your temptations are. It is rather giving voice to the reality of pain and suffering that comes in the face of it.
Let’s be real, it does not always “FEEL GOOD” to choose righteousness and not sin.
Whether its the temptation of..
- Getting drunk [Ephesians 2:18]
- Watching pornographic content of any kind [1 Thess 4:3-5]
- Gossiping with our friends despite how common it might be [Eph 4:29; Prov 20:19]
- Not forgiving that ONE person that has hurt you beyond belief [Mt 18:21-35]
Whatever it is, doing the right thing before God may not always be easy..we must ENDURE it.
There is another scripture that really speaks to this point.
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin1 Peter 4:1 ESV
According to 1 Peter 3:8-22, Christ suffered for our sake in the flesh so that He might bring us to God.
He understood that He had to suffer.
In the same way, Peter is encouraging his readers to EQUIP themselves in this way of thinking.
The thinking that your flesh will SUFFER on this side of life in pursuit of holiness (see Paul’s experience in Romans 7:7-25).
Once we grasp this reality through the Spirit of God, our fight against sin will become victorious, for “whoever has suffered in the flesh has CEASED from sin”
Soli Deo Gloria