We all get to face temptation in life in different forms; sexual temptation, temptation to trust in money rather than in God, temptation to quit believing and give up on what God has promised, temptation to think and act according to the world etc.
To overcome it is a must that we realize that God is not the source of temptation. If God were the source of temptation it would be pointless to fight it. It is not a coincidence that the devil is called the “tempter” in the Bible (see Matt. 4:3).
The apostle James makes very clear that temptation does not originate with God:
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (Jm. 1:13-15)
God is not the one that tempts us; on the contrary He has given us what we need to overcome every temptation we will ever face – because of Jesus’ victory over sin and death through His death and resurrection.
How then can we overcome temptation?
- We can overcome temptation only based of God’s grace
We can neither keep ourselves from falling into sin, nor live a holy life, in our own strength; but only through the help and power of the Holy Spirit.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…” (Jude. v. 24)
God is able to keep us from falling. It is not based on our performance or our own goodness but based on God’s (unmerited) grace.
Before Jesus was captured in Gethsemane, He say to His disciples:
“Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)
The Christian who does not have an active prayer life; a close relationship with Jesus, will eventually fall since our flesh is weak (meaning that we are weak in ourselves). But Jesus is strong. The key to overcome temptation is to walk closely with Jesus and to rely on Him to keep us from falling – rather than to trust in ourselves and in our own performance (including our own prayer life).
- We can overcome temptation because we as born-again believers have a new and righteous nature on the inside and are seated with Christ in heaven
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ(by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 2:1-7)
Paul explains that the Ephesians – before they were born again – by nature were ”children of wrath” and walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind. But – after having been saved by grace – the Ephesians had been “made alive”, “raised together”, and “seated with Christ” in heaven.
We normally associate “being seated in heaven with Christ” with that we in Jesus’ name can take spiritual authority over the devil and his demons, which is correct. However, it also includes that we now can live in victory over sin, so that we no longer must live according to the ways of the world and follow our lusts and fleshly desires!
Most Christians are not aware of who they are in Christ, and that they have received a new righteous nature after being born-again. They regard themselves as “sinners saved by grace”, which is not correct. We were sinners saved by grace, but after having been saved we are no longer “sinners” but “saints” – the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). As long as we see ourselves as sinners, we will eventually give in when temptation comes. But once we truly understand that we are righteous in Christ and seated with Him in heaven, that gives us strength to stand firm and refuse to give in to the temptation. The truth of the Gospel sets us free from the power of sin!
- We can overcome temptation by speaking God’s word
When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, He responded by saying, “It is written…” He overcame every temptation by speaking God’s word.
Whenever we face temptation, we can cut immediately cut it off with the words that we speak. When tempted by unclean thoughts, we can immediately cut them off by saying: “I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, I am never going to act on that thought.” When attacked by thoughts of fear and unbelief, like for instance that we or our family members will be injured in a car accident, we can immediately respond by saying: “In the name of Jesus neither I nor my family members will ever be involved in a car accident!”
Did you know that you to a large extent can control the course of your life by the words that you speak?
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Prov. 18:21)
Note that our words do not only have the potential to produce negative consequences, but also positive ones! Death and life are in the power of the tongue. We can speak positive words of faith to make good things happen in our lives!
2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. 4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. (Jm. 3:2-4)
Control what you speak, and you will be able to control your whole body. Just like a horse is controlled by a bit and the course of a ship is controlled by a relatively small rudder, we can – with our tongue – control the direction of our lives by the words that we speak, James explains. This is a powerful revelation! We can steer our life course with our mouth!
“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.” (Rev. 12:11)
The book of Revelation tells us that we overcome the devil with the word of our testimony, which is the gospel of grace – by speaking in accordance with the finished work of Jesus.