How can Christians experience victory over temptations to sin?
Here are ten dynamic steps you can take to gain victory over temptation…
Think clearly and correctly about temptation. Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. 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, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). You are not immune to temptation. You are not unique when tempted. You are not alone in your temptations. James writes, “Let no say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15). You cannot gain victory over temptation fighting the wrong battles. Do not blame God. Do not trust yourself. Do not be deceived about temptation.
Renew your mind.Temptation is a battle of the mind. We often lose when temptation comes, because we give up too much territory before the battle ever begins. Paul admonishes, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). You can easily fall, if you have faulty thinking about yourself, temptation, and sin. You must renew your mind: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Victory over temptation the spiritual power of a renewed mind: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Fight.Temptation is spiritual warfare. To gain victory over temptation, you must fight! James gives a crash course in spiritual warfare in one verse: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). This is a remarkable promise. The devil will flee from you, like a defeated army in full retreat. But Satan does not withdraw automatically. You must first submit to God. In a real sense, you cannot win over Satan until you learn to lose to God. Then the submissive believer must resist the devil. Victory over temptation requires that you stand your ground and fight. This spiritual battle may require extreme measures. You may have to tear out your right eye or cut off your right hand to resist temptation (Matthew 5:29-30). But it is worth whatever it costs you to win the battle against temptation and live in obedience to God.
Avoid Temptation.Warning against sinful temptations, Solomon asked, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (Proverbs 6:27-28) These rhetorical questions assume a negative answer. Likewise, they teach us that the best way to gain victory over temptation is to avoid it altogether. It is foolish to stick your hand into a fire and then pray for strength, protection, or intervention. If you do not want to be burned, stay away from the fire! And if you want to resist temptation, stay away from places, practices, and, yes, people, that feed your temptations. Paul exhorts, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). Avoid temptation. Don’t trust yourself. Don’t stick your hand into the fire. Don’t give your flesh any opportunity to gratify its desires.
Make Yourself Accountable to Godly People.When fallen leaders are surveyed, the same responses emerge. First, they did not think it would happen to them. Second, they did not have people in their lives who told them the truth. The fact that spiritual leaders fall when they do have healthy relationships should be a stern warning to us all. You cannot overcome temptation on your own. You need godly people in your life. And these godly people need to be free to hold you accountable. That is, they should be free to ask you personal questions, challenge the answers you give, and follow up to see if you are keeping your word. I know this seems inconvenient, if not invasive. But if you do not have people who will speak the truth in love to you, you will succumb to the lies your flesh tell you. “Two are better than one,” wrote Solomon (Ecclesiastes 4:9a). He explains: “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Put the Past Behind You. As we deal with temptation, we must forget the failures of the past. Indeed, we should remember the lessons of the past. But must not let yesterday’s failure’s control our past and determine our future. We must put the past behind us. There is only one way to do that: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If you are honest with God about your sin, he promises to blessings. First, the Lord will forgive your sin through the finished work of our Advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous (1 John 2:1). But that’s not all! The Lord will also cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The God who forgives sin also cleanses sin. God can create within you a clean heart (Psalm 51:10) that puts the past behinds you and gives you a new start.
Set Your Desires on Godly Satisfaction. “Just follow your heart,” may seem like good advice. But it is actually the worst advice anyone can give you. Our hearts are deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). And left to their natural devices, our hearts will inevitably lead us astray. Victory over temptation requires that we set our hearts on something above and beyond us (Colossians 3:1-2). We must set our affections on God. David wrote, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). If you delight in the Lord, he will teach your heart what to desire and fulfill those godly desires. Temptation cannot lead you astray when your delight is in God, not the things of this world. Moses prays, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). True joy is only found in the satisfaction of living in the loyal love of God in Christ.
Remember the Lord. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph. He resisted. But she insisted that he go to bed with her. Firmly refusing to give in to temptation, Joseph asked, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) Joseph fully understand it would betray Potiphar’s trust to sleep with his wife. But Joseph stated that it would be a great act of wickedness against God, not Potiphar. Temptation seduces the mind and causes us to forget about God. We overcome temptation by remembering the Lord. When sin solicits you, ask yourself questions that will force you to remember the Lord. Can I thank God for what I am tempted to do? (1 Thessalonians 5:18) Can I do this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ? (Colossians 3:17) Can I do this to the glory of God? (1 Corinthians 10:31) Remembering the Lord weakens the power of temptation and gives strengthens your resolve to please him.
Commit Yourself to Good Works. You go into the field and pull up weeds. But your work is not done. You must plant seed that will be fruit to replace the weeds. If you allow the ground to lay fallow, uprooted weeds will grow again. So it is in dealing with temptation. Paul wrote, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). The old saying is true, “The idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” The more you consume your life with the fruit of righteousness the less room you give for the seeds of temptation to grow. 1 Corinthians 15:58 reads, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Always be at work for the Lord. In fact, abound in the work of the Lord. Your labor in the Lord will not be in vain. Faithful service will have a sanctifying effect in you as you serve others for Christ’s sake.
Depend on the Power of the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot gain victory over temptation in your own wisdom, strength, or resources. You need divine help that only comes through Jesus Christ. Paul calls the saints to arms: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11). The power of Satan is deceit. He schemes against believers to undermine and overthrow our faith in Christ. But God has given you the armor you need to stand firm. The whole armor of God is effectively by the strength and might of the Lord. You can only wear and work the armor by the power of Christ. This is the believer’s only hope for gaining victory over temptation. I can state it in five words: Jesus only. And only Jesus. Trust Jesus can clear your guilt. Trust Jesus can change your habits. Trust Jesus can conquer your problems.