The Well Blog

Facing Temptation in the New Year

December 31, 2015
Dr. Rick Taylor
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If there is anything that every human being who has ever lived has in common – including Jesus – it is temptation.

But what is temptation exactly? Where does it come from? How should we deal with it when it is staring us in the face?

Temptation has been around as long as there have been humans. Adam and Eve faced it in the Garden. Cain faced it before he killed his brother Abel. In fact, every person we know much at all about in the Bible faced temptation – spelled out in living color for us. So it should come as no surprise that we do face and will face temptation all of our lives.

Think about temptation as an extension and expression of our evil desires, whether we’re a Christian or not. There is a difference in how Christians and non-Christians deal with temptation, but not in the fact that both have a learned tendency to pursue that which is different than God and His design (that’s called evil).

There are a few arenas mentioned in the Bible that have a magnetic draw on us away from God and His design, such as the world system that is orchestrated by Satan and his forces, our sin-trained flesh and Satan himself. All of these tend to draw us away from good (God and His design). But how?

We play a part in that. Consider some of these vignettes:

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate…. (Genesis 3:6, NASB)

Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. (Judges 16:1, NASB)

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. (2 Samuel 11:1-2, NASB)

There is something all these vignettes have in common. Did you catch it?

It’s the word saw. And in each case it was the pivotal point in the story of each of their lives. And the saw here was not a casual glance and look away. It was seeing something, studying it, and pondering it long enough and deep enough for temptation to take root.

There are other things that lead to temptation, like our sin-trained flesh and the inbred pride in our lives. But the “lust of the eyes” is what we’re looking at here (1 John 2:16).

I’m fascinated with a picture that Paul paints in Romans 5:1-11. He begins by saying we have been declared right with God by faith. He then uses a subjunctive to tell us what our response ought to be: “let us enjoy peace with God.“ So the question is, even though the peace treaty has been signed, are we enjoying the terms of that peace treaty or living as if there was no treaty?

Paul uses 3 other subjunctives to tell us how we can truly enjoy the peace treaty with God, and all 3 begin with the word exult. This word has the idea of focusing on something intently, to the point that impacts and overflows through our lives. Instead of allowing ourselves to focus on things that are different than God and His design, we ought to focus on these 3 things:

  1. Let us exult in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:2). This is the idea of focusing on who we are becoming (rather than who we were), and we are becoming more like the fullness of God (the glory of God).
  1. Let us exult in our tribulations (Romans 5:3-5). This is the idea of focusing on the process He is using to make us more like the fullness of God.
  1. Let us exult in God (Romans 5:11).

We need to focus on the one who is using our challenges in life to change us to become more and more like Him. And the more we keep our eyes on these 3 things, the less likely we will focus on other things intently, to the point that we are impacted by temptation and move in that direction.

As we move into the New Year…

  • Where will you focus?
  • Where will you set your eyes, your attention?
  • How will you view your trials and difficulties?
  • Who will you look to as the life-change agent in your life?

These are much bigger and better questions than, “What will my New Year’s resolution be – again?”

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