We all face temptations. We want to be clear that being tempted to sin is not a sin in and of itself. The Bible is filled with stories of people being tempted—even Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11; Hebrews 4:15). We repeat: Feeling tempted is not a sin. What we do with that temptation is what determines if we have crossed the line.
So where do all these feelings come from? Keep in mind that God will not tempt you (James 1:13). So who is left? Only two—Satan and ourselves.
The enemy is on the prowl, roaming the earth like a hungry lion, and we are his prey (1 Peter 5:8). Scary as that is, we have the power in Christ to resist him. Once you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you are no longer bound to sin. You don't have to give in.
James 1:14 says that temptation originates in our hearts too. When we take the tempting thoughts and play them out in our imaginations, we are giving in to the temptation, seeing where it goes and far we can carry it. Often, those thoughts end up coming out in our actions as we make choices that fulfill the desires we've pumped up in our minds.
First things first, with any sin, you must first WANT to overcome it. If you don't truly want to stop doing it, then you will never make any long-term changes. You have free will to choose to sin or not to sin. Thanks to Christ, you don't HAVE to choose sin. God promises that He will always give you an escape route when you're feeling tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13). When you feel tempted, it is up to YOU to immediately look for that escape route and TAKE IT.
Remember when Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)? Every time Satan tempted him to use His own power to get out of a bad situation, Jesus would rebuke him with a statement that began, "It is written," and quote from Scripture. See what He did there? He used the Word of God to stop the temptation from going any further.
Does it seem too easy? Well, after three very compelling efforts by the enemy, Satan gave up, knowing he had failed (Matthew 4:11). Of course, we find ourselves tempted much more than that throughout our lives (sometimes more than three times daily), but the method remains the same. Anything we try to do on our own is totally inefficient in stopping Satan—unless it is powered by Holy Spirit.
Cracking open your Bible is a great place to start. Read, study, reflect, discuss. Be "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12:2). The Bible is your biggest weapon in the armory against the enemy. Ephesians 6:17 calls the Bible the "sword of the Spirit." By filling your heart and your head with God's Word, you're basically guarding your heart against the desire to give in to temptations as they come.
There are so many things we are tempted to fill our hearts and heads with instead of God. Movies, music, pop culture, YouTube, Facebook, and all that stuff can take up a lot of space in our brains. They're like the fluffy comforter that can't be squished down into the bottom of the closet. But Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."
This is not to say that everything out there is horrible and will ultimately destroy you, but when we're constantly taking in words and images that aren't spiritually healthy, we create a breach in our hearts that can allow temptation and sin to take hold and build a fort within us. The enemy is then free to feed us with whatever he wants, disguising it as something from our own food stores.
If we can instead fill ourselves up with holiness, love, and compassion, then the temptations will be mere leaves in the wind we can whisk away with a swing of the sword.
Practically speaking, we should try to keep away from anything that we already know is tempting to us. If you know you have a weakness for spending too much money, don't take extra cash or cards with you when you go out with friends. If you're not supposed to eat or drink a certain thing, then don't go gazing at it longingly. Jesus told His disciples to "keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).
Proverbs 4:14-15 says, "Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by; Turn away from it and pass on." Though most of us wouldn't want to rush into the arms of sin, it's so easy to fall for temptation's lures. We have such a hard time resisting because we're just not strong enough on our own. We allow ourselves to see things, do things, or hear things that fill our brains with lustful passions which are acted out as sin.
Remember, being tempted to sin is not a sin. But acting upon a temptation that leads to sin is. What do do you when you're tempted? Look for an escape because there will always be one. How do we know this? 1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will always provide an escape: "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." Look for the exit door, then take it!
Jesus gives us some awesome advice in Matthew 5:29 too: "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw if from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." Okay, don't go gouging out your eyes or cutting off body parts! This is what's called hyperbole. (Look it up; it's grammar. ☺) Sin is majorly serious! Dismemberment is a drastic measure, and Jesus is saying that we should take drastic measures in order to avoid sin.
What drastic measures have you taken to avoid temptations or stop Satan in his tracks?
We all get tempted sometimes, but that doesn't meant that we have to be slaves to that temptation (Matthew 26:41; Proverbs 4:14-15). Thanks to the Holy Spirit, we have the power to say NO to temptation (Romans 12:2; Colossians 3:2), and we can count on God to provide a way out so we do not sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). Try to keep away from anything you know is tempting to you, but if you are tempted, watch for your escape route, then take it!
Cat is the webmaster and editor of 412teens.org and regularly teaches local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, four socially awkward cats, and one curly-tailed dog.