It’s hard to catch a fish on a bare hook. It can be done but most likely it won’t yield a fish worth catching. Any experienced fisherman would tell you that in order to catch fish, you have to bait the hook. You have to hide the hook and present something that will lure the fish into biting it.
Temptation is the same way. If every time we were tempted, a list of terrible consequences flashed before us, or a loud voice shouted that this could ruin our life, we probably wouldn’t be so inclined to give in. But that is not how temptation works, does it? In the book of James, the author says, “But each person is tempted when he (or she) is lured and enticed by his own desire (James 1:14).” The word that is used (enticed) is a fishing term. It speaks of how fishermen bait a hook to entice and lure the fish to take the bait. That is exactly what temptation is. It’s deceptive in nature. It is meant to trick us into thinking, if I do ___________, it will give me life. However, that is the deception.
There is only one thing that can bring us life and that is Christ. Yesterday in the sermon, I explained (you can go check it out if you missed it) that the only thing that can free us from the enticement and bonds of sin is Jesus. Jesus is better than all of our sin. He is the thing that we truly crave and desire. First and foremost, before I list any practical steps to help us avoid temptation, we must first see how wonderful Jesus is. We need the Lord to open our eyes to see the beauty of Jesus and that nothing this world has to offer is better than Christ. This is the most important part of avoiding temptation. If I have not been changed by Gospel of Jesus Christ, all these practical steps are meaningless. First, our hearts have to be changed. I can’t do that and neither can you. It only happens by the power and grace of God as we place our faith in the finished work of Jesus. So this is the starting point.
With that in in mind, I would like to offer some practical ways that Scripture lays out for us to avoid the enticement of sin.
1) Taste that the Lord is Good
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” Psalm 34:8
The more we taste of the goodness of God, the less we will hungry for sin. It’s like comparing a Bone-in-Rib-eye to Spam. There is no comparison. Once we taste of the goodness of Christ through prayer, reading the word, living in community with believers, seeing the Lord work in our lives, the more we will desire Him.
2) Remember Where the Bait Leads
“Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown, brings forth death.” James 1:15
Temptation and sin lead to one place: death. Underneath the bait and temptation lies a hook. You and I have felt this. We run to sin thinking it will give us life but instead we are left with shame and guilt. As we face temptation on a daily basis, we have to remind ourselves where it will lead. The sin won’t give us what we desire (life) only Jesus can do that.
3) Run From the Temptation
“So, flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
Throughout Scripture, there is one response when it comes to sin: RUN! We are to resist, flee and run from evil and sin. It is not something that we are to play with because as the old saying goes, if you play with fire, you will get burned. Many of the times we fall into temptation because we allow ourselves to be put into situations where it is hard to say ‘no’. Whatever the sin is you struggle with, you must be aware of what triggers you to be tempted. Is it a time of day? Is it a certain situation or person? Is it a certain environment? We have to be aware of what tempts us and then run as far as possible from those circumstances.
4) Run to Jesus
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, for one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16
So as we flee sin and temptation, we are to run to Christ. When we face temptation, we have a place to run! How comforting is it to know that when we run to Jesus as we are faced with temptation, He knows exactly what we are going through. He knows what it’s like to feel the draw of sin. However, Jesus was without sin and never gave in. So the writer of Hebrew instructs us that we can confidently run to Christ and receive grace and mercy when we are faced with temptation. We have Savior that we can run to!
5) Don’t Get the Big Head
“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 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 10:12-13
When we do avoid temptation or we feel that the Lord has given us victory over a certain sin, don’t get the big head! It is a dangerous place to be when we get puffed up and think we have made it because then comes the fall. Paul instructs us to take heed and to be humble as we face temptation. God gives us an out of our temptation so that we can endure and overcome it but it should not produce arrogance or pride in us, but thankfulness.
6) Renew Your Mind
“To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
Paul reminds us that God desires for us not to live in our old way of life (giving in to sin) but to walk in our new identity in Christ. One of the ways for this to happen is for the Holy Spirit to renew our minds. Temptation and sin starts with a thought. It originates in our mind. For us to avoid temptation, we need our thought life renewed. We must guard what enters our mind. If I want to avoid temptation, I can’t let my mind dwell on sin. “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
This is not an exhaustive list for how to avoid temptation but I wanted to give us a starting point for avoiding temptation and sin. My prayer for my life and yours is that our eyes would be opened to greatest of who Jesus is and that we would love Him with all that we are and run from anything that would lead us away from Him!