The book of Proverbs always presents everyday life from the point of view of God’s wisdom. It is one of the most practical books in all of scripture, providing not only an outline for holy living but also for successful living.
Let’s look at one verse from this great book:
Can a man take fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? (Proverbs 6:27)
The context of this verse is a warning against adultery. The advice is very straightforward – don’t do it. The warning is strong – you will suffer reproach and dishonor; there is a strong warning that poverty and violence may also be the end result. (Anyone who has had the misfortune of viewing a Springer episode can attest to the truth of this verse).
I wanted to pull back from this context only and consider the issue of playing with fire. In most cases you are not going to burn yourself, but at the very least you are going to smell of smoke. However, if you play long enough you are going to be burned and sometimes that burn can be fatal.
James said it this way:
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
Temptation will always exist. Throughout your Christian experience you will consistently be tempted to do those things that you know the Bible specifically says you should not. You will also be tempted not to do those things that you know the Bible specifically says you should do. Temptation will change as you change. Here are some of the things that will evolve in temptation as you mature:
- The frequency of temptation
- How often do you have to deal with a certain temptation?
- The medium of temptation
- Who or what is being used to deliver the temptation to you?
- Your threshold for resistance
- How intense is the temptation?
- The area or arena in which you are tempted
- Where (literally) are you being tempted?
- Is this a lust of the eyes temptation?
- Is this a lust of the flesh temptation?
- Is this a pride of life temptation?
- The overtness of the temptation or the subtlety of the temptation
- Are you dealing with the obvious deal breaking sins?
- Are you being tempted to compromise the little things?
- The timing of the temptation
- Is this a season of great need in your life?
- Is this a season of victory in your life?
- Are you being kicked while you’re down?
Each one of us has a fire burning or sometimes even multiple fires burning in and around our lives that we would like to see extinguished. How we respond to these fires of temptation is determined by our character, our spiritual maturity and our relationships both with God and others. There is no silver bullet to holiness for our lives, but the Spirit of God and the Word of God provide a way to overcome temptation as well as the only way to eliminate temptation.
The scriptures teach us that:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So place yourselves under God’s authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you. (James 4:7)
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. (Romans 8:12-14)
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. (Galatians 5:16)
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter1:3-4)
The heavenly recipe for sin prevention lies in replacement therapy. The three basic steps in this process are:
I know some of you just threw up the heretic flag on the order of those steps. Remember we are not talking about salvation, but overcoming temptation. Deep breath, Goosfraba.
Let’s look at these in order.
Overcoming temptation, resisting sin and becoming more like Christ requires that the Spirit of God lives inside of you. The first step is always being born again. In our corrupted fallen state we can never overcome temptation. The demands of religions teach us to overcome temptation through things like self-discipline, meditation and separation. Each of these things are involved in the Christian life, but are fueled by our relationship with Jesus, the Word of God and the nearness of His presence. Just as we could not save ourselves apart from Christ we cannot become like Christ without Him. In order to effectively overcome temptation and live according to God’s will and plan for our lives we must be firmly connected to God. We must be born again.
The basic definition of repentance is a change of mind that produces a change in action. A key component of repentance is confession. The most frequent Greek word that is translated repent in the New Testament is the word Homologeo (ὁμολογέω) which is best defined – to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent.
Temptation becomes easy to overcome when we begin to have God’s point of view on the matter. When our confession is more than a repeat of what we want to believe (I call this the Sunday School answer), but is an actual statement of our own conviction we will begin to see the fruit of repentance. There is much to be said for a refusal to participate in what we know to be wrong or sinful, but it is another step altogether when we begin to view that sin from God’s perspective.
Our minds begin to change. Our thoughts begin to change. Our desires begin to change. This is not an instantaneous process, but one that lasts a lifetime. The vital ingredient in this process is the Word of God.
Scripture says it this way:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Alright, let’s turn up the heat a little bit.
The process for overcoming temptation is:
- Get born again – stay firmly connected to God
- Repent – change your thought and actions to those of Jesus Christ
- Renew you mind – stay full of the Word and the Spirit
Some things to consider:
- The only person who is truly deceived when you justify your own sin is you.
- A momentary lapse in judgment does not equate to a lifestyle of sin – repent and get back up
- No one ever falls into sin – they normally plan it through careful self-deception
- We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to answer for the deeds done in our flesh
- What fire of temptation that is currently burning in your life is worth trading for the love of God and eternity?
- God never promised you pleasure and bliss here on the earth. Self-sacrifice is Christianity 101
- Temptation when habitually kept at a distance will begin to cease to exist.
- It is the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15)
- God provides grace for all of our sins, but many sins can carry lasting consequences here on the earth
So – if you have burned your clothes…
“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet,I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Your failures do not have to be fatal because Jesus’ death was not final. Allow the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ to restore you, to forgive you and to cleanse you.
Stop playing with the things that you know will burn you and begin to pursue God.