Overcoming Temptation

     One of my favorite fictional superheroes is Superman.  You know the story—the man of steel, faster than a speeding bullet, incredible strength.  But even heroes have a weakness.  Superman’s is Kryptonite.  A substance from his own planet that weakens him (Killing Kryptonite, John Bevere).  Have you ever thought about what’s your kryptonite?  What is that besetting sin that keeps weakening you, maybe even wrecking your life?  Alcohol abuse, viewing pornography, lying, gossip, sexual immorality, laziness or pride? Most of us have something that causes us temptation and difficulty saying “no.” Author Erwin Lutzer paints a picture of what happens in our lives when we say yes--“Each time we repeat the pattern the ruts are cut a bit deeper the chain is pulled a bit tighter.” (How To Break A Stubborn Habit, 13).  If you don’t know what your signature sin is ask those closest to you; they’ll know.  Once we identify our primary struggle how do we move forward?
     First, accept responsibility, avoid victim thinking.  This process is begun through confession. Author Michael Dye says, “You can only be successful at working on problems that you own.” (The Genesis Process, 19) God is gracious and will help us but confession is key.  Proverbs 28:13 states, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”  This accepting responsibility will be painful.  It’s like a person who experiences frostbite.  I’m told it’s awful when they start warming up.  But that pain indicates that extremities which were dying are coming back to life.   As we accept responsibility, God extends grace to us. Then we are able to move forward. Thankfully our sinfulness and brokenness does not get the last word; God’s grace does.  The apostle Peter is the poster child for God’s grace.  On the night before the cross when Jesus needed him the most, Peter denied Jesus three times.  Peter was sorry and willing to move forward. Jesus reinstated Peter, had him preach at Pentecost, and even write several books of the new testament.      
     Second, memorize Scripture.  For some reason many people think this won’t work.  But I would encourage you to look at the only perfect man to ever live.  When we see Jesus going head to head with Satan in the wilderness every time he was tempted, Jesus began his response with “It is written,” and quoted Scripture.  If this tool worked for Jesus it can work for us.  Find Scriptures that speak to your area of weakness and sin.  Memorize them.  Chew on them mentally like a cow chews its cud, getting every last bit of nourishment out of them.  I had a friend who struggled with pornography, a habit that dishonored his wife and his Christian witness.  One idea he found helpful was to post on his computer the Scripture Psalms 101:3 “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.  I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it.”  Sow the word of God into your mind so that you can walk out the life God wants for you. 
     Third, take radical measures.  This key also comes from Jesus.  In the famous sermon on the mount Jesus says, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matthew 5:29, 30).  Obviously, Jesus is speaking metaphorically; the idea is to do whatever it takes to live a holy life.  If one of your good friends is a serious gossip it may be a time for a new relationship.  If abusing alcohol is your great struggle, it’s time to stop going places that serve alcohol.  If your boyfriend is pushing for a sexual relationship it’s time to move on.
     Fourth, is persistence.  Temptation is a regular companion for all of us.  Porn is always one click away. Pride is always lurking in our hearts.  Netflix and Hulu constantly beckon to our lazy side.  Pastor Robert Peterson warns us “A momentary lapse can ruin a lifetime of legacy.” (Book Of Amazing Stories,  210)   To live a holy life requires persistence.  Day in and day out we are called to do the next right thing. Author Erwin Lutzer shares an example from the world of sports--Walter Payton.  He played football for the Chicago Bears for 13 seasons as a running back many years ago.  At one point he held the league’s record for the most rushing yards. He carried the ball a total of 16,726 yards, which is more than 9 miles. ‘Now, imagine carrying the ball that distance and being thrown to the ground by someone bigger than you every 4.4 yards—that is, 3801 times. Someone asked him, ‘how did you do it?” He replied simply, ‘I just kept getting up!” (How To Break A Stubborn Habit, 149).  Maybe temptation has gotten the better of you lately.  It’s time to get back up and try again.

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church