Every day we are confronted with temptations that attempt to distract us from our primary focus of service and obedience to Christ. These temptations often derail our attempts to live a godly life. Every day we are engaged in a battle to defeat these temptations and to stay the course. What I hope to do in this series is to review some of what the Bible teaches as to methods and strategies we can use to fight successfully. I plan to provide you with 10 or 11 specific statements that you should be able to make about yourself and about your spiritual life. These will be supported with passages of Scripture to help give you a strong foundation for those statements. If these statements are true of you, you will be in a better position for success in this battle against sin, lust, and temptation. If the statements are not true of you, it should provide motivation and a goal that you can work on in order to improve areas of weakness.
You can download the Battle Plan Chart here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK
The first thing we need to realize is that this battle is universal among Christians. As you read this material you are going to be tempted to think that this is a battle for someone else. Often, when we speak of lusts, as we will in the following section, people immediately focus on sexual lust and if that doesn’t happen to be your problem, you might stop reading thinking that you have everything under control. That is a dangerous position to be in because if you are not aware of a battle for your heart and soul, the devil has you right where he wants you. But as soon as you realize that this applies to you just as much as anyone else and as soon as you take up arms to defeat your own lusts, you will find a battle greater than you ever imagined could exist.
The first step, then, is to ask ourselves the question: “Do I really want to pursue righteousness and holiness, and count everything loss in order to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my life?” In order to accurately answer this question, there are some truths we need to consider.
In 1 John 2:15-17 we read: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
There is a distinction between the things of the world and the things of God. These verses very clearly teach that it is not possible to love the world and love God at the same time. This means a decision is required. Do I really want to abandon the world for Christ? This is an overarching decision, but it is also a decision that has to be made hundreds of times a day. Making the decision during a momentary temptation without having made it as a principle of your life will make the battle ultimately impossible to win. So, before you go any further you need to decide – Christ or the world.
In this passage, the Bible focuses on lust. Lust is a strong desire that is excessive to the point of being sinful. In this passage we have three components given for worldliness – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We don’t have time to go into each one in detail, but if you think about it you will realize that many of the things we do and decisions we make are made based on these lusts. We covet what we see other people have. We lust for sex or excitement or other flesh-based pleasures. We desire to have people look up to us as someone important or powerful or contented. Yes, we can be proud of our contentment and wish for others to be jealous of our contented life. All of these temptations come from the world and not from God.
In James 1:14-15 we read this: But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Here’s the issue then. The world and Satan provide attractions that feed the lusts that John referred to. But our temptations come from within us, from our own lusts or desires and we are drawn away by them. Everybody has their own set of personalized lusts. Because of them, we are pulled in a wrong direction. The desires come from deep within us. They are part of our sin nature, our fallenness, our brokenness. As these desires are conceived and gestate within us they give birth to sin. Sin is a thought or deed that is not within the will and character of God. These sins begin to grow and then, as James writes, they bring forth death. The Bible teaches that sin has wages and those wages are death.
A Christian, having been born again and now a child of God, has a new desire in competition with the old tendency and therein lies the conflict. Paul writes it this way in Galatians 5:17 – For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
So this leads us back now to the first point in what I’m calling Battle Strategies for the war on lust and sin. The first step is to ask ourselves, “Do I really want to pursue righteousness and holiness, and count everything loss in order to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my life?” Do I really want this? Am I willing to work hard, suffer and sweat to gain it?
We’ll follow up with part 2 tomorrow.