It’s inevitable that temptations will come to us; it is not inevitable that we must give in to them when they do. Scripture promises that, with temptation, God provides “a way out” (1 Cor. 10:12). Consider the following three temptation experiences recorded in Scripture and the “way out” lessons learned in each—one negative and two positive.
1. Learn from Eve—Don’t believe the lie.
The lesson to learn from Eve’s fatal mistake when she was tempted is this: Don’t believe Satan’s lie.
Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has been waging a battle for our minds. His strategy with Eve was to put a question mark where God had placed an exclamation mark: “Did God really say…?” (Gen. 3:1).
The devil’s tactics haven’t changed. He attacks by tempting us to question the word and the character of God. The lie of the devil is that we can find greater gratification apart from God, that sin will make us happier and more content. The lie is that we can be our own gods, that we can live for the created and not for the Creator without consequence.
Don’t believe the lie. Sin never delivers what it promises.
Temptation starts in our minds. The way to not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world’s thinking begins with allowing God to transform our minds (Rom. 12:2a). The world wants to capture our minds; it pressures us from the outside to conform our thinking to its pattern of thinking. But the Holy Spirit is working within us to change our minds so that we can recognize that God’s will is “good, pleasing, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2b).
Because of God’s transformative work in us, we don’t have to fall captive to the devil’s lies. Instead, we go on the offense. Using the language of warfare, Paul said, “we take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
2. Learn from Joseph—Run!
“[Joseph] escaped and ran outside” (Gen. 39:12).
There are times when running away is an act of cowardice. There are also times when running is evidence of integrity. Joseph lost his garment by running (for the second time in his life; Gen. 37:23; 39:15), but he kept his integrity.
Notice the persistence of Joseph’s temptation. Potiphar’s wife “spoke to Joseph day after day” (Gen. 39:10). He could never let down his guard; the temptation posed by this woman was a daily battle. One day Joseph found himself in a dangerous circumstance—alone in the house with the woman—“none of the household servants were there. She grabbed him by his garment and said, “Sleep with me!” (Gen. 39:11-12). Joseph recognized some circumstances call for running.
Most of the time the wise thing is to run from temptation. Unless there is no way to escape it, don’t stay in temptation’s presence. Avoid situations where you know you’ll be tempted to do wrong.
3. Learn from Jesus—Use God’s Word.
Jesus met Satan’s temptations with Scripture: “Go away, Satan! For it is written …” (Matt. 4:10).
The lesson to be learned is not simply to quote the Bible but rather use it. What’s the difference? Satan could quote the Word. (Well, actually, he misquoted it.) Yes, knowing Bible verses and being able to quote them is a helpful defense in resisting the devil’s attacks; living by the Bible, however is imperative. The devil knew Scripture but didn’t obey it. It was in his head not in his heart.
So don’t just quote the Bible; use it as a “lamp” for your feet and a “light” for your path (Ps. 119:105). Much practical counsel may find found in Psalm 119 concerning using the Word in combating temptation:
- Treasure it — “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you” (119:11). “I have treasured … in my heart” indicates more than rote memorization; it indicates a passion for God’s Word that grows out of a deeper longing for God. It is God we seek in His Word. (“I have sought you with all my heart,” v. 10.) The key in overcoming temptation is wanting Him more than you want what temptation promises.
- Delight in it — “I delight in your commands, which I love” (119:47). One who delights in Scripture gives his whole energy to know it and obey it.
- Study it — “I will meditate on your precepts and think about your ways” (119:15).
- Pray for understanding — “Help me understand your instruction, and I will obey it and follow it with all my heart” (119:34).
- Live it —“How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your word” (119:9).
Tempted? Don’t believe the lie. Run like crazy. Seek God in His Word.
Mike Livingstone works at Lifeway Christian Resources as content editor for Explore the Bible materials.