No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
I long ago lost count of how many times people have told me during pastoral counseling sessions that the temptations they are dealing with are sin. And each time they tell me that, I reply, “Not true!” Jesus was tempted. The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). We are all tempted. Temptation is simply a part of living in a fallen and broken world. So being tempted is not sinful; it is giving in to that temptation that is sin. And who reading this right now does not know this truth by way of personal experience?
So what is the key to fighting against the temptations we all face? Perhaps there is no better section in all of sacred Scripture that can strengthen us when we are facing temptation than the wilderness experience of our Lord Jesus Christ. After forty days of fasting, the devil came to Jesus and tempted Him—not once, but three times. And each time Jesus dealt with the temptations of the devil the same way: with Scripture. With each temptation, Jesus used Scripture to strengthen His resolve not to be overtaken by temptation . . . and also to put the devil to flight!
It is important to note one thing in the encounter between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness: both quoted Scripture. Both Jesus and the devil know the Word of God; they are both students of Scripture. They were both in the Word of God, but there was one great difference between Jesus and the devil. Inasmuch as both were in the Word of God, the Word of God was only in Jesus. You see, it’s not enough to simply know and be able to quote Scripture. We must be submitted and surrendered to its authority and rule in our lives.
So . . . what temptations have you been wrestling with lately . . . in your personal life . . . in your professional life? Again, I encourage you to remember that temptation is not sin; giving in to the temptation is. The more we get into the Word of God, the more the Word of God will get into us, and the better we will be able to resist the temptations that inevitably will come to us.
One final thing: when temptation does overtake you, remember the cross. Jesus has already paid for that sin and you have already been forgiven for that sin. Yes, grieve over your sin. Be filled with a godly sorrow, confess your sin to the Lord, and repent of your sin. But never forget, nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus—not Satan nor your sin . . . nor even any sins you may commit in the future (Romans 8:38-39). Now that is a powerful promise.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!