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The Life Cycle of a Dangerous Choice - Part 3

By: Arnie Cole & Michael Ross

“How Can I Overcome Temptation?”

The verses in the Bible that tell us to “overcome” are more frustrating than comforting. The thing I don’t understand is, how? I seriously “struggle” with my struggles. Will-power and good intentions just don’t make them go away.—Gina

I’m a young man who is preparing for a career in Christian ministry, yet I still act like a kid and play around with sexual temptation: I look at pornography and I treat women like objects instead of the amazing people God created them to be. I feel pathetic and ashamed. I’m ready to get my life right. Where do I start?—Sean

I need to “un-master” a sin that is mastering me—but I simply don’t know how. I go several days without giving in to my habit, and then I wear down, and temptation grows stronger. Before I know it, I’m sinning again.—B.J.

How would you weigh in on this conversation? And when you read Christ’s call to overcome—especially this one: “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death”[1]—did you find yourself at peace … or breaking into a cold sweat? Were you comforted … or frustrated?

During my journalism career and ministry experience, I (Mike) have met and interviewed hundreds of Christians who are convinced that overcoming temptation and sin are lofty goals that we simply can’t attain—at least this side of heaven. Some are convinced that they are doing nothing wrong—despite what the Bible says. According to author Patrick A. Means, an expert on addiction recovery, “When we want something badly enough, we’ll deceive whomever we have to in order to get it. And the first person we have to deceive is ourselves.” Means says we accomplish the self-deceit by telling ourselves two lies: (1) I don’t really have a problem, and (2) I can handle this alone.[2]

The truth is, everyone has at least one thing that is so desirous, so attractive to our nature that even the mere thought of it is enough to tip us over the edge. Like an evil spell, our proximity to it immobilizes our senses. It seems to own us. It often calls out to us—and when it presents itself, we are completely undone. Scripture warns that temptation comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s disguised as a lover and friend. Sometimes it appears to be clothed even in light—coming to us with seemingly innocent intentions. Temptation is always stealthy, always deceptive … kind of like a certain snake that entered a certain garden long, long ago.

But here’s a little secret about our sinful desires: They are quite predictable, always attacking our brains in the same way. In fact, James—a half-brother of Jesus—knew this all too well, and he observed four stages in the temptation cycle: (1) enticement, (2) conception, (3) birth, and (4) death. He was convinced that the more we understand these four stages, the better we can put up a fight. In his letter to early Christians, James said this:

For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.[3]

[1] Revelation 2:11

[2] Patrick A. Means, Men’s Secret Wars (Fleming H. Revell, ©1999), p 176.

[3] James 1:13-15

From Tempted, Tested, True

© Back to the Bible.

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