Last week I shared the story of my struggle against Satan, “I tossed off the warm comforter and tip toed through the cold and quiet twilight air and into the living room, I didn’t want to wake my wife… This battle is between me, God, and Satan. I quietly closed the bedroom door, flipped on a lamp, and rushed to my neglected Bible on the bottom of a pile of books and flipped to the story of Jesus in the wilderness recorded in the book of Matthew”
Now I will share three common sins you will encounter on your Christian walk and give you the tips, tricks, and tools to overcome them. Once you learn to identify these temptations you’ll how to beat them you will be able to arrest the devil in his tracks.
“When you are being tempted, the devil will tell you, “Keep it in the dark. Don’t bring it to Christ.” I always tell men when they are being tempted to say, “Jesus will take care of this for me.” Invite Him into the temptation. He is the Word of God, and is much stronger than Satan. He has already proved it.”Be a Man! By Father Larry Richards
Sins of the flesh
He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”Luke 4:2-4
What are sins of the flesh?
- Being addicted to exercise… Can you think of someone that has taken their exercise regimen too far? A friend who forgot to pick up their kids from school because they needed to run a few more miles.
- Drinking too much alcohol… Good news! One or two glasses of wine with dinner has been shown to extend your lifespan, but three, or four, or five glasses? Not good!
- Eating too much food… The delicious antioxidant and polyphenol packed brownies my wife made from carob powder, coconut oil, and sweetened with maple syrup is fantastic for my health. But becomes sinful when I lose control and eat half the pan in one sitting.
- Attractive women… Just like a catchy song, the crashing of the waves, or the sunset, God makes beautiful women too. There is nothing wrong with appreciating a woman’s beauty, but it’s not okay to upgrade from a passing glance and allow your eyes to linger and fantasize about her for the rest of the day.
See what I mean? None of this is bad on its own, but can be when taken too far. It is easy to stray into a dangerous state of mind if you don’t have self control.
How do you combat sins of the flesh?
My friend Ben Greenfield shares in his article Sabbath Ramblings: Lust & Pride.“In this case, I can say to Satan when presented with these temptations exactly what Jesus said: “I shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
And where does one find “every word that comes from the mouth of God”? You guessed it: the Bible. If a Bible is near you (or installed on your phone/computer) at all times, you can simply escape to God’s word when faced with a temptation of the lust of the flesh, even by doing something as simple as turning to Psalms or Proverbs and simply beginning to read.”
Sins of Idolatry
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”Luke 4:5-8
What are sins of idolatry?
- Keeping up with the Joneses… It is great to have goals and to aspire to be the best you can be. But this can become a problem when you spend most of your day being jealous and envious of your neighbor’s cars, home, the vacation they just took the the Bahamas, and their social media following.
- Power over others… It is unfortunately a common story today. A pastor starts a small church, it starts to grow, he helps plant five more churches, and before long he is the head of a congregation that can fill a football stadium. Oftentimes he started out with great intentions and then the sinful need for more power, extra control, and more dominance took over. The church gets too big and he starts flying around in private jets, his character comes into question, he has an affair, he starts embezzling money, and then… His fall makes the nightly news.
How do you combat sins of idolatry?
Use Jesus’ own words and repeat after Him by saying, “I will worship the Lord my God and serve Him only”
The short book The Treasure Principle written by Randy Alcorn is full of action steps to distance yourself from idolizing money. Here are a couple of his principles:
- My heart always goes were I put God’s money and giving is the only antidote to materialism.
- “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). This doesn’t mean we should give only when we’re feeling cheerful. The cheerfulness often comes during and after the act of obedience, not before it. So don’t wait until you feel like giving—it could be a long wait! Just give and watch the joy follow.”
- “Ever seen that bumper sticker “He who dies with the most toys wins”? Millions of people act as if it were true. The more accurate saying is “He who dies with the most toys still dies—and never takes his toys with him.” When we die after devoting our lives to acquiring things, we don’t win—we lose. We move into eternity, but our toys stay behind, filling junkyards. The bumper sticker couldn’t be more wrong.”
Sins of pride
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”Luke 4:9-12
What are sins of pride?
- Being self centered… Do you ever have a hard time listening to your wife talk about her day and instead want to talk about your own?
- Thinking I am better than others… This is a difficult one for me. I am extremely judgmental and I have a hard time relating to people that are overweight… Why don’t they eat better and move more? People that are poor… Why don’t they work harder and spend less money? And unfortunately there is more where this comes from. I do not know the situation of others and I should not pretend I do. I should be grateful for the blessings in my own life and understand that I have my own problems that other people surely can judge.
- Thinking I am solely to thank for my success… As I shared in my guest post on Siggiblog, “Far too often I forget how great my life is and I often believe I’ve earned these comforts I enjoy. That I’m responsible for them, but this is completely false. Everything in my life is a gift from God.”
How do you combat sins of pride?
Returning to a quote from Ben Greenfield, “And how did Jesus deal with this temptation? He simply said to Satan: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” In other words, when you are tempted towards greatness for greatness’ sake, turn to God and acknowledge that He is Almighty and you are merely a creation that He designed to bring glory to Him. Who are you to test God as to whether He is God or you are god? So remind yourself the next time you are tempted towards the pride of life that there is only one God, it’s not you, and your greatest calling is to glorify God, and not yourself.”
It was the Spirit that drove Jesus into the wilderness
“The very Spirit who came upon Him at His baptism now drove him out for his test.
In this life it is impossible to escape the assault of temptation; but one thing is sure- temptations are not sent to us to make us fall; they are sent to strengthen the nerve and the sinew of our minds and hearts and souls. They are not meant for our ruin, but for our good. They are meant to be tests for which we emerge better warriors and athletes of God.
Suppose a lad is a football player; suppose he is doing well in the second team and showing real signs of promise, what will the team manager do? He certainly will not send him out to play for the third team in which he could walk through the game and never break sweat; he will send him out to play for the first team where he will be tested as he never was before and have the chance to prove himself. This is what temptation is meant to do- to enable us to prove our manhood and to emerge stronger for the fight.”The Gospel of Mark, by William Barclay
God will not give you more than you can handle. It may not seem like it in the moment, but if you are struggling He knows you have what you need to break through.
But it is up to you to fight.
Tough times are when it is important for you to have your Bible nearby. Just as the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness, the Spirit will lead you to be equipped to manage your attack. Flip open your Bible, close your eyes and ask God to be with you, and listen to your heart. Where in your Bible does He want you read?
- Go to that book and chapter
- Read the Scriptures on that page
- Meditate on their meaning
- And keep a conversation going with God
Just like the team manager above, God will not send you into the game without the suit of armor you need, but you must trust in Him.
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:13)
This sure sounds like a test. If you pass the devil’s tests and resist his temptation you need to be ready because he will come back again later with a new strategy.
Or maybe he will come with the same plan, but when you are a bit weaker and are more likely to fall for his trap.
When are you weak and ripe for temptation?
Is it when your wife is out of town and you are sitting at home alone and bored?
What about after a long and stressful day at work, you are under a tight deadline that you can’t get ahead of, and you get stuck in traffic on the way home?
Or maybe it is when you are out of town on a business meeting and are meeting with some folks for some drinks at the hotel bar. After a few hours you look around and realize only your beautiful co-worker is remaining.
You must know when you are likely to be weak and create a plan.
When your wife is out of town invite a friend you trust to stay with you so you don’t get bored.
Before getting out of the car take a few moments to breath deeply, say a prayer thanking God for the day and for safe passage home, and think of a few things you are grateful for.
And finally, when on a business trip call your wife each night, don’t have more than one drink, and never be alone with a women.
The devil will continue to assault you and find ways to attack your armor, but with a good plan, faith in your God, and the understanding that the stronger you get the stronger his attacks will become, you will be able to withstand his fiery arrows.
Take a moment to sit still, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Allow your thoughts to wander and search your life. Is there anything in your life that you need to ask forgiveness for? Do you feel guilty for anything? Let the Spirit be your guide. Think of your work, your family, your friends, the people you interact with on a daily basis. Have you sinned against them?
How about in the privacy of your own home. Have you gone to any websites that you aren’t proud of? Have you been sending messages or thinking about things you shouldn’t?
And against God. Have you ignored his directions for you, allowed yourself to be full of pride and focused on earthly possessions, or maybe you’ve stopped relying on Him for your daily bread?
Whatever comes to mind accept it, don’t feel disappointed, embarrassed, angry, or upset. Just accept it. Ask the Lord for forgiveness. If we live through the Spirit and not our inward focused flesh, God will set us free from the law of sin and death.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:1-4
Now think about what prompts your sinful behavior.
- What processes can you put in place to manage your temptation?
- What guardrails can you install around your weaknesses?
- Who can you share your pitfalls with that will hold you accountable?
I challenge you to commit to asking God for forgiveness for your sin and to ask Him for the wisdom to know how to resist the temptation in the future.
What about you? What temptations do you face? What has helped you to overcome sin when you are weak? Please leave your questions, comments, and feedback in the comments below. I read everything you post.
Feature Image Courtesy Of Matt Hardy.