Anyone who calls himself a “Christ”ian is claiming to follow the teachings and example of Christ, the one who never sinned (1 Pet. 2:21, 22). We could not be saved without Him (Mt. 26:28; Heb. 2:9; 5:9), but there is also a sense in which we must “save ourselves” (Acts 2:40). None of us deserve salvation, but we must be faithful to God to obtain salvation and keep it (Mt. 7:21; Php. 2:12; 1 Pet. 1:22; 2 Pet. 2:20-22; 1 Jn. 1:6-2:6; Rev. 2:10). A critical part of faithfully following Christ is resisting temptations (Jam. 4:7-10). Though we have all sinned in the past (Rom. 3:23), God commands us to be holy and to do our best to live by His Word (Mt. 4:4; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16). To do so is described as a war: “…abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). When a child of God stops fighting this war against sin, he dies spiritually (Jam. 1:15; 5:19, 20; 1 Jn. 1:6-2:6). Therefore, we must resist!
Everyone is tempted by something (1 Cor. 10:13), and even Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but without sin (Heb. 4:15). There is nothing wrong with being tempted, but choosing to go beyond temptation into sin is deadly (Jam. 1:13-15). In fact, sin can be just as deadly after converting to Christ as before conversion. The account of Simon the sorcerer becoming lost in sin after his baptism/conversion is one of many sobering passages teaching that (Acts 8:20-24), and most warnings regarding sin in the New Testament were addressed to baptized believers, not atheists or pagans. Sin can be eternally deadly to anyone, but God has promised to bless children of God who resist temptation: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (Jam. 1:12, cf. 1:13-27). With all this in mind, following are ten ways that those who love God can resist temptation:
1. Resist by Remembering God’s Word. Followers of Jesus should do what Jesus did when He was tempted—use the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Matthew chapter four records Satan tempting Jesus three times, and Jesus replied each time with “It is written.” The psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Knowledge of God’s Word enables a person to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, righteousness from wickedness, and one who regularly studies and meditates upon God’s Word is much more equipped to fight temptation (Hos. 4:6; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:12-14).
2. Resist by Remembering There is a Way Out. Christians are never forced to sin without a choice. Even if someone puts a gun to a Christian’s head and tells him to deny Christ or die, there is still a way out—death. It would be better to die than to commit willful sin: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Christ chose to die rather than sin, and so should we (Lk. 9:23, 24). Paul wrote that there is always a way to avoid sin: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Christians need to be like Joseph—find the way out and flee the temptation! (Gen. 39:7-12).
3. Resist by Readiness. Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Dan. 1:8), and that is a great example to follow. We should purpose in our hearts beforehand that we will not give in to temptations. Be prepared by thinking about what temptations may present themselves on a particular day and get ready to resist!
4. Resist by Removing Stumbling Blocks. If there is something repeatedly tempting you, get rid of it! Jesus said even if it is your right eye or right hand, remove it if it will cause you to burn forever (Mt. 5:27-29; 18:7-9). Such a shocking statement is meant to emphasize the dangers of sin that so many today trivialize. Paul said to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14). If trying to quit alcohol, pour out the vodka bottle that is still in the cabinet. If trying to quit smoking cigarettes, why keep any in the car?
5. Resist by Relationships. Much said in the previous point can be said here. If someone is repeatedly tempting you to sin, avoid that person as much as possible, or you may be deceived into a sinful state that leads to Hell: “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). Some people such as spouses or coworkers cannot necessarily be avoided, so the Christian must do his best to preserve his salvation (Php. 2:12) and help lost sinners find their way to Heaven through the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:5; 16; 1 Pet. 3:1; 4:17-19; 1 Jn. 1:7-9). Beware that those we love the most have the biggest influence on our decisions (cf. 1 Kin. 11:1-13). It is therefore wise to surround ourselves with those who love God and love us enough to help us get to Heaven. That is surely one of the main reasons God commands Christians to assemble regularly—to encourage one another to be faithful (Heb. 10:24, 25).
6. Resist by Requests in Prayer. Those baptized for the purpose of becoming forgiven have been added to Christ’s one church, having been born of water and of the Spirit (Acts 2:38-41, 47; Jn. 3:5). In repentance they “died to sin,” burying the former sinful person in water to arise and become children of God (Rom. 6:1-6; Gal. 3:26, 27; Titus 3:5). These new children now have the right to pray and say, “Our Father in Heaven…” (Lk. 11:1-4; Eph. 1:3). One of the great blessings of prayer is that it can help in time of temptation, as with Christ and His disciples in Gethsemane: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation…” (Mt. 26:41). Calling upon God while Satan is trying to ensnare us will help bring our focus back to the holy nature of God and how He desires us to be holy like Him (Titus 1:16; 2:11, 12; 1 Pet. 1:15, 16).
7. Resist by Remembering Redemption’s Price. Christians would do well to remember the price that had to be paid because of sin. The sinless Son of God was tortured unspeakably, mocked, spat upon, and crucified in terrible agony, so that “…His visage was so marred more than any man…” (Isa. 52:14; 53:3-11; Mt. 27:1-56). Every time Satan presents temptation before us as a beautifully wrapped gift waiting to be opened, our minds should go to the horrors of the cross. If not, and we give in to temptation, we shame our Lord. Those who sin willfully after becoming followers of Christ “crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6; cf. 10:26-31). The very thought of bringing shame to Christ beyond that which He has already suffered and bringing grief into the throne room of Heaven should halt the desire to sin (Gen. 6:6; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 3:10, 17).
8. Resist by Remembering the Source of Sin. Some would say that Satan is the source of sin, but he is not really the source of our sins. Although Satan is called the tempter (Mt. 4:3), he cannot force anyone to do anything. He is neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Satan is called our enemy (1 Pet. 5:8), but each person is responsible for his own choices, not Satan (Jam. 1:13-15). Christians should realize that we can be our own worst enemy if we are not careful. It would therefore be wise to know ourselves very well. Being aware of our own weaknesses will help us avoid sin and fortify ourselves against temptation.
9. Resist by Remembering the Results of Sin. Disobedience to the Creator is the cause of all the sickness, pain, and death in this world (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12). Sin can be a leaven that spreads to others, endangering their souls, and sometimes results of sin can linger even after forgiveness is received. Living in sin leads to the worst result of all—eternal torment involving eternal hopelessness, crying, darkness, and being trapped with Satan and his angels, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:43-48). To choose sin is to choose eternal punishment instead of eternal bliss, darkness instead of light, filth instead of purity, and to be with Satan instead of Christ.
10. Resist by Remembering the Reward. The greatest place of all awaits the faithful! No more pain, sickness, sorrow, or death! Heaven is where God wants everyone to be (1 Tim. 2:3, 4; 2 Pet. 3:9). In fact, God wants us in Heaven so badly that He paid the greatest price to make it possible, sending His only Son to endure the suffering and death that we deserve. He did not have to do that (Rom. 5:8-10). We did not do anything to deserve it, and we never will deserve it (Lk. 17:10; Eph. 2:8). Even so, blessings beyond what we can currently understand are awaiting the faithful. Since a relatively small amount of information about Heaven is revealed in the Bible, it seems that God is waiting to surprise His faithful in ways not yet fully revealed. Consider this: The God who created this incredible, beautiful universe, the God who gave us the ability to feel emotions such as deep love and tremendous joy, has even better things prepared for us! Just to be in the presence of God will be greater than anything man can experience in this universe, and Christians should be extremely excited about going there!
All of this should motivate men to love God and serve Him faithfully, but if a properly baptized child of God does commit a sin, he should immediately repent and pray to the Father for forgiveness in Jesus’ name (Jn. 16:23; Acts 8:22-24; 1 Jn. 1:7-9). It would be tragic if children of God stopped taking sin seriously. Resisting temptation must be the Christian’s fight until death, and, like Paul and so many others, through Christ we can prevail! (Rom. 8:31-39; Php. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Heb. 11).