Monday, March 4, 2024

What do I do when I Feel Tempted to Sin?

I remember feeling many years ago that the power of sin was just too strong in my life. I would feel the pressure within to indulge in the sin. And it seemed inevitable. Theres just no way. I can’t stop sinning. It’s too big. It’s too much.

But over time as I learned about God, and grew in my relationship with God, the sin did not seem as powerful as it used to be. It’s power was in fact broken in my life. And if I needed new things to be broken I could simply ask God, and he would begin to break it.

You may be wondering, will I ever reach that point? Will I ever hate my sin enough to overcome it? Will the power of God ever be great enough to defeat it?

Don’t be afraid. God is powerful. And this is a journey. You will find that place of victory. Sooner rather than later. Presently. Now. Today even.

“Do not be fearful that you will not wish to walk this way. In the level of experience of which I now speak there is a hungering for suffering. Such Christians burn with love for the Lord. In fact, if they were permitted to follow their own desires, they would put themselves under a great deal of discipline, even excessive self-denial. Once such love burns within the heart of a believer, he thinks of nothing but how to please his beloved Lord. He begins to neglect
himself—no, far more than that—in love with the Lord, he even completely forgets about himself. As his love for the Lord grows, so does his hatred for his self-life. May you learn this path.” -Jeanne Guyon, Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ, Ch. 10

So we will learn this path, of death to self and life in Christ. It’s real. It’s powerful. God has all power, infinite power to break any broken thing in our lives. God is greater.

So let’s get into our study for today. But it begins with hope, point one, hope, and believe that God really can do anything in you. Anything at all that he wants. He made you, as God said, “Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)

A natural man, a human being operates in a basic fashion to fulfill three basic areas of life, security, social connection, and romantic interest. Security, social connection and romance. These three areas of general concern make up their approach to life. They seek after food, shelter, and work. They seek friendships and connections within their family, And they seek out a romantic partner and the bearing of children. That is the way of man.

Something fundamental though happens when a human being encounters God the creator. They are thrust into the fourth dimension of existence, that is, connection with God.

And suddenly everything changes. Instead of fulfilling the three basic instincts, the human’s entire footing changes. God becomes first. God becomes all. God becomes the main concern, faith in God. And this faith in God, helps the person to move from desperately trying to fulfill their desires, to being filled by God instead, and then learning to trust God to provide for their security, social connection, and romance.

It's a great freedom actually. It’s a victory to learn to rely on God for these things. We let go of control, and we let God lead our lives. It’s better this way.

Yet even after becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus, we still face the battle between the spirit and the flesh. Who is going to be in charge? Who is going to lead my life?

Will it be God or will it be my fleshly desires?

This struggle is talked about in Galatians 5:16-18, which says, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

This battle takes place when we feel tempted to do something we know isn’t right. There the battle begins. Often it involves our five senses, sight, smell, taste, touch, and smell.

Guys, you see a beautiful woman, with your eyes you see, you smell her perfume, and so on. It’s tempting.

Ladies, you see a beautiful.. piece of chocolate. You smell it, you see it, you taste it and it’s tempting.

From the book we’ve been studying, experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ, Madam Guyon writes, “Where do your five senses draw their life and energy? From your soul. It is your soul that gives life and energy to your five senses; and when your senses become aroused, they in turn stimulate your desires.” -Ch.10

So we see that our five senses are accessed by our soul. Our soul operates our body, so logically our five senses are accessed by our soul. And when those senses become aroused, they in turn lead to desire.

Desire can then lead to sin if we’re not careful. Of course desire does not always lead to sin. Suppose you are hungry, you have a desire to eat some scrambled eggs. So you eat some scrambled eggs. No sin there.

Now, say you have a desire to steal a new cell phone. Now, you’re facing a sinful desire. And the goal is to overcome that sinful desire, by denying the desire.

You say yes to the eggs, fine. You say yes to stealing, now it becomes sin.

So in those situations where we’re facing a sin, something we know is wrong, but it’s a desire within us, what do we do?

Jeanne Guyon talks about the problem here…

“Christians have sought to find many ways to overcome their desires. Perhaps the most common approach has been discipline and self-denial. But no matter how severe your self-denial may be, it will never completely conquer your senses.” -Jeanne Guyon, ch. 10

Jesus talked about the value of self-denial.

”And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” - Luke 9:23-24 ESV

Self denial, deny yourself and follow Jesus. There is value in that. But it can’t remain something that is skin deep. It has to become something that goes deep into our being.

When you are tempted in some way, a biblical course of action is in fact to deny yourself. You basically say no to yourself. No, I’m not doing that. You pray. You read some scriptures. And all this helps you to resist the temptation.

But it has to go deeper than that. Otherwise it will always be a losing battle. We must allow God to change us.

Here is what Madam Guyon says about this issue:

“There is only one way to conquer your five senses, and that is by inward recollection. Or, to put it another way, the only way to conquer your five senses is by turning your soul completely inward to your spirit, there to possess a present God. Your soul must turn all of its attention and energies within, not without! Within to Christ, not without to the senses. When your soul is turned within, it actually becomes separated from your external senses; and once your five senses are separated from your soul, they receive no more attention. Their life supply is cut off! They become powerless.”

So in other words, Jeanne Guyon says the best way to defeat a temptation is not in wrestling in the five senses or in the desires. It’s by focusing in prayer on God who is alive within us as the Holy Spirit. We submit to the Holy Spirit within us. We surrender and abandon ourselves to the Spirit of God. And the Spirit helps us to detach from our base desires, and then those desires lose their power.

Is that biblical? I think it is.

We get a picture of a surrendered life in Galatians 2:20 which says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In this scripture you see a person who is disconnected from their old self, their old self they say is crucified, dead, gone. And they are alive, they are plugged into the Son of God through faith. They are walking in alignment with the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 6:8 ESV says, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

So where is the attention? The attention is taken off the flesh, and the attention is placed within on the Holy Spirit. And that brings victory over the fleshly desires prompted by the five senses.

This goes back to the issue of abandoning ourselves to God.

Your focus determines your reality. Where is your attention focused? Continuously turn your attention to God’s presence with you. And God’s presence within you will guide you away from your fleshly desires and toward the Spirit.

But I understand the difficulty. Truly I do. It’s a battle, there’s no doubt. But don’t lean into the temptations. Lean into God. The word of god says God will provide a way of escape. It’s important that you believe that.

I think of the worst thing that keep us locked up in sins is we believe a lie, we believe that God can’t remove that sin. That’s a lie. You must first begin to believe that God really can and wants to remove that sin from you. And he will help you, even if you’re trapped in it. You can escape by God’s power.

Our thought life is constantly bringing up different thoughts and concerns and emotions. It’s hard sometimes. And a temptation can come out of nowhere. We see something on Facebook or someone walking by or we see a drink or a drug or an old show, and it reminds us of a sin or temptation. It’s hard. But slowly over time God can bring the Spirit’s power to be stronger than the temptation. Sometimes that takes a long time. Sometimes it’s instantaneous.

Here's what Jeanne Guyon says, “It is true that what you see and what you hear are continually supplying your busy imagination with new subjects. They keep your thoughts jumping from one subject to another. Therefore, there is a place for discipline concerning what you see and hear. But be at peace; God will teach you about all this. All you need do is follow His Spirit.” -ch. 10

God is the teacher in all this. He is the master. We are the students. He will show us various ways to master sin in our lives. It may be self denial. It may be counseling or a support group. It may be the fear of the Lord. It may be closer relationship with God. It may be focusing on the Holy Spirit within. But in all these cases God will teach us, like a martial arts master, what move we need to make to defeat a sin.

Maybe it’s a block. Maybe it’s fleeing. Maybe it’s striking out with a kick or a punch, like speaking the word of God over your situation. Maybe it’s dodging, just leaving the situation. Maybe it’s lifting the shield of faith. Maybe it’s turning up toward God in prayer. Maybe it’s turning off the senses. The battle begins with letting God lead. And he guides our movements toward victory.

Let’s Review:

1. God is strong enough to overcome any sin in your life

2. When finding God we go from fulfilling the 3 basic instincts, to the fourth dimension, which is God first

3. The battle often takes place in our five senses, so we should redirect our attention to God’s presence

4. Self-Denial is valuable, simply saying no to the temptation, but more is needed

5. For lasting victory over temptation, when tempted, turn your attention toward God, pray, and focus on the Lord, surrender to His leading

6. Change your mind from believing it’s impossible, to believing that God really can and will

7. God is the master, we are the student, let God train you to be victorious over temptations