The Christian life isn’t about making you better. It’s about making you new. Many people struggle to overcome temptation because they don’t see the distinction between the two. But when you become a new creation in Christ, everything possible for Christ becomes possible for you. This reading plan from Pete Briscoe shows you how to overpower temptation through the strength of the only One who’s ever done it perfectly.
Do you remember the wave of bracelets and key chains in the ’90s with those small initials WWJD? Some of you are looking down at your wrist right now. The ’90s live on.
Those bracelets tap into a deep personal conviction we have: Jesus really is the answer to our deepest pain, overwhelming struggles, and perplexing questions.
But they also expose another problem: We aren’t sure how He is the answer. What difference does He actually make?
WWJD? was intended to offer a pause when facing temptation or trials. In that pause, we were given opportunity to make better decisions and live better lives.
Imagine the shock when many times the pause exposed a blank. Most of us have no idea what Jesus would do. Not only that, but even if we did, trying to imitate Jesus doesn’t work because we don’t have the strength to be like Jesus.
Let me give you an example: You’re driving home from work. You see a homeless person asking for help, and you look down at that bracelet. What would Jesus do?
Should you buy him food? Give him cash? You could, but that’s not what Jesus would do. Jesus would park His car and live with that person until he was healthy again. Are you able to do that? Do you even wantto do that?
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh … (Galatians 5:17a)
You and me, in our flesh, are very poor imitations of the Son of God.
So, we have two issues:
- Ignorance – We don’t know.
- Impotence – We aren’t able.
Rather than trying to be poor imitations of Jesus, we can be excellent dwelling places for His Spirit. As the Spirit of Jesus lives in us, we will do as Jesus leads. When Christ enters us, everything that is possible for Christ becomes possible for us.
Lord, show me if I’ve been struggling to copy Christ. While I love reading about what Jesus did, my inability to replicate can leave me discouraged. Today, I better understand what it means to do all things through Christ who is my strength. Let’s live it. Amen.
We Are the Glove
A large part of living out our faith in Jesus is navigating how we are supposed to handle temptation. Just what are we supposed to do?
- We can flee it. (2 Timothy 2:22)
- We can fall into it. (Matthew 26:41)
- We can be aware of it. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
But how are we supposed to overcome it? Especially when it looks different for each of us.
When I was 5 years old, my Sunday school teacher brought a glove and a Bible to class one day. He set the glove on the Bible and told us this glove was a very special glove—it could pick up the book. “Glove,” he said, “pick up the Bible.”
Again, he said, “Glove, pick up the Bible!” Nothing.
The third time, he slipped his hand inside the glove and said, “Glove, pick up the Bible!” Sure enough, the glove lifted the Bible off the table.
“I told you this glove was special,” my teacher said.
You can imagine a room full of 5-year-olds waving our hands while talking out of turn, “Mr. Stracken, that wasn’t the glove! That was your hand!”
In the same way, overcoming temptation isn’t about our ability to copy what Jesus did. It’s about the strength of the Spirit who lives in us. If we are in Christ, then the Spirit is in us. And by His strength, we can overcome temptation.
I want you to memorize this “If, if, then” statement:
If it’s true that Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever, and if it’s true that Jesus indwells every believer and lives through us, then His life in us today will look like His life among us then.
We can overcome temptation in our lives today because Jesus did it in His own life so many years ago. Of course, the next question will be “How? How did Jesus overcome?”
God, my Strength, Your Spirit operating as my strength is so simple when explained. I lay down my need to be both the glove and the hand. What a privilege to be the glove—a visible expression of the life of Your Spirit in this world! I surrender to Your strength so we can work together as one. Amen.
Strategy of Temptation
The first step to overcoming temptation is to acknowledge your enemy is a strategic foe. So let’s talk about Satan’s strategies.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. 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.” (Luke 4:1-4)
First, Satan will come after you when you are alone. Think about it: You’re on a business trip, checked into the hotel room, and you’re tempted to watch things you wouldn’t watch if your spouse were beside you.
Of course, if we are in Christ, we are never alone. But let’s be clear and say that Satan waits until we aren’t with other people.
The second thing we must realize is that our enemy attacks when we are depleted. At the end of 40 days, Scripture says Jesus was hungry. You think? He wasn’t just hungry; he was exposed in nature’s elements. Satan saw an opportunity in the midst of exhaustion and weakness. He attacks us the same way today.
Finally, Satan undermines our identity. “If you are the Son of God…”
The Scripture right before this passage recorded the voice of God the Father announcing His praise for the Son following Jesus’ baptism. “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Yet the next words quoted are Satan’s, “If you are the Son of God…”
Nothing has changed. Satan still goes after our identity in Christ. He waits until we are alone and exhausted, and he leads us to question our relationship with God. If I were really a Christian…
Recognizing Satan’s strategies helps us understand how temptation enters and becomes sin. We can develop a strategy of our own and fight back.
Victorious God, thank You for calling out the schemes of our enemy. My prayer is that I’ll remember these tactics in my own faith journey and the journeys of others as I come alongside them in their struggles and temptations. Amen.
He’s Been Doing It Since Eden
Jewish rabbis called Satan Kategor. It sounds a lot like our word categorize, doesn’t it? Categorize means to separate or divide. Satan accomplishes this with specific tools—the same tools he’s used since Eden. Let’s take a look at Luke 4 and analyze the methods used by Satan as he tried to foil God’s plan for Jesus:
- “Tell this stone to become bread.” (4:3)
- “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.” (4:5-7)
- “Throw yourself down from here. For it is written…” (4:9-10)
Fresh baked bread! What a temptation. After 40 days of fasting, I’d be able to imagine the smell of it baking in the sun. Yet Jesus declines Satan’s offer of immediate gratification. How? Jesus knows that saying yes to temptation is saying no to God’s best for you.
When offered the kingdoms of the world, Jesus declines with a second “no.” Jesus knows Satan promises things he can’t deliver. Temptation almost always links sinful activity to an imagined reward. That reward is Satan promising you something he can’t deliver.
Finally, Jesus resists the temptation to build an immediate platform and launch his career with a BANG. What’s really fascinating is Satan takes Jesus’ response—“For it is written…”—and uses it to quote God’s words out of context. Satan’s mode of operation is to twist Scripture. He’s been doing it since Eden.
These are Satan’s three tools of separation. While Satan is a formidable foe, Jesus overcame.
That’s good news for us! If Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and if Jesus indwells us as believers and lives through us, then His life in us today will look like His life among us then.
We can overcome our enemy, too.
Jesus, on my own I am not strong enough to turn down immediate gratification or rewards. Some of them are so enticing. Some of them I’ve been hoping for my entire life. But Your Spirit is strong, and together we desire God’s best. I invite You to say no through me so temptation will leave. Amen.
What WILL Jesus Do?
For many years the church has taught to overcome temptation by doing what Jesus did. If I were teaching how to overcome temptation from a “What WOULD Jesus do?” approach, then I might say something like this:
WWJD? Jesus quoted Scripture. So, I want you to memorize as many Bible verses as possible so you have a catalog of all the right ones. You’ll need a lot of them because you never know when the enemy will find you alone and depleted.
Before you subscribe to that idea, I want to make an observation: Why is it that we would imitate the Scripture memorization from Luke 4, but we wouldn’t do the other things Jesus did?
For example, why isn’t anyone fleeing to the desert or spending 40 days without food? I mean, really, if we were going to do what Jesus did in order to overcome temptation, then we’d need to do three things:
- Stop eating.
- Find a desert.
- And quote Scripture in context pertaining to the specific temptation we were facing. (Luke 4:1-2, 4, 8, 12)
That’s a little extreme. I want to suggest that we aren’t supposed to imitate Jesus, for we are very poor imitations of the Son of God. Luke 4 isn’t a formula for resisting temptation; instead, it offers hope when facing temptations.
Rather than ask, “What WOULD Jesus do?” I want you to ask, “What WILL Jesus do?”
If Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and IF Jesus indwells me and lives through me, THEN what will Jesus do if I’m tempted?
He’ll say no.
If you read through Luke 4 again, notice how Jesus is absolutely passionate about his “no.” He never wavers. You never wonder if He’s about to fail. Jesus is much stronger than Satan, and when temptation comes full force, there is no contest.
That strong, unwavering, passionate Jesus lives in you.
Author of Our Faith, I thank You for the common sense to avoid situations that expose my weakness. I also thank You for the immediate access to the strength of Your Spirit. I want to be a “no” person when face to face with Satan. And I can be—not by replicating the Son, but by remembering that His Spirit lives within me. Amen.
- What have I learned about how Satan tries to tempt me?
- What is God specifically saying to me?
- What will I do about what He’s saying?
- What does God want me to share with someone who’s struggling with temptation?