Tempted, Part II

By

We are so used to running from temptation because we are so often unbelieving. We don’t believe in the power of Christ in us, so we cut, run, and hide.

Temptation is opportunity. Without it we would live out our little, comfortable lives doing little religious things to make ourselves feel good. But temptation gives us the necessary opposite circumstance; temptation gives us a real, tangible choice: Am I going to trust God in this tempted moment and reverse it? Or not?

Temptation is the battle cry of the enemy. And we must engage through faith, reliance, trust – or cut and run.

We are told to “flee fornication.” We are told to flee these things: love of money, seeking to be rich. But how to flee? Paul goes on, “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1Tim 6:11-12). We flee by fighting the faith-battle against temptation. Likewise, where we are told to “Flee fornication” we are given the method how to do so: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Cor 6:18-19). Again, we flee fornication by simply recognizing who (and Whose) we are.

Resisting temptation requires a reversal in our self-outlook. Every temptation gets its power by our false thinking: “I am an independent self who chooses good or evil.” We take our little human self as the origination point of good or evil. Big mistake. That’s exactly the view the devil wants us to take. We then attempt to manipulate our circumstances in order to achieve righteousness. We tell our accountability partner to call us every few hours. We put holy lock boxes on our computer or televisions. In fact, we do everything but trust in Christ in the moment to live His righteous, perfect, pure life in us, through us, as us. This Christ-avoidance, this spitting on Christ by disregarding His love and power in us, leads us on the straight path to more and more sin.

We must ask ourselves in the moment of temptation: “Does Christ live in me? Am I complete in Him? Do I have everything I need for life and godliness? Am I one spirit with the Lord? Am I weak, but He is my strength?” None of this will appear to be true in that moment when our desires or fears are stirred up. But we say it. “Christ lives in me, through me, as me. Right here, right now. Thank you, Jesus, that You are my righteousness in this moment.”

That’s where our only choice originates. Are we going to affirm in faith that Christ within us is our righteousness in every temptation? And then, having affirmed the truth, step out on it and act as though we really trust that it is true?

This battle is not just for our growth; it is a fight for the eternal well-being of every person in our lives. The world is watching and waiting for those of us who will stand in who we really are in Christ, for those who really rely on God’s saving power, for those who  don’t merely give lip service to faith.

Temptation is our opportunity.

Profile photo of Ron Block

Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


11 Comments

  1. Chris R

    Ron, I appreciate the perspective and agree… but have a question. The two examples (1 Cor and 1 Tim) where it tells us to flee, it doesn’t seem like it is saying stand and fight. It seems to me that it is telling us what to flee to. As in, perhaps when too often just turn and run the other way but we arent running to Christ and so we end up in this mix-up of self-effort and our self-created righteousness but haven’t truly run to anything else. It just leaves a hole to turn and fall back into. When it says “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” it seems to be that the fight happens by turning our eyes elsewhere, to something else, something bigger and better. Again, when it says flee fornication, I dont think it is saying stand and fight it in that moment but to turn and run to what we know we were created for. Might be semantics, because you kind of said that after the fornication passage. That is a long winded way of asking, what do you think? Is it possible that fleeing (aka turning and running from temptation) is fighting?

  2. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Chris, thanks for helping me clarify.

    Paul constantly fought against a self-effort based Christianity. He did not want believers to mix Law (rule-following through self-effort) with grace (Christ given to us and coming through us by faith). Law takes as its presumption that we must build Law-fences around sins; it presupposes that we must do the work of being good ourselves (maybe with God ‘helping us’ when we really think we need Him). The letter to the Galatians speaks largely of this (the letter to the Hebrews as well). The letter to the Corinthians is for the opposite heresy – that since we are bought by Christ’s death and resurrection, we can sin and get away with it. But the main heresy Paul fought, as we see in the book of Acts, is this admixture of grace with Law.

    So let’s take this into a temptation situation. How do we “flee”? We flee by doing exactly what you said – we “turn our eyes elsewhere, to something else, something bigger and better.” We flee by turning to Christ. We don’t stand there and keep our eyes on fornication or lust or losing our temper or jealousy. Joshua and Caleb did not wipe out Jericho and giants and fierce inhabitants of Canaan by focusing on the enemy; Caleb said, “Let us go up and possess the Land, for we are well able to overcome it.” He said this not because they had superior strength in and of themselves but because God had told them the Land was theirs, that He would drive out the usurpers.

    That’s what we do. In a temptation situation we put our faith in God, not in the power of the particular temptation. We flee, but not into lock boxes and using embarrassment and pride to control ourselves; we flee to our strong Tower. We flee to our Shield and hide behind Him. We affirm who He is in us; we connect to Him by faith. We thank Him that He is our purity, our patience, our peace, or whatever particular virtue we are needing in the moment. When we connect to Him by faith in that moment, everything He is becomes ours, just as a wife can use anything that belongs to her husband because of her marriage to him. So in the temptation, His purity is our purity; we thank Him for that, praise Him for it. His patience becomes our patience in that moment; we thank Him for that, praise Him for it.

    So it isn’t a matter of running away into fear, manipulation, control, by putting lock boxes on computers, having accountability partners call every day to check up on us. Of course, accountability partners, the real kind, are there to tell us who we really are in Him. They are there to give us a sort of CPR when we need it. But people can misuse accountability; “Pride can often be used to beat down the simpler vices. Teachers, in fact, often appeal to a boy’s Pride, or, as they call it, his self-respect, to make him behave decently: many a man has overcome cowardice, or lust, or ill temper by learning to think that they are beneath his dignity – that is, by Pride. The devil laughs. He’s perfectly content to see you becoming chaste and self-controlled provided, all the time, he is setting up in you the Dictatorship of Pride – just as he’d be quite content to cure your chilblains if he was allowed, in return, to give you cancer.”

    A temptation is an opportunity to explode the bomb in the devil’s face. What he wants is to get us to sin, and then pour condemnation on us; his ultimate objective is to make us ineffective because we are self-focused, self-condemning, self-hating, and not Christ-faithing. When we instead make that inner choice to trust Christ within us to live through us, as us, when we see Christ as the deepest Life in us, as the Me of me in a temptation, that Power blows the grenade in the devil’s face. Instead of sin, shame, and self-condemnation, what he gets is purity, love, joy, peace shoved in his face.

    Beyond that, and more importantly, if there is another person concerned in the temptation they see the power of Christ as well. Instead of manifesting a weird vibe of self-absorption, self-hatred, self-condemnation, etc, we manifest Christ to the other person.

    A simple example – I am essentially an introverted person. I’ve spent large parts of my life doing activities alone: reading, studying, playing guitar and banjo, songwriting, etc. Before I learned these truths, pre-1994, I was never comfortable in a group of people unless I had an instrument in my hands. In the mid-1990s God reprogrammed me with my real identity to a large degree, and suddenly I was a different person. I began speaking before groups of people at churches. My life began going outward. When I go into a group of people now, say at a party, I don’t allow that self-focus; I trust that Christ lives in me and will say and do what He needs to say and do. Before I go I thank God that He lives in me, and is my Life, that He wants to show forth His life to others, and I thank Him in advance for what He is going to do.

    As I have gone further and further on in this I become less and less susceptible to the temptation to self-consciousness when in a group. The habit of faith has been more or less trained there (although, of course, there’s always more of Christ to appropriate), so that I no longer allow my consciousness to bend back in on itself.

    This is one instance of the faith-battle where we wipe out the inner Canaanites by reliance on Christ.

    I am not saying, and feel I made clear, that there aren’t times where fleeing temptation in the sense of leaving the scene is necessary when we are immature in Christ-reliance. A reforming drinker doesn’t need to hang out at the bar trying to witness. Get clear, get strong in Christ, study up and learn to rely on your real identity; learn that Christ is now our love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, humility, faith. Walk in that – or as Jesus says, “Abide in Me, and you will bear much fruit” and “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

    My whole point in writing is to get us all to stop using Law, fear, pride, and manipulation of circumstances by our human effort, to be righteous. We already are righteous in Christ. We’re to use that righteousness; everything that belongs to Christ belongs to us because we are married to Him, and all things flow through us, and Christ lives as us, by faith – by reliance – by abiding.

    He is our strong Tower; He is our Rock. In temptation we are to have all our armor on, take up the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, and having done all, to stand. It is this kind of reliance on Christ that makes our lives powerful, beautiful, righteous, and eternally relevant.

  3. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    One more thing – we should never deal with a temptation with bravado or arrogance. “Let him who stands take heed lest he fall.” In our human selves we are totally weak; apart from Christ we can do nothing. It is this attitude of humility which is foundational to relying on Christ and so defeating the devil’s temptations.

  4. David Van Buskirk

    ‘That’s what we do. In a temptation situation we put our faith in God, not in the power of the particular temptation. We flee, but not into lock boxes and using embarrassment and pride to control ourselves; we flee to our strong Tower.’

    Here’s what I’m picking up in all of this…

    If a Christian ran from the same temptation his entire life, never maturing into a Christ-follower who has learned to trust in Jesus and stand firm in Christ, it seems that the Enemy would have him right where he wanted him, even if he never actually catered to the temptation. A lifetime spent running from that temptation, never turning to Christ, would be a life misdirected, regardless of whether or not the believer yielded to that particular temptation.

    Plus then, they would never get to throw hand grenades of love and purity in the devil’s face.

  5. Evan Godbold

    I absolutely love the Lewis quote. Really, I love all of it, Ron. I am seeing how arrogant my approaches to dealing with temptation and avoiding sin have been! I have a new identity in Christ and a rich inheritance. These are things I read and even say to others often, but I don’t think my life actually looks like that. You have really challenged me.

    Thanks so much for the post.

  6. David

    Ron,
    I’ve read part 1 and part 2 and tried to glean how this really looks in daily life, but I’m still struggling. So, I ask for some guidance. If you’re sitting at the beach with lots of young ladies walking around in next to nothing, what is going on in your head? What is the reversal of that temptation?

  7. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    David,

    In that situation, some questions to ask oneself.

    1. Who am I? Am I an independent self, here for my own sexual gratification? Or am I an independent self, separate from God, who has to keep from sinning by exerting my human effort?

    2. Does Christ live in me? Is the Bible true? Did I die to sin? (Romans 6). Did I die to the Law? (Romans 7). Am I going to trust the Holy Spirit to live in and through me? (Romans 8). Am I here for others, and not to merely benefit or gratify myself? (Romans 9).

    These, of course, are questions to be thinking about all the time.

    Some other considerations:

    To minds glutted continually on movies and media containing a lot of sexual content, it seems impossible not to lust.

    But either it’s true that with God all things are possible, or it is not true.

    Either it’s true that Christ lives in us, and wants us to abide in His life, or not.

    Another consideration:
    Temptation is not sin. It is not a sin to sit at the beach and feel desire. It is a sin when we marry that desire with action (in this case, inner action of looking with intent to lust).

    Either Christ is our keeper, or we keep ourselves by a bunch of exertion, avoidance, and whatnot.

    Now, as I said, it may be that some people who are weak in faith need to exit the situation. They need to feed themselves on who they are in Christ, study up, faithe up, and learn to stand in Christ in such situations.

    The reversal of that temptation is that Christ is our purity. He lives in us; He will manifest His pure life through us in that situation if we learn to trust Him.

    But the real problem is that we think we are independent, and we don’t really believe Christ will do that. We might try little believings here and there, like bunting a pitch, but we don’t swing for a home run of faith; we don’t bet the farm that Christ is real and is really living inside us, waiting to come out through us – waiting to live AS us.

    We don’t believe that.

    We want something to do. Faith seems too easy. So on we go with sin-avoidance.

    Either the gospel is true, or it isn’t. Either God has encamped in human flesh, first in Christ, now, through the Holy Spirit, in us – or He hasn’t.

    That God is more powerful than sin, flesh, world, or devil.

    He waits for our reliance on Him.

  8. Tony Heringer

    Romans 8:37 – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

    You cannot show that picture without its rightful conclusion:

    In this clip we have a great picture of our response to temptation. “I will not believe it!” is the concluding line. To which I add, believe the Truth for it will set you free.

  9. Profile photo of Ron Block

    Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Tony, perfect.

    “I do not believe it! I will not!” said Aragorn in response to the lies (following taking Anduril and chopping off the tempter’s head).

    That is exactly the right response to the lies. Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, chops off his head. Then we affirm what we don’t believe, and what we do. We make the choice right then and there.

    Negative self-talk in the first person is one major way the enemy gets into our consciousness. “I can’t believe I did it again. I’m such a loser! I hate myself” and all such lies are to be sent back to Hell. We are the redeemed, the beloved, the elect; we are kings, holy, indwelt by Christ, in a union with Him. He is our life. To call ourselves names is to call Him names, and to call Him a liar. “What you’ve done unto the least of these, My brethren, you’ve done unto Me.” What we do to ourselves, we do to Him. When we hate and persecute ourselves, we are hating and persecuting Jesus.

  10. Phillip

    This is one of the most helpful things I’ve ever read. Thank you! I’ve read some things along these lines explained by Watchman Nee, but your writngs really hit home and apply to what we are going through in our time. I appreciate what you share with the body. I have learned a lot from your writing, and I “esteem you very highly in love”.

If you have a Rabbit Room account, log in here to comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *