One of the greatest advantages you can have in military battle is the element of surprise. To catch your enemy off guard enables you to inflict the maximum amount of damage with the minimum amount of causalities. That same principle is true in spiritual battles and the battle against temptation. One of the ways to ensure that you aren’t caught off guard is to expect to be tempted.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” James 1:13 (NKJV)
I like how the NKJ translates the first of verse 13. He says when you are tempted, not if you are tempted. It is a fact that every one of us is tempted and we will continue to be tempted. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where there will ever come a time in this life where temptation isn’t a problem. Now we may not all be tempted by the same things, but we are all tempted.
Many times we beat ourselves up because we are tempted by something. It is easy for us to get discouraged because there is some sin that continues to plague us through temptation. We feel that surely we should be beyond being tempted by now if we were really where we ought to be in the Lord. This flows out of the idea that when we become Christians we will not be tempted to sin. Or we feel that when we are “good Christians” we will not be tempted to sin. However this is not the case.
It is very important for us to understand that being tempted isn’t a sin. The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted to sin and yet He didn’t sin (Hebrews 4:15, 1 Peter 3:18). If ever there was a “good Christian” it was Jesus and yet the Bible says He was tempted but did not sin. If Jesus who is the Son of God was tempted, then friend you and I will be tempted as well.
The truth is there will never be a time in this life where you are not tempted by some sin at some time.
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:17 NKJV)
Here we see the truth that our sinful nature and sinful desires don’t go away once we are saved. Instead, the sinful nature is ever present within us. It is always fighting against the things the Spirit of God is leading us to do. The flesh and the Spirit within us are always at odds. They are always diametrically opposed to one another. This means that at no point in time will the flesh lead us to do the things that the Holy Spirit wants us to do. It also means that at no point will the Holy Spirit lead us to satisfy the desires of our flesh.
This is the war going on within all believers all the time. Believers fail to live the holy lives that Christ wants them to live when they lose the war within. The choice is ever before us to live holy or unholy lives, to follow the flesh or follow the Spirit. Few believers have doubts about the reality of the war within. It is something that we feel going on within us. If we are losing in the war within, then this is something we feel shame about. It can also be a war that we feel helpless to win. We can win but in order to do so, we must recognize that this struggle will always be with us.
As you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ the things you are tempted by may change, but temptations will always be there. Being tempted isn’t a sign of spiritual immaturity, it’s not a sign that you are hopeless and it’s doesn’t mean you’re not a good Christian. Here is what it means in a nutshell…it means you’re a human.
Winning the war within begins by thinking Biblically about temptation. When we are thinking Biblically about temptation we expect to be tempted. We also recognize that being tempted isn’t a sin. Giving in to temptation is a sin, but being tempted isn’t.