December 17, 2012

Resisting temptation

Recently a family member told me that she did not hang around with people who do things that she does not agree with. She gave an example, “I refuse to spend time with those who think it is okay to cheat on their spouse.” I felt like cheering! 

Evil is tempting. When a roomful of folks begin to gossip, how difficult is it to remain silent or just leave the room? When others exaggerate and even lie, how difficult is it to stick to the facts rather than embellish them? When someone presses issues and insists on their own way, how challenging is it to resist that inner desire to one-up them?

In the Old Testament, Abram (Abraham) and his nephew Lot had to separate because their herds had grown too large for their land. Their choices involved temptation. The best land was also close to wicked cities. Abram allowed Lot to choose first.

Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. (Genesis 13:12)

Most of us know the story. Lot soon moved right into Sodom, a wicked city. Although he was “vexed” by the immoral behavior, he didn’t leave that place until two angels came for a visit.

And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” (Genesis 19:17)

Lot did as he was told, taking his wife and daughters. However, the wife looked back. Her hesitation resulted in death instead of freedom from that wicked place.

Sometimes the only way to escape temptation is to run away from it, refusing to spend any time looking at it, talking about it, being close enough to let it grab my time, attention or interest. Yet temptation can be difficult to resist, something like what happens when someone says, “Do not think about apples” and you then cannot get apples out of your head.

The biblical solution is often replacement. Think about something else. Do something else. Resist, but also know the will of God and do that instead. As the New Testament says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan is the tempter and if resisted, he comes at me with greater force, but if I do what God wants me to do in that situation as I resist, the devil turns and runs from me.

Yet my relative who refuses to hang around sinful people has a point. Sometimes the best action is to do as Lot did — and flee. For instance, God says…  
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22)
If possible, when sin tempts me, the best action could be to turn and flee, escape, refuse to move my tent toward the thing, but run for my life, without looking back.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) 
In the kingdom of God, there are always other places to go!

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