Can you think of an area of your life where you’re losing an ongoing battle with temptation, returning to a particular sin again and again? If so, maybe you need to quit fighting.
When we talk about dealing with temptation, we often use words like struggle, fight, battle or war.
With good reason. We are in a spiritual war and have been since the beginning. This kind of imagery is all over the New Testament. Jesus said he came with “a sword” (Mt. 10:34), Paul writes of spiritual weapons and armor (Eph. 6:10-17), and Peter warns that fleshly lusts “wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11), to name a few.
But a battle mindset by itself can, ironically, keep you defeated by habitual sin.
While it’s true there is a tempter worth fighting (see Mt. 4:1-11, 1 Cor. 7:5, 1 Thes. 3:5), temptation itself isn’t an external force to battle.
Temptation works upon you internally—upon your good, God-given desires.
Experientially, it’s almost like temptation latches on to desire parasitically, twisting itself up with desire in such a way that it’s difficult to discern where your God-given desires end and where temptation to sin begins.
A battle mindset isn’t adequate here because you were never intended to fight your God-given desires, and that’s what you inadvertently do as the temptations you’re facing are feeding off those desires.
A battle mindset has led far too many well-meaning disciples to a life of rigidity, strictly adhering to a list of do’s and don’ts lest they be drawn away to sin.
You may need structure to help you along the way. But the goal is not a rigid, disciplined, passionless life, as though the anthem of Heaven is “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (see Colossians 2:20-22).
Jesus didn’t come to wage war on desire and he certainly didn’t come to kill it. He came to rescue it from temptation, and sin, and death.
If Christ came to do away with sin in your life, it wasn’t at your expense. He came to do away with sin for your sake.
So how do we gain freedom from habitual sin if not through battle? How do we participate with Jesus in the rescue of our desires?
I think this is where our greatest temptation comes: We want to do something, control something, or make something happen. We want to battle. But true freedom comes from participating in a movement of the Holy Spirit, as we open ourselves to Christ in our weakness, distress, and temptation. This is battle, but it’s a battle of a different kind.
“For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength’” (Isaiah 30:15).
There is no quick fix, no surgery, no pill. Battle offers the alleviation of an enemy. By all means, rebuke the tempter (Mt. 4:10, 11), but rescue—true rescue—involves restoration of the soul. I’ll share more about this next week. (Regeneration’s Rescue program is one place to learn how to “battle” in this way.)
I’d love to hear from you: What rises up in you as you read this? Where does this connect for you? Where is there disconnect? Click here to leave a comment.