The apostle Paul captured the difficulty of being human in his famous letter to the Roman church when he said:
“But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:23-24)
All of us can relate to Paul’s struggle. The salvation of Christ has guaranteed our eternal destiny and granted us access to His power in our daily lives, but we must still make the choice to trust God’s provision in moments of temptation. That is no easy task.
Christ died not just to guarantee our place in heaven, but to free us from the power of sin. Before Christ, we sinned because it was our identity; we knew no better. Christ’s victory on the Cross was a victory over sin on our behalf. As His disciples, victory over sin can only occur if we stay connected to Christ Himself. We are as safe from sin as we are close to Christ!
How do we do this? Here are three practical ways to choose Christ in temptation.
1. Fight offensively.
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)
Most of us fight temptation defensively; we don’t think about fighting sin until it’s right in front of us. But at that point, we’re already at a disadvantage. In order to walk in victory, you must know your weaknesses and prepare to fight temptation when it comes. The question is not if temptation will come, but when!
This is why we must dress ourselves in the armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:13). We put on this armor each day as we spend time in God’s Word, where we learn how to speak, act and think as Christ followers. If you don’t spend time in God’s Word on a daily basis, you will not have access to the wisdom and “fighting spirit” you need to be victorious.
Part of fighting offensively is recognizing that this battle takes place in your mind before anything else. Learn to take your thoughts captive so temptation cannot take hold.
2. Connect to your power source.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
It’s impossible to fight temptation on your own. Because we are human, we don’t have power to conquer sin apart from Christ. To be victorious, you must remain connected to “the Vine”: the strength and sustaining power of Jesus Christ.
This, once again, is achieved through study of God’s Word and communing with Him daily. If you’re struggling with a certain sin, the first questions to ask are: “Did I spend time in God’s Word today? Have I let Him teach me how to fight? Have I asked Him for His help?” Only by connecting to your source of power will you defeat temptation before it can give birth to sin.
3. Make a distinct separation from sin.
And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. (Mark 9:43)
If you’ve prepared your mind to fight, put on your spiritual armor and made a habit of capturing your thoughts before they become sinful (remember: the temptation itself is not a sin!), the next step is separation. When Jesus told His disciples to “cut off” their hand if it caused them to sin, He wasn’t speaking literally. He was illustrating a very strong point: that we should be ruthless with anything that causes us to sin, removing it from our lives at all costs.
If your smartphone is contributing to your use of porn, you might need to get a basic flip phone. If you can’t kiss your boyfriend without going too far sexually, you might need to save your kiss for your wedding day, like my husband and I did. If you can’t talk to a particular friend without gossiping about others, you may need to stop hanging out with her on a regular basis.
These examples illustrate the kind of “distinct separation” Jesus was talking about. It doesn’t matter if choosing holiness makes us “different” or “weird”; holiness is what God requires! It’s the only way we can stay in communion with Him and know His will for our lives. That’s why we pursue purity in all areas: emotionally, mentally and physically. That’s why we fight hard for victory over sin.
You are not alone in this struggle; Christ came for the express purpose of giving you victory and a holy identity in this world. Unite with Him in this purpose, put on your armor and fight like the warrior He knows you to be.