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Rev. Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: ￼Don't know how to handle lusts and temptations? This lesson outlines how to start taking control of your lustful thoughts. 'Avoiding Temptation' is the eighth lesson on 'Embracing God's Love, Overcoming Lust.' Overcoming Lusts is the seventh in a series on "Reaching Beyond Mediocrity."
There are several things to learn about temptation if we are going to rightly respond to it. Like learning to drive, it takes practice to master our responses.
The first thing to remember is that temptation is not sin. The thought of a woman's beauty is not wrong. The seeing of a unclad woman is not evil in and of itself.
Consequences of Greed
"So Achan answered Joshua and said, "Truly, I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it." (Joshua 7:20-21 - more).
How did Achan sin?
What made him violate the clear command from God?
What did he do with the treasure?
What impact did the sin have on others?Just walk through a summer city or park scene and one will find all sorts of sensual pictures. We are an erotic society who is not ashamed of its nakedness. The battle will be in our mind. We need to properly handle our thoughts (though we must limit what we see!). Though a sensual picture does not cause evil, we can easily wrongly respond to it and fall into temptation.
It is not the actual first impression of a lustful suggestion that is sin. That is temptation. It is here that we often fail to discern the difference between temptation from an outside source and our own thoughts. Jesus was tempted but did not sin. Let us look more carefully at this important point.
A thought will come to our mind with the purpose of inducing us to get more involved by thinking the next logical step. This thought is from the evil one. It is what we call temptation. This is a deliberate suggestive thought planted among our thoughts so that we will think of it as our own thought.
Satan often cleverly suggests with such a subtle intrusion into our mind that we do not notice it. The evil one is very crafty and timely invades the private places of our mind. Remember if the evil one tempted Jesus, surely he will tempt us.
If we think of this suggestion (i.e. temptation) as our own thought, then we will naturally follow its suggested trail into sin. If we can remember that it is at first not our own thought, then we can more easily identify it as an outside thought from the trickster inducing us to sin. Then it becomes easier to handle and reject it as different from God's best way of love.
Those temptations come in carefully crafted lines, phrases or words. You should become aware of the ones that he uses on you to tempt you. ￼
Each of these thoughts when introduced are linked to some seductive person or something we are lusting after. Some thoughts are much more brash and I do not quite dare to put into print. With a history of pornographic use, these thoughts and past images automatically link together and boldly present a strong 3D temptation.
When the line of suggested thoughts become so automatic that one does not notice the individual thoughts, then this is where you will find a person saying that 'he can't help it.' He is so well trained that he allows his mind go quickly down Satan's intended path much like a river down a gorge.
"But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death" (James 1:14).
Each circle in the diagram stands for a thought. As James 1:14 says it starts with temptation, proceeds to sin and ends up with death. ￼If the temptation is not identified and rejected, surely it will lead to sin and all sorts of consequences including death.
The more sensitive we are to Satan's temptations, the more careful he is to place even more subtle suggestive thoughts in our mind. Anything more bold would stand out as a big headline. We would immediately catch on (though he does do this sometimes). This is where 'leading' statements come into play.
Leading statements are less bold suggestions that are intended only to get us directed in thinking about people in the wrong way. It is like a 'one, two punch.' ￼The real knock out is not in the first punch. The first punch only gets a person properly lined up, mis-focused and thinking about something in a certain way. Then he follows it up with another temptation, maybe not focused on our lust but our pride. An example of this regarding the lack of control over eating, Satan's first step is to get you thinking about wanting to eat something and not eating a lot or eating a certain thing.
Here are some less leading statements which are not necessarily wrong, but they do lead a person to start thinking about something that they a moment ago were not thinking about.
These things are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves, depending on your married status. Statement three is evil for anyone married! The statements can be true and not bad. The girl over there on the park bench is very attractive. God did give her a nice set of legs. Our problem is two-fold.
Be careful to discern truth from a leading statement. She is pretty. That is God's gift. I avoid being led by the evil one by responding to attractive women in prayer. "Thank you Lord for making her pretty. Bless her and her husband's marriage." Or "May you help her find a man who really loves her."
Start by recognizing what is true. She is beautiful. Don't fight the truth but discern truth from error. The truth is that God made her beautiful but not for me but for another.
If I am not careful, I will start thinking about her beauty and be very susceptible to the next line that the evil one suggests (maybe from the first list given above). He has a whole list to give us to steepen our descent into sin. The leading temptation, which might not strictly even be called a temptation, gets us off guard. If I think about her beauty, then I am set up for the next thought. A friend early on in life said never look twice at a woman. This stands as good advice. The second look is where other temptations are often introduced and bring us into sin.
Jesus warned against looking at a woman with lust. We can look at sexy woman and have it not be sin. We do not need to totally isolate ourselves from this world. But when we desire the woman for ourself, we have entered into the domain of sin. If we are not aware of our thoughts, then we will find ourselves in sin and wonder how we ever even got there.
This is the danger of pornography. We train our minds to lustfully respond to certain thoughts, and so we find ourselves lusting even before we become aware of it. With a bit of porn training, Satan only needs to provide a little enticement, and a whole stream of interconnected thoughts kick off each other leading to sin and death.
Read on to find out the many practical things you can do to help you avoid temptation!