Without doubt, the mind is the premier battlefield for Christians today. It would be easy to go over the top in considering the degree of temptation we face on a daily basis, but we are far more likely to under-estimate the degree to which we are bombarded with untruth.
We are all too aware of the activity of the Devil in the area of sexual temptation, and we should not in any way discount it, but it only becomes effective if we have previously accepted other lies as truth.
We would most probably recognise the suggestion to commit adultery as a temptation and not give in to it. If however we had already accepted as truth that we no longer love our husband or wife, and that adultery was a valid option, we would be far more likely to fall. When temptation has got this far, we are already in deep trouble.
Other temptations can touch on our brokenness and hook into our sense of worth and our sense of shame. This is done by little thoughts, which reinforce our broken view of ourselves.
For example, misreading the requirements of a situation and ‘failing’, albeit through misunderstanding, brings thoughts of worthlessness, which if we allow them life, will condemn us as unworthy. Temptation is not effective if it has nothing to attach itself to. Being tempted in areas of wholeness is not a percentage winner for the Enemy, so we must expect to have our weaknesses attacked.
Dealing with temptation
A simple test in this is to consider ‘are these my thoughts’, or do they come from someplace else. For instance, why would we choose to condemn ourselves, assuming we had a free choice?
We also have to consider the work of the Holy Spirit in the conviction of sin, but this is not the same as the condemnation the Enemy brings to us. Condemnation attacks our being and sense of worth through the past, and turns us from God in shame. Conviction points us toward God as our hope for the future through His forgiveness. We still feel bad about it, but don’t feel isolated by the feelings. The test is what we choose to focus on, our sin or God’s redemption, or indeed whether we can choose.
Having recognised a thought as temptation, we then have to consider why we should be tempted in this area. Is there something that needs God’s healing, or can we reject it out of hand?
It is at this point that we realise the absolute necessity of close fellowship with other Christians. As fellowship deepens, we gain an understanding of each other, and can recognise areas of need in each other. To submit our autonomy to others can be a considerable step for us, but it means that we are not as isolated and so easy to pick off.
© Paul Wood