How to Fight Sin in the Moment of Temptation

This past Sunday, we finished our exposition of the Disciple’s Prayer in Matthew 6 by examining the final request:  “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  When we consider the subject of temptation, many thoughts come to mind.  As Christians, we all have areas where, by God’s grace, we enjoy a measure of success in fighting sin.  However, all of us also have areas of besetting sin where we find it extremely difficult to resist temptation and where we often lose the battle with sin.  And the sad fact is that when we have lost the fight so many times, we tend to want to surrender altogether.

As a follow up to Sunday’s sermon, I want to remind us of how Scripture instructs us to do battle with sin in our lives.  And when I say “battle,” I do mean BATTLE.  Hebrews 12:4 says, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.”  We are to embody such a love for God and such a reverence for His righteousness that we would rather shed our blood or even give our lives before we would disobey Him and dishonor His name.  Battling sin is that serious!  Winning that battle begins with one key thing:  We must be properly armed with the Word.

We are all familiar with Psalm 119:11 which says, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee.”  We also know from Jesus’ own example that Scripture is our main refuge and response when Satan is tempting us (Matthew 4:1-11).  In Ephesians 6, we see that “the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” is our only offensive weapon in the battle.  In fact, even all of the defensive armor listed in this passage goes back to being firmly founded in God’s gospel truth.

What this means is that if we are going to be a “holy” people who successfully conquer sin, we must have minds and hearts that are shaped by and saturated with God’s Word.  In terms of practical specifics, when we are face-to-face with sin, we battle it in 5 ways:  (1) Fix your eyes on Jesus; “Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb 12:3)  Remember what Scripture teaches us:  that He has conquered sin and death on our behalf and that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).  His grace and presence in the Spirit assure us that we do have the power to win the fight.

(2) Bring specific scriptures to bear on specific sins.  If you are struggling with anger, or lust, or materialism, or pride, then memorize Scriptures that deal with anger, or lust, or materialism or pride.  The internalized Word is our sword-at-hand for resisting the evil one and our scalpel for cutting out the cancer of sin that infects our flesh.  Study, meditate, and memorize specific applicable passages, but also keep reading and studying all of Scripture to cultivate a mature love for God.

(3) Trust and believe that the promises of God made to you in the Bible are of far greater worth than the fleeting pleasures of sin.  In God’s presence, there is fullness of joy.  In His right hand, there are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)  Moses himself considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” (Heb 11:26)  When engaged in the battle with sin, we must continually remind ourselves that what God has given us and what God will give us far exceeds and outweighs any earthly pleasure.

(4) The corresponding truth to #3 is that we must also remind ourselves that sinful pleasures take us down the path of death and destruction – “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom 6:23)  For the true believer, sin takes us down the path of God’s discipline.  He “disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.  All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Heb 12:10-11)  God is our loving heavenly Father, but a healthy fear of His fatherly discipline can also be a great help to us when we are facing sin.

(5) Finally, pray God’s Word, and pray according to God’s Word.  As we saw this past Sunday, the final petition of the Disciple’s prayer reminds us that resisting temptation and being delivered from evil is not within our grasp as human beings.  As Jesus said, “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41)  It takes supernatural power and intervention to defeat Satan and to overcome our flesh.  Thus, with the Psalmist, we must prayerfully cry out to God: “Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law, and keep it with all my heart.  Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments, for I delight in it.” (Psa 119:34-35)
This is our call to arms! Fight hard in the battle against sin!  Fight hard for the glory of God!  I love you all dearly!