If you think you already know all there is to know about temptation, think again. Here are 7 things you should know about this daily visitor who comes knocking on the door of our heart:
1) What you see isn't what you get.
The power of temptation lies in the desire to have what is being offered. One of the many problems with temptation is that it doesn't actually deliver the promised goods. Temptation deceives you. It offers one thing, but delivers another. What you see isn't what you get. Instead, you end up getting all the baggage that comes with the decision to give into temptation.
Adam and Eve saw one thing when they were tempted, but were given something entirely different when they sinned. And ever since, man has been drawn to what his eyes and his mind tell him he is going to receive. In the moment of temptation, he can remember God and turn to Him for help; or he can forget about God and give into his desire.
When man turns to God, he gets a friend and helper. When man forgets about God, he gets the results of living beyond the divine boundaries God has established.
2) The pressure to resist temptation is far less than the pressure from the consequences after giving into temptation.
So you are having a hard time resisting a particular temptation. The pressure is real. But so also is the pressure once a person gives into temptation. By that time however, the pressure from the consequences is far stronger than the earlier temptation itself.
Giving into temptation moves you into the land of "Consequences." While you were living in the land of "Temptation," you thought you had it rough. But now you are beginning to experience circumstances even more demanding. You only wish you could go back to the land of "Temptation" and undo what you have done.
The good news is that you can be forgiven. Jesus won't hold your sin against you as you turn to Him in repentance and faith. But that doesn't mean you will be transported right back to where you lived at the time of your sin. Your new home for now is in the land of "Consequences." And it's a good thing for us that Jesus meets us there and forgives our sins as we turn away from them and ask the Lord to cleanse us.
3) The bait on the hook looks good until you take it.
If fish could talk, I don't suppose there is a single fish ever caught on a hook that would say, "I sure am glad I took the bait." We expect man to be smarter than fish, and we assume man will see the hook attached to the bait. But for some reason, the reality of the hook doesn't seem to get our attention. That is, until a person has been snagged by it. Once you take the bait, you suddenly have a much deeper appreciation for the pain and the sharpness of the hook.
4) Giving into temptation increases sinful desires.
Try to find one example in the Bible or in the world where giving into temptation ever decreases the desire to keep sinning. As a matter of fact, the opposite occurs. Just as holy desires increase by acting on them, so also do sinful desires increase by giving into them.
Make no mistake about it. You are not an exception to the rule. Your life will demonstrate this reality for good or bad, and so will the lives of everyone you know.
Without Jesus to forgive our sins and set our feet on a firm path, we would definitely be hopeless and helpless. Surrendering your life to Jesus produces holy desires and good fruit, while surrendering your life to sin produces unholy desires and bad fruit.
So how serious do the consequences have to get before you come to your senses?
5) Everyone has the potential to give into temptation over and over again.
You may feel like your temptations are greater than what others have to face, but that is not true. If you only knew how strongly other people are tempted to give into sin, you would be shocked. Your desires to sin are similar to the desires most people face. While the specifics differ from person to person, the passion and potential to continue giving into temptation is universal. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed." (James 1:14)
6) Christians are free to say "No" to temptation.
The Bible couldn't make it any clearer for the believer: "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 6:18) While it is true that Christians are tempted to sin at least as much as everyone else, it is also true that Christians don't ever have to give into temptation. The fact that we still do so at times is an indication of our deep need for God's grace and our need to walk closely with Christ.
If I convince myself as a believer that I have no choice except to sin, then I have deceived myself. I must go back to Scripture and be reminded of who I am in Christ, and how he has freed me to live in a way that pleases Him. After all, it was Jesus Himself who said, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)
7) Your past does not have to define your future.
"God is love." (1 John 4:8) Among other things, this means God is quick to forgive people on account of Christ. He does not hold our sins against us when we trust in His Son to forgive us. And God gives us a bright future no matter how dark it has been in our past.
You can have a new beginning today. You can bring your sins to Jesus, and enter the future as a forgiven child of God who is free to say "No" to temptation. The more you know about temptation, the more prepared you are to resist it and grow stronger as a follower of Christ. He resisted temptation perfectly and never sinned, and we can now face temptation with His grace and His strength.
So are you still tempted to think you know everything there is to know about temptation? The truth is that on this side of heaven, we can always learn more about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.