Dealing with temptation

February 17, 2013

In today’s gospel reading Our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that “it is not fitting to give the children’s food to the dogs.” Recently however I came across an article that was quite the opposite. In this article I felt that someone was trying to give dog’s food to the children. Perhaps the author meant well, but having good intentions isn’t enough to offer life, salvation and peace to others. Sound teaching is also required.

The Apostle James writes “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” James 3:1. The Apostle James is no doubt concerned with making sure that those who teach are able to do so and that they are able to do so with a clear conscience and not condemning themselves or others in the process.

In the article I read there are some points that need to be addressed because you are children of God and you deserve the food that is meant for the children of the King and nothing less. In a section of this article on dealing with temptation I read:

“Here are three ways of dealing with temptation:

1) Fight the temptation: This is not the recommended method. Fighting the temptation further entangles us in it.

2) Distract yourself: You can attempt to push away the thoughts of temptations; this method, however, is also not recommended since it takes all our energy to distract ourselves and the energy is not inexhaustible.

3) Be non-resistant: Jesus said, “Do not resist evil” and “love your enemies.” We can apply this to the enemies or demons within ourselves. We need to accept and show compassion to our temptations as Jesus did to the sinners who approached him.”

I won’t address these in great detail but will offer a few Biblical ideas. This is important because the greatest battle of life is the spiritual battle that brings us closer to the Lord Jesus or further away. The idea that we should not fight or run from temptation is simply wrong. Listen to these words, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” The idea that you can allow temptation to enter in without being burned in the process is so dangerous. The longer a tempting thought has time to marinate in the mind and in the heart, the longer it will take us to be rid of that temptation and to remove it’s stain from our heart. On this point St. Paul also writes “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

In the article we are told that Jesus taught us to be non-resistant to the temptations, but is that really something that the Lord taught? It is true that He tells us to “not resist evil” and to “love your enemies,” but that is not a reference to temptations. Those are references to how we should deal with people that would try to harm us or do us evil. The perfect example of this is the Lord Jesus as He allowed Himself to be hung from the life giving cross and yet continued to pray for His enemies.

If we are truly interested in knowing how to fight the spiritual battle against the temptations it might help if we take a look at the way in which the Lord fought these temptations while in the wilderness for 40 days.

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him” Matthew 4:1-11.

Please notice here that the Lord never tries to hug and love the evil thoughts and temptations away! The Lord Jesus was not a hippie or a new age guru. The Lord is the great spiritual warrior. He demonstrates that one cannot hold poison without becoming contaminated. Instead He does spiritual combat by attacking the temptations with the exact opposite ideas using Scripture, the word of God, as His sword or club. Again the Apostle James doesn’t tell us to submit to the temptations and allow them in, he writes “Therefore submit to God. RESIST the devil and he will flee from you” James 4:7. We resist temptations by reading Scripture, by praying fervently, by removing ourselves from tempting situations, by fasting, by singing hymns and by applying ourselves to good works of love.
This article had other troubling points including: “Sin: At the core of every sin is goodness.” This is a quite unique definition and one that I have never found anywhere in the pages of the Old or New Testaments. In the Bible sin is the act of missing the mark. It means that we have deviated from God’s way and His will for our life. The core of nearly every sin isn’t goodness. The core of nearly every sin is rebellion against God and His ways.

Another troubling point I found was regarding Heaven and hell where we are told “heaven and hell are states of mind.” While this sort of opinion seems nice, it is sheer fantasy. My daughters want unicorns to exist because they think unicorns are pretty. The truth is that unicorns do not exist. Some don’t want places called heaven and hell to exist because they offend their sensibilities. The truth is that the Lord Jesus taught us that heaven and hell are realities and not simply a state of mind. If they are only states of mind we will be blessed to die since our brain will cease to function. For a clearer view of the afterlife according to the Lord please refer to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

We could certainly spend much more time discussing these but I wanted to at least bring them to your attention. May God bless us with sound minds and hearts to understand and apply the life giving words of Scripture. AMEN.

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3 thoughts on “Dealing with temptation

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

  2. Temptations come to us in the form of thoughts: the aim is to have one becomes a slave to these thoughts; these thoughts are a living intelligence that is external to our own thought processes but has the ability to use our thought processes for its own aims.

    As Christians, we are capable of recognizing and fighting these thoughts. Psalm 50 is where one begins, and my favorite verse is: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew the right Spirit within me.”

    The definitive book on how to struggle against these thoughts is: Unseen Warfare as edited by Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and revised by Theophan the Recluse.

    This is a book that one must keep forever and read over and over in order that one not ever, ever surrenders to tempting thoughts. Below is my outline of the forward:

    Unseen warfare is about the Christian’s internal struggle they undertake at baptism when they make a vow to God to fight for him and to the glory of his divine name.

    Unseen warfare is one’s struggle against
    1. Invisible and incorporeal foes, which are the varied passions and lusts of the flesh,
    2. And of the evil demons who hate men and never cease to fight against them, day and night.

    As the divine Paul says: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of the world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

    People who participate in this unseen warfare are Christians
    1. Our commander is the Lord, Jesus Christ
    2. Accompanied by the hierarchies of angels and saints
    3. The arena where the spiritual warfare takes place is our heart and the control of our inner self
    4. The time of battle is our whole life

    What are your weapons that you use to fight your inner warfare?

  3. Thanks for the great quote! There are so many great weapons for the warfare. I believe the Philokalia is a great resource as are the Psalms when used as prayers. All our efforts to struggle are amplified through the proper partaking of the sacramental mysteries.

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