Overcoming Temptation: A Biblical Perspective
For a Christian, success often means growing closer to God. A key aspect in this pursuit is the fight against temptation. So what can you do when you’re tempted? For the Christian wanting to overcome temptation to sin, consider these biblical strategies to grow in holiness before God.
For the purposes of this article, we will define temptation based on the Bible as anything that influences you to disobey God. Truly any situation you face in life will either promote your growth or promote your destruction. The determining factor is what you decide in your heart to do. Will you obey God and draw near to Him, or will you rebel against God and run from Him? You are not a passive victim here. Instead of choosing to sin, resolve to implement the following strategies to overcome temptation in your life.
Be Reconciled to God.
According to the Bible, your first step in overcoming temptation is to turn to Him in repentance and faith. Acknowledge that only Jesus the Christ can make you right before God. He died in your place to satisfy the just wrath of God against your sin, and He rose from the dead to prove the debt was paid.
Your first step in overcoming temptation is to turn to Him in repentance and faith.
You see, apart from Christ, all people are enslaved to sin. We obey sin’s desires and attempt to live apart from God’s righteous commandments. But “thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18).
As a believer in Jesus, give thanks that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation” (2 Peter 2:9). How do you find that rescue? Turn away from sin and turn to God. Remember that “we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).
Confess your faults to Him and commit to repentance each day. As a slave of righteousness, seek to please God in everything you think, say, and do. Pray for His protection and strength to endure the temptations you face daily.
Meditate on God’s Word.
The unsaved world around you entices and even pressures you to follow along with its wickedness. The Apostle Paul highlights the essence of the battle and its solution: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Sin is deceptive: it promises what it does not give and gives what it never promised.
How can you “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”? By filling your mind with the word of God, the Bible. The psalmist said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Remember how the Lord Jesus fought the temptations of Satan by repeatedly quoting the Scripture He had hidden in His heart (Matthew 4:1–11).
The Apostle Paul gives two parallel commands about spiritual growth: “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) and “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Colossians 3:16). That is, as you fill your heart with God’s word, the Holy Spirit enables you to obey God’s commands. So, when you “walk by the Spirit … you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Sin is deceptive: it promises what it does not give and gives what it never promised. Conquer deceit with the truth of God’s word. If you have a specific temptation that you frequently face, be sure to memorize scripture that confronts that sin directly. Also, rest in the knowledge that satisfaction and joy come from God Himself: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).
Deny Ungodliness and Cultivate Godliness.
This side of eternity, you will always be subject to temptation in some respect, for they are “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Watch yourself! Temptation succeeds when your heart is unprepared for it. So, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (Romans 13:14). Take control of your lusts (or desires)—do not let them control you.
It is not enough only to deny ungodly desires; you must also find your godly desires fulfilled in the Lord.
It is not enough only to deny ungodly desires; you must also find your godly desires fulfilled in the Lord. Instead of looking for pleasure apart from God, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Draw near to Him and give Him thanks for the many good gifts He showers upon His people (James 1:17).
Be ready at all times to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). Strive against sin in your life and seek to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Colossians 3:17).
Avoid Tempting Situations.
The Lord Jesus taught His disciples to ask God, “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). If you ask God to help you avoid temptation, then you should also be vigilant to stay away from tempting situations. Avoid the perilous path of the careless man who unsurprisingly walked into sin with an adulterous woman (Proverbs 7:6–10).
If you do find yourself in danger of sin, get out of there quickly!
Stay away from those who try to influence you to do evil. The psalmist David says, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1). David’s son Solomon reiterated this warning: “Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; turn away from it and pass on” (Proverbs 4:14–15).
If you do find yourself in danger of sin, get out of there quickly! As a Christian, you are to “flee immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and to “flee from youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22). Be like Joseph, who ran out from the adulterous advances of his master’s wife (Genesis 39:12). Escape from tempting situations, locations, and people. Do not yield to your ungodly desires and make every effort to subdue them for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:29–30).
You might need to abandon friendships with those who tempt you toward evil. Your relationships are serious. The Bible warns you, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). While you might be pointing these unsaved friends to God, take care that they do not lead you away from “seek[ing] first His kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
Be Transparent to God and Others.
Recognize that your sin is fundamentally directed against God. When his master’s wife attempted to seduce him, Joseph rightly protested, “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
Agree with God that sin is wicked and deserves His punishment. After David’s compound sins of adultery and murder, he lamented before God, “I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:3–4).
“He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
Tell God about your sin and the temptations that you have faced. Rejoice in His promise that when “we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Ask Him to help you succeed next time you face a similar situation.
Also, consider this blessing and warning: “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13). Confess your sin to God, but you might also need to confess your sin to others that you have offended. If you have repented of your sin, ask for forgiveness so you can be reconciled with one another.
You can also benefit from the encouragement of others who are seeking to honor God with their lives (Ecclesiastes 4:9–12). As you “flee from youthful lusts” you must also “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Seek accountability with trusted partners and invite them to help you in your spiritual growth.
Keep an Eternal Perspective.
You are accountable to God. While you might be able to hide your sin from other people, know that “the eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
Would you feel comfortable quenching your ungodly desire if Christ were with you at the time? And He is present with you through His Spirit. So, avoid sin and “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption,” when Christ returns (Ephesians 4:30).
The preacher of Ecclesiastes exhorts you to shun a short-sighted “under the sun” mentality and instead to remember what happens in God’s eternity. He says, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).
Choose eternal rewards over temporal pleasure that is contrary to God’s plan for you. The long-term rewards of excellence and integrity are more than worth the effort!