The Joy of Temptation

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The joy of temptation?!?! What do I mean by that? When we think of temptation, we think of it in terms of being a bad thing…and that is good! But through the years, I have learned to see temptation in a while new light. What I am about to share with you will bring much freedom and creativity into your life and will serve to keep you safe from harm and deliver you from the consequences of sin.

The following material was written for my sons and is excerpted from the eBook “Victim to Victor” by Dennis Jernigan (available for download at dennisjernigan.com). I approach the subject of temptation in a manner that I believe anyone can relate to, regardless of whether they struggle with same-sex issues or not. The question of ‘how did a man who had not been sexually attracted to women suddenly have the desire for sexual relations with the opposite sex?’ All I can say is this, which I learned from a friend: when I was a young man, I hated broccoli. Wouldn’t touch it. Couldn’t stand the smell, much less the taste. As I grew up, I made a mental effort to learn to like broccoli…because I knew it was better for me than putting the poison of fast-food into my body. Eventually, I came to savor and enjoy immensely the taste of broccoli. Not only did my taste change, my desire for that vegetable became the norm. So it has been with my sexual appetites. I simply decided I would believe that God originally intended that I have sexual relations with a woman rather than a man. And I have grown to desire it and to love it…and I honestly DO NOT miss my former sexual reality. Read on for more insight into proper the role of temptation in our lives.

The joy of temptation?!?! What do I mean by that? When we think of temptation, we think of it in terms of being a bad thing…and that is good! But through the years, I have learned to see temptation in a while new light. What I am about to share with you will bring much freedom and creativity into your life and will serve to keep you safe from harm and deliver you from the consequences of sin.

Have you ever wondered why you are tempted to look at certain things or to touch certain things or to taste certain things that somehow you know really aren’t good for you…but you know to look or taste or feel would make you feel good? To be drawn to something – to be tempted – is not necessarily a bad thing. How we respond to the temptation or how we direct our desires toward right things makes the difference between sin and righteous/manly living.

As a man, I am drawn toward or attracted to my wife in a sexual manner and God calls this good. In other words, that attraction is natural and it was placed inside my being as a man in order to bring about new life. When my wife and I have sex, babies are produced and life is the result. If I allow my natural desire to be served in an unnatural way, death and destruction are the result. When I go outside of that which God has ordained as right, I bring death to my marriage. I break up another man’s marriage. I destroy the trust my wife placed in me. And I carry all that damage with me the rest of my life. These are just a few of the consequences of giving into temptation.

Just as with sex, we are drawn to need food and water. Without these things we die…but when we try to use those things or to meet those desires in unnatural ways, we have the same results as the man who seeks sex outside of what God calls right. I overeat or eat the wrong things, my body suffers and I walk in poor health. If I drink nothing but sodas or consume mass quantities of alcohol, my body suffers and I risk major health issues. Whenever I seek to meet god-ordained needs in ways other than He has ordained, I run the risk of not only hurting myself, but hurting others I am involved with in life.

What is sin? Sin is an act, a thought, or behavior that goes against the will of God. When I act in a manner that goes against God’s nature, I sin. I must also remember that sin always has consequences. Always. And sin always finds us out – one way or the other. Reality is that God sees our sin whether anyone else does or not. God’s Word calls homosexuality sin (regardless of what the culture of the world says). Therefore, when I acted in a homosexual manner, I was in sin. God’s Word says in Proverbs 23:7 says, “…as he [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he.” When I allow myself to think of myself in ways other than God thinks of me, I have sinned. When I allow myself to use my mind in a manner other than the way God would have me use my mind, I have sinned. You get the idea. God calls sex and eating and drinking good…but we pervert those natural desires by trying to meet them in unnatural ways. But I have good news for you. God has made a way to deal with sin and to help us use temptation as a tool for His glory!

Everyone alive has sinned. Sin separates us from God. Jesus – the Son of God – was sacrificed in our place and paid the debt for our sin. We are forgiven. Our salvation from eternal separation from God comes when we place our faith in Christ. If you haven’t done that yet, I urge you to place your faith in Him right now. How? It is so simple. God’s Word says in Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth,  “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Just do that. Confess that Jesus is Lord. Believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead…and you are saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Another cool thing about what You’ve just done is this: you have been given a brand new identity. 2Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Simply begin believing what God says about you! More about that later in the book!

How about some more good news? Life is hard and sometimes we feel overwhelmed with all the temptations swirling around us…but God has set us up to win! Rather than temptation being a thing to dread, I can show you how to use temptation to bring strength into your life. Let’s cover some basic ground about what God says about temptation:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can
stand up under it.

- 1Corinthians 10:13 NIV

He will make a way of escape out of every temptation.

How? As a new creation, God tells me I can learn to hear His voice. Whenever I am being tempted, I must immediately cry out to God to show me the way out…and then I must obey immediately! If He says ‘leave this place now’ I must leave. If He prompts me to call a friend I should call that friend. If he tells me to go to His Word and read I had better go then. To hesitate is not obedience. I believe that every time I have been tempted He has been there calling me to follow Him away from that temptation. I just didn’t listen! In other words, when we are tempted and we allow ourselves to give into that temptation, we have chosen to not listen to God. The problem is on our end, not His!

He won’t place more on us than we can bear.

Remember, we just talked about absolute truth in the previous chapter? When temptation comes, I must always remember that God’s Word is true and right in spite of my own feelings in the moment. I remember feeling so weak and helpless whenever I was tempted with sexual sin. Because my sin was so wrapped up in my need for male approval, I often felt that any male attention was better than none. I also remember feeling as if I could not control my own body. What I did not realize was that God wanted to teach me self-control – but, once again, I refused to listen…because I thought I knew what was best for me…that I knew better than the One who created me! Whenever I am tempted and I feel overwhelmed, I must mentally put on the truth that God will not put more on me than I can bear. If this is true, then this trying time will pass! I must trust God and receive His grace (His strength and desire to do what’s right) and get to know Him better in the process.

Jesus was tempted in very manner as we are yet without sin. He understands.

I used to get so bummed out because it seemed I was tempted all the time in a sexual manner. Reality is that men are wired to be sexual aggressors. Reality is that men have sexual thoughts or urges every few seconds. God ordained this…and if He ordained it, He can help us use those thoughts and urges in the way He intends their use. Understanding this helped me understand that temptation can be a good thing. More about that later…

Another thing that helped me tremendously concerning sexual (or any) temptation is understanding the truth that God’s Word says that Jesus (who was perfect and sinless) was tempted in every manner just as we are!  What does that mean? Temptation does not define who I am! Just because I’m tempted to think homosexual thoughts deos not make me a homosexual, just as being tempted to hurt someone does not make me a murderer. What I do with that temptation – how I respond – makes the difference between sin and victory, between being a man of God or a man who desires to live life his own way. Now I get to tell you wonderful things about how God has taught me to see and use temptation from a different point of view.

Temptation – an opportunity for intimacy with God.

If God is holy and I am His child, why do I have so many thoughts that seem to be contrary to His nature? God has an enemy called Satan or the devil. He desires to take God’s place but that can never happen because his only power is deception. Since He cannot defeat God, his goal is to do the next best thing – drag as many people to hell with him as possible! 1Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
The thing about a roaring lion is that this lion is old and weak. His job in the pride is to scare the prey into running away from safety and into the waiting jaws of the younger lions. In other words, his bark is worse than his bite. There is no power in his roar – nothing to be afraid of! Whenever I begin to hear the lies of the enemy – whenever I am tempted to think less about myself than God does – I do a couple of things:

Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

- James 4:7

I.    If the enemy is trying to divert my attention, what is he trying to divert my attention from? I realize that God must be trying to say or do something in my life…and the enemy is trying to make me run the other way – away from life and safety! What I am about to share with you will revolutionize your life and the way you view temptation:

a.    When tempted, I begin to talk to God and ask Him to show me what He wants me to see. The enemy wants me to focus on me and my needs. God is always about meeting the needs of others. I have learned to seek God in intimacy by saying during times of temptation “Lord, here is my heart. Into-me-see.” In that moment, by faith, I hear Him say to me, “Son, here is My heart. Into-me-see.” I become intimate with God and begin to get His perspective on the temptation. I then write down what I see or hear…and have written hundreds of songs by following this simple practice of intimacy with God.

…Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
- 2 Corithinans 11:14

b.    The enemy’s main goal is to get us to take our eyes off of Jesus and to place our focus on our own needs. If he can keep us self-focused and self-centered, he has us by the balls, boys! What do I do when that happens? When tempted, I begin to take my eyes off of me and my own needs and to focus on the needs of others. When I am tempted to be depressed, I look for someone who is depressed and seek ways to encourage them. When tempted sexually, I look for my wife or call a buddy and ask for prayer. When tempted to worry about my financial needs, I look for someone who is in financial need and secretly bless them in a financial way. You get the idea! Often, I sing my prayers for that person to God and in the process have a song that I then turn around and use in ministry to millions of others! Temptation becomes an opportunity to be intimate with God and to bless others…and the enemy is defeated in my life!

Temptation does not determine our identity.

I have already mentioned this, but I will repeat it briefly. Just because I am tempted in a certain manner, does not mean that is who I am! I am who my Father says I am. What He thinks about me overrides my own feelings, experiences, thoughts, or the current world view. I seek to know God and in the process I find out who I am. Pretty cool, huh? The next time someone tries to make you think otherwise (whether that be a well-meaning friend or Satan himself) you put on the truth by putting right thoughts – God-thoughts – into your own mind. This is how we renew our mind…by putting off what God calls wrong and putting what He calls right in its place. In the computer world we call this ‘garbage in/garbage out.’ In other words, whatever we put into our mind is what will come out…so it stands to reason that the wise man is going to fill his mind with wisdom by believing God’s truth about their identity.

Self-control Brings Strength

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
- 1Peter 5:8

Like a city whose walls are broken down
is a man who lacks self-control.

- Proverbs 25:28

What is self-control? In worldly terms it means the ability to control your own behavior…but we know how well that works! I challenge you with a new definition of self-control. For me, self-control means submitting my will to the will of God in any given moment. When I am tempted to think sexually wrong thoughts, I ask the Holy Spirit (God in Spirit) what He would have me think. When I am tempted to lash out in anger at someone, I ask the Spirit to show me how He would respond. In any scenario like that, I must allow Him the freedom to help me make wise decisions in any given moment. A man who lacks self-control is like a fortified city whose walls have been broken down. Once those walls are down, the enemy can rush in like a flood and leave that city – that life – in ruins. Practice self-control by giving your entire being in submission to God…and watch the freedom and creativity flow in your life.

Proper perspective on temptation leads to endurance.

By seeing temptation as a way to draw closer to God and to meet the needs of others, we actually build endurance into our lives. Because we are tempted so much each and every day, we have many opportunities to practice a godly perspective. Just as with the runner who practices for a grueling marathon, we must see that going through the daily grind of the ‘temptation workout’ prepares our hearts for great feats of faith in this life. I have been through so much and coming out on the other side by God’s grace that I honestly think I can face anything – not in my own strength – but in His. I want to be strong and I want to be prepared…so I choose to see temptation as a means of greater intimacy and ministry to others.

Temptation reveals our weakness and our need for God.

The truth is, I am a child of God. I want to be like Him…but reality is that I serve him in a world that is racked with sin and live in a body that is dying more each day. In my flesh, I am weak. If not for the presence and love and grace of God, I would surely fall away. Without Him, I am nothing. Temptation reminds me of this daily. But again, this is actually a good thing…to be reminded of how desperately I need my God…how much failure I would walk in apart from Him. A wrong response to temptation leaves me focusing on me and focusing on me leads to anger when I don’t get my way. Focusing on me leads to fear when I feel like I am not in control. Focusing on me leads to envy when I don’t feel like I’m  getting equal attention. Focusing on me leads me to despair because in my strength there is no way out. Focusing on Jesus and others will always lead to victory over temptation. Always.

When tempted, what did Jesus do?

In Luke 4, we find the story of how Jesus Himself handled temptation. He had fasted and prayed for 40 days and just as he finished His fast (going without food to help Him sharpen His sensitivity to spiritual matters), the enemy began to tempt Him to disobey God in exchange for temporary pleasures. How often have we been tempted when we are at our weakest place mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally? Haven’t you ever wondered why that is? (Our enemy is real). So what did Jesus do?

He used the Word of God as a Weapon of Truth

God’s Word is truth. Truth brings freedom and life. When we speak God’s Word into a situation such as temptation as Jesus did, we are able to see the lies for what they are. When we see the lies we are more apt to see the consequences of taking the step of sin. If we see the consequences, we are less likely to react in a sinful manner (one of the steps I practice when tempted is to see the consequences of how my sin would affect my wife, my children, my friends, my ministry, etc….and the temptation loses its power every time!). By reminding ourselves of the truth by using God’s Word, we actually speak strength and hope into the situation.

He Focused on Worshipping God

Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are One, but Jesus lived in a fleshly body just as we do. In His wisdom, He knew temptation could be a springboard into focusing on God rather than focusing upon Himself in that moment. One of the best tools I have found to battle temptation is to simply begin worshipping God whether at home or driving down the road. The devil cannot stand the name of Jesus and he cannot stand for us to worship the One who bears that name! In fact, God’s Word tells us that He inhabits or is enthroned upon the praises of His people! Give God a place to sit in the midst of your temptation by worshipping Him! Worship God to overcome temptation!

He Focused on Others

Jesus came to seek and save mankind from sin! If that isn’t focusing on someone besides Himself I don’t know what is! Overcome temptation as Jesus did by focusing on
the needs of others. Trust me. This is a vital key!

He Knew His Identity

Jesus knew who He was and was confident in His identity. When we are convinced that we are who God says we are, we are not so likely to be swayed by every little temptation that the enemy throws our way. Do not worry about self-esteem. We ought always to esteem others as more important than ourselves. I personally believe self-esteem is over-rated. If we worry so much about whether our feelings get hurt or about what people think of us or about what we think of ourselves (there’s that me, me, me way of thinking again) we never allow ourselves to fell pain. If we never felt pain we would never know the true value or worth God places upon us. Yes, we are to love ourselves but we are to never see ourselves as more important than those around us. We, as men, are to have the attitude of an overcomer. That is who we are called to be. That is how we ultimately overcome temptation. It is already in us! We are designed to win!!! Read this book and begin to discover your identity as a male…and allow the Lord to help you grow into your true identity as a man after His own heart!

 

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