Temptation! It hounds people every day no matter who you are! Most people feel like they are in a constant battle against some form of temptation in their lives and are always fighting to resist, avoid, or overcome! Christians are given a key so that we do not have to spend our lives fighting against temptation but can choose not to enter into it by doing something more productive.
How many times a day are we bombarded with temptation? If we would try to keep count we might lose count! Christians often give a lot of attention to sin but not necessarily to the temptation leading us into sin. Yet temptations come at us from this world, our flesh, and Satan every day, threatening to take us down and out! We are tempted to lie, gossip, spread rumors, lose our temper, feed hatred and jealousy, needlessly argue, hold grudges, get even, take offense, or simply be mean. We are tempted to overeat, over drink, overspend, and drive over the speed limit. We are tempted in all kinds of sexual sin through our own desires and imaginations. We are tempted to put spouses, children, jobs, careers, leisure, and other activities before God, giving these first dibs on our time and attention.
Now consider how much time we spend each day praying! Is it enough? People who pray a lot probably never feel like it is enough because we know the incredible intimacy and outcome of talking with God and consider it a privilege and blessing. People who do not pray often, don’t see the need, or think of prayer as a burden or obligation might get irked by thinking about how much or little time is spent in prayer. We generally don’t like to think or talk about things we aren’t interested in and freely engage in conversation about those things we love to do!
What is the connection between temptation and prayer? They are interconnected because we actually triumph over temptation through prayer! Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Luke 22:40, 46 “When Jesus came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation.’ Then He said to them ‘Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.’”
Rising, watching and praying are the productive activities we get to take part which prevent us from entering into temptation AND permit us to enter into the presence of God instead! Since temptation is all around continually, it would be wise to always watch and pray, living in the presence of God so we do not enter into temptation. The more informed and alert we are to the sources and variety of temptations we face, the more we will choose to embrace prayer as a lifestyle so as not to enter into them. Living in ignorance or denial of temptation leaves us amusing ourselves in the devil’s playground.
Christians seem enamored and entertained by what this world offers and rarely seem cognizant of its ability and power to tempt and draw our eyes away from God. We rarely think about what we are doing as long as it brings pleasure and happiness. If we do get a sense something is wrong, or are told by other Christians that what we are doing is sin, we simply develop our own opinions, defense, and rationalizations for what we do so that we can keep doing it. Yet the Word of God warns us about what we see and do! Luke 11:34-36 “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”
Rather than taking heed and being careful and cautious to guard what comes into our thoughts, eyes, and body we allow the allure of worldly things to fill us with darkness. Harry Potter, yoga, our fascination for self-help and worldly answers, and our supposed harmless fun in horoscopes and the like are dark things we have been deceived into thinking is light, or is harmless, or at the very least doesn’t challenge our faith in a holy God.
Demonic fantasy books draw our thoughts and imaginations away from God and His character and into other powers that are very real. Christians who read Harry Potter defend their rights feverishly, boasting of the author’s ability to engage and ignite our imaginations through fantasy while denying that what the book purports as good is evil. This author fills her readers with darkness by propagating teachings on sorcery and witchcraft in a sly, deceptive way by making it look innocent! I hear Christians boast about the number of times they have read through the series, or seen the movies, yet never boast of their Savior or how much they read and digest His living Word. As a result, we have become good sales reps for the devil as we give in to the temptation to satisfy our own desire for pleasure and fantasy. We give more credence to Harry Potter’s ability to entertain us than God’s ability to bring pleasure.
Christians and even Christian churches practice yoga and defend it as harmless even though yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline which is part of the meditative practices in Hinduism and Buddhism. These religions use yoga to achieve the goal of attaining a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility. The ultimate goal of yoga is to liberate people from all human suffering, from the cycle of birth and death, and help people realize and identify with the Supreme Brahman, the one universal spirit in the universe according to Hinduism. Christians defend their right to practice yoga by describing it as a method of finding peace, tranquility, and healing while claiming it has nothing to do (for them) with the eastern religions. However yoga IS a practice of the Hindu and Buddhist religions and philosophies so it can never be separated. This is deception at its best; thinking we can participate in other religions without being affected by them simply by “saying” what we want to believe. When something IS, we do not and cannot remake it into what we want! Making yoga into what we want it to be does not make it less of what it is!
Instead of giving in to the temptation to appease our curiosity and find healing and freedom in something other than God through yoga, Christians should meditate on the Word of God day and night, position ourselves before a holy God, let Him bring us the peace that passes understanding, and fill us with His energy. Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…”
When Christians spend more time listening and sharing how talk show hosts solve people’s real life problems, checking in with our daily horoscopes for innocent fun, or promoting the “On this day, God wants you to know” application on Facebook than we do listening to Holy Spirit speak to us in our prayer closets, we have a problem. I’m sure most would claim they just do it “for fun” but that makes it no less dark, and we bring it into our bodies and minds through our eyes, giving in to the temptation to put other gods before us. We have the book of life readily available 24/7 and can solve all of life’s real problems in this Word of God! We have been given pastors and teachers to lead us to His truth and all we have to do is spend our time soaking, meditating, and memorizing life-giving Scripture. If you want to know what God wants you to know today, open His Word and read all about it!
You might be wondering how or why I can say all this with such confidence and boldness! I can because God is pleading with His people to separate from the things of this world. Galatians 5:19-21 reads “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…”
When it comes to these works of the flesh, Christians would rather argue and defend their right to do what they think best than hear what God and His Word have to say! It is not difficult to see the problems which have developed within the body of Christ when it comes to yoga, Harry Potter, Oprah, Dr. Phil or even horoscopes and the like. Christian authors have even written books to explain how we can find God in all these things, in other words how to coexist! A Christian seminary outreach class uses a textbook written by a Muslim and defends it by saying “Eat the meat and spit out the bones”. Eating the meat of another religion for the sake of learning another method of sharing the Gospel is worse in my opinion than staying on milk as a Christian. Did Jesus use the beliefs of people who didn’t know Him to teach His people how to share the Gospel? Did Paul? In the Old Testament did God use the people who believed in other gods to teach His people how to live in Him? No! Yet today we are continually bombarded with temptations to trust in ourselves and on this new generation of believers, leading us to be open-minded. But in essence, this means letting our desires lead us where they will!
Being open-minded to the things of God, His Word, and His will is amazing. Being open-minded to other religions and to the things of this world is pure folly not to mention, dangerous! Truth does not lead us to be rude, hateful, or spiteful but it does lead us to refuse all falsehood! In order to stay in truth and avoid being entangled in sin through temptation we must watch and pray! You see, before we practice the works of the flesh listed above, temptation is at work. Temptations gain momentum in our lives when we let our desires lead our choices. James 1:12-15 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
As Christian people we must call the things of this world what they are; the works of our flesh, and then choose the works of God over them. The things of this world and our own desires tempt us to spend our time, money, and energy on all the things it has to offer. We are not blessed by giving in to these temptations or by rationalizing our involvement in them but by enduring and overcoming them for the love of God.
Fulfilling our own desires only reflects our effort to ignore the truth of God’s Word and create God in our image. Any time we trade the truth of God for our lies by giving in to our own desires, we have been enticed to sin. When we feed our desire for anything outside of God’s will, that desire is conceived and gives birth to sin. In other words our desires produce sin which grows in us and when it is mature, it brings forth death.
So, how much time do we need to spend watching and praying? I guess it depends on how much we want to enter into temptation. And surely Christians can debate about what they consider temptation, sin, desire and the like. But it is very simple if we refuse to complicate it! And it is guaranteed if we would spend less time debating and defending and more time watching and praying we would all come to the same conclusion; we are being tempted by our own desires, we are allowing desire to conceive, giving birth to sin, and letting sin grow up and kill us.
Instead let us enter God’s presence as we watch and pray. Let there be a profound exchange of adoration, love, and passion as we deeply explore truth. Let us present our sincere requests to a holy God who will not lead us into temptation but will deliver us from evil. Let our conversation with God flow freely out of the covenant relationship we share with Him. The truth is we can never spend too much time talking and listening to our heavenly Father. Let today be the start of watching and praying lest we enter into temptation!