Conquering Temptations: Key to Experiencing the Good Life

Conquering Temptations: Key to Experiencing the Good Life

Conquering Temptations: Key to Experiencing the Good Life

Conquering temptations must begin with understanding the nature of temptations and how those temptatons occur in the living of our lives.

James stated in his letter “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Father has promised to them that love him.”

For us to experience crown of life living, the temptation that all men will face must be conquered. Conquering that temptation begins with understanding the true nature of temptation. For after James makes the “endureth temptation . . . crown of life” statement” he wrote, “Let mo man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God . . .” (James 1:13).

When the difficult times of the taking down process comes, we need to understand that the circumstances we are facing are not the temptation. The night is never the temptation. The temptation occurs in how we respond to the taking down process. It is not the event but how we are responding to the event that is the arena of the temptation.

Conquering temptations will occur by the mind being controlled by the Holy Spirit.

These events are going to occur again and again. Peter simply stated that we are to resist what is occurring in our minds during the taking down process “knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in our brethren in the world” (1 Pet. 5:9).

Again, the temptation is in how we are responding and not in what is occurring. To illustrate, we often get confused because we do not understand that what is occurring is under the control of God, especially, when we try to prohibit the taking down process from happening. In our resisting, we actually move into the “Me” that we create:

We think if we can keep certain events from happening we could experience the good life. If we could just make the right kind of events to occur, we could really enjoy living life. But, again, the good life is not in the event. Yet, we keep trying to make them occur or prohibit them from happening. Conquering temptations is understanding just where and what is the temptation.

Because living life is in the physical world, we can actually make some events to occur. If I could just marry that woman, life would be so good. But, then, we often marry her and find out that life became a whole lot worse. Or, life could be perceived to be in a certain man. Eventually, however, we find out that an event in itself does not really bring the good life. The good life is just never in an event, any event.

Conquering temptations is understanding that God does not tempt any man.

James is emphasizing that he does not want his readers to misunderstand him when he says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Father has promised to them that love him.” He does not want them to think that God was tempting them by the taking down process, the event of the circumstance. He simply stated, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13).

God brings all events into our lives. He is the power source of all things that occurs. But, we must understand that those events in themselves are not the temptation. This is the reason why Jesus said what he said to his disciple when they came to him and ask him to teach them how to pray. He said to them that they should pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

What that means is God is going to lead you into a resurrection event, but he is not going to lead you into temptation. As he takes us into the event, our prayer should be to keep us from falling into a temptation that can occur within the event. So, our prayer is “Deliver us from evil.” The evil of which we need to be delivered when the event is occurring is to think we can eradicate the problem, can solve it, or even make something else happen.

For example, coming out of my tradition, we would often interpreted Peter’s statement “to humble yourselves” (1 Pet. 56) as something we could actually do. When we attempted to humble ourselves, however, we were attempting to make it happen ourselves. Because we were trying to make it happen, we were guaranteeing that we would never become humble. The good news is these resurrection events occur all the time and is actually how God humbles us under his mighty hand (1 Pet. 5:6).

When we do not understand the process of these resurrection events and we are in the “Me” that I create, then we will rationally think, “Well, he is telling us to be humble. So, we must humble ourselves.”

Conquering temptations begin in true humility.

Being humble is not the question. We should experience humility. The New Testament writers and Jesus understood exactly how true humility is produced in one’s life. Humbleness actually occurs when we respond correctly to the resurrection events that are happening in our lives.

How do we respond correctly? Let me say it like this, a positive respond is to do nothing but know that faith worketh patience and patience will have her perfect work. A negative respond is to attempt to do something about the circumstances of the event. Unfortunately, when we begin to think that we can do something to eradicate, to solve, or to fix the circumstances, we automatically move into the “Me” that we create and miss the “Me” that God creates. Conquering temptations never occur in the “Me” that we create.

It is coming to understand that the good life is a given. It was given to us when we were born. Unfortunately, because we get into the process, the “Me” that I create, we often live as if we do not have the good life. It is, however, still there. There are some that are quick to tell us over and over again that Jesus does not go anywhere, regardless of how we live our lives. Well, Jesus does not go anywhere but we often experience life as if he has gone somewhere. When we get involved into the thinking process (the absence of conquering temptations), we often live as if Jesus is nowhere in sight.

Concerning temptations that all men will face, James stated, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (James 1:13). Is that not a great statement, God cannot be tempted with evil? We often think, well, he is so holy that all this bad stuff just does not get to him. But, it is actually pretty simple why God cannot be tempted with evil. There is not another power source. Is he going to fall to the temptation that there is life somewhere else? There is no life anywhere else.

Conquering temptations is in the understanding that God cannot be tempted with evil.

Moreover, there are three Greek words of the original language that get translated evil by most English translations. One of those words means to be worthless. Since the revelation of God reveals that God is perfectly good (Matt. 19:17), there can never be anything worthless in his being.

The revelation of God also reveals that “God is a spirit” (John 4:24). Since spoiling (the meaning of another word translated evil) occurs only in physical things, God cannot be tempted with being bad, as in something that spoils. He is pure spirit.

Finally, the third original word that is translated evil means to be hurtful. Once again, since the revelation of God reveals that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), there can be nothing that is hurtful in God. God cannot be tempted with evil and he cannot tempt any man with evil. He is love, he is spirit, and he is good.

Even though this taking down process (the planting of the seed) occurs over and over again which is the working of God in the world, these events are not the temptation that man faces. Although the temptation occurs as the seed is being planted, it is not the actually planting of the seed that is the temptation. Even though we go through the process of being taking down, God is not tempting us because, again, the temptation is not the event itself. Conquering tempttions begins with the understanding that a resurrection events in itself is not the temptation.

Conquering temptations occur only in the “Me” that God creates.

We are tempted, as James stated, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14). Lust, as in “drawn away of his own lust,” means to have a desire, a passion, or a longing. Longing for what, passion for what, or desire for what? Because we do not understand the process of experiencing the resurrection life in our lives, we will often attempt, desire, have a passion, or long to get involved in the process itself. We do not operate in the “Me” that God is creating but in the “Me” that we are creating. God works in our lives enabling conquering temptations to occur. Conquering temptations do not occur when lust is running rampant in our lives.

“Drawn away of his own lust” does not mean as I used to think: I must not lust after bad things. For example, I must not lust after a woman, I must not lust after a job, I must not lust after a career, or I must not lust after any entity. If you are operating in the “Me” that I create, good luck in trying to control all of those lusts. You are going to be guilty of fulfilling at least one or maybe all of them at some point in your life. Conquering temptations simply will not occur in your life.

You cannot keep those desires from happening from within yourself. They are going to occur. The only way those lusts can be prevented from happening is to operate only in the “Me” that God creates. We really do need to know the true nature of conquering temptations that every man will face.

This stuff, the lust of all those sins, occurs only in the “Me,” the illusionary me, the fantasy me. Those “dirty rotten desires” are only conquered by not getting in the “Me” I create. We must experience the “Me” that God creates in conquering themptations that we all will encounter.

Conquering temptations is grounded in understanding exactly what is the ultimate lust in our lives.

James stated, “If any man is tempted, he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” Lust for what? Let me just ask you another question, “What is the lust in your life?” What is the number one issue in your life? Do you have to think about? If you have to think about it, you are probably in the “Me” that you have created, in the fantasy me. If you are in this illusionary me, you are probably wondering if the lust you are experiencing is the woman, is it the job, is it the career, or is it this or that?

The number one lust in your life, however, is always a control issue. You want to control your life. The desire to control your life is the lust of which James is referring. You want to be able to control the resurrection event you are experiencing. If this is true, you are failing in conquering temptations.

We often fool ourselves in thinking we are “good” people. We just want to control our life so we can give it to God. We just want to control our life, so we can make the decisions to do what God wants us to do. But, we are still wanting to control. We are still failing in our conquering temptations.

James stated, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15). When you are in the “Me” that you create, a fantasy me, and this lust and enticement starts working, what do you think will occur in the “Me” that you have created? An act of sin will always occur. Conquering temptations has not occurred. As you can see in the drawing, death is the final outcome of lust. As we attempt to try to control the circumstances, lust will start, enticement increases, sin is produced, and death occurs.

As we come to understand Christianity, the good life, represented by the thumb, is experienced only in the true “Me.” The good life is a flesh and blood person experiencing the Spirit of God living in the God who created it. The unadulterated life of God is the life you are experiencing.

Conquring temptations is the only path to the good life.

In Proverb, Chapter 7, the process of falling from the good life down through 1, 2, 3, and 4 is profoundly illustrated. As we will see later, the wise man not only reveals the downward road but also reveals how this path of degradation is actually conquered. First, in the Proverb 7 story, a young man goes down the wrong street. Going down the wrong street, he meets the woman that tells him what she will do for him. It is a one way conversation of which he keep listening to her.

Because he went down the wrong street, at this point in his journey, there is nothing else he can do but keep listening to her. Finally, because she keeps enticing him and he keeps listening, she gains control over him. It is not that she has any real power over him, but because he keeps listening to her, she becomes very powerful. Then, by giving her the privilege to have power over him, the writer of Proverbs stated, “With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forces him” (Prov. 7:21).

There was nothing else he could do, but yield to her. He does not have the capability, at this point, to say that he is going to go just so far then be able, be man enough, to say no. He does not have that capability at this juncture in his life. He is under the control of the downward degradation of lust and enticement.

At this point of time in the young man’s life when the act of sin occurred, he could actually say, according to Paul in the New Testament, “Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:17). Paul would add, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I” (Rom. 7:15). Finally, Paul stated, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom. 7:19). Which means that at this point in the young man’s life, he is not a free moral agent. He is being controlled by sin. Sadly, when that sin is finished it will bring forth death.

The good life, represented by the thumb in the drawing, is produced by God: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12). However, when man forsakes his freedom to enjoy the good life, represented in the drawing by the space between the thumb and forefinger, he becomes under the control of the downward path to degradation and death.

Conquering temptations never occur on the path of degradation and death.

As illustrated by the above drawing, life is experienced either in the good life or in the path of degradation. Paul simply stated in his Romans letter, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16). Every man will be a slave (original meaning of servant) either of God or of his our own lust. Man’s freedom lies only in the capability to fall away from God. Once he falls away from God he becomes a slave to sin.

The reason why we beat ourselves up when an act of sin occurs is because we actually think that we could have acted differently than what we did. Religion will tell us when we get caught in the downward path of 1, 2, 3, or 4 that it would not have occurred if we had just made a different decision. But, when we get at step 2, or 3, or 4, we do not have the capability to do anything other than what we actually did at 2, or 3, or 4. Conquering temptations never occur at 2, or 3, or 4.

In other words, when you come to a fork in the road with its high road and its low road, which path are you going to take? You might say that you are going to choose the high road. Not necessarily, for you are going to do exactly what you are at that point on the road. You are going to take the road of what you are and what you are will be based upon what is going on before you come to the fork in the road. You do not have the capability to made a choice to do anything other than who or what you are at that moment of the fork in the road.

Most of the things that religion tells us to do (I define religion as the attempt by man to please God for his favor or to placate God to prevent his anger.) is to start making right decisions. All the formulas, all the methods, or anything we think we can do when we are at number 3 in the downward degradation, however, will only cause us to attempt to move ourselves back to 2 and to 1. Religion actually thinks that by our acts we can move ourselves back from 3 to 2 and to 1. Actually, you probably can make movement for a few moments, even hours, or maybe days only to fall back again to what you were at 3.

Conquering temptations only occur being in Jesus as we encounter the many resurrection events of our life.

Most Christians, unfortunately, are just like people in the world. The only difference, in most cases, is the world goes to a movie theater or some other amusement, and the struggling Christian goes to a church building. In the church building, we become known, by whatever we become known as, because we do religious things in a certain way. Sadly, in most of our lives religion attempts to force us (just like the woman forced the young man in the Proverbs story) to move from 3 to 2 to 1. Only to go back to what we really are which moves back from 1 to 2 to 3. With renewed dedication, we will again attempt to move from 3 to 2 to 1. Sadly, life often becomes as a roller-coaster moving from 3 to 2 to 1, from 1 to 2 to 3, from 3 to 2 to 1, from 1 to 2 to 3 again and again.

Eventually, however, 4 will occur. It will occur anytime you think that what you are doing can produce the good life, represented by the thumb. It does not make any difference even if you decide to do good. The end of all of your efforts will always be the downward path to destruction, ever downward to death of the God-quality life.

I am coming to grasp that for me to experience resurrection power that it is actually less what I do than it is what God keeps doing in my life. This process of the planting of the rose seed, the planting of the apple seed, the planting of tomato seed, and the planting of my seed is actually a continual process. Paul said that we are always bearing about in our bodies the dying of Jesus in order that we might experience the life of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:10-11). The only thing I need is to be enabled to comprehend and to revel in the glory of the many resurrection events in my life.

God takes me down at night to raise me up in the morning refreshed. I wonder how far down the road we would be if by some means we could grasp the glorious morning, the splendid springtime, the beautiful rose, the delicious apple, and the luscious tomato are marvelous manifestations of the resurrection of Christ within a physical being? In my life, I kept seeking, searching, and trying to find resurrection power not knowing that I actually was already experiencing resurrection power in the many resurrection events of my life.

Does your life mirror my life?

To be continued . . . .

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Dr. James Stone is the founder and President of Christian Ministries, Inc., a ministry for personal, family, and church growth. He travels extensively across America and several foreign countries sharing his experiences with Jesus. His over 40 year career in ministry has included individual counseling, family counseling, church pastor, Bible college/seminary professorships, leader of revivals, Christian growth seminars & church growth specialist.

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