My new car is designed to keep me safe. In addition to the usual mirrors and brakes and steering, it has a variety of protective features. If I happen get too close to another car, for example, I see a flashing red “BRAKE!” message and hear an intensifying series of beeps. Within moments, the brake pedal depresses automatically under my foot. If any of this fails, my seatbelt and airbags restrain me from hurtling toward death. The redundancy is deliberate. The car’s engineers hope that, in a dangerous situation, even just one of those features will catch me in time to prevent disaster.
The Christian life, too, has been equipped by its Creator with a multitude of safeguards against sin and Satan. When lust or discontent or idolatry threaten to wreck us, the Lord has given us a variety of helps to resist sin and cultivate righteousness. Like an array of flashing lights and beeping signals, these safeguards are God’s mercy to keep us from the way that leads to destruction.
The more tools you have, the safer you will be.
Dear Christian, consider ten biblical incentives to resist temptation this year. Read them. Memorize them. Hide them in your heart against the day of Satan’s attack. The more tools you have, the safer you will be. And in the moment of danger, remembering just one of them may save your soul from falling into grievous sin.
1. Remember the nature of God.
Before you succumb to greed and vanity, before you indulge in folly or drunkenness, “Know that the LORD, he is God; It is he who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3, NKJV). None of us is our own creator, free to live as we determine best. We were made by and for God alone. And none of us lives apart from God; he is the covenant Lord and shepherd who redeemed us and sustains us. This God is the holy God who calls us to be holy as he is (1 Pet. 1:15–16). Remember him before you fall into sin (cf. Eccl. 12:1).
2. Remember the sinfulness of sin.
When Satan whispers in your ear that this angry outburst, this moment of sloth, this disregard for the Lord’s name is merely a little thing and nothing to trouble yourself about, hear John’s stark warning: “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). When we sin, we become lawbreakers. The tiniest act of unholiness is rebellion against our holy God—and justly deserves his wrath and displeasure. Sin is so sinful it requires nothing less than the blood of the sinless Son to pay its penalty. There are no inconsequential sins.
3. Remember the work of Christ.
Although Satan is a mighty foe and our sinful flesh is weak, we are not helpless in the face of temptation. By his work on our behalf, Christ broke the power of sin over us. By uniting us to himself in his death and resurrection, he releases us from slavery to sin and frees us to righteousness (see Rom. 6:1–14). Though you continue to face temptation, in Christ you can resist (see James 4:7). With his own precious blood, Christ purchased your ability to say “no” to sin.
4. Remember the character of Satan.
Satan is not your friend. He is a liar (John 8:44), a deceiver (Rev. 12:9), a devourer (1 Pet. 5:8), and an accuser (Rev. 12:10). He cannot be trusted and he does not have your good in mind. He may come to you offering pleasure, satisfaction, justice, or recognition but he will always, in the words of Puritan Thomas Brooks, “present the bait and hide the hook.” Don’t be naïve.
5. Remember the sorrows of the past.
Writing to the Christians in Rome, Paul reminds them, “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?” (Rom. 6:21). In the moment of temptation, consider: Do I have anything beneficial to show from the sins of my past? Do I feel anything but shame about my acts of disobedience? Has sinning ever done me any good? The answer, of course, is no.
6. Remember the blessings of obedience.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). When we don’t give in to temptation, James says, we will receive a reward from our God. Such a reward is not a matter of merit, of course. Even our best efforts are infected by sin and we creatures can never place God in our debt anyway. But because of Christ, God is pleased with us and gives us good things even when our efforts are weak. This promised blessing for obedience ought to motivate us in the struggle. As we resist temptation, we emulate Moses and endure by “looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26).
7. Remember the cloud of witnesses.
The writer to the Hebrews offers a surprising incentive to resist temptation: there are witnesses. For the people of God, the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1)—the saints who have gone before—are our allies as we fight. They testify by their own lives to the cost of fighting sin and the reward of godliness. They also testify to the necessity of looking to Jesus (Heb. 12:2). Whether you’re battling pornography or excessive spending or impatience with your 2-year-old, the cloud of witnesses reminds you that you are not alone. Your struggle against temptation is the same worthy—and costly—struggle that the godly have always fought.
8. Remember the church of Christ.
Not only do we stand alongside saints of old as we fight, we stand with the people of our own local churches. When Peter exhorted the Christians to “resist [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kind of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:9), he was reminding them that resisting sin is a community project. When you refuse to give in to grumbling discontent, to unrighteous anger, or to greedy self-indulgence, you hold the line of godliness for the good of the whole church. The temptations that come upon us are “common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13), and in the local congregation, our resistance helps others stand firm in their own struggle.
9. Remember the eyes of unbelievers.
In the moment of temptation, your unbelieving friends and neighbors are watching to see what you will do. This is the Lord’s kindness to you. Not only do these watching eyes give you a reason to think twice about sinning, their presence is a gospel opportunity. “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,” admonishes Peter, “so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). If you resist sin today, your witnesses may join you in worship before God’s throne on the last day.
10. Remember the help of the Spirit.
The Spirit is your friend. He is the spirit of truth (John 16:13), the spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4), and the spirit of self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). Jesus gives him for our good: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). As we walk by the Spirit, we “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). In the moment of temptation, ask the Spirit to help. It’s what he was sent to do.
If Anyone Does Sin
“I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin,” John says. And then, tenderly and immediately: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). It’s vital that believers guard against sin in any way possible. We ought to “strive . . . for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). But it’s equally vital to know where to go when we fail.
It’s equally vital to know where to go when we fail.
Satan would like nothing better than to keep us from Jesus when we have succumbed to temptation. Don’t let him. The Scripture is clear; the Lord is on our side: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Rom. 8:34–35). Christ died for our sins and continues to pray for us. We have a heavenly advocate.
Dear Christian, fight sin. Fight it this year and every year with all the incentives the Lord gives you. But if you do sin, flee to him and find the only sure refuge for those who fail.