How can a Christian resist sinful temptations? Whenever a person is saved, a great struggle begins. He still has the old nature, the sinful nature of Adam, which will try to drag him into sin all the time. But he also has the new nature, the life of God, which hates sin and wants to do what is right. The two natures fight against each other continually.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Galatians 5:16-17
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8
The old nature is incurably bad. It cannot be improved, and it will not be removed until the Christian goes home to heaven. God condemned it when Christ died on the Cross, and He wants Christians to treat it as if it were dead. Don't encourage it! Don't feed it! Don't give it a chance!
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:14
The new nature inspires the Christian to do good. It should be encouraged and fed.
This, then, is how the Christian resists temptation—by saying "No" to the flesh, or old nature, and by nourishing the new life that is within. The following are practical suggestions as to how this may be done:
1. Read the Bible! Study it! Memorize it! Meditate on it! Obey it! Notice Psalm 119:9 and 11:
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Psalm 119:9
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11
There we learn that the Word of God helps to keep us from sinning. Be sure, therefore, that you set aside a definite time each day for the reading of God's Word.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16
2. Pray without ceasing! Whenever you are faced with temptation, ask God for help.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
He will give you the strength to overcome.
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
If you try to resist by your own strength, you will surely fail.
3. Seek the companionship of fellow-believers and not of the ungodly!
My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood. Proverbs 1:10-16
And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
It is often necessary to work and live with unbelievers, and in such cases we should witness to them both with our lips and by our lives. But we should not join with them in their worldly pleasures and amusements.
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Ephesians 5:11
4. Confess your sins immediately! As soon as you are conscious that you have grieved your Father by a sinful thought, word or deed, ask His forgiveness immediately. Do not wait until evening or until the end of the week.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Proverbs 28:13
5. Keep busy for the Lord! Someone has said that idle hands are the devil's workshop. Give your body to the Lord to use it as He desires!
"I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." Romans 6:19
There is plenty of work to be done, and you will be serving the Best of Masters.
6. Engage in some physical exercise! Bodily exercise is profitable (I Timothy 4:8). Because the believer's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, he should use reasonable means in maintaining his body in good health and strength. However, he should not allow sports to assume such an important place that spiritual things are crowded out.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
7. Starve the old nature! Be careful what you read, what you watch, where you go, and what you listen to.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds. Colossians 3:5-9
8. Feed the new nature! Be occupied with Christ! When you are thinking about Him, you cannot be thinking about sin.
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Colossians 3:10-14
This is really the secret of holy living—occupation with Christ. It is a fixed rule in life that we become like the object of our worship. II Corinthians 3:18 teaches us that we become like the Lord Jesus as we behold Him in the mirror (glass) of His Word. We are changed into His image and likeness by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.
Occupation with others brings distraction.
Occupation with self brings distress.
Occupation with Christ brings delight.
One final word! You will notice from the foregoing that deliverance from temptation is not a once-for-all experience, but a continual process of depending on God. No matter how old we get, or how much we may learn about the Bible, we are still in danger of yielding to temptation if we take our eyes off the Lord. A very godly man used to pray that God would keep him from dying as a wicked old man. We all need to pray the same petition.
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4
From What Christians Believe: Basic Studies in Bible Doctrine and Christian Living by Alfred P. Gibbs... [et al.]; staff members of Emmaus Bible School. Chicago: Moody Press, 1951.
>> More Christian Living