Thursday, May 4, 2017

Facing Temptation

How do we avoid sinning when faced with temptation? What steps should we take? We see a good example of handling temptation in the story of Joseph (Genesis 39). Before the temptation, God was with Joseph and was blessing Joseph. We are not expressly told that Joseph recognized this, but based on later events I would conclude he did. This is an important principle, to live life as in the presence of God (Psalms 139:7-12; Jeremiah 23:23,24; 2 Chronicles 16:9). If this was so in Old Testament times, how much more is it today when the Holy Spirit dwells in us (John 14:16-20; 1 Corinthians 6:19,20; Colossians 1:27-29). Now avoiding sin because Christ is with us is not simply a matter of fear, though there is a place for fear (Proverbs 1:7; Psalms 36:1; Matthew 10:28), but of love for God who is with us (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:13,14; Psalms 31:23).   
As a result of this, Joseph took sin seriously (Romans 6:15-23; 13:11-14; Galatians 5:13-26). It was not something he was willing to dabble in or play with. And he was forthright about rejecting it, even at the risk of offending Potiphar’s wife. Sometimes we can let our unwillingness to offend people push us gradually into sin. Now there is a place for tact, but we need to care more about what God thinks than about what others think (Proverbs 29:25; Galatians 1:10; 1 Corinthians 15:33). Further, Joseph needed to trust God in the circumstances (Proverbs 3:5,6; Romans 8:28; Hebrews 11:6). Potiphar’s wife could, and ultimately did, get Joseph in a lot of trouble. He undoubtedly recognized this was a possibility from the beginning, but stood firm in spite of it.

Joseph also avoided and fled from opportunities for temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22). Sometimes we think we are strong and can take it. Rather, we need to realize we are weak and need God’s help (John 15:5; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13). But we need even then to avoid the kind of pride that assumes we have it all together and do not need to avoid questionable situations (1 Corinthians 10:12,13; Proverbs 16:18; 1 John 2:15-17).

We also need to avoid the temptation to be angry with God if things do not turn out the way we think they should (Psalms 73; Job 1,2; Habakkuk 1-3). One of the great secondary temptations is that we can expect that if we do what is right, everything will automatically work out. It did eventually for Joseph, but the immediate result was that he was thrown into prison. To resist temptation, we need to do what is right because we love God and want to obey Him, not because we expect to immediately get something out of it. We need to look to the Cross, for it is there we can remember that God loves us no matter what our immediate circumstances are (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:14-18; Titus 3:4-7).

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