#5.4 HOW TO AVOID TEMPTATION - KNOW AND AVOID THE DEVIL'S DEVICES
This bible study uses Greek and Hebrew Unicode fonts and is printer friendly.
If we were literally fighting an opponent with sword and shield, what would be our best tactics? When we saw our opponent about to strike a blow, would it be
better to walk into the blow hoping that our shield would protect us, or to move out of the way so that the blow would miss us altogether? Surely the latter is better.
The same principle is true in spiritual warfare also; it is better to avoid temptation when we can, rather than walk into it. When the word of God tells us to avoid
it, then putting temptation in our own way is equivalent to spiritual suicide, because once we step out of obedience to the word of God, we step "out of
faith", and "into the flesh". Without our shield of faith to protect us the Devil can easily strike us down, but when we stand in faith, we can endure
every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." (Ephesians 6:6), and cause the Devil to flee from us (James 4:7). We
cannot avoid temptation altogether because we need to be tempted in order to be proved (Exodus 16:4; 20:20; Deuteronomy 8:2-3; 8:16; James 1:12), and God allows this
just as he did with Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). However, although as a general rule we should avoid temptation as much as possible, there
are times when we are spiritually weak, when we need to avoid temptation in order to avoid sin. It is just foolish to keep putting ourselves in a position to be
tempted, when the Devil has power over us, and can easily draw us away; but much better to face it when we are strong in the Lord, standing in faith, and able to
(2 Chronicles 32:2-4) "And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem,
Hezekiah's tactic was to cut off anything that would help the enemy who was against him, and this is also a good tactic for us today in our spiritual warfare. This bible study deals with how to avoid the temptation to sin, by knowing the ways by which Satan tries to tempt us, and avoiding them.
PROVERBS 23:31-32 (Solomon)
MATTHEW 5:29 (Jesus)
Note: Solomon said, "the eyes of a man are never satisfied." (Proverbs 27:20), and "the eye is not satisfied with seeing." (Ecclesiastes 1:8). We ought to know from this that there is no point in us looking at things which are forbidden, because continual seeing will put them into our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; 11:18; Proverbs 4:20-21; 23:26), and create a desire for them (Genesis 12:11-12; 26:7). Here are some examples:
(1) Notice how Eve, who was originally a perfect creation (Genesis 1:31), first "saw that the tree was good for food", then "saw that it was pleasant to the eyes" (Genesis 3:6), and was then drawn away into transgressing God's word.
(2) Notice how Achan, came to covet the spoils of war from Jericho that cost the lives of thirty six Israelites by defeat in battle (Joshua 7:1, 5). He "saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight," (Joshua 7:21).
(3) Notice how David, before he committed adultery with Bathsheba, "from the roof he saw a
woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon." (2 Samuel 11:2).
(Numbers 33:51-52) "When you are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of
the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures,"
If we can refuse to look, or avoid places where we know that the temptation to look will be very strong, then we can considerably reduce the Devil's opportunities to tempt us.
MARK 9:43 (Jesus)
ROMANS 13:14 (Paul)
Note 1: What do we mean by "make no provision"? Simply that we do not stock or store the things that will be a temptation to us. In the case of food, do not store dainty food (See #5.420), or food convenient for snacks (See #5.632 Note 1). In the case of drink, or cigarettes, do not keep any around. This can save us from sin many times, because as a last line of defence, when the Devil has overcome our resistance, and we are prepared to sin anyway; if there is no provision there, none of the luxury foods that we enjoy, no alcohol, or no cigarettes, then the Devil can still end up defeated.
Note 2: I used to live just across the road from a shop that used to sell all of the foods that were a temptation to me. It was open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, so that not keeping the foods in the house was never an inconvenience. I worked in a factory at the time, on a training scheme with very low wages, when I first decided to make this principle work for me. When I came home on a Friday night, I would sort out my money for house food and bills etc., and then "charitably dispose" of the rest to leave me with no money all week. I thought that this would prevent me from buying the tempting foods, and thus keep me out of trouble, but it had only a limited effect. There were times when it definitely prevented me from sinning, but there were other times that I would feel so hungry, that I would just eat anything available. So as a substitute, I would help myself to other foods in the house, and it wasn't long before I would take from the food money to buy some luxury foods. This is therefore only an aid in an emergency, and not a substitute for the real answer to the problem, which is faith in the heart, a willingness to die to self, and to put right that which is wrong in our lives (See #5.518). Eventually I moved to another accommodation, again opposite a supermarket, which was open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week and less on Sunday. Next door was a fish and chip shop, which was also a temptation to me, and it was open until midnight most nights. I have experienced the time when I have been lying in bed trying to sleep, but the temptation was such that I have got up at five minutes to midnight, and bought chips from next door! Needless to say I did not obtain deliverance while living at either of these places. God eventually moved me to a far more isolated accommodation before he delivered me.
PROVERBS 4:14-15 (Solomon)
PROVERBS 5:3, 8 (Solomon)
PROVERBS 7:6-8, 21-23 (Solomon)
PROVERBS 23:19-21 (Solomon)
Note 1: There is a spiritual principle here, not to go where we can be tempted, "Avoid it, do not pass by it, turn from it, and pass away." (Proverbs 4:15). The Devil is "more subtle than any beast of the field" (Genesis 3:1), and if he is subtle enough to tempt perfect people like Adam and Eve into sin, then let us not be so puffed up as to think he cannot draw us away also. If Eve had not been near the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she would not have seen that "the tree was good for food", or that it was "pleasant to the eyes" (Genesis 3:6), and would not have fallen into sin at that time. If Achan had not been among the spoils of Jericho (Joshua 7:1), he would not have coveted and stolen from them (Joshua 7:21), and lost his life (Joshua 7:25). If David had not been walking on his roof, when he should have been at war (2 Samuel 11:1), or at least in bed (2 Samuel 11:2), then he would not have seen Bathsheba washing herself at that time. He would then have avoided his adultery with her (2 Samuel 11:4), and the murder of her husband Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:15). So if we do everything in our power to avoid the Devil's temptations, then we can pray "do not lead us into temptation" (Matthew 6:13; Luke 11:4) and expect God to take care of the rest. But what point is there in asking God, "do not lead us into temptation," if we deliberately put ourselves in the position that we are asking him to keep us from?
Note 2: I got so frustrated and upset with my constant failure to have my eating habits under control, that there were times when I became very desperate. At one such desperate time, while studying this principle of "do not go near", I took time off from work and pitched a tent in a lonely spot in a wood. I took no food with me, and I was so far off the beaten track that I saw nobody for sixteen days. My tent was so small that I spent almost all the time lying down; I studied the word of God, meditated, prayed, quoted scriptures, and sought repentance, healing and deliverance. At the end of this time I was cold, hungry, and very weak, but had no manifestations of healing, although I did believe that I must have been delivered from my food problem after all this. The bottled tap water, which I had taken with me, tasted "not quite right" by this time, and although I had prayed over it, I think it may have been the reason why my bowels suddenly became very active. Both of my airbeds were punctured, and I would have had to lie on cold stony ground if I had stayed; so I quit and went home. Within two days of getting home, God wonderfully blessed me with a vision, but imagine my disappointment when within five days of my return, I was back to my old habits, overeating the wrong foods again. I had made several mistakes which I can list as follows:
(2) I went as a matter of self-will and determination, trying to get God to deliver me and heal me, but that wasn't faith. I would have done better to receive my deliverance and healing first by faith, and perhaps then gone in order to drive the victory home.
(3) When I returned, I didn't continue to meditate the scriptures (See #5.622), and the end of the fast was really the end of my effort, when really I should have continued after my return (See #5.508).
(4) When I got home, I did not change, or intend to change anything in my life. I had not really seen the cause of the problem, which God wanted me to deal with. Until I did, he was not about to deliver me (See #5.518). Eventually I did learn that God wanted me to speak out more boldly against the wickedness of the world, the errors of the churches, and act more lovingly towards others. When I sought his help to show me how to do it, and by his grace began to put right where I was falling short, he did deliver me (See #5.512 Note 2).
PROVERBS 23:20-21 (Solomon)
EPHESIANS 5:11 (Paul)
Note 1: Solomon outlined an important principle in the word of God when he said, "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man you shall not go: Lest you learn his ways, and get a snare to your soul." (Proverbs 22:24-25), and that principle is that we learn from the people we keep company with. So if we can avoid the company of people who habitually sin, we will avoid the temptation through the eyes (See #5.402), and the tendency to become like them, because we do tend to become like the people that we keep company with (Proverbs 13:20; 27:17). Thus there are many admonitions in the word of God to avoid the wrong company:
(Exodus 23:33) "They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me:"
Jesus did not literally mean that we should hate our family, because he told us also, "Love your enemies", (Matthew 5:44). What he meant was that our love for our family should be like hate, when compared to our love for him:
(Matthew 10:37) "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."
Jesus considered our earthly family relationships far less important that our spiritual ones (Matthew 12:46-50).
(Psalm 101:6) "My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he who walks in a perfect
way, he shall serve me."
So if we wish to forsake any sin, avoiding the company of those who are indulging in it is essential. Solomon said, "Do not be among winebibbers, among riotous eaters of flesh:" (Proverbs 23:20), and if we break this principle, we can expect to reap the consequences.
Note 2: One problem that I encountered was people who insisted on feeding me even when I didn't want to eat. Some people simply did not understand how important it was to me to control my food consumption, while others did not think that they had been hospitable to me unless they have stuffed me full of food. I had to tactfully share how I felt about this with those that needed to know, and while most genuine friends did co-operate; I avoided those who wouldn't, so as not to offend them by refusing. There were some times when I did overeat to avoid giving offence, but even though I didn't want to do it, I never felt guilty about it when I did.
PROVERBS 19:15 (Solomon)
Note 1: When we are busy our mind is occupied with the things which we are doing, and as we can usually only concentrate on one thing at a time, when we are thinking about good, we are not thinking about evil. Hence God's word exhorts us to think only about good things (Philippians 4:8). Only when we are relaxing, not occupying ourselves with good things, does the Devil have opportunity to get us to think about the wrong thing. Therefore it is a good tactic of spiritual warfare, to keep our minds busy with the right things; meditate in God's word (See #5.414; #5.622), praise God (See #5.612), pray (See #5.416), do God's will (See #5.412; #5.614), "always abounding in the work of the Lord," (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Note 2: Even ordinary works, such as our daily job by which we earn our living, can help us to keep away from sin. However, the warning needs to be given not to enter into carnal, fleshly works, when doing the work of God. Jesus was once asked, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" (John 6:28). Fleshly people always want to be seen doing something, but Jesus did not answer, " Do this ... or do that ... or do the other!", he simply said, "This is the work of God, believe on him whom he (God) has sent." In other words, "Believe what I say!", and if we do that, works of faith will follow. Fleshly, carnal works can be recognized by certain characteristics:
(1) They will be done publicly, so that they may obtain the approval of others (Matthew 6:1-6). This is contrary to faith (John 5:44), not like Jesus (John 5:41), and will not receive anything from God (Matthew 6:2; 6:5).
(2) Their methods may be carnal, that is, copying worldly methods that cannot be found in the scriptures. These will be justified by their own logic and reason, which God has warned us to refrain from (Proverbs 3:5; 3:7; 23:4). The attitude will be that "the end justifies the means"; but this is not right, and it may result in losing some of those involved in it (1 Chronicles 13:1-13).
(3) They will lack spiritual results which bring glory to God or Jesus, such as:
Note: Jesus attitude always was that spiritual food (the word of God) was more important than physical food. When he was tempted by the Devil after fasting forty days and nights in the wilderness (See #5.610), he quoted at him:
(Matthew 4:4) "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
He taught his disciples also, that if they took care of the spiritual things, God would take care of their physical needs:
(Luke 12:22-23; Matthew 6:25) "And he said to his disciples, Therefore I say to you, Take no
thought for your life, what you shall eat; neither for the body, what you shall put on.
Paul supported this teaching:
(Philippians 4:19) "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
There is a principle here, that when we do the will of God, and set our mind on spiritual things, fleshly sinful desires will cease to be a problem to us.
1 TIMOTHY 4:15-16 (Paul)
Note 1: Meditating often implies pondering or turning thoughts over and over in the mind or heart. The word used in the Old Testament for meditate1 (Hb. הָגָת, Htr. haga) is used in this sense (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2; 77:12; 143:5; Isaiah 33:18), and is translated "studies" (Proverbs 15:28; 24:2). When used in connection with the tongue it is translated "utter" (Job 27:4), "speak" (Psalm 35:28; Proverbs 8:7), "speaks" (Psalm 37:30), "talk" (Psalm 71:24), and "muttered" (Isaiah 59:3). The general sense of the word seems to indicate "being occupied with", or "concentrating on", and whether done with the tongue or in the heart, these scriptures imply that the word of God is the centre of attention. In the New Testament, the verb meditate3 (Gr. μελετάω, Gtr. meletao), used in (1 Timothy 4:15), can mean "to care for", "to attend to", or "to practice". If we consider this to be done in the mind, then the translation "meditate upon" is correct, otherwise the translation "attend to", or "practice", might be better. Repeated thinking upon, or muttering the word of God over and over, is spiritually equivalent to chewing the cud (Leviticus 11:1-8; Deuteronomy 14:3-8), and is essential if "clean meat", that is, spiritual truth is to be obtained. Just as clean meat could not be produced without chewing the cud, so spiritual truth cannot be certain without due meditation. If we can keep our minds occupied with God's word, it will not only strengthen us, but it will also rob the Devil of his opportunities to put his tempting thoughts to us. How often should we do it? The word of God says "day and night," (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2), "these words, which I command you this day, ... they shall be as frontlets between your eyes." (Deuteronomy 6:6-8), "lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes." (Deuteronomy 11:18), "my words ... Do not let them depart from your eyes;" (Proverbs 4:20-21). These scriptures show how important it is.
Note 2: Failing to do this was another of my frequent mistakes. There were times when I was confident of deliverance, and walked in victory for periods of up to a month, but I did not continue to meditate as much as I should have done. I lost spiritual strength, and consequently when the Devil came again, as he invariably does (Matthew 12:43-45); I would fall again. Not only do we need the word of God in our hearts to get delivered from sin (Psalm 119:11), but we also need it there to stay delivered.
MATTHEW 6:9,13 (Jesus)
MATTHEW 26:41 (Jesus)
MARK 14:38 (Jesus)
LUKE 11:2-4 (Jesus)
LUKE 22:40 (Jesus)
(Matthew 4:4) "Then Jesus was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil."
We need to be tempted in order to be proved (Exodus 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2; 8:16; 2 Corinthians 13:5; James 1:12), but it also seems clear that God will deliver us from it if we ask him, otherwise Jesus would never have instructed us:
(Matthew 6:9-13) "After this manner therefore pray: ... do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil:"
One thing is certain, it is easier for us to stay out of sin if we are not tempted, and if we pray in faith as Jesus commanded here, we would certainly avoid many undesirable difficulties. This is one of the reasons why the wicked keep on sinning, because they do not pray this prayer. But, the righteous do not sin (Ezekiel 3:20; Romans 6:18; John 8:34 with Romans 6:20; 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 Peter 2:24), because they do pray this prayer, and believe God to keep them from it.
2 CORINTHIANS 7:9-11
ECCLESIASTES 7:3 (Solomon)
(1) Believe in Jesus (Acts 10:43; 13:38). There can be no true forgiveness without this because
he has paid the price for our sins to be forgiven (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 3:5), and he is the one who delivers us from sin (Matthew 1:21; Acts 3:26;
1 Peter 2:24).
So if we pray with supplications to God, confess our sin, be sorry for it, forsake it, and destroy all association with it. If we make restitution where possible, renew our mind with God's word, and begin to do the good that we ought to do; then the lust will have been removed from our heart, and our sin forgiven. Remember, "if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:32), but "except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3; 13:5). (See also #5.640)
PROVERBS 23:1-3 (Solomon)
1 PETER 2:11 (Peter)
Note 1: A glutton should refuse dainty food. By dainty food, we mean any food that is sweet or tasty to the point that, when we have eaten it, we are left, wanting to eat more. Usually this is the type of food that is eaten between meals (See #5.632 Note 1), and any desire that we have for such food will surely be used by the Devil to draw us away into overeating (James 1:14). The immediate solution is to abstain from them (See #5.630) until they are removed from our heart. After this we can adopt the same attitude as Paul, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Corinthians 6:12). For the alcoholic, even one drink should be refused, and for the smoker, even one cigarette should be refused (See #5.508). This is the Devil's tactic, to make us think that we can indulge a little, and then stop. If we fail this, sin always leads to more sin (Proverbs 5:22; Jeremiah 9:3; Romans 6:19; 7:15-20).
Note 2: Sweet foods such as cream biscuits, chocolate biscuits, and various chocolate foods were my big temptation, and the problem was that once I started to eat them, I found it almost impossible to stop. Even before I was saved, I had a habit of eating a whole packet of biscuits after my evening meal, but this was nothing like what came on me during my trial. At the worst time, I would come home from work and eat a normal evening meal, after which I would go across to the shop and buy two packets of various biscuits, and eat them. After this I would go to another shop (the local shopkeeper having noticed and commented on my habit) and purchase two more packets and eat them. O wretched man that I was, I would then go to another shop and buy one medium sized and one large chocolate bar and devour both of them! The Devil can never get anyone to this state in an instant, but it grows in us over a prolonged period as we continually yield to it, so the way to stay out of this trouble is to avoid such foods altogether. I do not advocate that eating such a food is a sin, many people enjoy such foods in total moderation, but they are not making the sacrifices that Jesus has called us to make, and the danger is there if we let it get out of control. Paul had a good attitude to such a situation: "All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Corinthians 6:12).
If you have benefited from reading this study, then please tell your friends about this website.