Why Don’t the Temptations Stop?
When they pray, some believers not only experience quick and complete deliverance from a beleaguered bondage, but the elimination of temptation to that former bondage as well. Most don’t however. Why is that?
The easy answer is that God hasn’t planned for there to be an end to temptation until He welcomes us into heaven. After all, if the Son of God experienced temptation, why should we expect to escape such trials?
Temptation comes from our own fallen hearts as well as from attempts to medicate the pain of our brokenness (Mark 7:20-23).
In the midst of my healing journey out of multiple areas of sexual brokenness, I discovered that I was clueless to the vast majority of interior issues that needed to be addressed. As I regularly sat before the Lord, He revealed the hidden roots of my sins, one by one. Then He revealed the way of deliverance, healing and escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When we are enslaved by temptation, it is vital that the ground beneath the sin be removed (trauma, neglect, anger, unforgiveness, lies believed, etc.). The sin itself is not the biggest problem. It is the brokenness and rebellion that drives it. They help us justify our actions or to believe that we are fated to such slavery.
Not Being Willing to Do Whatever It Takes
Most of us are not willing to do whatever it takes to be free. We want a reduction in temptation, but only to a degree. We’re afraid of the pain involved in working through our internal brokenness. We want to maintain control over our lives rather than trusting God in everything.
Not Being Motivated by a Love for God and a Hatred of Sin (Romans 12:9)
Do I obey Him because I love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30) or am I being driven by unhealthy perfectionism, performance orientation, or the self-centered pride that makes me want to appear holy in front of other people? (Matthew 6:1-24)
Deliverance, healing and transformation are a function of falling in love with Jesus at deeper and deeper levels and thereby coming to love Him more than what tempts me. They are a fruit of regularly and passionately seeking His presence and obeying whatever direction He gives (Deuteronomy 4:29).
Our Hearts are Not Completely His
The truth is, God won’t deliver us from a bondage unless we fully commit to Him and want His deliverance to be permanent. Sadly, most of us are not committed to Him without exception and without measure.
Let me illustrate. In tears and for years I asked God to set me free from a sinful habit, but to no avail. Puzzled as to why He didn’t do what I thought His holiness desired, I finally said to Him, “You’ve set me free from things that were far worse than this. Why don’t You act on this one?” His reply, “Because you still love it.”
Indeed, there was a piece of my heart that still loved the sin. Otherwise, it wouldn’t tempt me. It gave me pleasure, comfort and a justification for disobedience when God disappointed me. Deep inside I believed that I deserved to commit the sin after all I had gone through in life — a belief never thought out loud but buried within. Paul refers to this as the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13-14).
We Still Live in a Fallen World
We are still broken people, subject to Satan’s attacks and the darkness of our own fallen hearts (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:20-23). For now, we but see through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12).
God is not the one who tempts us (James 1:13-15; 1 John 1:5). It is our own fallen hearts that do the dirty work. When we choose the sins we love over a love of God, Satan has a chance to create strongholds in us that make freedom difficult, though not impossible.
Gladly, God turns our temporary condition to the good by using our limitations to show us how dependent we are on His presence and power — one of the most important things we can learn. Temptations literally drive us into the arms of God for help, power, healing and transformation.
We find we need to turn to Him regularly for relief. This eventually produces an intimate relationship with Him as He reveals His grace, love and glory in that place of submission.
Temptations also provide a plethora of opportunities for growth in Him. With every ounce of resistance, we achieve a pound of progress, and no doubt, a future reward in heaven. (See James 1:12-15; Matthew 16:27; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.)
Temptations Drive Home the Fact That We Need God’s Power Rather Than Self-Effort
In Ephesians 1:18-21, the Apostle Paul refers to God’s power as incomparably great for those who believe! In 3:16-17, we learn that God will strengthen believers with power by His Spirit.
To try to do what God alone can do is a fallen form of performance orientation — a condition that keeps us dependent on our own wisdom and power. This is the death-knell to maturity and freedom. In truth, it is a rejection of God’s grace.
In Luke 4:18, Jesus reminded His disciples that it is His job to set free the brokenhearted. All He needs is a surrendered vessel. (See also Psalm 34:18-19 and 2 Corinthians 4:7-12.)
Failure to See Freedom From Temptation as a Process
As we live in intimacy with Him, God shows us the root causes of our behavior — the needs that we have been trying to meet — and His perfect provision for meeting those needs. Through our pursuit of healing, we develop a relationship of love and dependence on God because we have need to turn to Him often for power over temptation, healing from brokenness, and the comfort of knowing we are loved with an everlasting love by the God who IS love (1 John 4:16; Jeremiah 31:3).
Temptations teach us to take seriously God’s command to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7; Luke 21:34). They cause us to flee to God for relief so that He can heal the broken places that fuel the drive to sin. In His presence, He reveals His love and grace, which wins our hearts back to Him (Titus 2:11-14).
Grace to the Rescue
When we do sin, God’s grace is the place to flee:
… the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. … If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9)
In short, temptations don’t stop for the believer for multiple reasons, but they can be reduced. However, even that reduction is subject to life circumstances that resurrect “the old man,” and the “more opportune time” that Satan employs to deceive us when life gets tough. Fortunately, all that will be remedied at the “last trump” when our precious Lord will transform us into His pure and sinless image and take us into His everlasting presence, where sin and sorrow are no more (Revelation 21:1-5).
Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
Dr. David Kyle Foster (M.Div., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; D.Min., Trinity School for Ministry) is the author of Transformed Into His Image and Love Hunger and is the founder/director of Pure Passion Media. Read more of his take on sexual sin and brokenness in his newest book, The Sexual Healing Reference Edition and listen to his twice-weekly podcast.