Winning the Temptation Battle
Dr. Stephen Newdell
A woman writes for an answer: How exactly does one transform the way to think? The Bible talks about letting your mind be transformed, but I feel I’m missing something. I’m a college student. Lately, I’ve been struggling with lustful thoughts that make me feel very insecure and guilty. So how do I deal with this, especially in this sex-crazed culture? I want to fight the temptations. How do I let my mind get transformed, as the Bible says, so that I can win this overwhelming and exhausting battle?”
“How exactly does one transform the way to think?” That’s where she starts and it’s the perfect beginning.
Any skill comes with practice. I was not born with a talent for typing. Even now I wish I were much better. I was a terrible typing student in high school. I think I was typing at 25 words per minute when I finished that class in a group of business courses. But my handwriting was so hopeless I decided I wouldn’t give up. I felt I just had to get better if I would ever make anything of my desire to be a writer and communicator, so I continued practicing. I typed everything, even once my math homework. One day my mother, a former secretary, could hear me as she was come up the stairs and said, “Stephen, you’re becoming proficient with typing now.” It was encouragement thankfully received.
Similarly, if you want to break the habit of submitting to temptations you must become more skilled by this sequence: pray it away and replace the desire with something else upon which to focus your mind.
You have to lay hold on a promise of God and push hard against the rising temptation. There are smart and thoughtless ways to do that.
Horses tend to resist being pushed. So if you want to get a horse into a trailer you won’t win the up-ramp battle by pushing. We also know if you tickle behind his leg or knee he’ll step forward. So, we don’t push. We make the animal do what he is inclined to do. No one is hurt and he enters the trailer easily.
Your mind wants to look at something else rather than stick to the focus intended. Pushing will only create more forceful resistance. Instead, ignore the pushing and move to a different focus.
It is axiomatic; you become what you resist! So if you are constantly resisting the thoughts of another kiss and another lustful weekend, you’ll finally end up giving in to temptation, telling yourself, “I just am powerless over this.” One day, next year you count up all the “dates” and really are ashamed. Worse, perhaps you have been taking dangerous anti-biotics like candy and you’re not getting well! This is a serious reason to find a way to be crush temptation.
As an aside, (I’m doing that doctor thing again) I wish you would take out your calculator. Let’s assume you’re on a campus of 20,000 students. We’ll assume you know several girls who have a different lover each month, and all of the boys they make it with have a different lover each month. (For some people this is extremely conservative….OMGosh) So now multiply 12 x 12 x 12 or use 12 x =,=,=, –à yields 20,736! In theory if each of those lovers trades partners every month for a year they have been indirectly connected to everyone on campus! “Eeeuuuuuu. Yiccchhhh!”
These people don’t love anyone. The word “like” has been changed from something you might approve of, as in, “I like that painting” to “I crave your body.” This is using people as if they are rented bicycles. Do you want your body and your reproductive system “used” as if it’s a piece of rented gym equipment? What do you get in exchange for this?
A study at a medical college on a big university years ago proved 80% of the students have at least 5 sexually transmitted diseases and no symptoms. Doctors Without Borders published a piece a few years ago about Kiev, Ukraine. The author said the entire city felt like a college campus where all the young people were dying of AIDS. This gives us reason to flatten our lascivious smiles and think seriously about doing what is best at least for our physical health.
Making Art of Something Simple
My friend in a cooking school saw a You Tube video about table setting and folding table napkins. The restaurant was in Rome and the Italian restaurant manager teaching said, “Now, how can we make art out of something as mundane as folding a napkin.” What a wonderful thought.
How can YOU make an art of putting your mental focus in the right place?
First, we briefly touch upon the biblical principle of resistance. James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Paul says in Romans 8:13, “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” So we kill specific sins by targeting them with our focus upon what those inspired to speak the words of God have taught us.
James 1:3 reads, “The testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Some temptation or some suffering comes into your life and threatens to conquer you and ruin your faith and your holiness, maybe your heath forever, maybe your ability to mother a child forever. No traditionally minded woman wants to be precluded from reproducing, so it’s far better to avoid Chlamydia and other diseases that might cause sterilization.
You have to lay hold on a promise of God and now be clever to make it do the work for you like the horse will if you tickle behind his ankles.
As you become more skilled with this you become stronger in your steadfastness and endurance.
Those tests — those pressures of unbelief and temptation, must be resisted by faith —
- They enable us to resist greater tests, greater temptations, and greater suffering in our future.
- They enable us to meet all tests that used to make us stumble with relative ease so that we’re not thrown into a crisis every time we meet some temptation, for example, shopping, eating sweets, hanging out doing nothing, gazing at house plans instead of working at your studies.
Now, all of this applies to lustful or any other sort of temptation because those are thoughts and tests that we have to resist. We have to take hold of a promise of Christ, believe it, and then ….
Replace the thought with something you would prefer. Tell yourself. “This is not me. It’s an idea I’ve been holding. I will stop giving it creative energy and replace it with ….. (something you prefer.) And ask Christ and the Holy Spirit for help.
You’ve got about five seconds to change your focus. It’s best to be prepared with something you’re memorizing and focus upon that.
Decide whether you’re going to control this demonic temptation or it is going to control you. Begin with, “I resist this temptation in the holy name of Jesus Christ!
I have this personally dreamt up thesis that some of those “demons” are really a sort of artificial intelligence spiritually devised computer and transmitter. It watches what you do, finds your weak points, for example, sex, rage about people who hurt you, jealousy about those who seem to be overly comfortable, beauty that just seems to have come naturally, …. various things.
This artificial intelligence transmitter finds an issue like fighting with your husband and it won’t let up with the ultimate goal of destroying the marriage, perhaps with a murder, (that would be the ultimate victory) leaving both sides of the family devastated.
In my imagination, these “Artificial Intelligence things” are produced by the hundreds of millions like smart-phone applications and they’re just out there ruining lives everywhere. But, the power of the name of Jesus the Christ renders them worthless. The Holy Spirit renders their app totally “glitched.” So in your first 5-seconds you say, I bind you and resist you, and command you by the power of the name of Jesus Christ to be gone from me. Now GO!” Then remind yourself, “This isn’t me. It’s an idea I’ve been hanging onto and feeding it creative energy. I’m going to stop feeding it and replace it with something I prefer.
This works better than you’ll suspect until you experience it a few times. Next and immediately….
I’ll bet if I ask you where the fire escape is and what would you grab and run if the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night you would have an immediate answer – because you’ve thought it through long ago.
Immediately focus upon something you’ve had in mind for this sort of emergency moment. It might be a hymn or other music or exercise or a math equation you run in your head, or a speech or poetry, or a few lines of scripture. Soon enough you’ll move your mind onto other more important things.
Now you have the essence of pray it away and replace it.
This way you approach the issue quite easily, quickly, efficiently, and have done with it pleasantly. It’s pleasant to gently ease your beloved horse into a trailer. It’s rather unpleasant to pull and push until he kicks you across the yard. Now you know how to approach and win over this temptation the pleasant way and come out with a better feeling of personal accomplishment.
Applying Biblical Wisdom
I read a self defense article. A woman said she was near the Brooklyn New York City Zoo and was suddenly surrounded by three big guys and one said, “How much is the lens, how much is the camera?” She took her fighting stance and yelled, “You get OUT of here!” and they left without a touch.
Half the issue with an attack is being obviously unassailable. It’s a walk of confidence. It’s a communication of your “aura” your energetic frequency. Women smile at me because they know I’m friendly and decent. Animals approach me because they know I’m kindly. Men don’t attack me because they feel somehow that I’m not to be toyed with. You can be the same in the spiritual realm. The Devil will know and flee and over a few incidents you become so strong the problem will cease.
You’ll meet the right man and tell him directly, “I’d like to know you better” and given a few lunches together you might finally say, “I’m looking for a man who wants to share my life. Can we explore that together?” I tell you almost guaranteed, if he says “no” it’s because there is something else going on about which you don’t know. It’s more likely he’ll say, “Yes and thank you for cutting past the body language, because I don’t read minds or faces or body language very well.” And I think most men don’t.
Now, a bit more. Paul says, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” This is from (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Notice, this comes from the Lord, the Holy Spirit through Apostle Paul to us. We are receivers. He, the Holy Spirit, is watching for your willingness to receive His wisdom and follow his commandments.
We must focus on the glory of the Lord, and we do that mainly in Bible study and then thinking about God’s words for us, and perhaps even writing or voice recording thoughts for future review and self-consideration.
Some things in life are not learned by theory. They are only truly understood by experience. I’ve had a few times when I was nearly killed at sea. What an experience. The rest of my life I remember and thank God.
I’ve had a few times in my travel when I stayed up all night in an airport. And once I ended up homeless for a week. It’s never to be forgotten. I’m to the point of obnoxious in my continual thanks to God for an apartment to clean, for a little kitchen and a private bathroom and a closet for my clothing, and – I started this magazine from my old computer and a folding table and finally moved up to a desk, and much needed eyeglasses. For all these things I say to the Lord, “Thank you for your generosity because I know I wouldn’t have THIS were it not for your grace and kindness.”
The water runs clean. The soap is plentiful. I remember all over the world and particularly from my perch here in South East Asia, there are over a BILLION people who struggle to survive, bathe in polluted water, watch their babies die of parasites for lack of money for medical care. “Thank you Lord. I know I would have nothing, I would have long ago died homeless in my car, were it not for your kindness. What more can I do to serve You?”
Such experiences change one and teach what writing and reading cannot.
The more we receive into our hearts the REALITY of Christ through real life and through reading, prayer and, serious consideration, the more we will have his desires, his preferences, and his convictions.
By all this we are transformed.
The horse thought he didn’t want to go into the trailer, but discovered the trip was very long and the ride was noisy, but a lot more comfortable than a very long walk.
Similarly, the subconscious mind wanted to continue in sin, but the fully volitional mind agrees at last, “This is much better, happier, stronger, stable, comforting than the constant insane distractions of the social media, idiot video games, and drunken parties followed by praying to the porcelain god on my knees, asking myself again, “Why did I do this?”
Or, Waking up beside a stranger and wondering, “Who is he, and what new disease did he give me?”
The Weapon You Need is to learn a prayer or a bit of a reading from a letter by Paul to Timothy and repeat it through your mind using this as a way to improve your memorization.
“Amaze your friends and terrify your enemies with your brilliant memory!!!”
When you’ve learned that much, learn another passage. Each time a harmful thought comes to you, remind yourself, “This isn’t me. It’s an idea I’ve been holding. I will stop giving it creative energy and replace it. Then recite the passage you’ve been memorizing.
You won’t believe until you have experienced this but the freedom from temptation is positively wonderful! Can you imagine being up to your hips in cold water for weeks, maybe years, and finally you were release, and walked up onto the warm sand, dried out and got warm. It’s soooo good! It’s that way when you are set free from temptations to sin.
By this you’ve become a New Creature
Colossians 3:10 reminds us that in Jesus we are new creatures, we have new selves. But we must put on the new self. That is, receive the new self. Put it on like a coat — consciously receive it.
But there’s a phrase in Colossians 3:10 that explains how it happens. It says, “Put on the new self” — and then — “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
The tool for this transformation of the mind and the desires and the thoughts of the new person you are becoming are a benefit of knowing God’s word, his wisdom and knowledge of Him, His precepts, His desires for your upright behavior, and your knowledge of how to approach this issue to set yourself free.
The more you seek the Lord’s strength the more your thoughts and your feelings will be changed. You will experience a “new you.” And then, truly, your spiritual enemies will be terrified and will run away.
Paul writes to the people in the church at Thessalonica: “This is the will of God, your sanctification (sanctification = to be transformed, better, clean, and set aside as precious) that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor” — and here comes the key — “not in the passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5).
You become what you resist. The more you blindly resist, the worse the problems become.
In modern language I say most of modern young people are not analytical thinkers and are not self-disciplined about learning. They have been taught/brain-washed to play constantly with whatever they reach for on their smart-phone. It’s one distraction after another and another. Some Chinese masters referred to “the monkey mind,” and in the case of social media the monkey mind is dominant and we humans given the gift of greater intelligence instead behave like Baboons swinging through trees, eating here, attacking another animal there, tempting a tiger to try and catch him. Those living this way behave like bored lunatics. When they finally get into an employment situation they have no self-discipline for real work and eventually the manager is looking for their replacement.
I think people who live to party and waste their education money and time are behaving like insane people bored in their prison. Bored baboons, bored lunatics. They don’t want to hear this, but look at what they accomplish and know them by their fruits.
Notice where Paul lays the fault of sexual passion taking control and ruining our lives. He says that passion, that sinful passion, rules in people who do not know.
Scripture says, Hosea 4:6 “My people perish for lack of knowledge/wisdom”
Just like Colossians 3:10, they don’t know. Just like 2 Corinthians 3:18, they don’t see, don’t meditate on, don’t know, don’t absorb, don’t receive the knowledge of God.
In other words, they haven’t been renewed in knowledge. They haven’t set their minds to behold the glory of Jesus day and night so that they might at last be transfigured by the Creator of Their Lives. They are at the mercy of their sinful passion because they haven’t been transformed by putting on the new self, renewed in knowledge.
That’s the biblical route to transforming our logical and our emotional mind so that we are less vulnerable to sexual temptation.
Apply this idea to pray it away and replace it.
By this method, over a short time you can transform your weakness into strength and your guilt into a rewarding accomplishment.
As I continue to repeat:
The more we make ourselves available to God and The Christ the deeper becomes our awareness of that intimate relationship with Him. The life we live, we live by sincerity and faith in the risen Christ.
Your sincerity and faith in the risen Christ will transfigure you by your application of this Biblically based wisdom.
Dr. Stephen Newdell
Inspired by ideas from an article by Pastor John Piper at desiringGod.org