Two weeks have passed since Teen II at Delanco. Usually by now, I have fallen from my spiritual high and have successfully made a mess of my heart. However, I praise God because my life currently is a great contrast to my previous stumbling. With the diligent prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ and a renewed mentality to seek God more and more, temptation has failed to overcome me. The funny thing is that I’ve left Delanco armed with prayers and focus before. Why were these two post-camp weeks any different from previous years? To take it a step further, what about those other weeks and weekends where I’d been so close to God only to fail the next day? The problem was me. Not God, not other people, but me.
Retreats and camps are designed with activities and lessons whose job is to maintain a focus on God. And, as much as I hate to admit it, when we come back from a retreat or camp the activities and responsibilities with which we are involved normally don’t point to God. On top of that, there are very real enemies waiting for the right opportunity to break us down. This isn’t our fault because there are things beyond our control, but for what we do control—our bodies, our minds, and our hearts—we are at fault if such is the cause for our follies. Remember, the serpent merely offers the fruit; it is our choice whether we take it or not. So how do we fortify ourselves to stand up to temptation?
The first step is filling up your heart with God. When I mentioned I was blessed enough to resist temptation, that didn’t mean there wasn’t anything tempting me. Contrarily, temptation loomed over my head everyday and continues to do so even now. God tells Cain in verse 7 of Genesis 4, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Sin roams like a roaring lion, waiting for the opportune moment to pounce. Sin desires you. Sin wants to occupy your heart. The solution? Fill up on God.
Think back to childhood. There was this toy that taught shape recognition and motor skills. It usually had 3 or 4 empty slots with different shapes, and blocks with corresponding shapes. Now I knew that the circle block fit into the circle slot, but back then I tried to cram the square block into the circle slot out of boredom. Mystifyingly enough, it fit. There was some empty space left over, and the block was stuck in the slot, but it fit. Much to my chagrin, the circle block would not fit anymore since the other was in the way. The square block needed to be hammered out it was so stuck in the slot. But in the end, I was able to restore balance to my shapes toy and place the appropriate shapes in the appropriate slots. Sin is like the square block—it wedges its way into a slot it is not meant to fit. In order to fill the void with the appropriate God-shaped block, the sin needs to be hammered out. Confessing and then asking forgiveness from God is a very good way to expel the sin out of one’s heart. Christ cleans out the filth hidden on the inside so that God, if you allow Him, can fill your heart instead. And when your heart is filled with God, there is no room for sin to enter again. God and sin cannot coexist in the same heart.
So, how does one “fill up” on I AM? Like filling up a cup (yes, yes mazel tov), one needs to draw water from a water source. What better springs of God are there than prayer and the Bible? If one has a cup full of Christ, it is infinitely easier to maintain constant focus on our Savior. However, the longer one goes without visiting that fountain, the supply of Living Water stored in the cup will diminish until nothing is left; leaving room in one’s heart for water from other fountains. Unlike the block which sits in place, one must draw from the well of God consistently for his or her heart to be filled—or better yet—overflowing. A heart overflowing with God becomes a well itself for others to draw from! But, one must be proactive! Shane Smith taught at Delanco that Abraham arose EARLY in the morning to obey God. Apply that style of thinking here. The earlier you fill up on God, the less hang time there will be for you to draw sin from the fountains of temptation. This is something I cannot stress enough. I chose not to start off the day with God several times in the past two weeks, and on those days my mind was tempted the worst. Only by the God’s grace at work through my brother, unbeknownst to him in fact, was I able to resist. On the other hand, the days where I woke up and read my Bible, temptation had the consistency of a thought which could easily dismissed from my mind. Like making smart choices for breakfast allows one to make healthy choices throughout the day, seeking God in the morning allows one to pursue God throughout the day.
The next step, which is really just a specific way to go about the first step, is putting on the whole armor of God. Resisting temptation is a battle, so one needs to be prepared for a fight! Found in Ephesians 6, the full armor consists of the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the preparation of the gospel of peace fitted on your feet, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. That’s all well and good, but there’s not really a physical suit of armor lying around to put on. Yet the specific characteristics of the armor—truth, righteousness, preparation, faith, and the Spirit—are what one must equip to him or herself. I’m a naturally silly person, so something that helps me put on the armor is physically doing the actions required to put it on. Strange, I know, but taking the time out to do it shows sincerity to God. If I set aside time for an activity that will bring me closer to God, God notices. Otherwise, just meditate on the armor before taking on the day. Preparation is attributed to the feet because one can stand on it. Faith is like a shield, you must grab a hold of it in order to defend yourself. If your faith isn’t strong enough and Satan’s flaming darts get by, righteous living protects your heart and salvation guards your head. And you can grasp God’s word, the sword of the Spirit to cut down any evil standing in your way. Lastly, hold it altogether with truth! The whole armor of God is designed to face opposition, and I know for a fact that wearing it helps against temptation. Just don’t turn and run away. The armor does not have anything to protect your back—the one place Satan likes to strike most. Praise God, however, because our backs are guarded by fellow Christians wearing the armor, and Christ himself, too.
The final step is receiving confidence from an everlasting promise. In Exodus, the Israelites were living in bondage because of the Egyptian Pharaoh. God called Moses to deliver His people by standing up to the Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, however, so God struck Egypt with 10 plagues. The tenth and final plague was the death of the firstborn son. When Moses announced the last plague, God instituted the Passover. In a nutshell, those who placed the blood of a lamb without blemish on the door to their household would be ‘passed over’ by the Angel of Lord when He came to strike the firstborns. The Passover takes on new meaning in the Christian faith, as the unblemished lamb—Jesus Christ—was sacrificed so death would ‘pass over’ us. If we place His blood on the door to our hearts, we are no longer condemned by sin. I don’t know about you, but that promise places confidence in me. It turns the threatening presence and looming fear of sin into something one can face! It is one thing when you have to fight on your own, but to have someone far more capable do it for you—and win—so that you don’t have to is so reassuring. It takes the worry of failing out of my mind. When I’m not nervous about stumbling or falling from grace I’m more apt to stand in righteousness. I mean, really, sin is like a roaring tiger…that has been declawed and wears dentures. Sin has LOST its power; death has LOST its sting! Through Christ we have the authority to cast away sin from our doorstep when it knocks. Confidence from God really changes the perspective of things. In this battle we have the strength and sin the weakness.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15: 56-57
Resisting temptation does not have to be a struggle. Fill up on God. Kick off the day with Scripture and prayer, which will allow you to constantly draw from God’s fount throughout the day, leaving no room for sin to enter. Put on the whole armor of God. Ultimately, all armor is designed with protection in mind, but this armor allows us to stand firm and hold our ground against evil. Receive confidence from Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s blood covers the door to our hearts. Because of this, the real power once held by sin is gone, and the true threat separating us from God is gone. With hearts overflowing, protected by God’s armor, have courage and strength from Christ Jesus when standing against temptation. The greatest part is, all we need to do is stand, because our battle has already been won.