A few years ago at the beginning of summer, I noticed this sentence on the marquee at my local Dairy Queen: “Mind says gym, heart says ice cream!”
At first, I took it as a reminder that I needed to exercise (rather than an invitation to drive through for an ice cream cone). Fast forward a few weeks and my heart began to sing a different tune. Having driven by a few dozen times at this point, I again saw the red marquee and this time thought, Ohhh yeah, I want some ice cream. A little comfort food is good for the soul!
Like my gradual shift from resisting to craving ice cream, it’s so easy to slide down the slippery slope of deception without knowing it. We don’t usually wake up one day and say, “I’ll choose to sin today.” Instead we are drawn toward sin little by little.
When we fail to guard against deception and lies, we subconsciously absorb the world’s version of truth and become lax toward sin, making ourselves vulnerable to temptation. That process looks something like this . . .
- Natalie was only looking for a friend, but she picked the wrong crowd. Pretty soon she was keeping secrets from her parents and attending parties with alcohol and drugs, an addiction she never saw coming.
- Katie was dissatisfied with her appearance. But her resolve to lose a few pounds morphed into an obsession that now enslaves her.
- Emma convinced herself it was just harmless flirtation. But before she knew it, her interaction with her boyfriend quickly escalated. Together they crossed lines of physical intimacy they swore they never would.
Different Story, Same Problem
Your story may be different from Natalie, Katie, Emma, or me, but the problem is the same. Sin is real, addictive, and dangerous. We all feel a gravitational pull toward it. We’re aren’t born naturally good people who’ve been corrupted by the evil around us. We were born with a sin nature that only the blood of Jesus can wipe clean (Eph. 2:4–9).
You’re in a Battle Zone
In the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul paints a word picture for how to wage war against sin and the devil. First, he tells us that it is in the Lord’s strength and not our own that we can gain the victory.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil (vv. 10–11).
Paul goes on to explain in further detail who our enemy is and why it’s crucial we are armed and ready for the fight.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (vv. 12–13).
God doesn’t send us out to battle unarmed. Like a soldier prepared for battle, donning a bulletproof vest and helmet, weapon in hand, we are instructed to prepare for spiritual battle armed with the Spirit.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints (vv. 14–18).
There are only two offensive weapons listed: the Word of God and prayer. Instead of waiting for the fight to come to us, we need these weapons to actively fight against sin. Trying to fight against temptation without praying for protection or looking to God’s Word for guidance is like a soldier going alone into battle without ammunition. We cannot win that way!
As you pray, don’t limit your prayers to your personal struggles. This is a group effort! You need your friends and family, and they need you. Invite them to hold you accountable even as you encourage them in their fight against sin.
This passage is not meant to be used as some sort of formula or ritual to magically ward off temptation. Simply saying these words or picturing yourself suiting up for battle every morning won’t keep you from sinning. Victory over sin only comes through Jesus. In Him we can know the truth and be set free (John 8:31–32, Rom. 8:2). Jesus won the battle against sin and death once and for all on the cross, and it is through His victory that we can “stand firm.”
As you pursue a lifestyle of holiness, remember that fleeing temptation means running to the cross, resisting the devil means drawing near to Jesus, and standing firm in the battle means first kneeling at the throne of grace.