I have made the decision that I want to be a disciple of Jesus, and I know that means that I no longer have to sin. I have firmly decided that I only want to do the good, and I will not give in when I am tempted to sin. But it isn’t so easy! Sin is always coming up, even though I want to do the good. Is it even possible to overcome when my feelings are so strong?
I am sitting outside my friend’s house waiting for her to come out. We agreed to meet outside her house at a specific time, but she is late … again. She does this time after time. I feel so irritated and impatient right now. I just want to tell her exactly what I think of this behaviour.
I feel so bad. I really want to be patient and kind, but here I am, feeling impatient and angry … again. I feel like I keep on sinning; I keep having these kinds of thoughts. Anger, jealousy, impure thoughts, to name just a few. I know that these things are wrong. God’s Word tells me that. I really don’t know what to do.
I am not my feelings
Then I remember something that I read recently. It was in a piece of Christian literature where the author* wrote about James 1:14 (GNT), “But we are tempted when we are drawn away and trapped by our own evil desires.”
He wrote that most believers think that to be tempted is sin, and wish they could feel nothing of their own sinful desires. When they become aware of these desires, they think that something must be wrong with them. But we don’t read that we won't be tempted when we become believers, but that we shall overcome and not sin when we are tempted. (1 Peter 4:1-2.) So when you are tempted to sin, you have not sinned yet; you only sin when you give in to your sinful desires. (*Sigurd Bratlie, in “Glory – Apprehended of Christ”.)
I suddenly realise something. I may feel like I’m irritated and angry right now, but that’s not me! The thoughts have come up in my mind, but I don’t have to agree with them. Right now the irritation, one of the sinful desires in my human nature, wants to take control, but this is only a temptation. Now I have to choose.
The sinful desires are that part of my human nature that want to live according to my own will rather than do the will of God. It’s the part of me that wants to react in ways that God’s Word clearly says are wrong. It’s because I have sinful desires in my nature that I am tempted. The desire to be impatient, for example. The desire to be offended when someone says something about me that I don’t like, etc.
The moment of temptation
So when I feel these sinful desires coming up, does that mean that I have sinned? Absolutely not! I am being tempted. I only sin if I knowingly agree to give in and allow those thoughts to live, even though I know that it goes against God’s will. But when I feel these things, I don’t have to react according to them. I am not doing sin unless I know that I am being tempted and still agree that I am going to do what I am being tempted to.
The important thing for me to remember is that there is a difference between me and what I am tempted to. I am the person who has decided not to sin, no matter what I am tempted to - no matter what I feel. My feelings don’t mean a thing. My mindset is that I hate sin and do not want to do it. That is me! (Read Romans 7 & 8.)
So now, as I wait outside my friend’s house and feel these impatient, angry feelings coming up, I know that this is just a temptation. My human nature with its sinful desires makes me feel like I really am being impatient. But it is only my feelings! It is not me! I am a disciple of Jesus who will not sin! I do not agree to these thoughts. I say a strong and decided No to the temptation. Even though I feel this way, with my mind I do not allow it. I am what I consciously decide, and I decide that I am not going to give in to these feelings.
Even though my feelings may not immediately change, I refuse to give in and I don’t allow myself to think impatient thoughts. I pray to God that He will give me power to resist the temptation, no matter how long it takes, and He does so. I pray that instead of reacting impatiently, I can react with love.
Temptation = the possibility to overcome
When my friend comes out of her house a bit late, she doesn’t even need to sense that I have been tempted. Instead, she can sense patience and kindness from me.
For her own sake, she maybe does need to hear that she should think more about others, but that is something I should say out of love, because I know it is for her best. I should never say it out of impatience, just because I had to wait for her. If I am able to do this, we can continue to have a really good relationship. No taste of sin can come between us. Then I have overcome! I have not sinned - I have not agreed to be impatient and angry - even though these feelings were so strong.
It is so good to know that the way I react when I am tempted depends entirely on me. I know that by the grace of God He will give me the power to overcome every time that I am tempted. It’s just one temptation at a time, and with each temptation I get a little more godly nature. (2 Peter 1:4.) Every temptation can be a victory, and I look forward to the day when my natural reactions are like the “fruits of the spirit” - love, kindness, patience, etc. (Galatians 5.) I firmly believe that this will happen