Summary: Submission to God is the key and reshaping our desires is the result. Then, instead of fighting off what we desire, we are able to pursue our desires.
Step Two - The Power to Resist
Resistance is Futile
This may sound odd at first glance, but resistance is not the key to resisting. The Bible gives the key to resisting temptation in James 4:
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Many people believe in error that if we resist temptation the devil will flee from us, but that is not what this passage is telling us. The focus of this passage is humbling ourselves and submitting to God. When we draw closer to God, He gives us the power to resist and the devil flees from the power of God, not our resistance. I know that when I resist, the devil does not flee, but continues to pound away at my weaknesses until I give in. Resisting temptation is like pushing a weight off our chest. At first, I may be strong and able to resist, but in time I get weaker and more fatigued until, in a moment of weakness, I give in. As long as my focus is on resisting, I am standing by my own strength. When my strength fails, I fall.
God’s way is a complete paradigm shift from the way we think. Instead of facing temptation and trying to push away, we turn from temptation and draw near to God. Then we have the absolute promise that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Our relationship with God must come first. We were created to have fellowship with God. Anything that does not center around that relationship will fall short. When I am standing in my own strength, I don’t recognize my need for God. The Bible says, "let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall". God does not give grace to those who think they are self-sufficient. God resists the proud. Anytime we take total dependency on God out of the picture, we have cast our lot in with the proud. Humbling ourselves before God is the first principle of living by God’s grace.
Changing behavior is only a weak, temporary change. Changing behavior does nothing to change who we are. Changing the outside is temporary if the inside remains the same. Scripture puts it this way:
11 As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.
12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
If you do not let God change you on the inside, you will keep returning to the sins that destroy your life. Changing the outward actions means little unless there is a change of desires. If our focus is on the world then we will continue to be drawn in that direction. Where your eyes are, your feet will follow.
The reason we struggle to resist temptation is because our desire resides in the world. When we draw our desires from the world, we will be at odds with God. James 4 also tells us:
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
As long as we desire the world, we will be double-minded - or have a divided allegiance. The Bible also tells us that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. If we desire temptation and try to resist, the battle is already lost. All we are looking for is justification. Once we begin to justify our actions, repentance is lost. The Bible clearly teaches that God is patient and leads us through our struggles to overcome temptation. However, the Bible also teaches that if we justify our sins, and try to use Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as holy washrag, we are living a lie. The purpose of the cross is to cleanse our sin so that we can have a relationship with our Creator. If we are looking for anything short of a relationship with God, we are abusing the cross. We may feel justified, but we are not justified. 1 John 1 says: