How do we stay on track? How do we overcome the temptation to wander off?
The song Temptation by Joan Armatrading (1985) has the line:
Temptation drags you down, takes you where you want to be
It’s not far off how temptation is described in James 1:14-15:
But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Temptation works on what we desire, what appeals, what excites, what gets our affection, what ‘feels right. Evil desire has a damaging – even devastating effect. Good desire can help to achieve God’s eternal purposes. Desire needs to be pointed in the right direction.
How do we make sense of our desires? How do we point them in the right direction?
These and many more questions lead us into Ephesians in search of God’s plan for overcoming temptation.
In Ephesians 2:1-3 there is the combined arms strategy that has lethal impact:
- the world
- our cravings
We combat this combined arms strategy by walking differently. The ESV describes the old way of walking (2:2 and 4:17) and the new way of walking (2:10, 4:1, 5:2, 5:8 and 5:15). The old way is living like those around us: self-centred and gratifying sinful desires. The new way is based on the generous love of God in Christ (5:1), our new identity which results (2:5-6 and 4:1) and the cause of God’s eternal kingdom (we had to jump over to Luke 12 for that!).
So the new way of walking involves our head, heart and hands:
- Head: Know who you are
- Heart: Stay committed to the cause
- Hands: Get on with loving others
This is the strategy that gets our desire pointed in the right direction and overcomes temptation.