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How do I defeat temptation and sin?

King David had an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. She became pregnant. To cover his sin, eventually he had Uriah killed and took his widow as his own wife. But God knew what he had done. And David's story would never be the same.

In this one event the king broke nine of God's Ten Commandments. He violated in order the tenth by coveting his neighbor's wife; the seventh by committing adultery; the eighth by stealing her for himself; the sixth by murdering her husband; the ninth by lying about his sin; the fifth by dishonoring his parents; the second by making an idol of Bathsheba; and the first and third by shaming God and his name. At least he didn't break the Sabbath, so far as we know.

Why did a "man after God's own heart" do this? Why do we sin? How do we defeat temptation? What do we do when we don't?

Expect to be tempted When Jesus defeated Satan's attacks, the enemy "left him until an opportune time" (Lk 4:13). If our Lord faced temptation, so will we. The devil is very real, and he hates you. You are his enemy. Jesus warned us that the devil is a "murderer from the beginning," and "a liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44). He is a "roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pt 5:8). He tempts and deceives every one of us.

Here's why: "after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (Ja 1:15). Mark it down: sin always takes you further than you wanted to go, keeps you longer than you wanted to stay, and costs you more than you wanted to pay. Always.

Take it to God now

When you are tempted, remember this promise: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (1 Cor 10:13).

God will allow no temptation he will not give us the strength to defeat. Conversely, Satan will not waste his time with temptations he knows we can defeat in our own strength. So every time you are tempted, know that you cannot win this battle without God's help. Develop the reflex of giving every temptation immediately to the Father. Ask him for his power. Leave it in his hands. Take it to God now.

Consider the consequences

What if you don't? Our secret sins will be judged by God: "God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil" (Eccl. 12:14). Jesus warned us: "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs" (Lk 12:2-3).

Our words will be judged: "I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken" (Mt. 12:36-37). After listing all sorts of unconfessed sin, Peter declared that those who do such things "will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead" (1 Pt 4:5).

What will happen to them? "His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. . . . If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames" (1 Cor 3:13, 15).

Ungodly, unconfessed sins, thoughts, or words will be revealed at the judgment and burned away. Because heaven is perfect, these things cannot enter in—they must be burned off and destroyed. Sin is purged, and reward is lost.

Confess your failure immediately

What if it's too late? You fought temptation in your strength, and lost. Now you stand guilty before the holy Lord of the universe. We’ve all been there: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us" (1 Jn 1:8). Here's what we do: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (v. 9).

Take your sin to your Father now. Admit your wrong, repent of your failure, and ask his forgiveness. Claim his promise to forgive your mistakes and sins, to wipe the slate clean and remember your failures no more.

Does God's forgiveness mean that we can simply sin and confess, then sin and confess more? Not without consequence. I can drive a nail into wood, and you can pull it out—but the hole remains. Obedience refused can never be regained. Reward for faithfulness is lost forever. God forgives, but the pain of our sin still hurts.

Nonetheless, we can be forgiven by the One whose Son died in our place to pay our debt: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Ro 5:8). Guilt is not of God. Our Father loves every member of his family. And we are still his children, even when we don't act like it.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve; mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Our Father in heaven offers both. Do you need to open his gift of forgiveness today?

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