The second main source of temptations is the world. Now what is the world? Clearly the Bible is not talking about the physical earth when it speaks of the world’s temptations. It’s talking rather about a system of values that are not divine values, and about a way of life that is not God’s way of life—a lifestyle, if you will. The Oxford English Dictionary hits upon this sense of the word when it defines the world as “worldly affairs, the aggregate of things earthly.” In this area we must place temptations to become president of the company or of the women’s auxiliary at the expense of others who also want the top position. We must include most of the sins of pride—pride in our ancestry, our wealth, our superior taste in art, music, or drama. We must include all desires to put down other people.
Is there a specific biblical cure for these temptations? Yes, there is. But, unfortunately, in this area the solution is not so quick or as simple as with the sins of the flesh. This cure is gradual. Paul spoke of it when he said to the Christians in Rome, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (12:1-2). This means that we are to overcome the world’s temptations by allowing God to transform us from within into Christ’s image. This he will do as we surrender our wills to His will and begin to walk in the path He sets before us.
The final type of temptation is that which comes to us from the devil. The secret to resisting this type of temptation is found in James 4:7, which we quoted earlier. We’ve seen that the temptation that comes from the flesh is to be resisted by fleeing from it. The texts there were 1 Corinthians 6:18, and 2 Timothy 2:22. We are to resist the temptation that comes to us from the world by allowing God to transform us by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove His perfect will for us; that text is Romans 12:1-2. But when it comes to the devil, the Scripture says, “Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” That text is James 4:7.
Now at this point we must be very clear about what James was saying. He said “Submit to God,” and “resist the devil.” We are to submit and resist. But how can we do that? What does submission mean? And how can we resist the wisdom and superior cunning of Satan? We need to answer these questions clearly, for if we’re sensitive to spiritual things we know that Satan is stronger than we are. And we know that are unable to resist him in ourselves, and that we’re weak compared to him. Therefore we need to know how we are to seek deliverance through the One who Himself defeated Satan, who is Jesus Christ.
So we go back again to our question. What does it mean to submit? Quite simply it means to surrender one’s will to God, and since this cannot be done in isolation apart from a personal relationship to him, it means that we must spend time conversing with God through prayer. It’s certainly no accident, for instance, that in the Lord’s Prayer we have the petition “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” after the Christian has already prayed, “Hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” In other words, although the believer is to resist the devil, although he’s to fight against him, he is able to do this successfully only after he has first of all submitted himself to God.