Sermon: How to Defeat Temptation
Scripture: Matthew 6:13
In this week’s lessons, we learn what temptation is, where it comes from, and what we are to do in order to defeat it.
Theme: Submit and Resist
I think that at this point we must be very clear about the points that James is making about submitting and resisting. James says, “Submit… to God,” and “Resist the devil.” We are to submit and resist. How do 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 are sensitive to spiritual things, we know that Satan is stronger than we are. We are unable to resist him in ourselves. We are weak beside him. Therefore, we need to know how we are to seek deliverance from the One who has defeated Satan and who will one day imprison him and his minions forever.
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 is certainly no accident, for instance, that the petition “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” comes last in the Lord’s Prayer, after the Christian has already prayed, “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” This means that although the believer is to resist the devil—although he is to fight against him—he is able to do this successfully only after he has first of all submitted himself to God.
Submit and resist! We have seen what it means to submit, but now what does it mean to resist? How is this done? The answer is by God’s Word, by means of the Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, “Now are ye clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you” (John 13:3), meaning that purity of life can be ours to the degree that we feed upon the Bible and study it. The Psalmist said, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:11). Paul wrote specifically of our spiritual warfare saying, “And take… the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
In Pilgrim’s Progress, this is portrayed allegorically in an incident describing a terrible battle between Apollyon (who is the devil) and Christian. John Bunyan writes:
Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian’s Sword flew out of his hand. Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now; and with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life. But as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his Sword, and caught it, saying, Rejoice not against me, O mine Enemy! When I fall I shall arise; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound. Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. And with that Apollyon spread forth his Dragon’s wings, and sped away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.1
From this paragraph we can see that Bunyan knew the truth of James 4:7 personally, for he knew that it had reference to the use of the sword of the Spirit, which is the Bible.
1John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress, Everyman’s Library edition (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1954), 61.
Explain what it means to submit to God. What does such submission look like in actual practice?
By what means do we resist the devil?
Application: How do you use Scripture to deal with Satan’s attacks?
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “When Temptation Comes.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)