As a true son of Adam, a person born with a natural affection for sin, I have no shortage of opportunities to consider sin and to consider the desire to commit it in its infinite varieties. As a husband and father, a pastor, and a church member I have no shortage of opportunities to speak to other people about their sin and their temptations. And time and time again I find myself returning to the simplest truths, to words that can and must be spoken to temptation.
The first thing to say to the sin that is tempting you is this: That is not who I am! That temptation, that sin, does not fit your deepest identity. Those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus are in Christ Jesus—“For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). There is now a union in Christ that provides an entirely new identity. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If Christ is a vine, you are a branch that has been grafted into the vine and made inseparable from it (John 15:5). You are no longer who you were. You are a new creation, remade in the image of Christ. You are justified, you are adopted, you are holy. In your salvation you have been transformed so that your deepest identity, your eternal identity, is not Satan’s but Christ’s, not sinner but saint. Be who you are!
The second thing to say to temptation is this: You have no power over me! There was a time when sin and temptation had complete power over you. You were under the dominion of Satan, a slave to sin and unrighteousness (Romans 6:20). But no longer. By putting your faith in Christ you have been liberated from sin’s authority. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Romans 6:6-7). Not only that, but you have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8) who gives you the power to not sin, to instead joyfully choose righteousness. The only power sin has is the power you give it when you refuse to take hold of the sin-crushing strength of the Holy Spirit. Never fail to remind your sin that it has no authority over you.
The third thing to speak to your temptation is this: You over-promise and under-deliver! Sin always promises so much and always delivers so little. Just think of what sin promised Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:4-5) and what it actually delivered to them (Genesis 3:7 – Revelation 22:21). Think of what sin promised to Abraham, to Samson, to David, to Judas, to Peter, to Ananias and Sapphira, and compare that to what it cost them. Even more, think of Jesus and what sin cost him (though the sin was his by imputation, not commission)! If you read your Bible with even half an eye open you cannot miss the vast chasm between what sin offers and what it delivers. If you read your life with even a hint of honesty you will see that same vast chasm. Sin promises joy but brings pain, sin promises happiness but brings shame, sin promises life but brings death, sin promises freedom but brings guilt, sin promises heaven but brings hell. It is always, always a lie.
The temptation to sin is inevitable when you are a sinful person living in a sinful world. But the actual committing of sin is by no means inevitable when you are made a saint through Christ Jesus. Learn to speak truth, his truth, to every temptation.