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PASTOR’S CORNER: Learning to resist temptation

The late Flip Wilson’s character “Geraldine” was mistaken when she proclaimed that “the devil made me do it!”

We can’t blame our indiscretions on him; we transgress against God because we choose to do so, not because we’re led by the devil. The devil does however have a role in our decisions to act contrary to the will of God.

In 1 Thessalonians 3:5, Paul refers to the devil as “the tempter” which gives us a clue as to his role. All he does is supply the opportunity and we do the rest. He knows exactly which buttons to push to tempt each of us individually. Take a look at the moral state of the world today and you must agree that he’s doing a great job of tempting all of humankind.

So what are we to do? Are we forever at the mercy of temptations in life? Or is there help on the horizon? There is, thank God, help available for all of us. But first, we need to understand the nature of temptation and how it is able to infiltrate our cognitive functions.

Scripture teaches us that temptation, which is rooted outside of the body, is not the problem. In James 1:13-15, we learn that temptation is a product of the lust that resides inside the body. It is that lust which gives rise to our yielding to the temptations that plague us in life. So, we have to deal with the lust in us in order to reduce the influence of temptations. But how do we do that?

First, allow me to caution you not to try to go it alone. None of us is equipped to evict lust from its residence inside of us. Its residency is pretty much permanent and its power to deceive and entice us into sin through temptation defies our efforts to control it unilaterally. There’s only one place to go to neutralize its power — the Holy Scriptures.

David tells us in Psalms 34:19 that “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” Look carefully and you’ll see that this promise of God only works for the “righteous.” And, one can only become righteous through a belief in Christ as Savior and accepting him as such by faith. This is a qualifier — being seen as righteous by God.

Once qualified, Isaiah 59:19 comes into play, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” Jesus tells us in John 14:17 that the Holy Spirit dwells with, and in, the righteous; so, he is perfectly positioned to render the help we all need to neutralize the power of the lust within us. And he will; that’s promised in Psalms 34:19.

So if you are struggling with lust and temptation in your life; if, like Paul, you seem to knowingly do what is wrong when you know better, the solution to your problem is found in the scriptures alluded to above.

Simply become righteous through faith in Christ and God will do the rest. It’s so simple. I’m amazed that so many people have missed it.

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles.

Pastor’s Corner is a monthly religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture to life today. The column appears on the first Thursday of each month in the Wave and its website,