I often address matters of temptation by considering the issue of tailgaters. Like most of us, I do not like looking in my rear view mirror and seeing someone following too closely. Tailgaters jeopardize their own lives as well as the person against whom they commit the crime, and I view the act as an act of mindless selfishness.
This does not mean, however, that I have the liberty to resent tailgaters, or to allow bitter anger to control my attitude toward them.
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).
When tempted by the tailgater, I must honest in admitting that no choice is necessary in feeling feelings of irritation and anger, or in thinking unkind thoughts. Such as, "I wish I had a cannon mounted on the back of my car so I could take care of that idiot!" Such fleshly responses just happen naturally, and if I make no choice to counter them, things just flow in the direction of carnality and sin. As the old timer referenced in yesterday's message, "Sin comes natural!"
Conversely, walking in faith and obedience to God in such matters does require active thought, deliberation and decision on my part. I must remember the truth, believe the truth, affirm the truth, and submit to the truth as the Holy Spirit works in me to will and to do of God's pleasure (Philippians 2:13). I must "awake to righteousness and sin not" (I Corinthians 15:34). This leads to prayer for the tailgater rather than resentment (or the firing of an imaginary cannon!). The Apostle Paul referred to this dynamic activity of grace and faith as mortifying (putting to death) the deeds of the body through the Spirit (Romans 8:13). We determine to believe the truth that Christ dwells in us by His Spirit. He is present and able to enable us, and He is working to do so. We affirm also that despite contrary thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, our delight is to do the will of God (Romans 7:23). Rather than drift from temptation into actual sin, we arise to trust God, believe His Word, and acknowledge that we belong to Him for the glory of the Lord Jesus and the fulfillment of His Word.
The Christian life is not for the spiritually lethargic. It is not for drifters. By spiritual nature, we are not drifters, but we can nevertheless go with the flow of carnality if we do not understand the awake and aware life to which our Heavenly Father calls us. Indeed, we do not simply have to choose to make choices of faith and obedience. We get to do so. There is no better life, or more literally, there is no other life than the walk of faith whereby we actively engage ourselves in overcoming the world, the devil and the flesh by faith (I John 5:4). It is not an easy journey because, again, our natural bent toward drifting seems initially desired and comfortable. However, overcoming such inclinations by the leading and power of the Holy Spirit causes us to truly feel alive because we are living rather than merely aimlessly drifting. Be it tailgaters or a myriad of other forms of temptation, the choice to make a choice awaits us always along the path of righteousness. May our eyes be open to see, our hearts on ready to believe, and our feet decisively pointed toward our glorious destination...
"I press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."