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Beware the Invisible Power

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As we prepare to observe God’s Passover and His Holy Days of Unleavened Bread, we should be especially wary of an invisible power that seeks to bend our will and destroy our character. Its pull can be so intense and tempting that, if we are not extremely careful, we could find it nearly impossible to resist. Every person who has ever lived, including our Savior, Jesus Christ, has felt this enemy’s enormous might. 

What is this force? It’s the power of temptation!

The Bible cautions us to “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin” (1 Corinthians 15:34 1 Corinthians 15:34Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
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). In our battle to overcome sin we need to know what the scriptures say about temptation. We should understand how temptation works and most importantly, how to effectively resist this subtle and dangerous influence. 

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ vigorously warned His disciples to, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
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). Jesus fully comprehended the subtleties and powers of temptation and the vulnerability of human beings.

What is temptation? It is an appeal to the fleshly mind to think or act contrary to God’s laws. It is a force of enticement which pulls us in the opposite direction of godly righteousness. While temptation is not sin, it is often its precursor.

How does temptation work? The attraction of a magnet to a piece of steel provides a prime example. When the two items are brought very close they practically jump together. Invisible yet powerful lines of force reach out from the magnet to attract the steel. In fact, the pull of the magnet on the metal increases significantly as the two objects are brought nearer to each other. 

The parallel between the pull of magnetism and the pull of temptation is unmistakable. The closer we allow ourselves to get to sinful conduct, the stronger is temptation’s attraction. On the other hand, the farther away we get from sinful behavior, the weaker is the appeal of temptation. We can use this analogy to our advantage in our combat against sin.

Buying into Satan’s lies

The classic case of temptation is found in the initial book of the Bible. Eve, the first woman, was approached by a cunning serpent—Satan the devil—who sparked her interest with the false notion that she would not die if she ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-6 Genesis 3:1-6 [1] Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? [2] And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: [3] But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. [4] And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: [5] For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. [6] And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
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). Sadly, Eve “bought into” the devil’s deceptive line. Satan succeeded in tempting her with a wrong desire which led to sin. What the devil did to Eve, he is doing to all human beings!

Satan is described in Scripture as the “father of lies” (John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
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). By engendering and promoting a squalid environment of deceit, lust, envy and jealousy, he has led countless individuals into the wretched grip of sin and death. As the “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2 Ephesians 2:2Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
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), this disreputable spirit being is the underlying cause of all the pulls and inducements that influence human beings to disobey God.

Even though Satan performs his ignominious work, every person is accountable for the temptations to which he or she succumbs. The apostle James wrote, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15 James 1:14-15 [14] But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. [15] Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.
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, emphasis added throughout). 

While people are not all tempted by the same things, each individual should stay far away from those which may tantalize them into sin. For example, this principle is expressed in a warning to young men about spurning the enticement of immoral women. “Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8 Proverbs 5:8Remove your way far from her, and come not near the door of her house:
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, New Living Translation). Furthermore, Proverbs 7:6-25 Proverbs 7:6-25 [6] For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, [7] And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, [8] Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, [9] In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: [10] And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart. [11] (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: [12] Now is she without, now in the streets, and lies in wait at every corner.) [13] So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said to him, [14] I have peace offerings with me; this day have I paid my vows. [15] Therefore came I forth to meet you, diligently to seek your face, and I have found you. [16] I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. [17] I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. [18] Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. [19] For the manager is not at home, he is gone a long journey: [20] He has taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. [21] With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. [22] He goes after her straightway, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; [23] Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, and knows not that it is for his life. [24] Listen to me now therefore, O you children, and attend to the words of my mouth. [25] Let not your heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.
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describes a young man who didn’t resist such temptation and suffered profoundly as a result. 

While maintaining physical distance from possible sinful conduct is important, it’s not the only factor to consider. It’s vital to realize that sin is often rooted in the way we think. Wrong physical actions are often the consequence of what has already been taking place in one’s mind. For instance, Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 Matthew 5:28But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
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). A man can certainly look at a woman, but going beyond that—to lust after her in his mind—is sinful.

How to replace wrong thinking

Therefore, what should we do to resist temptation? To put wrong thinking out of our minds, we need to put in God’s way of righteous thinking. His perfect thoughts, made plain in the Bible (see Isaiah 55:8-9 Isaiah 55:8-9 [8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, said the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
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), can aid us immeasurably in steering clear of sinful temptations. As a result, we won’t be deceived into believing that sin is pleasurable, but is in fact evil and therefore antithetical to what God would have us do. 

Of course, we need to realize this is not an easy task. The apostle Paul discussed his own personal battle with temptation. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:18-20 Romans 7:18-20 [18] For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. [19] For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. [20] Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.
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).

The Scriptures tell us about others who fell victim to temptation. For example, Samson failed to resist Delilah’s enticement (Judges 16:4-21 Judges 16:4-21 [4] And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. [5] And the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and said to her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lies, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and we will give you every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver. [6] And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray you, wherein your great strength lies, and with which you might be bound to afflict you. [7] And Samson said to her, If they bind me with seven green thongs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. [8] Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green thongs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. [9] Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber. And she said to him, The Philistines be on you, Samson. And he broke the thongs, as a thread of wick is broken when it touches the fire. So his strength was not known. [10] And Delilah said to Samson, Behold, you have mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray you, with which you might be bound. [11] And he said to her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. [12] Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said to him, The Philistines be on you, Samson. And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber. And he broke them from off his arms like a thread. [13] And Delilah said to Samson, Till now you have mocked me, and told me lies: tell me with which you might be bound. And he said to her, If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web. [14] And she fastened it with the pin, and said to him, The Philistines be on you, Samson. And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web. [15] And she said to him, How can you say, I love you, when your heart is not with me? you have mocked me these three times, and have not told me wherein your great strength lies. [16] And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed to death; [17] That he told her all his heart, and said to her, There has not come a razor on my head; for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man. [18] And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he has showed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought money in their hand. [19] And she made him sleep on her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him. [20] And she said, The Philistines be on you, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he knew not that the LORD was departed from him. [21] But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house.
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), and King David became so obsessed with his illicit desire for Bathsheba that he committed both adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11:1-27 2 Samuel 11:1-27 [1] And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. [2] And it came to pass in an evening, that David arose from off his bed, and walked on the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look on. [3] And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? [4] And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in to him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned to her house. [5] And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. [6] And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. [7] And when Uriah was come to him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. [8] And David said to Uriah, Go down to your house, and wash your feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. [9] But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. [10] And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down to his house, David said to Uriah, Came you not from your journey? why then did you not go down to your house? [11] And Uriah said to David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing. [12] And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let you depart. So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. [13] And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. [14] And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. [15] And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set you Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire you from him, that he may be smitten, and die. [16] And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew that valiant men were. [17] And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. [18] Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; [19] And charged the messenger, saying, When you have made an end of telling the matters of the war to the king, [20] And if so be that the king's wrath arise, and he say to you, Why approached you so near to the city when you did fight? knew you not that they would shoot from the wall? [21] Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went you near the wall? then say you, Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. [22] So the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for. [23] And the messenger said to David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out to us into the field, and we were on them even to the entering of the gate. [24] And the shooters shot from off the wall on your servants; and some of the king's servants be dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. [25] Then David said to the messenger, Thus shall you say to Joab, Let not this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another: make your battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage you him. [26] And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. [27] And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
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). Conversely, the patriarch Joseph fully resisted the temptation posed by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:1-12 Genesis 39:1-12 [1] And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. [2] And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. [3] And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. [4] And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand. [5] And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house, and in the field. [6] And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favored. [7] And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. [8] But he refused, and said to his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand; [9] There is none greater in this house than I; neither has he kept back any thing from me but you, because you are his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? [10] And it came to pass, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he listened not to her, to lie by her, or to be with her. [11] And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within. [12] And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
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). How was he able to accomplish this when others have failed in similar instances? It involved the very principal Jesus spoke about in Matthew 26:41 Matthew 26:41Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
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to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.”

Joseph understood how vulnerable he was to temptation and as a result, stayed close to God in fervent prayer. This is a critical key in fighting temptation. Forgetting just how weak we really are is a serious mistake because it can lead us to lower our spiritual defenses and get dangerously close to situations that could harm or even destroy us. 

Indeed, if we begin to think we have somehow become immune to temptation, we are playing a dangerous game (Proverbs 20:9 Proverbs 20:9Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
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; 1 John 1:8 1 John 1:8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
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). Rather, we need to closely follow the example of Jesus who knew exactly how to stand up against sin. Paul stated, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
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). 

How Jesus withstood temptation

Jesus effectively withstood all of Satan’s enticements as well as the pulls and tugs of society and His own flesh. In doing so He never forgot that His own human strength was utterly insufficient in the spiritual warfare He waged. He placed all reliance on His heavenly Father and plainly stated, “I can, of myself, do nothing” (John 5:30 John 5:30I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me.
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). 

Since Jesus said this, it would be supremely unwise for you and me to think we have the strength to fight our spiritual battles alone. There is no way we can confront Satan’s deviousness without God’s help. We need to follow Christ’s model when we face spiritual combat. What did He do? He prayed continually to His Heavenly Father and employed the power of His Holy Spirit, to prevail over every temptation (1 Thessalonians 5:17 1 Thessalonians 5:17Pray without ceasing.
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; 2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
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). He will fully aid us in doing the same. Paul said, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18 Hebrews 2:18For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
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, New International Version).

Christ can help us prevail over every temptation and expel every wrong thought before it leads to sin.

In doing so, it helps us build holy, righteous character and gives us confidence in order to successfully deal with and overcome future temptations. 

Finally, as we prepare to observe the Passover and Holy Days of Unleavened Bread, let’s diligently examine ourselves to determine where we stand spiritually. It’s imperative that we strive to put out sin and faithfully keep God’s commandments. An intricate part of doing this is to strongly resist the pull of temptation. It’s great to know that we can fight successfully against its magnetic pulls. With God’s mighty help we will conquer the invisible power of temptation! 

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