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Originally posted at: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-resist-temptation-s-mirage-moment

Article by Jon Bloom

Temptation is not sin. We know this because Eve was tempted before she fell and Jesus was tempted, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

Temptation is a disorienting, defiling experience when evil is presented to us as good. Destruction comes dressed up to look like happiness. Sin only occurs when we believe that the destructive lie can actually grant happiness.

One key to resisting temptation is learning to recognize what I call the “mirage moment.”

The Mirage Moment

A mirage is that hallucination parched people sometimes experience in a hot desert. A real desire for water and the shimmering heat of the sand play disorienting games with the mind and emotions. A refreshing oasis seems to appear in the distance promising the happiness of a quenched desire.

A thirsty person might know that no oasis has previously existed in that location. But his desire to be happy, fueled by the hope that this time he just might find happiness there, or at least relief from misery, tempts him to believe the vision. If he yields, he discovers his hope was hopeless and his desire dashed because the oasis was a sham.

In temptation, the mirage moment occurs as we are tempted by a vision promising happiness. Some shimmering oasis of promised joy or relief from despair appears where God said it shouldn’t be.

The mirage’s appearance taps into our real desire to be happy. Our disoriented emotions begin to respond to this desire with a feeling of hope — hope that maybe this time, even if we’ve been disappointed many times before, the oasis will quench our desire. But we know that God has told us it is a false hope.

So we are faced with a choice between temptation’s compelling appearance and God’s promise. We are tempted, but have not yet succumbed to sin.

Learning from Eve’s Mirage Moment

The most notorious mirage moment in history is recorded in Genesis 3. And it illustrates a pattern consistent in all the temptations that we face.

The satanic serpent showed up in the garden and questioned Eve about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve’s explanation shows that she clearly understood God’s promise and warning (Genesis 3:1–3).

Then came Eve’s mirage moment. The serpent replied:

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw . . . (Genesis 3:4–6)

There it is: the mirage. Eve saw something she had not seen before:

[Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise. (Genesis 3:6)

Eve was experiencing the defilement of evil temptation. She was being told something very different about the tree from what God had told her, and so the tree suddenly looked different to her and she felt different about it.

God created Eve (and all of us) so that the meaning of her sensory impressions was shaped by what she believed to be true. Satan knew this. He knew that if he could change the meaning of the tree for Eve from the curse of death (Genesis 2:17) to the key to a happy life (Genesis 3:5), the tree would cease to look dangerous and begin to look desirable. It would tempt her to hope in something different than God’s promise and she might fall for it.

Satan manipulated Eve’s God-given desire to be happy and used it against her. He enticed her to corrupt this holy desire by pursuing it outside of God. And Eve indeed fell for it, which corrupted her desire by believing the mirage, which furthermore gave birth to sin and death (James 1:14–15):

[Eve] took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

Learning from Jesus’s Mirage Moment

Satan employed the same tactic when tempting Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11; Mark 1:12–13; Luke 4:1–13). Whether using food (Luke 4:3), or a cross-less path to power (Luke 4:5–7), or a public demonstration (test) of his divinity (Luke 4:9–11), Satan was trying to corrupt Jesus’s holy, God-given desires.

Satan knew (as the apostle Paul later wrote) that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4). But he also knew that what made these things holy was “the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:5) and that “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). So Satan set before Jesus mirages to tempt him with faithless promises of divine happiness.

We who live with indwelling sin don’t know the levels to which the sinless God-man was affected. But we do know that what Jesus experienced were temptations. Jesus was given a choice between compelling deceptive appearances and God’s promises. And to each temptation, Jesus responded, “It is written. . . . ” He refused to believe Satan’s deceptive mirages or the emotions they roused. He kept food, power, the revelation of his divinity, and everything else holy by receiving them only through the word of God and prayer.

Recognize and Resist the Mirage Moment

Satan employs the same temptation tactics with us. And one key to not letting him outwit us (2 Corinthians 2:11) is to be on the alert to our mirage moments.

Identify the hope tempting mirages offer. The reason temptations are hard to resist is because hope is hard to resist. Temptations threaten us with missing out on happiness or less misery. We must ask ourselves what the mirage is really promising? Sometimes just saying it out loud breaks its spell.

Declare, like Jesus, “It is written” and take your stand on a promise God has made to make you happy. Don’t fight hope merely with denial. Fight false hope with true hope. Determine to hope in the God of hope (Psalm 42:11; Romans 15:13), not a shimmering hopeless mirage.

Expect the mirage to be tempting. God made you to want to be happy and the mirage has promised you happiness. So of course your emotions, which have responded to the initial deceptive vision, will want the happiness. They will feel demanding, but denying them won’t kill you. In this case, gratifying them just might kill you. Don’t allow your passions to be your dictators (Romans 6:12). Remember, emotions are gauges, not guides. They are indicatives not imperatives. They are to be directed, not to be directors.

To be tempted is not a sin. To yield to temptation is sin. Temptations are never truly as strong as they feel. Their power lies solely in the false hope they produce in us. Remember, it is hope that is powerful. God created us to hope in him (Psalm 43:5).

In temptation, Satan is just trying to use our God-given desire for hopeful happiness against us. If we can identify his false promise of hope, declare the true promise of hope, and expect to weather some disorienting emotional urges, the mirage will dissipate and our hope in God’s promised happiness will strengthen.


More from Desiring God

  • How to Endure Common to Man Temptations | Our most common temptations are generally the most dangerous temptations we face, because Satan knows us and aims at where we are weakest: our profound, pathological fallen selfishness.
  • Your Emotions Are a Gauge, Not a Guide | Remember, your emotions are gauges, not guides. Let them tell you where the spiritual attack is being made so you can fight it with the right promises.
  • Can Jesus Really Understand My Temptations? | John Piper responds to a listener’s question, “Can Jesus really identify with me when he doesn’t know the experience of indwelling sin raging war against the Spirit?”

Jon Bloom serves as author, board chair, and co-founder of Desiring God and has penned three books, Not by Sight (2013), Things Not Seen (2015), and Don’t Follow Your Heart (2015). He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.


1 Peter 2:11 – “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.”

If you have hung around the church for very long, you have probably heard that God wants people to reserve sex for marriage. If you haven’t and that is news to you, then we can understand the shock you might be feeling. For many people, both inside and outside of the church, it does not make sense. If sex feels so good, and is good for the relationship, and both people are consenting, then what is the problem?

Consider this viewpoint: When someone can say no to sex while dating, their behavior is a sign that he or she is capable of delaying gratification and exhibiting self-control, which are two prerequisites of the ability to love. If someone cannot delay gratification and control himself or herself in this area, what makes you think that they can delay their own gratification in other areas of sacrifice? What is going to curb the “I want what I want now” mentality in the rest of life? If someone is able to respect the limit of hearing no for sex, then that is a character sign of someone who can say no to their own desires and hungers in order to serve a higher purpose, or to love another person.

You fall in love with a person and think about making a real, committed relationship with him or her. Naturally, that is going to mean some sacrifice down the road. You are going to want to be with a person who can deny himself or herself for the sake of your relationship in many areas. Think of the areas of sacrifice that a relationship takes. There are sacrifices of time, when you might want to spend time on your favorite hobby, and yet the family needs you. There are sacrifices of money. One person may want to buy a new car, and yet the family needs money for the home. There are sacrifices of getting one’s way. One person may want to go to one place for dinner and the others want something different.

Most importantly, there is the sacrifice that it takes to work out conflict. One person is hurt and wants to strike back in anger or hurt, yet to reconcile, the ability to put one’s own desires aside for the sake of the relationship is necessary. If someone does not have self-control and delay of gratification in pleasure, can they delay the gratification of getting his or her own way in conflict?

Think about it. Wouldn’t you want to be with a person who can hear and respect the “no” of others? Having a boundary in sex while you are dating is a very important test to see if the person loves you. We have all heard people refer to the line “If you love me, you will.” In reality, you should say back, “If you love me, you won’t make demands that I do not feel comfortable with.” Love waits and respects, but lust must have what it wants now. Are you being loved, or are you an object of self-serving lust? Saying no is the only way to know.

We cannot overemphasize the value of dating a person who can delay their own gratification. If you are with someone who ultimately has to have what they want when they want it, you are in for a long time of misery. Choose someone who can delay gratification for the sake of you and the relationship. To the extent that he or she says, “I must have what I want now,” you are in trouble. Boundaries with sex are a sure-fire test to know if someone loves you for you.

This devotional is drawn from Boundaries in Dating, by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.


Samson

His name means: “Little Sun”

His work: To deliver Israel from the Philistines. His character: Samson’s erotic attachments to foreign women eventually led to his death. A man of mythic strength, he was inwardly weak, given to anger and unfaithful to his Nazirite vows. His prayers as well as his actions against the Philistines seem to have been motivated by the desire for personal vengeance. His sorrow: To have been blinded and imprisoned by his lifelong enemies. His triumph: To have killed more Philistines by his death than he had while living. Key Scriptures: Judges 13-16

A Look at the Man

One of the first Bible stories children hear is the story of Samson, the man who defeated his enemies with a superhuman feat of strength. But it is such an unsavory story that we find ourselves leaving out certain details, for example, Samson’s boasting, his visits to prostitutes, or his murderous rage. Even the man’s prayers were selfish, focused as they were on his own desire for revenge rather than on God’s glory.

Why would God, knowing the future, choose such a person to play such a role, even sending an angel to announce his birth? The question is not easily answered. But it is certainly true that Samson would have been a better man had he paid attention to the call God had placed on his life. Instead, he seems to have squandered the promise of his life by living it in a self-centered, self-directed way.

Ironically, the pattern of his life formed a vivid picture of Israel’s own unfaithfulness during a period when it seemed incapable of resisting the allurement of foreign gods. And so the people God had set apart and called his own, the nation he intended to build up and make strong, grew progressively weaker in the land he had promised.

Samson’s story reminds us of God’s faithfulness, of his ability to deliver his people regardless of the circumstances and despite their sins. It also reminds us of what can happen when we allow ourselves to become attached to things and people, however enticing, that might end in our own self-destruction.

Reflect On: Judges 16:23–31 Praise God: For his sovereignty. Offer Thanks: For God’s strength working within you. Confess: Any promises you have made to God and not kept. Ask God: To make you a person who is strong on the inside.

Today’s reading is a brief excerpt from Men of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Men in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Robert Wolgemuth (Zondervan). © 2010 by Ann Spangler. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Enjoy the complete book by purchasing your own copy at the Bible Gateway Store.




CASTIMONIA’S PARATUS MEN’S RETREAT 2017

Regular registration is now open for the retreat!  If you want to learn more about tools for your recovery like protecting your family online, then you should register for this retreat.

Retreat Scholarships are available!

Also, as an added incentive, our ministry founder will be signing up men without sponsors to start an 18-month journey through the 12 Steps on Saturday mornings before the 10am meeting.  Sign up FIRST at this retreat!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/castimonias-paratus-mens-retreat-2017-tickets-36664868609

Here is some information on the retreat.  I pray that the Lord uses this retreat to help men in their sexual purity journey.  The link to register for the retreat will be available later this Summer.

Friday, November 3rd – Sunday, November 5th

Castimonia’s Paratus Retreat is a retreat for any man who struggles with any type of sexual purity.  Paratus is Latin for equipped.

If you are wondering about whether to attend this retreat, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you fully equipped for the spiritual battle that is raging around us right now?
  • Are you a man who strives for biblical sexual purity?
  • Are you a man who struggles with maintaining that sexual purity?
  • Do you want a circle of brothers helping you in your sexual purity journey?

Join us for a weekend dedicated to equipping adult men of all ages, all walks of life, and various levels of struggle with the tools necessary to wage this spiritual battle and emerge on the other side as the sexually pure men that God intended us to be.

At the retreat, we will discuss strategies for equipping ourselves with tactics necessary for battling the enemy. We will discover the true meaning of brotherhood and fellowship. The leaders of the retreat will set the example of vulnerability and accountability. We hope to pave the way for all men to be fully equipped to wage war against Satan’s tempting assaults and emerge VICTORIOUS.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/castimonias-paratus-mens-retreat-2017-tickets-36664868609

Regular Registration  October 1st – November 1st – $200


Romans 6:1-2 –“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

Sometimes we may hear that “freedom in Christ” means we are free from specific ceremonial practices of the Mosaic Law; that is, we don’t have to keep the rituals to be connected to God. However, real Christian freedom is more than just freedom from laws. It is freedom to choose life; freedom from fear, guilt and condemnation when we make a wrong choice; freedom to choose love.

By nature, we are not free. We are slaves to the law of sin and death (see Romans 7:14 – 15; 8:1 – 2). As long as we are under the law, we will fail—as much as we try not to and as good as our intentions may be.

If we trust Christ as our Savior, we are out from under the law of condemnation. When God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). Legally, we are not guilty (see Romans 8:1). Through God’s grace, the consequence of sin for the Christian is never condemnation or punishment from God. Yet many of us have a hard time believing that grace is free and complete and we can’t do anything to add to it in any way (see Ephesians 2:8–9). We just cannot believe that God accepts us even in our failures.

Under the Law
In God’s grace, the law is intended to be a standard by which to evaluate ourselves. It helps us to see where we need to change. There are at least five major consequences when we put ourselves under the law:

    1. Wrath. God is angry at offenses against him; it is part of his legal system, the law. That is why we need Jesus, the one who takes his wrath away (see Romans 4:15). But if we put ourselves under the law, we will be angry at God and ourselves.
    2. Condemnation. We feel guilty and condemned if we do not do what we should. Yet we have been cleansed “once for all by [Christ’s] own blood” (Hebrews 9:12).

    3. Separation from love. If we feel unloved when we do not do as we should, we are still under the law. God loved us while we were his “enemies” (Romans 5:10), before we were interested in doing as we should. Nothing we do can separate us from the love of Christ (see Romans 8:35 – 39). If we feel separated from God after trusting Jesus, we have put our­ selves back under the law.
    4. Sin increases. If we feel we should do certain things because punishment awaits us if we don’t, we have not “died to the law” (Romans 7:4)—and the law will have power over us. “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase” (Romans 5:20). In other words, the very method by which we are trying to change will produce failure. The more condemning voices we have inside, the harder it is to change a problem. Ask any addict.
    5. No benefit. Whenever we do something because we feel we should or because we think we have to, it is of no benefit because our motivation is not love (see 1 Corinthians 13:1 – 3; 2 Corinthians 9:7). Only when we are free can we love freely.

A Life of Freedom If we are not condemned for what we do or who we are, why not do whatever we want to do? “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1 – 2).

The Bible’s response to total freedom is a refusal to continue to live in destructive ways (see Romans 6:1 – 4). “By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law” and can now live “in the new way of the Spirit” (Romans 7:6). The Bible teaches that there are two paths — one that works and one that doesn’t. Both are reality: “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

In salvation, we are reconciled to God through Christ (see Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18 – 21). We are free to love and choose healthy ways of living. We do not have to love God or anyone else (see Joshua 24:15). But by looking in the mirror of God’s law, we realize that if we do not choose love, our lives will be empty. We begin to see that a life without fulfilling relationships has little meaning or fulfillment.

In relation to others, when we love them we give them total freedom as God gives us. We accept others, “just as Christ accepted [us]” (Romans 15:7). When they fail to love us or choose not to love us, we do not withdraw our love from them. We may confront them or express our sadness about their choice, but we do not condemn them.

And when we fail, we own our failure. With grace, we do not need to be defensive, for we are not condemned. Guilt says, “I should be different and if I’m not, then I’m bad,” so we get defensive. Grace says, “I see the standard and I’m not measuring up. I need help and love to change so that I can live.” We begin to seek God’s help to change. In a phrase, we “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).

Today’s content is drawn from Beyond Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Copyright 2014 by Zondervan; all rights reserved. Visit BoundariesBooks.com for more information.