To Overcome Temptation, Change Your Focus

“We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus.

Whatever you resist persists. Did you know that, in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? You are told to resist the Devil, but that’s a whole different issue. The key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.

Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing”. Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about less important things.

It’s true in every single area of life good or bad. If you focus on godly things, they’ll pull you in a godly direction. If you focus on the stuff you see on television and on social media, they’ll pull you in another direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.

The key is to change your mind.

Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your feelings kick in, and then you act on it.

So don’t fight a temptation; just turn your mind to something else.

The Bible says it like this: “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The thing is, most people aren’t very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you often can’t control the way you feel.

But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice. And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.

Stop fighting temptation today. Instead, change your mind and that will change your life!

When You’re Tempted, God Wants To Help

“Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50:15

Do you ever feel alone when you’re struggling with temptation? You’re not! The Bible says God is ready to help.

In the Bible, Jesus gives you a prayer of deliverance to use when you’re tempted. He tells you to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

We often shorten that prayer to just one word: Help!

Prayers don’t have to start with fancy words like “our gracious heavenly Father.” When you need deliverance from temptation, you can get right to the point: “Help! Keep my eyes straight” or “Help! I don’t like the way my relative treats me, and I’m going to see her today” or “Help! Everything in me just wants to get back at him!”

The Bible is full of people who prayed for deliverance like David, Daniel, Esther, Peter, and Paul. God was there to help them, and he’ll help you too. In fact, God hears and helps everyone who asks.

You may wonder, “Why can I expect God to help me when I pray the prayer of deliverance?” Because God has promised to help.

The Bible says, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15). God doesn’t say you must have a long conversation with him. You can just say, “Help, God! I’m facing something now that willpower won’t get me through.”

He knows everything that’s going on in your life, and he’s sympathetic to your situation. He knows how irritating some people are to you; he knows about the things that tempt you.

The Bible says it very clearly: “[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Notice that the Bible says, “[Jesus] understands.” Why is Jesus sympathetic? Because he faced the same temptations that you face.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute. Are you saying Jesus was tempted to get angry?” Yes, I am. “You’re telling me Jesus was tempted to have self-pity?” Yes. The Bible says he was tempted in all the ways you are, yet he did not sin.

Because Jesus was tempted but didn’t sin, he’s just who you need to help you overcome your own temptations. In fact, he wants to help you.

When you’re tempted, God isn’t angry with you. He’s not going to scold you. On the contrary, he wants you to come boldly to him! He says, “I’m here to help.”

The Cross Frees You To Forgive

“We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us.” Romans 6:6

Jesus broke the power of sin on the cross. Romans 6:6 says, “We know that our old life died with Christ on the cross so that our sinful selves would have no power over us”. This is great news, especially because our natural inclination is to do the wrong thing.

It’s our natural, human inclination to hurt others when they hurt us. If someone says something bad about you, you want to say something bad about them. We tend to hold on to hurts and struggle to forgive.

But you can break that bondage to bitterness, guilt, resentment, and worry. You can avoid becoming a slave to the past and to hurtful memories. You can choose to forgive.

What hurt are you hanging on to? Let me ask you a very important question about that hurt: How badly do you want to be healed of it? Do you want to let it go? Maybe you’ve gone over it a thousand times in your mind what your parents did, what your sibling did, what your spouse did. Every time you think about it, it still hurts.

The cross has the power to free you from grudges, grief, and resentment. There’s nothing outside of the cross that will empower you to let go of the emotions that are weighing you down. On the cross, Jesus broke the power of sin, death, and bondage in your life.

I want you to think of the person you need to forgive the person whose offense planted a seed of bitterness in you and I want you to pray this prayer right now:

“Father, only you understand how much I’ve been hurt by this person. I don’t want to carry the pain for another second. I don’t want to be a bitter person. But I need your grace and the power of the cross to release my hurt and to forgive those who’ve hurt me. This is the turning point.

“First, I need to experience your forgiveness. You know all the ways I’ve hurt others, and I’m so sorry for my sins. Jesus, thank you for dying for me. I accept your grace and forgiveness, and I need it daily.

“Today I’m turning to you, and I’m choosing to forgive like you’ve forgiven me. Every time the memory comes back, I’ll forgive that person again until the pain is gone. Heal my heart with your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Choose Grace, Not Bitterness

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

If you’re still holding on to resentment, then someone is controlling you.

Have you ever said, “You make me so mad”? That’s an admission that the other person is controlling you. The only way to get this person out of your mind and heart is to heal the hurt with God’s grace.

Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many”.

Have you ever known a family where a bitter parent poisoned the whole family? Bitterness is contagious, and it can actually become generational. Someone needs to break the chain and if bitterness has taken root in your family, that someone can be you.

Are your parents bitter because their parents were bitter because their parents were bitter? It’s time to break the chain. And there’s only one way to break it: with grace.

Friends, if you don’t get God’s grace in your life, life will make you bitter. Why? Because there is sin in the world. We live on a broken planet. This is not heaven. Evil people get away with evil things all the time. Life is not fair.

Is forgiveness fair? Absolutely not.

But forgiveness is not about fairness. It’s not about getting even. It’s about grace.

You don’t forgive a person because it’s the fair thing to do. You forgive a person because it’s the right thing to do, and you don’t want your own heart full of poison. You don’t want to hold on to the hurt and the hate.

Forgiveness is free, but it is not cheap. It cost Jesus his life. It cost God his Son.

As Jesus was dying on the cross, with his arms outstretched, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). It’s like he was saying, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” In effect, he said, “They don’t deserve it. They don’t even know what they’re doing. But, Father, forgive them anyway.”

Follow Jesus’ example and offer forgiveness today. Heal your bitterness with his grace.

You Can Forgive Before You Trust

“Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.” Romans 12:19

What’s keeping you from forgiving someone who’s hurt you? If you’ve been hurt deeply, you may hesitate to forgive because you’re not ready to trust that person again. Here’s something you need to understand: Forgiveness and trust do not necessarily go hand in hand.

Forgiveness does not mean there needs to be an instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is instant; trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness is based on grace; trust is built on works. You earn trust; you don’t earn forgiveness.

Many people don’t want to forgive others because they think they’d have to trust them again. But that’s not true. Trust and forgiveness are two different issues! Let me say it again: Forgiving someone does not mean you have to trust that person. They still must earn your trust.

In relationships where people struggle with addictions or abuse, forgiveness is still possible. But it doesn’t always mean things can go back to the way they were.

Forgiveness and the restoration of a relationship are two different things.

Forgiveness is only your part. It doesn’t depend on whether the other person asks for your forgiveness, responds to your forgiveness, or recognizes they need your forgiveness. You forgive for your sake.

Restoration of a relationship takes far more than forgiveness. It takes repentance. It takes restitution and a rebuilding of trust. And it often takes time.

Are you stuck in unforgiveness? Begin the process of forgiveness today. Then take all the time you need to rebuild trust.

Why Should You Forgive

The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”Matthew 18:27

God’s Word tells you to let go of your hurt and resentment and forgive others. You’ve got to release your hurt instead of rehearsing it.

Here are three reasons why:

Because God forgives you. In Matthew 18, Jesus tells the story of a king who forgives his servant. Verse 27 says, “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go”. Similar to how the king canceled the debt of this servant, God sent Jesus Christ to pay for your debt of sin. Everything you’ve ever done wrong in your life has already been paid for by Jesus. He took the blame. He paid your jail time. Jesus Christ died for all your sins.

Because resentment is self-torture. It is a self-inflicted wound. Whenever you’re resentful, it always hurts you more than the person you’re bitter against. In fact, while you’re still worrying about something that happened years ago, the other person has forgotten about it! Your past is past, and it can’t hurt you anymore unless you hold on to it.

Because you need forgiveness every day. The Bible teaches very clearly that you can’t receive what you’re unwilling to give. How can you receive the forgiveness God has shown you if you’re not willing to forgive others? If you want to be forgiven, you need to be forgiving.

Forgiveness is a lifestyle. It’s not just something you do one time. You need it every day of your life. You’ve got to ask for forgiveness, accept forgiveness from God and from others, and offer forgiveness. It’s a continual process that will bring you joy.

Revealing Is The Beginning Of Healing

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

Revealing your feeling is the beginning of emotional healing.

The Bible says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16).

Do you want to be emotionally healthy? The first step in that process is confessing your sins to God.

But to get over your sin and get on with your life to be emotionally healthy you need to take a second step. You need to tell someone else about your sin.

You may ask, “Why does God want me to drag somebody else into this?” Here’s why: God knows that the root of your problem is relational.

You often don’t even realize that your broken relationships with other people are the root of your problems. Instead of being honest with others, you disguise who you really are. You pretend you have it all together when everybody knows you don’t. You act like everything is just fine when it’s not.

That behavior isolates you from other people. It prevents intimacy. And it keeps you from the deepest level of love. You cannot love fully with hidden sin in your heart.

You are only as sick as your secrets. The fact is, the more you hide, the sicker you get. On the other hand, revealing your feeling is the beginning of healing. When you find someone who you can trust—who listens to you and shares with you you know what happens? You find that they have problems too.

There’s something about telling another person that releases the pressure valve. When you shine the light on your secret, suddenly it loses its power over you.

If you want healing, you’ve got to stop concealing. What’s the thing in your life you don’t want anybody to know about? That’s the area where God wants to give you the most grace, mercy, and healing.

Just As If You’d Never Sinned

“Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

You don’t have to be hesitant or shy about coming to God for forgiveness. The Bible says, “Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most” (Hebrews 4:16).

At the throne of grace, you don’t find scolding, punishment, or rejection. When you come to God with your sin, you receive his mercy and grace.

What’s the difference between mercy and grace? Mercy is forgiveness for all the wrongs you’ve done in the past. Grace is the power to change in the future. You need both.

God says that when you come to him with honesty and humility, you will receive his forgiveness. But let me share how not to approach God for forgiveness.

Don’t beg God. He wants to forgive you more than you want to be forgiven.

Don’t bargain or bribe. Don’t promise: “God, I’ll never do it again! I’ll live this kind of life. I’ll tithe 20 percent.”

Don’t beg. Don’t bargain. Just believe.

What do you need to believe? Believe God’s promise in Hebrews 4:16 that, when you come to God, you’ll find mercy and grace.

How should you approach God for forgiveness? Just confess. Confession is not saying, “God, I’ll never do it again.” It’s saying, “You’re right, God. I was wrong.”

The Bible says in Romans 5:1, “Since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God . . . through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

What does it mean to be justified? It means “just as if I’d never sinned.”

Wouldn’t you like to have a heart that’s washed clean? No matter how deep the stain of your sin, God can remove the stain and renew your heart just as if you’d never sinned.

A Fresh Start Begins With Repentance

“Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled.'” Lamentations 3:40-42

The path to a fresh start and a clear conscience begins with repentance.

What does it mean to repent? It means three things: First, take responsibility for your sin. Second, turn away from those things. And, third, turn toward God and his grace.

The Bible says, “Let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, ‘We have sinned and rebelled’”(Lamentations 3:40-42).

Repentance doesn’t mean rationalizing your sin. Don’t think, “It was no big deal.” It was a big deal, or you wouldn’t have remembered it. And don’t say, “It happened so long ago” or “It was just a stage I went through” or “Everybody does it.” You can’t rationalize sin, minimize it, excuse it, or blame others. That is not true repentance.

Pay attention to this: The greatest holdup to the healing of your hang-up is you. You’re not waiting on God or anyone else. God is ready and wanting to heal the hang-up in your life.

The Bible says in 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”.

Would you like to get rid of the self-defeating habits in your life? You will stop defeating yourself when you stop deceiving yourself. It starts with gut-level honesty and acknowledging that something is wrong, no matter how much you want to rationalize it and excuse it. You need to admit your sin, confess it, and get it out of your life.

Take that first step of repentance today and get on the path to a fresh start.

The First Step To A Clear Conscience

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24

The first step to a clear conscience is to do a personal spiritual assessment.

Here’s how you do it. When you’re not in a hurry, sit down with God in a quiet place and tell God, “I want to do business with you. I want to make a list of anything that is getting between you and me. Help me see the things I know are wrong, and the things I don’t know are wrong.”

Ask God to reveal your sins. You can pray like the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24). When you pray this, you’re asking God to find the things in you that have entangled you and are holding you back.

It’s important to take your time. Don’t rush it! Don’t say, “God, I’ve got five minutes for you to reveal every sin I’ve ever done.” Take your time and be sure to write it all down.

Why is it important to write it down? Writing makes it specific. Thoughts untangle themselves through the lips and the fingertips through what you say and what you write. If you haven’t written it down, you haven’t thoroughly thought about it.

Let me ask you a very important question: How serious are you about wanting God’s blessing on your life? Enough that you’re willing to be gut-level honest with him? Are you willing to be honest with yourself? Are you willing to be honest with other people? Or are you just going to live in denial? Denial and God’s blessing do not go hand-in-hand.

If you long to have a clear conscience, then you’re just one step away from liberation from a feeling of joy like you’ve never experienced. Along the way, you’ll find freedom from the habits, hurts, and hang-ups that are messing up your life.

Please don’t procrastinate. Reserve time this week to complete your personal spiritual assessment. It’s the first step to enjoying a clear conscience, and it will change your life!

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