I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself.” Jesus knew that we are easily tempted, so He taught us to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one“ (Matthew 6:13). Does this imply God would indeed lead us into a situation in which we would be tempted? Or worse yet, that God himself would tempt us? Certainly not! God does not tempt us. As the Bible says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 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 1:13–15). Temptation is not sin. Giving into it is. That doesn’t mean you can play around with it. James goes on to say that full-grown sin brings forth death. Sin always brings destruction, so we must run from it.
Look at the Lord’s Prayer. In it, we ask God to guide us so we will not get out of His will and place ourselves in the way of temptation. We are essentially praying, “Lord, don’t let me be tempted above my capacity to resist. Lord, give me common sense. Help me to see the pitfalls. Help me to see the traps. Help me to see the areas in which I can be vulnerable and help me, Lord, to avoid them.” God helps us to escape temptation when we pray this way. Matthew 26:41 also helps us: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” It is hard to fall into sin when we are in God’s Word and praying. If we could see our own temptation as clearly as we see that of others, it wouldn’t be all that hard to identify and avoid. But we tend to rationalize our own temptation and sin. We say things like, “everybody does it” or “what’s the big deal?”. Sometimes we compare our “little” sins with the “big” ones of others saying, “At least it isn’t as bad as what they did.” We must deal with temptation by daily growth in Christ.
Let me give you a couple of little principles to apply to help you know if you are being enticed to evil. You can apply these two principles when you wonder, Is this a temptation to sin? Is this wrong? First, pray about it – bring it to God. When you are about to do something that you’re unsure about, pray, “Lord, what do You think about this? Is this something You would bless?” If you can’t pray about it doing it with a good conscience, then you are probably putting yourself in the way of temptation. Second, ask yourself the question, “How would this look if some other Christian gave in to it?” If it doesn’t seem like the right thing for your friends to do, then you are probably doing the wrong thing as well. And finally, what does the Word say about it? Does it violate a certain scripture or principle from His Word? Does it appear to be evil? If so, stay away from it. Stop and think, watch what you are doing, and stop and pray. You will save yourself from giving in to temptation. If you are presently involved in sin, repent from it, run from it, and commit your ways to the Lord.