Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
—James 4:7–8, KJV
We focus far too much on ourselves when we are tempted. Because self is the problem, relying on your own strength to secure victory over sin guarantees defeat. When we are tempted, we try to reason and rationalize. We try to enact disciplines, and we attempt to will ourselves all the way to holiness. But such battling only makes you linger in the place of temptation. Remember this: the longer you battle a tempting thought, the more likely you are to take an action that will fulfill it. There is a better way to battle sin than to bargain with oneself. The bargaining over whether or not to sin will occur in split seconds, and demonic beings will make full use of those split seconds. Demonic beings will debate with you, presenting the supposed benefits of sin—and that hides their tactic.
You see, when you’re weighing the pros and cons of sin in your mind, you are actually imagining the pleasure of the sin. Sure, seconds after considering the pleasure of sin, you counter such thoughts by considering the benefits of holiness. But the internal battle continues to nag at you. It is this back-and-forth contemplation that leads to a sinful fall. You may be genuine about your intentions to convince yourself into choosing holiness, but eventually your resilience will wear down. The sin itself will gradually dominate your thoughts as will the pleasures of that sin. And then you give in.
This is why demonic beings love a good debate in the moment you’re being tempted. They are like salesmen, answering your objections with convincing counter points. They know what you want and will pressure you to indulge.
How then can the believer successfully battle temptation? Jesus prayed, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13). He did not pray, “Give me strength when I put myself in a tempting situation.” Sure, there are times when temptation surprises you, but the Bible has one policy on temptation: flee from it! About this, Scripture is quite clear:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
—1 Corinthians 10:13,NLT
So flee youthful desires and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
—2 Timothy 2:22,MEV
When you regularly flee from temptation, resisting sin becomes a reflex, a seemingly involuntary action. Over time, the reflex to flee from temptation (rather than the habit to bargain over sin or holiness) becomes natural and well-developed.
Resistance, not confrontation, is the key to overcoming sin. We are supposed to flee from temptation, not linger to fight temptation. Willpower diminishes over time, and the strength of discipline is fleeting. God wants to give you a way out, not a battle. When it comes to temptation, the Holy Spirit prioritizes extraction—getting you out of the battle. We develop our resistance—our manner of fleeing—by drawing near to God. Therefore, drawing near to God, not exercising willpower, is the key to freedom.