Out of Mind—Where Temptation Belongs

Adobe Stock

Satan's temptation on the mount included three challenges for Christ: gratification, pride, and power. Would He turn stones to bread to gratify the hunger of a 40-day-and-night fast? Would He throw Himself off an immensely high temple ledge to indulge His pride with public hero worship. Would He worship Satan to gain supposed power over the world—which Brad has referred to as "another false promise from a false being"? Jesus put these temptations instantly out of mind—dismissing them with irrefutable scripture.

Satan could only slink away. His "big three" had failed. But the departure was just "for a season" (Luke 4:13). Christ dealt with temptations constantly during His mortal experience. As Paul told the Hebrews (4:15), He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." As Peter assured, "The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation" (2 Peter 2:9). We can't even approach His perfection, but we can learn from His examples and His teachings. He has always known how to get temptation out of mind: we must strive to learn.

Out of Sight

There is nothing wrong with producing bread. Christ suggested that we pray to obtain it daily. On two occasions He increased a small amount of bread to feed thousands. The difference between bread on the mount of temptation and the mount of the sermon was that the Savior was producing bread to feed others, not to gratify himself.

Gratification Drive

Writing on the website Christianity.Com, Michael Milton defined temptation Christians face.

The intentional enticement of a person, by some bait —usually pride, always self-gratifying—to disobey God’s revealed Word. The [temptation] may be demonic or fleshly, but the object is always the distortion of God’s world and the defiance of God’s mission in the world.

How often do we hear a version of the demand "I want it all, and I want it now" from an individual, a group of individuals, or a segment of the population. Dawn Wilson, a Christian writer and speaker, publishing on Biblestudytools.com, applied her definition personally and warned, "a person's strong inner desire to participate in an activity or habit [can] impact life and perhaps prove destructive in the long run."

Gratification Warnings

Mrs. Wilson added, "Temptation can be overcome, but first believers must recognize that it exists so they can learn how to resist it." Some assume they will easily recognize the danger, "but temptations are subtle and nuanced." She quoted 1 Corinthians 10:12 (New Living Translation [NLT]): "If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall." An international Christian leader from Brazil compared temptation to magnet and metal: near each other, they attract powerfully, but far apart, the attraction is gone. Out of proximity, out of mind.

Russell M. Nelson, leader of a worldwide Christian denomination issued this caution: "Do not take even one step in a direction you do not want to go." He taught, "The notion that we should 'eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us' is one of the most absurd lies in the universe."

Out of Mind

A few people jump off a tall building to gain public attention, but jumping off the top of a temple was completely out of mind for Christ. He knew who He was and what His Father intended Him to do; His heart and mind had no place for the pride of public display—or any other form of pride. He quickly put Satan in his place: out of heart, out of mind, and out of consideration.

Heart and Mind

Thomas Tarrants, a spokesman for the C.S. Lewis Institute, explained,

Our battle with temptation begins in the mind/heart. That is why the Bible tells us “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23, NIV). The condition of our hearts determines the direction of our lives."

Hearts bring sensitivity, feelings, and relationships that help us know what we need to do. Minds help us figure out how to do them.

Dr. Tarrants quoted Amy Carmichael, who wrote in one of her 35 books, "All the great temptations appear first in the region of the mind and can be fought and conquered there. We have been given the power to close the door of the mind." She recommended keeping the mind's door under tight control.

[This] will require daily discipline of the inner man in things which seem small and . . . reliance upon the word of the Spirit of truth. It is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is as though He said, "Learn to live in your will, not in your feelings."

Daily Discipline

According to Dr. Tarrants, "We must learn to discipline our thought life" (emphasis added). He continued, "We make our choices, and then our choices make us." Another Christian author compared resistance of the mind to a muscle, which becomes stronger with regular use. Thus the more we consciously tell our minds to control what stays in or goes out of mind, the easier this becomes.

Ulisses Soares, a Christian leader, writer, and speaker from Brazil, told of a friend who woke one morning and "an improper thought that she had never experienced before unexpectedly entered her mind." In "a split second" she told the thought "No!" and thought quickly of "something good," and the bad one was instantly gone. That woman had a well exercised, well disciplined mind—like a steel trap. We would do well to remember her.

Matters of Power

Satan's attempt to bargain with a power struggle was far out of any consideration in Christ's mind. The Savior quickly put Satan in his place—out of heart, out of mind, and out of he way.

Reliable Foundation

Christian authors have suggested foundations for resistance. Dawn Wilson warned that temptation-sins we consider as private to our hearts and minds may "take root and defile us." She urged, "remember . . . you are accountable to God."

Some have emphasized the Holy Spirit. Dr. Tarrants wrote of Christ's example: "God was first in His mind and heart and actions . . . we must . . . live daily in the fullness of the Holy Spirit."8 God does not create temptations, but He is aware of them. The Holy Spirit, as mentioned by international Christian leader Henry B. Eyring, "makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling."

Many Christian writers agree with the need to "think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth" (Colossians 3:2, NLT) One way to put temptation out of mind is to keep your heart and mind above it. Prayer and scripture study are the most often endorsed.

Our "Thought Life" in and out of Mind

Thought life is not easy to control. But as Paul assured the Corinthians, Christ shows us how to overcome it (1 Cor 10:13 NLT).

The website corechristianity.com stressed examining our own vulnerability with an intensive self-study, including aspects of our personality and dispositions, along with former experiences and current circumstances. Feelings and emotions revealed by this study show us how we are "lured and enticed by [our] own desires." Many Christian authors recommend taking a direct lesson from the Savior: memorize scriptures, and keep them in mind to keep the tempter out of mind.

Retired heart surgeon now International Christian leader Russell M. Nelson warned of an overwhelming problem: "The temptation to be popular may prioritize public opinion above the word of God. . . . Even if 'everyone is doing it,' wrong is never right. Evil, error, and darkness will never be truth, even if popular. In another address, Dr. Nelson warned of social media: "We simply cannot rely upon information we bump into on social media . . . with billions of words online and in a marketing-saturated world constantly infiltrated by . . . efforts of the adversary."

Joe Harrod, author of two books on Christian theological issues, admitted, "Every Christian struggles with the reality of temptation, not as an abstract idea but as an alluring call to stray from the narrow gospel road of life." What we consider "little things" can lead to bigger and more serious problems.

Many Christian writers suggest distracting yourself. Having some possible thought-switches can be a first aid kit. Many also mention the first aid benefits of sharing and preparing with like-minded friends; many individuals discuss and compare experiences, some even role play. Friends may pray together when temptations seem to be crowding around. Carrying pictures in your mind can be useful, especially for quick use. Some Christians suggest visualizing a temptation and visualizing ourselves responding to it.

But finally, Christ showed us how to put Satan's temptations out of mind. With well-chosen scriptures, he dismissed gratification, pride, and power. We have more trouble with this big three than He did, but we do not have to face them alone. With the Holy Spirit, he supports, guides, and comforts us. We have only to remember, as expressed by Christian author and speaker Jeffrey R. Holland, "By the word of Him who is love personified we must forsake transgression . . . Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world."

11/20/2023 10:43:43 PM
  • featured writer
  • Brad Wilcox
    About Brad Wilcox
    Brad Wilcox has lived in Ethiopia, Chile, New Zealand, and Spain; he and his family now make their home amid the Rocky Mountains in the United States. Brad taught sixth grade before obtaining his PhD in education. His contributions as an author and teacher have been honored by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and his work has appeared in Guideposts magazine and Reader's Digest. He once served as a member of the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America and has addressed thousands of youth and adults across the globe. He and his wife Debi have four children and nine grandchildren.