Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:13)
God spares us much temptation we’ll never even know about. But when we are tempted, God doesn’t automatically remove it; we must actively fight it. Paul gives us 2 keys for battling temptation—both have to do with presenting the members of our bodies. We can present our members—our eyes, ears, hands, arms, and every part of our bodies—to sin or we can present our bodies to God.
First we must not present ourselves to sin. To present ourselves to sin is to say, “Here sin, use my eyes for a while. Use me to sin. Come on in to my thoughts and ruminate around.” To not present ourselves to sin is to flee temptation. Get out of there. Turn off the TV.
When I was single, an attractive girl I worked with invited me to come to her house the following Saturday to go horseback riding. I was thinking about going but could feel I was being tempted toward her. I remembered the Proverb about an adulterous woman (not that this young lady was) that said, “Do not go near the door of her house.” I thought, if I go to her house, and knock on the door, then I’ll go in the house, then I might go with her to the couch, then…. so I didn’t go horseback riding that Saturday.
Paul told Timothy to “flee youthful passions”—run! I once heard a preacher say he told young men and women, “Stay out of the car in the park in the dark.” The same preacher said, “A good run is better than a bad fall.” Another young preacher once said he took running from temptation so seriously that when he was tempted sexually, he would go for a literal run around a track.
We are like gatekeepers over our minds. We can’t always help what presents itself to us—what comes up to the gate—but we don’t have to let everything in to entertain it. There are times we must quit watching a movie or reading a book rather than continuing to present our minds to temptation.
The second part of battling sin is to present ourselves to God. The first is negative—don’t present yourself to sin. This part is positive—DO present yourself to God.
When tempted, we should turn to God in prayer and worship. When a young believer, I experienced horrible fear at night—probably because as a teen I’d watched every horror movie, Twilight Zone, and scary show I could watch. I had a real fear of demons at that time—so when fear would come knocking at night I would try to fight it by rebuking fear in Jesus’ name over and over. But it never went away no matter how much I rebuked it. Then I heard that rather than continuing to rebuke fear I should turn to God in worship. So, I’d rebuke fear once, then start saying, “Jesus, praise you that you are before me and behind me, on my right and on my left. Praise you that the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him. Praise you for your protection. Praise you that nothing can separate me from your love.” Within two days, fear left me, and I haven’t battled that kind of fear since.
When we try to fight temptation head on, it’s like trying not to think of the words “Pink Elephant” for the next 10 seconds. The more we fight directly, the stronger temptation can feel. The best way to fight lust is to flee and to turn to Jesus in prayer and praise. Ask him to make you pure and holy and deliver you from temptation. Then praise him that he is working in you, keeping you and making you like himself.
Do not present. Do present. Do not present your eyes and ears to impurity or gossip. Don’t present your members to sexual sin. Don’t present your mouth to grumbling and complaining. Offer your lips to God in song. Present your hands and feet by serving someone. Give God your mouth by encouraging a brother or sister. We present our bodies to God when we do our jobs or care for our kids or cut the grass. And as we present our bodies to God it’s actually a pleasing form of worship:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)
Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.