Fighting Temptation With a Superior Satisfaction

I want to pick up from last week on how we fight sin in our lives. I emphasized then that it is so important for us to see sin for what it is: that which steals joy, not gives it. It lies to us, telling us that if we choose its pleasures we’ll be happy; but of course we won’t—at least not in any true, deep or lasting way. Like an ox that may be able to taste some good oats while being lured to its slaughter, so too sin may have its pleasures, but those will quickly be forgotten as the consequences of its siren song take effect.

We must keep this truth in front of us. We must tell ourselves that the sin calling to us is seeking to trick us and lure us to our death. It will not—it cannot—be able to deliver what it’s promising.

However, as important as it is to fight sin by recognizing its ill-effects, this is not enough. We must also exchange the choice of sin with joy in Christ. He alone is able to deliver on the promise of satisfaction. He says,

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor who that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food (Isaiah 55:1-2).

The woman from Samaria who had had five husbands and was now with a man who was not her husband (John 4:16-18), had been trying to find joy in her sexual sins. But to no avail. Those sins lied to her and were leading her to her ruin. Along came Jesus, who said to her, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Christ was telling this woman not only to stop going to the well of men, but that she should also taste of the waters of salvation in Jesus. If she did (and it seems that she does from the rest of the story), she would experience this “spring of water” that truly satisfies. The same applies to believers seeking to fight sin. When tempted to go back to “broken cisterns” in our lives, we ought to remind ourselves of what we already have in Christ. Nothing else can compete with the joy of Jesus.

There are many testimonies bear witness to this. I start with what I quoted last week from Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Every sin is something [which takes] away from my greatest enjoyment…the devil strives night and day to make me forget this or disbelieve it.” Here M’Cheyne clearly shows that there is something way better than what sin can offer to be found in Christ. And when he remember this, he defeats the temptation of the devil.

Thomas Chalmers (a important influence on M’Cheyne) perhaps captures best what I’m trying to communicate when he said this: “A moralist will be unsuccessful in trying to displace his love of the world by reviewing the ills of the world. Misplaced affections need to be replaced by the far greater power of the affection of the gospel.”

Augustine also gives us testimony to incomparable joy in Christ which helps drive away sin. He said it this way in his wonderful “Confessions”:

How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose and was now glad to reject! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. At last my mind was free from the gnawing anxieties of ambition and gain, from wallowing in filth and scratching the itching sore of lust. I began to talk to you freely, O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.

Finally, John Piper, who has thought and written much on this idea, said in his book “Desiring God”: I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.

Beloved, I hope these testimonies are encouraging. I know they have been for me for many years. I have been greatly helped in fighting sin with realizing that I have a superior pleasure in God that sin can’t touch. And moving away from this great lesson has been the singular biggest reason for me in succumbing to temptation.

So please join me in rehearsing repeatedly throughout our days left here on earth that the greatest joy to be had in life is to be found in Christ. There is no competition, no comparison to anything else: Jesus is infinitely better. Whatever sin is calling your name, it’s got nothing for you. Even more, it only will take you away from what, or really Who, is far better.

For your eternal joy in Christ~