The basic idea behind all of temptation is this…
God is presented as depriving us by his commands of what is good, so we think we must take matters into our own hands and act contrary to what he has said. This image of God leads to our pushing him out of our thoughts and putting ourselves on the throne of the universe. The condition of the ruined soul and world naturally results. (Dallas Willard in The Renovation of the Heart)
Therefore, as Paul wrote to the church in Rome, we must be careful not to be conformed to this world and it’s understanding of God, but instead, be transformed by the renewing of our mind.
We must begin to see temptation for what it is and understand God for who He is. God is not a cosmic kill joy trying to destroy all fun and joy, but instead wants us to experience ultimate happiness. As C.S. Lewis has written, it is not that our desires for happiness are too strong, but too weak. Lewis writes that “we are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Temptation, therefore, is about causing doubt in us towards the goodness of God. “God is just holding out on you,” we are told. So we must have our minds renewed, as Paul has written, toward the image and character of God. Willard correctly writes that “the single most important thing in our mind is our idea of God and the associated images.”
We do ourselves well to gaze upon the glory of God. To know God who is holy and loving is to be changed by him. Paul wrote that we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
When the world hints, or rather shouts at us, that true happiness is found in being free from the bounds of God, we need to remember the character of God. We need to recall that He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32). We can trust God in obeying his commands. We can begin to see temptation for what it truly is, a denial of the goodness of God.
As temptation comes our way, in whatever form, let’s recall the true character of God who gave himself up for us and trust the words of the Psalmist…
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11)