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Hand-to-Hand Combat

11.12.2023

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Introduction

I need to clarify that when a harmful thought or temptation first enters your mind, that is not sin—not in and of itself.

This is an excerpt from Louie Giglio’s book Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table.


Jesus was tempted. The Enemy sent harmful thoughts His way. The Devil actually spoke to Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11), and Jesus heard the Devil’s words, yet Jesus never chose to entertain the Devil’s voice. See, when a harmful thought or temptation comes into our minds, we have a choice. We can either discard that thought or entertain it. If we discard it, good. But if we entertain it, that’s when the Devil sits at our table. The sin happens when we keep hold of that harmful thought and let it take root in our minds.

Jesus taught this in the Sermon on the Mount. All sorts of folks were entertaining unhealthy thoughts, although they weren’t acting on those thoughts. They figured all was well. But in Matthew 5:21–22 and 27–28, Jesus came along and blew this up. Hey, He told them, you think you’re doing fine because you’re not actually murdering people. Well, guess what? If you simply hate somebody enough to want them dead . . . that’s as bad as murder. You might think you’re fine because you’re not actually in bed with someone you’re not married to, but guess what? If you’re merely imagining yourself in an illicit relationship with someone, that’s also wrong. You’re committing sin with that person in your heart. 

Entertaining a harmful thought is as bad as doing a harmful deed. That’s key because it’s far too easy to think we’re not sinning merely because we’re not acting on a sinful thought. Here’s the fact: the thought itself falls short of the glory of God. When we entertain it, the thought muddies our relationship with the Lord. The thought itself occupies our mind and has the power to knock us off course. Romans 12:2 gives this stiff warning: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect”

The frightening reality is this: once we let a harmful thought pitch a tent in our mind, eventually that temptation is acted on.

Period.

Sometimes people insist that harmful thoughts don’t always lead to harmful actions, but I disagree. Harmful actions always begin with harmful thoughts, and harmful thoughts, harbored over time, always lead to harmful actions. Those thoughts must be stopped. If those thoughts are entertained long enough, they will win the battle for your mind.

Sometimes we will actually do the harmful thing that we’re thinking about, while at other times the shift is simply that our attitude toward the sinful choice changes. We slowly warm up to sin. Either way, the harmful thoughts have led us to being negatively influenced. If you’re thinking about committing adultery, maybe you will actually commit adultery. Or perhaps, after repeatedly imagining yourself committing adultery, you’re more willing to conclude that adultery isn’t that bad.  Adultery is beneficial. Adultery opens doors for you. Adultery is the solution to your marital problems. All lies.

Because this is truth, too, and this is why the Enemy’s lures are so dangerous: sin usually feels good. Just for a moment. We often skip over this part of the story in church, but it needs to be told if we’re to be aware of the Enemy’s schemes. Sin can be fun—at least for a little while. Proverbs 14:12–13 lays this out plainly. “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak” (the message). Can I get an amen? That description in Proverbs sounds like many people’s weekends. Man, we were laughing so hard. We were having such an amazing time. But whoa, the next morning I was so miserable. 

Moses grew up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He had all the opportunity to enjoy the privileges of life in the Egyptian palace. Yet Hebrews 11:25 says that Moses chose not “to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” He went the other direction. The pleasures of sin are enjoyable, but they are not lasting pleasures, and they are certainly not pleasures that honor God. Sinful pleasures don’t provide peace or fulfillment. They lead to harm, separation, disappointment, and shame. 

That’s how it works. The Devil shows you a lure. You bite the lure, but it doesn’t deliver what was promised. Instead, you end up in a downward sin spiral into shame, separation, and destruction.

This is an excerpt from Louie Giglio’s book, Don’t Give the Enemy a Seat at Your Table. Click here to grab a copy of this special resource.

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Scripture References

  • Matthew 4:1–11
  • Matthew 5:21–22
  • Matthew 5:27–28
  • Romans 12:2
  • Proverbs 14:12–13
Louie Giglio

Global Pastor

Louie Giglio Louie Giglio is the Visionary Architect and Director of the Passion Movement, comprised of Passion Conferences, Passion City Church, Passion Publishing and sixstepsrecords, and the founder of Passion Institute.