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TONY ELDER: Rely on Christ to overcome battles with temptation

“Ouch! Ow!” That was my reaction when I recently experienced my first sting by a scorpion. I’ve encountered such creatures numerous times, but when I’ve seen one I’ve always treated it with careful respect as I subsequently disposed of it.

The problem on this occasion was that I didn’t spy the culprit until after he had inflicted his attack on my finger.

I think I have come away from this experience with a better appreciation for why Jesus would associate scorpions with Satan and the powers of evil. It was when a group of Christ’s followers were rejoicing over the fact that they had been able to cast out demons in the name of Jesus.

He told them, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).

Although this particular scorpion did hurt me, I am pleased to report that I quickly took the authority to trample on it until it was dead.

There are various thoughts as to the extent to which believers have been given the authority Jesus spoke of in that verse. Some relegate such power only to those early followers of Christ. Others interpret this passage to mean that Christians today should be boldly exercising such authority over all the evils and demons in our world.

Regardless of your view of that particular passage, hopefully we can all agree that believers do have the ability through Christ to resist and overcome evil. We aren’t helpless victims of Satan and sin. The Bible clearly instructs us to “resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

In the classic passage from Ephesians 6, it warns us about the wiles of the devil, the fiery darts of the wicked one, and spiritual hosts of wickedness. But it tells us that we can be strong in the Lord in the face of those enemies. It reminds us we have God-given spiritual armor which can cause us to withstand those evil forces.

We do wrestle against such powers, but we can emerge from that experience victorious through Christ.

But as we think about the authority to overcome evil, let’s not just picture exorcisms performed over the demon-possessed, or laying hands on the sick for divine healing, or bold prayers commanding Satan to pack his bags and leave our home, school or community.

Let’s recognize that we can experience such victories in our own battles with temptation. Through Christ we can overcome the personal demons of addiction, sexual immorality, impure thoughts, malicious verbal assaults, pride, selfishness, and all other means the enemy uses to attack our souls.

We don’t have to be victims who are constantly trying to recover from another spiritual beating and defeat. We have been given the authority to withstand those attacks.

Don’t forget we can do more than simply resist evil. The Bible says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). We can conquer evil by doing good. We can replace evil thoughts with a mind focused on godly things.

We can overcome sexual immorality by lavishing Christlike love upon our wives and husbands. We can replace selfishness with unselfish acts of helping others.

Don’t cast out evil and leave a vacuum in its place. Fill your life with good.

But one word of warning: don’t try to trample those scorpions with your barefooted self-effort. You’ll only get hurt. Be sure to put on the boot of Christ. Only through Him can we have the power and ability to overcome evil.

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at revtelder@aol.com.