"Temptation is the pull of man's own evil thoughts and wishes ... [that will] lead to evil actions."1
Did you ever stop to think that what the mind dwells on the body acts on!
Consider, for example, how temptation works. A thought comes to mind from seemingly nowhere—maybe from ourselves or from the tempter. We choose (mostly unconsciously) to harbor and dwell on that thought and, as we do, it hooks into our emotions, and the more we think about it, the stronger we feel about it. Then we begin to visualize in our mind what we want to do and then, unless we make a conscious choice to stop thinking about it, we give in to the temptation.
The battle is won or lost in the mind before we ever act out the temptation.
One of many dangers in continually giving in to temptation is, as another has pointed out: "If we don't live the life we believe, we will end up unhappily believing the life we live."
We do this because as long as we don't consistently live the life we believe, our mind experiences what is called "cognitive dissonance"; that is, mental disharmony. Because we can't tolerate this mental conflict, we can end up changing our beliefs to match our behavior and rationalize everything we do—a dangerous path to follow. The Bible calls the consequence having a dead conscience.2
In other words, "If we don't live the life we believe, we will end up unhappily believing the life we live"—a dangerous and self-destructive way to live.
No wonder the Bible teaches us to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."3 And, "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."4
When I am battling a temptation, I like to pray, "Jesus help" or "Holy Spirit help." When I am consistent with this prayer and truly mean it, soon the tempting thoughts leave my mind. This is a simple way to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me to guard against harboring negative thoughts that could lead me into temptation and sin. Help me to remember to look to You for Your help, and to dwell on positive and wholesome thoughts that will lead to positive and wholesome living. Thank You for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. James 1:14-15 (TLB)(NLT).
2. James 1:15.
3. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV).
4. Philippians 4:8 (NIV).