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Overcoming Temptation: Bible Verses and Principles to Help You Resist Sin

Last Updated: April 1, 2022

Keith Rose
Keith Rose

Keith Rose holds a Master of Divinity degree and BA in Sacred Music. Keith worked with the Covenant Eyes Member Care Team for 15 years. He has also served as a Bible teacher, pastoral assistant, and music director at his local church. He's now the editor of the Covenant Eyes blog and the author of Allied: Fighting Porn With Accountability, Faith, and Friends. He lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina with his wife Ruby and daughter Winslow.

Do you face temptation? Are there sins that just seem impossible to resist? At Covenant Eyes, we talk to people every day who find themselves unable to resist the temptation to look at porn. Temptation is all around us.

Scripture is a powerful weapon in the fight to overcome temptation. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” But the Bible is more than a sword. Psalm 119:105 calls it “a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” 

Temptation is spiritual warfare, and the Bible makes it plain that God has equipped us for battle. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 teaches, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

There are Bible verses to teach you to resist any kind of sin. Ephesians 6:13 tells us, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”

Regardless of what temptation you’re fighting, the biblical principles and passages below will empower you to resist and overcome temptation. If you’re facing the temptation to look at porn, I recommend you try memorizing one or more of these verses. Knowing the right Bible verses can be tremendously effective in overcoming temptation.

Overcome Temptation by Fixing Your Eyes on Jesus

1 John 3:2 says, “When Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

What we look at shapes our desires. That’s why advertising is such big business. It’s not just informing us about different products we may or may not need—it actually tells us what we need whether or not we realize it. In the same way, putting our focus on Jesus makes us more like Him.

Before going into a long section about fighting temptation, Colossians 3:1-2 adds, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Reflecting on who Jesus is and what He has done is a powerful weapon against temptation, as these verses tell us. You can also look specifically at the ways Jesus Himself faced temptation. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”

When you are tempted, think about this: Jesus was tempted in the same ways we are. However, while we sin regularly when we are tempted, Jesus did not! Meditate on these verses and pray that God would use them to shape your desires after Him.

Overcome Temptation by Delighting in the Lord

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

This verse doesn’t mean that we can earn blessings from God if we love Him enough. Instead, it’s teaching us that learning to delight in God will make us want the things that He wants.

Lisa Eldred writes about the “Elephant Exercise.” Look at a picture of an elephant; study it carefully in detail. Then set a timer for two minutes and focus on not thinking about the elephant. It’s really difficult to do this. That’s because you end up focusing on the elephant. The key isn’t to stop thinking about it, it’s to start thinking about something else.

The same is true with porn and other temptation. If you focus on the thing that’s tempting you, you’ll just find yourself obsessing over it. But you can push out the thoughts of porn by filling your mind with other things.

This is what the preacher Thomas Chalmers meant when he talked about “the expulsive power of a new affection.”² It’s an old-fashioned way of saying the best way to overcome sinful pleasure is with godly pleasure. When we learn to delight in God, we realize that He withholds no good thing from his children (Psalm 84:11).

Overcome Temptation by Remembering Your Identity

Romans 6:1 asks, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

In other words, since we’re tempted by sin and it’s really tough to avoid, should we stop worrying about it? Should we just look at porn, since God has promised grace if we do? Verse 2 answers, “By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” Romans 6 goes on to tell us that our faith in Jesus connects us to Him, so we should no longer identify as slaves to sin. We belong to Jesus.

Therapists have learned that identity is a huge issue when it comes to issues like problematic porn usage. People may understand the damage it’s causing and want to quit, but their identity is wrapped up in a sense of shame and failure. In Romans 6, Paul encourages Christians to fight temptation by remembering who they are in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 adds, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

When you’re tempted to look at porn, it’s easy to think, “What’s wrong with me?”, or “I’m just an addict”, or even “I’m a pervert.” These identities are false. If you are raised with Christ, you’re no longer a slave to sin but a child of God. Reflect on these verses and remember your new identity in Christ!

Overcome Temptation by Understanding Its Source

1 John 2:16 tells us, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Where does temptation come from? Asking this question is important because it tells us what we’re dealing with. If you find yourself falling into porn or other temptation regularly, you should ask why. 

John informs us that the fallen world is a source of temptation. When Jesus prayed for His followers right before the crucifixion, He said, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:16). 

James 1:13 gives further insight into temptation, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” So, temptation doesn’t come from God. That’s important to remember, because when we’re feeling discouraged and defeated it’s easy to blame God. Where does it come from? James says people are “dragged away by their own desire.” The Bible tells us we have to look at ourselves honestly and acknowledge our responsibility for giving into temptation.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us the third source of temptation: Satan himself. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

So, when we ask “why,” we find three sources of temptation. The world tempts us. Our own human nature tempts us. And the Enemy is on the prowl trying to bring us as well. Correctly identifying the temptation we face helps us do battle against it. For example, if we’re being tempted by the world to look at porn, that means there are some worldly influences we need to avoid. But when we’re being tempted by our own human nature, what we need is a human connection to godly Christians who can encourage us to holiness. Likewise, the Enemy tends to attack us when we’re alone, so Christian fellowship is key to resisting him.

Meditate on these verses so you aren’t caught off guard in the moment of temptation and so you can learn the best steps to take for the specific temptations you face.

Overcome Temptation by Learning Wisdom

Proverbs 4:6-7 says, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

In the Bible, “wisdom” means more than knowing lots of stuff. It’s knowing the right thing to do and doing it. This can seem challenging when we face temptation for things like porn that are so easily available.

Proverbs is a handbook on how to live wisely. Proverbs 2:16-19 addresses sexual temptation:

“Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.”

The “adulterous” or “wayward” woman described here could easily be referring to porn. Notice what this passage promises:

Part of wisdom is knowing when to run. 1 Corinthians 6:18 warns us to, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” When you’re tempted by a provocative pop-up ad or

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Part of wisdom means setting boundaries. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). He’s not talking about literal dismemberment. He’s talking about the wisdom of putting boundaries in place to keep yourself away from sin—even if it means sacrificing some good things.

As you read these verses, ask God for the wisdom to know what boundaries you need to help you avoid porn.

Overcome Temptation Through Suffering

1 Peter 2:21 teaches us, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

It’s never been a popular idea, but the Bible tells us that suffering is one of the ways we overcome temptation. For many who are dealing with something like porn addiction, the withdrawal symptoms may be a form of suffering.

The suffering of Christ frees us from the penalty of sin, but it also gives us a model for how we are to deal with sin. In chapter 4 verse 1 Peter continues with this idea, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.”

As miserable as suffering is in the moment, James 1:2-3 tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James tells us that the suffering of hardship is like endurance training. By suffering in the face of temptation, we learn to persevere in the faith. We grow purer through testing like refined gold (1 Peter 1:7). 

Overcome Temptation Through Accountability

Hebrews 3:13 instructs us to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

While studying Scripture is a powerful way to overcome temptation, just reading the Bible more isn’t the answer. We need to put its teaching into action. And one of the things the Bible teaches us is the importance of accountability relationships for resisting sin.

Sin tries to trick us into living the Christian life alone, but that’s where we’re most vulnerable. We need daily encouragement from other believers to hold the course.

Also, James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” There’s great healing power in admitting our sins to each other and then turning to God in prayer. It’s powerful and effective for overcoming sin!

These verses tell us that simply reading or even memorizing Scripture isn’t enough. We need to put the Bible’s teaching into action. We can’t obey the Bible’s teaching about accountability without doing it.

One practical way you can apply these verses is by installing accountability software on your digital devices. Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability monitors the images you view on your device and sends a report to a trusted friend or loved one you choose.

What Bible verses have you found most helpful for resisting temptation? Let us know in the comments!

¹ https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/Chalmers,%20Thomas%20-%20The%20Exlpulsive%20Power%20of%20a%20New%20Af.pdf