Young Men Overcoming the Evil One By…

Young Men Overcoming the Evil One By…

In 1 John 2:12-14 progressive sanctification is divided into three stages: children, young men, and fathers. Twice, the verses mention young men overcoming the evil one. They do so by being spiritually strong, being in God’s Word, being self-controlled, and resisting the harlot in Proverbs 7.

Let me tell you about the different units in the Army. I will briefly break them down, starting at the brigade level:

  • A brigade has 2-3 battalions and about 5,000 soldiers.
  • A battalion has 4-6 companies and about 1,000 soldiers.
  • A company has 3-4 platoons and about 200 soldiers.
  • A platoon has 2-3 squads and about 36 soldiers.
  • A squad has about 10 soldiers.

Squads make up the platoons, companies, battalions, and brigades They are the building blocks of the Army, and they are filled with young men. We don’t send children, women, or old men to battle. We send young men. They are in the trenches and on the front lines. When a general decides to storm a beach, take a hill, or drop men behind enemy lines, he sends young men. They exert the greatest effort and make the greatest sacrifices. The greatest strength is required of them.

First John 2:12-14 divides our progressive sanctification into three stages: children, fathers, and young men. It says to young men twice, “Young men have OVERCOME THE EVIL ONE.” Young men are fighting the enemy. They are in the trenches and on the front line. They must exert the greatest effort and make the greatest sacrifices. The greatest strength is required of them.

Maybe this is why they are listed last in the verses. Children are addressed first, then fathers, and THEN young men, versus children, young men, and fathers as expected. Maybe John addresses them last because the most is expected of them, and he wants to give them the most attention:

  • 1 John 2:13b I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
  • 1 John 2:14b I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Young men know more than the gospel basics of children, but they don’t yet have the deep knowledge and understanding fathers have.1

Three things are said to young men, but only one thing is said to them twice, once in verse 13 and again in verse 14: they “have overcome the evil one.” It seems that if you are wondering when you move from being a child to being a young man, it is when you have victory over temptation. And this could be why some people spiritually remain children: they don’t overcome sin.

Now, there must be some balance because none of us stop sinning completely. I think the balance is young men have victory over life-dominating sin. They still sin, but not habitually, or it does not dominate them.

Let’s talk about each thing said to young men so we can equip them to overcome the evil one.

Young Men Overcome the Evil One By Being Spiritually Strong

Because we are talking about young men, we immediately think of physical strength, and that’s probably part of it. Hopefully, you young men are using your strength and energy in positive, productive ways, not wasting your time on frivolous activities. But spiritual strength is even more in view.

And there is a relationship between a young man’s spiritual strength and – as it says – “the Word of God abiding in [him].” God’s Word is the source of a young man’s spiritual strength. Young men can’t be spiritually strong if the Word of God does not abide in them. Notice the statement about young men overcoming evil; one follows the statement about the Word of God abiding in them. In other words, the Word of God allows them to overcome the evil one.

Young Men Overcome the Evil One By Being in God’s Word

Psalm 119:9 How can a YOUNG MAN keep his way pure? By guarding it ACCORDING TO YOUR WORD. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from YOUR COMMANDMENTS! 11 I have stored up YOUR WORD in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

We’re talking about young men. It doesn’t say, “How can a child, father, old woman, or young woman keep their way pure.” It’s not that these people don’t need God’s Word, but when we’re talking about being “keeping [our] way pure,” or say we’re talking about purity, God speaks right to young men. We see the importance of God’s Word for young men to be spiritually strong and pure.

There are many reasons young men should abide in God’s Word, as 1 John 2:14 says:

So they move from being children to young men and then from young men to fathers. So they are spiritually strong, have victory over temptation and sin, and overcome the evil one.

One more reason is whatever God wants young men to do later in life, God’s Word equips them to do that. Young men wonder: “What should I do with my life? How should I serve the church? Should I go to college? What profession should I pursue? Who should I marry? How will I take care of a family? When will I become a father?” And there are plenty of other questions young men might ask. Regardless of what young men do, the one thing they need, for whatever path their life takes, is God’s Word abiding in them.

I became a Christian and married somewhat later in life. I have some regrets from my years of singleness, but I’m thankful for the years spent in God’s Word with little distraction. They still benefit me today. I would encourage all the young men to use this time. You have to be in God’s Word before your life gets busier and more complicated.

Young Men Overcome the Evil One By Being Self-Controlled

In Titus 2, Paul talks about four groups: older men, older women, young women, and young men. He tells each of them what they should be and do:

Titus 2:2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

This is a pretty good list. Older men are to be these six different things. Now Paul talks about older women:

Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,

Older women are to be three things – reverent, not slanderers, not addicted to wine – and they are to do one thing: teach. Now Paul talks about young women:

Titus 2:4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Young women have the longest list. Young women are to do two things – love their husbands and children – and be four things: self-controlled, pure, homemakers, and submissive to their husbands.

Now, because older men are supposed to be six things, older women are supposed to be three things and do one thing, and young women are supposed to do two things and be three things, I would expect young men to have a handful of things to be and do. Don’t we have a long list for young men? Aren’t there lots of things we want from them?

Titus 2:6 Likewise, urge the younger men to BE SELF-CONTROLLED.

This is it! Only one thing for young men. It is fitting to say this to young men because it relates to what is said in 1 John 2. Young men face immense temptation, and if they are going to overcome the evil one, they must be self-controlled.

Young Men Are Fighting the Toughest Battle

I understand the world works against everyone in different ways. The world works against children by tempting them to waste their time and disobey their parents, and nowadays, they face even worse temptations, such as trying to become a different gender.

The world works against young women by discouraging femininity and encouraging feminism or by encouraging them to find their value, not in their relationship with the Lord, but in their relationship with a young man. As a father of five girls, my biggest fear for them, second only to them rejecting Christ, is they would have a relationship with an ungodly young man. I can’t think of much that would damage a young woman more than being with an ungodly young man.

The world works against older women by encouraging them to find their value outside the primary roles God has given them, which I read just a moment ago:

Titus 2:4 Train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

You could get into a ton of trouble today – and I don’t mean in the world, I mean even in the church – for saying what this verse says, such as women should work at home and submit to their husbands. But that’s what it says, so I mean this as gently as possible: if you have a problem with women working at home and submitting to their husbands, you don’t have a problem with me, you have a problem with God because he wrote it.

The world works against older men, particularly fathers and husbands, by tempting us to be one extreme or the other: passive or domineering, spiritually lazy or harsh. Just as much as women’s roles are under attack, so are men’s roles. There is no shortage of people who want to criticize male leadership, which makes it tempting for men to be passive.

So, to be clear, I believe the world is working against children, young women, older women, and older men, and these are just a few ways. But with that said I believe young men have it the most difficult.

I went back and forth for two weeks about whether to make this point, and maybe I will change my mind in the future, but for now, I believe this.

I don’t mean to minimize anyone else’s temptations. I say this as a father or someone who no longer considers himself a young man, that the temptations I face are not as strong as they were when I was young. It seems like our world is designed to destroy young men. My heart goes out to my sons and other young men who must grow up in our culture that is set on ruining them.

Young Men Overcome the Evil One By Resisting the Harlot

Proverbs 7 is a chapter every young man should be familiar with. If you are a father of a young man, this is a chapter you should read with him as soon as he begins to be tempted by women. If you are unfamiliar with this chapter, it describes a young man who is drawn away and killed by a woman who is given different names depending on your Bible:

  • The NKJV calls her the immoral woman and seductress.
  • The NIV calls her the adulterous woman and wayward woman.
  • The NASB calls her the adulteress and strange woman.
  • The Amplified calls her the immoral woman.
  • The ESV calls her the forbidden woman and adulteress.

Young men must resist this woman if they want to overcome the evil one. Young men will never overcome the evil one if they don’t:

Proverbs 7:27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

We will look at this verse more later, but I wanted you to see it now to understand the seriousness of what we are discussing. Her house is the way to death. This is the woman who kills young men. With that, let’s look at a young man that we can learn much from:

Proverbs 7:6 For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, 7 and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, A YOUNG MAN lacking sense,

We’re talking about young men, and here’s one of them. But he is “Simple” and “Lacks sense.” These are both ways of saying that he is foolish and lacking wisdom. He shows young men what not to do. He is the opposite of the young man in 1 John 2, who has overcome the evil one.

Proverbs is filled with verses about wisdom and foolishness, and this young man disobeys so many verses that we couldn’t look at all of them, or it would take months just to get through this chapter. I will draw your attention to some of the Proverbs that apply to him, but remember that he is the picture of foolishness. Look how his foolishness begins:

Proverbs 7:8 passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house

Notice three things.

  1. First, it says “her corner.” As a harlot, she has a corner that belongs to her.
  2. Second, it says “her house.” This is where she lures her victims.
  3. Third, it says, “Passing along” and “Taking the road.” This is how the temptation begins.

This is exactly what James 1:14 describes:

James 1:14 Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

The young man was lured away toward her house and soon he will be enticed by her. The phrase “when he is lured” in James 1:14 is four words in English, but only one word in Greek: exelkō (pronounced ex-hell-ko). It is a metaphor for “the seduction of a harlot.”2

So, when James wants to describe how we’re tempted, he uses a harlot. That harlot is personified for us in Proverbs 7. Proverbs 7 illustrates James 1:14 for us.

Proverbs 4:14 Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. 15 Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.

The young man did the opposite of this. He entered the path of the wicked and walked in the way of the evil when he took the road to her house. He did not avoid it. He went on to it. He did not turn away from it, and he did not pass on.

Proverbs 5:8 Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house,

Again, we see the young man doing the opposite of what Proverbs, or wisdom, says: he didn’t keep away from her and he did go near her house. Bill Shannon said, “It’s easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.” This young man could’ve avoided temptation. He had no business going toward her house. But this is often how temptation begins: going to the wrong places.

For this young man, it meant going down the wrong street. For young men in our day, it means going to the wrong places on the Internet. Young men must be disciplined to stop temptation before it begins by deciding not to go to the wrong places or websites, and if they happen to stumble on something they shouldn’t see, they quickly rip their eyes away. To fail to do so is to choose to continue to pass along the street near her corner and take the road to her house.

Consider this verse that both describes the problem and reveals the solution:

Romans 13:14 Put on the lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.3

You can tell this verse’s application for the foolish young man: he did the OPPOSITE and made provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.

Why does the beginning of the verse say, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ”? What does “putt on the Lord Jesus Christ” and “make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires” have to do with each other?

They might seem unrelated, but “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ” is the solution to the second part of the verse: “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” This is so important because counsel against temptation so often sounds like, “Try harder.” A young man is struggling with pornography, and he’s told, “You’re not trying hard enough.”

Yes, effort and self-control are needed, as we saw in Titus 2:6 when Paul told young men to be self-controlled. But I have never known a young man to look at porn and be filled with anything but regret and shame. To say he hasn’t been trying would be untrue.

The problem with counseling people to try harder, besides the fact they probably already feel like they’re trying hard, is it puts all the emphasis on the individual. Paul says, “Put on Christ.” He lifts our focus from ourselves to our Lord. We stop looking at ourselves and start looking to Christ. We think about what he’s done for us, and it helps us resist temptation. This is how we rely on the gospel versus human effort.

A Father’s Responsibility

Fathers need to be helping the young men in our lives, especially if they are our sons. I meet with numerous young men in the church and try to ask each of them about their purity.

When I have one-on-one time with my daughters, I first ask, “What have you been reading in the Word?” But this is the second question I ask my sons. If you talk to Ricky and Johnny they will tell you that the first question I asked them is, “How is your purity?”

Fathers, this is the question we must ask our sons or other young men God puts in our lives. And sons or young men, if you have a father or older man who asks you this question, you should thank him. And if you don’t, please seek out me or one of the other elders.

Young Men Wrongly Think Noone Sees

Proverbs 7:9 in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.

This almost sounds like a scary movie or story, and in a sense, it is. The young man is going to be killed.

The young man wanted to do all this at night because he believed nobody would see him. But somebody was watching:

Proverbs 7:6 For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, 7 and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense,

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t hide what he was doing. We know Solomon wrote most of Proverbs. When we read verse 6, we might think, “Uh oh, Solomon is watching. Solomon knows what the young man is doing!” No, this isn’t Solomon watching. It is God watching.

Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.

So, young men, keep this in mind: If you try to meet with the harlot, you can do so at night in the darkness. You might be able to hide it from your friends at church, your siblings, and even your parents. But God is watching. He looks down and sees among the simple, a young man lacking sense. He sees a foolish young man who is on his way to his death.

 God Sees the Good, Too

Proverbs 15:3 says God sees everything, the evil and the good. I focused on the evil, but let me also focus on the good:

  • God sees you fathers who are seeking out your sons, discipling them, and encouraging them in their purity.
  • God sees you mothers who are fervently praying for your sons.
  • God sees you young ladies who are dressing and acting modestly to protect your brothers in Christ.

And God sees you young men who are fighting the good fight:

  • He sees you in the trenches and on the front lines.
  • He sees you saying no to the lusts of the flesh and yes to the spirit of God.
  • He sees you overcoming the evil one as you put on Jesus Christ.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, seeing everything, and he wants to help us live for his glory.


  1. Each stage of the Christian life builds upon the previous one. Children learn about God and grow in their ability to win battles over temptation. Young men moved from victory to victory as they grew in their relationship with God. Fathers who have known Christ for years and developed the knowledge and wisdom start the cycle repeatedly by discipling children.
  2. Commentators discussing the Greek word exelkō:

    Benson said, “James presents men’s desires as a harlot, which entices their understanding and will into its impure embrace.”
    Matthew Poole said, “[Exelkō] is a metaphor of a harlot drawing a young man out of the right way, and alluring him with the bait of pleasure to commit folly with her.”
    The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary says, “Temptation is personified as a harlot that allures the man.”
    The Pulpit Commentary says, “Temptation is personified, and represented as a seducing harlot, to whose embrace man yields, and the result is the birth of sin, which in turn gives birth to death.”
    Lange said, “The man is first drawn out from his inward self-control and fortress, and then is attracted by the allurements of the harlot.”

  3. The Greek word for desires in Romans 13:14 is the same word for desires in James 1:14: epithyma: Romans 13:14 says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and MAKE NO PROVISION FOR THE FLESH, TO GRATIFY ITS DESIRES (epithyma)” and James 1:14 says, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (epithyma).”

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please let me know. I do my best to respond to each comment.

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