James 1:13-18 (New International Version)
“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
A few months back I had the privilege of listening to a sermon on temptation by Pastor John Burke, author of “No Perfect People Allowed.” While it is not as pleasant a topic as love or grace, it is important to understand and to prepare against. Some of the principles below I gleaned from that sermon.
Everyone gets tempted. Even Christ our Lord was tempted. There was the one really intense session he had with Satan in the desert (Matthew 4), but there were many others throughout his life – especially throughout his passion. Read the gospel of Matthew chapters 26 and 27.
In a world full of instant gratification, where we can indulge just about any whim, staying pure can be really difficult. often says “The first thought is free.” God does not hold us responsible for being tempted. He holds us accountable for what we do once tempted. When you are tempted, understand that God is not the source or the cause. But the following three things are:
There are real, unseen evil forces at work in the world.
Ephesians 6:10-12 reminds us that Satan, while powerful, is not God’s counterpart. He does, however, have a host of fallen angels at his disposal. The apostle Paul referred to them as Rulers, Authorities, Powers in high places. The enemy’s army is clever, and at times very subtle. So while the phrase “The Devil made me do it,” doesn’t wash when it comes to accepting responsibility for your actions, “The Devil tempted me,” does. If you think of the enemy in terms of the popular caricature, running around in red draws, welding a pitchfork – you’d be really wrong and truly set up to be clowned. He is much more sophisticated and smooth than that.
And for those of you who scoff at the notion of an evil, destructive, supernatural personality at work in the world, know that your attitude is what allows the enemy to flourish. There’s no point in fighting against an enemy you don’t believe exists. Your unbelief actually advances his cause.
The World System is established against Kingdom Principles.
It seems everywhere you look not only in present times, but throughout history, you can easily find examples of rampant greed, unbridled lust, the quest for absolute power, and the oppression of the powerless. All of which serve to destroy humanity. The world system is predicated upon satisfaction of physical desires by any available manner, acquisition of what you see by any means necessary, and securing the approval of others to feel good about ourselves. These are usually referred to as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The first biblical example of all three can be found in Genesis 3.
If left unchecked, our own desires turn on us.
Let me begin by saying that no God-given desire is bad. The problem is how and when we choose to fulfill those desires. The desire for companionship, friendship, and acceptance is part of the human condition. God created us for relationship with himself and with others. But when a teenager (or an adult for that matter) willingly engages in binge drinking, sex, drug use, or any other destructive behavior because their peers will reject them otherwise, then that God given desire has now taken God’s place in that person’s mind and heart. Similarly the desire to be able to provide for your family is a good thing, I’d even say it is holy. But if you choose to sell drugs, rob banks, or cheat investors out of their hard-earned income, then you’ve crossed the line past temptation into sin. You will reap the results in one way or another.
There Is Hope.
Don’t forget that whatever sin you struggle with, Jesus Christ was tempted with it, too and he overcame! Yes, of course, he was God. But remember he was fully human, too. He knows your pain. He knows your shame and embarrassment. He does not condemn you.
In fact, he stands ready to forgive you and personally escort you through the dark places. In case you haven’t heard, God wants you to win so much that he sent Jesus to die in your place, so that you could live out this life in victory. That’s how much he is on your side. Maybe you don’t have the socially unacceptable problems of alcoholism, sexual addictions, or drug addiction. Perhaps yours is something less noticeable, like your temper, your snobbery, your tendency to lie, your desire to cheat on your spouse, your uncontrolled spending, your determination to “one-up” another person, your habit of gossiping or masturbating, or your tendency to envy anyone more successful, better looking, or more prosperous than you. I don’t know what your “thing” is, but you do. And so does God. And you know what? That’s good enough.
Will you trust him today with what tempts you? I hope and pray that you will.
Be blessed Family!
Other related articles: