“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” (James 1:14 NLT)
Temptation can and often does lead to sin, but temptation itself is not sin. Jesus was tempted, but He never yielded. Today I’d like for us to look at what the Bible teaches about temptation.
Temptation literally means: “an experiment, attempt, trial or proving” (Strong’s). It’s the cheese that draws the mouse to the trap. Loving the cheese isn’t what gets the mouse killed, it’s their inability to resist it in the wrong setting. That’s what happens to us. That’s why Satan uses the things we naturally love to tempt us. I’m never tempted to eat too much broccoli, but I am tempted to eat too many sweets.
There’s a lot to learn about temptation, so let me outline several things that will, hopefully, whet your appetite and point you to God’s Word to learn more.
- God tests us, but NEVER tempts us to sin. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to ask our heavenly Father to “lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:4 KJV). It’s an expression of gratitude to God for not only NOT leading us into temptation but delivering us from Satan’s attacks (the one in whom resides the derivation of all evil).
- Satan tempts us to sin by using things we love. Like the mouse, we can be drawn to things we desire, which in and of themselves are not necessarily sinful. Think of the things that tempt you most. Sex, which God gave us as a gift to be enjoyed between a man and woman committed to one another in marriage for life. But when it’s distorted, degraded, and dishonored, it becomes a means of driving a wedge between us and God. Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money is. Family, while again, being a gift from God, can also become a temptation when we put love of family before love of God. (see Matthew 10:37) When we allow anything to come between us and God, it becomes for us sin.
- Jesus was in all ways tempted as we are, yet never yielded (see Hebrews 4:15). That’s why we can be assured that Jesus understands exactly what we’re dealing with and is the source of strength we need to overcome whatever Satan is using to draw us away from God.
- God always gives us a means of escape. As I think of the times I’ve failed God and yielded to temptation, what hurts the most is the remembrance of the “way of escape” He provided, but I failed to take. As hard as it is, we don’t have to give in to temptation. Lust is a magnet that Satan will cause us to believe has an unavoidable appeal. It has a strength that seems undeniable, but by God’s grace and in His strength, it can be defeated. Sexual sins, including fornication, pornography, homosexuality, adultery, and all the other tentacles of lustful behavior are forced to yield to God’s powerful Spirit when we finally come to the place we’ll allow Him to be for us what we can’t alone be for ourselves (see 1 John 4:4).
- Temptation begins in our mind and heart. James 1:14-15 says: “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” Temptation is born in our thoughts, but having an evil thought isn’t in and of itself a sin. When we ponder the thought and give it consideration, then it becomes sin, which “drags us away” to evil actions, which if not dealt with, will lead to death (separation from God).
Temptation is common to every person. No one is exempt. Yet, ironically, the Lord has given us a means of defeating temptation by developing godly habits and partnering with other believers. You can’t concentrate on more than one thought at a time; therefore, reading, meditating upon, memorizing, and sharing God’s Word, the Bible; praying, not just in our time of devotion, but throughout the day; and being accountable to another believer we love and trust, can be antidotes to sin. Regardless of how tightly the enemy has you bound, when you fill your thoughts with what is good, and right and pure (see Philippians 4:8), there is freedom in Christ Jesus.
Blessings, Ed 😊