Understanding Sin and Temptation
The problem of sin and temptation is always before us in this world. How do begin to understand how to deal with it as Christians? James 1:12-16 gives us a starting point:
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”
Then, let’s understand what we all have in common:
1. We have a common problem. Paul spoke of that which is “common to man,” then pointed to the faithfulness of God (1 Cor 10:13).
2. We have a common enemy. Peter said, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
Paul spoke of the enemy as the serpent who deceived Eve by craftiness and warned that minds can be led astray. A few verses later he said that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:3, 14).
3. The enemy uses a common method: the vices of the world. John wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
Temptation is an enticement to do wrong with the promise of pleasure or profit. The devil uses all the deceptions of the modern world to entice us into what we know we ought to stay away from. How do we handle these? James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
4. Sin results in a common outcome. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).
Paul warned, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:7-8).
All of this should teach us not to minimize sin.
Sin is against God’s nature and a falling short of His glory (Rom 3:23). It is an attempt on our part to dethrone God and take His glory for ourselves. It is saying to God, “I don’t need you to tell me what to do. I can decide for myself what is right and wrong.” It is the rebellion of the garden all over again (Gen 3:5-6).
Yet sin is much more than just the commission of a bad act here or there. It is a condition in which we reside. Sin is something in which people walk and live (Col 3:7). We were dead in sin and were by nature “children of wrath” (Eph 2:1-3). Sin holds us captive as slaves (Rom 6). This is one reason why we cannot simply decide to beat sin and save ourselves. We cannot do it. Thinking we can take care of it ourselves is like thinking a drowning man can save himself simply by treading water longer with no one else in sight. It may work for a few minutes, but that can hardly be thought of as being saved, and the man will still fail to stay above water.
The solution to sin, then, must come from One who is entirely holy. And this solution is as immersive as the disease it is intended to cure. This is the grace of God, which is not just something applied here or there (as though sin were only committed here or there). Grace is something in which we stand (Rom 5:2). Though sin reigned in death, grace reigns through righteousness, and grace is far greater than sin (Rom 5-6). This does not mean we continue in sin as if we remain enslaved to it. May it never be! Rather we are told to “present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:13-14).
Think on these starting points for understanding sin and temptation.