Part 2 of 10
The Process of Temptation
Most Christians don’t realize it but the spiritual realm is the real and eternal realm. Our battle is spiritual and in the spiritual realm, against a Sin-spirit.
“… we wrestle NOT against flesh and blood, BUT against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS in high places.” (Eph 6:12)
The enemy of our soul, the Devil, tempts us with “evil thoughts” and then we wrongly think that thought was of our own initiative. When we recognize the thought as sinful or that it’s a damaging thought of some past failing or unhappy experience, we might say to ourselves “That’s just me,” or “I just can’t let go of the past,” or “There’s something wrong with me as a failing or defective Christian.” But actually, often our thoughts are not “just us.” The devil is called “the accuser of the brethren.” Referring to the devil’s demise we read in “for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (Rev 12:10b). He also accuses us, trying to condemn us for our awful thoughts.
Know this, we as believers are never condemned by God. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We should know that our salvation was never based upon how good we could be or how good we can be now – it was and is based upon our “saving faith” in the finished work of Christ’s cross; “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).” Our salvation is not performance based. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are safe and secure in Christ, never to be lost; we are sealed by His Spirit unto the day of our final redemption to glory. “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
The devil is able, without our planned forethought, to inject into our minds distracting and tempting thoughts. It’s obvious that with TV programming and advertisements, our culture of sexuality; and women’s dress (or “undress” is more accurate) there’s plenty of provocation to temptation in our thoughts. But some thoughts simply seem to come out of the blue. Knowledgeable and alert Christians should know what these thoughts are and from whence they come. Peter writes
“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” (1 Peter 5:8 (AMP)
These thoughts and accusations are the “fiery darts” (KJV) or “flaming missiles” (AMP) of the enemy of our soul – the devil. The “Apostle to the Gentile’s,” Paul says the members of the members of “the body of Christ” are equipped to deal with these “fiery darts.” We can quench or snuff out the “fire” of temptation.
Ephesians 6:16 (AMP) Lift up over all the [covering] SHIELD OF SAVING FAITH, upon which YOU (the believers) CAN QUENCH ALL THE FLAMING MISSILES of the wicked [one].
These lustful, self-seeking, hateful, unbelieving, and ungodly thoughts can get stuck in our consciousness. Sometimes it may seem that we cannot get away from these thoughts, but we can. These are what Paul calls “strongholds.” These “strongholds” may have been established to have a home in our mind by the repeated promptings of the Sin-nature that has established them over the years before and even perhaps after our salvation. Our wrong thinking can become habitual, through being tempted over and over.
Solomon wrote, Proverbs 23:7 … as he thinketh in his heart, so is he… I once heard that Norman Grubb said something similar; “What you take hold of will take hold of you.” E.g., if you take hold of a chair by sitting in it, it will take hold of you by supporting you, and that’s good. But conversely, if you take hold of evil, fearful, jealous, grievous or anxious thoughts, entertaining the “imaginations” that appear in your mind; then they may take hold of you as all consuming, ultimately prompting you to act on those thoughts. Our “imaginations” are “temptations” can turn us away from the truth of the ever-present saving Lord.
We can “pull down” and “take captive” evil thoughts by learning to turn away from the thought, to turn our heart to the Lord within us. This is a single motion – turning to the Lord is simultaneously a turning away. He alone is able to save us from those thoughts in that moment. He desires to live His righteous Christian life through us. We will discuss this further in the next installments.
James clearly outlines the progression and consequence of falling to temptation toward sin.
“Blessed is the man that endureth (stays true in) temptation: for when he is tried (tempted), he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (Christ). 14 But EVERY MAN IS TEMPTED, when he is DRAWN AWAY OF HIS OWN LUST, and ENTICED. 15 Then WHEN LUST (GK., epithymia, forbidden desire) HATH CONCEIVED, IT BRINGETH FORTH SIN: and SIN, WHEN IT IS FINISHED, BRINGETH FORTH DEATH. (James 1:12, 14-15).
Summarizing; 1) First the “temptation” appears. 2) Being “tempted,” we may be “drawn away” due the “lust” of the Sin-nature within our “flesh.” 3) When “lust” is conceived it will usually culminate in an act of “sinning.” (1 Cor 15:56a). 4) The consequence of “Sin” is “death.” Hebrews 11:25b tells us there are “pleasures of sin for a season,” but Paul tells us “The sting of death is sin…”
“Lust” here is defined as “strong desire for what is forbidden”; it includes but is not limited to sexual sin. All manner of “sins of the flesh” (Col 2:11) are manifested as result of a person going along with or giving into whatever the temptation of “the flesh” happens to be. James reveals this four-step sequence of temptation toward sinning.
Sin brings death? All are destined to die physically because “sin bringeth forth death” (1Cor 15:56b). All of us are born alive but spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1), spiritually dead toward God. In 1Cor 15:56 Paul is writing to the believers at
who have eternal life within them as their new life, so the “death” here refers to a believer’s loss of life-flow with the Lord. This death may be defined as a “cessation of open communication with the Lord.” Though Christ never leaves us, we as believers, in the course of our sinning, chose to separate our self from the Lord and to live by our own desires. Corinth
The sequence of temptation that James outlines applies universally, being common to all mankind, both the saved and unsaved. It is imperative that the Christians know how to recognize and respond to the very first step in the progression toward sinning, which is the initial “temptation.” Sin impacts our life and often the lives of others. Sin has far reaching affects; consider DUI accidents, and sin that can prompt divorce, or loss of a job, tearing apart families, and relationships, the hurt of guilt and unforgiveness, etc.
There are practical steps that may be employed to prevent some temptations, such as the simple concept of “don’t go there.” By this I mean if you’re tempted to drunkenness then you don’t go to places or to be with people that will tempt you with alcohol. You may need to block certain TV stations from your TV to keep the “eye gates” – of your “mind’s eye” and your “physical eyes” protected, so you don’t stir up what you should not be “think,” “imagine” or “fanaticize” in your mind. “[Under the influence of wine] your eyes will behold strange things [and loose women] and your mind will utter things turned the wrong way [untrue, incorrect, and petulant].” (Proverbs 23:33 (AMP)
Jesus of Nazareth was tempted and never sinned, so there is no sin in the temptation itself. Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest (Jesus) which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE, YET WITHOUT SIN (sinning). Jesus always ended temptation by declaring His dependence upon the “the Father” (John 5:30, Mat 4:4). Jesus did in fact have a body of human flesh just like ours. Recall that God the Father was Jesus of Nazareth’s real Father (not Joseph)… but Mary, as a human, was Jesus’ human mother. The Father gave Jesus His “Spirit of life” and Mary gave Jesus His physicality, His body of flesh. Jesus’ body was like ours because it is clear that His human lineage goes back “Adam” (Luke 3:23-38). It was by Adam that “Sin (as a nature) entered the world (of humanity)” (Rom 5:12). Thus, Jesus could actually be “tempted like as we are”… yet Jesus never acted upon His flesh body’s promptings with any act of sinning. Jesus was sinless in that He never sinned!