Who tempts us?

By Beth Hyduke

Temptation is an interesting topic because there's more to it than initially meets the eye. To get a sound, Christian view of what is going on when we encounter temptation we need to get a few basic Biblical doctrines under our belts.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." First, Paul tells us of the universality of temptation. Every human being faces temptation. It is the common experience of every person, whether they are believers or unbelievers.

Second, Paul tells us that if you happen to be a believer, you have an invaluable resource that unbelievers don't have. You have a faithful God who promises to help you in the temptations you face so that your temptations are not too great for you to bear, and to provide an escape route in each temptation so that you can choose to honor God and not sin instead of giving in to the temptation.

Because of this, believers cannot ever claim to have been overwhelmed by temptation or to shift the blame of their failures onto the old excuse, "the Devil made me do it." No other being, not even one as powerful as Satan, can make us sin. Our spiritual resources are infinitely stronger than any tempter or temptation we could possibly face. Ultimately, the Bible teaches that the responsible agent for sin is the sinner. In other words, the reason a person sins is because, secretly or openly, that person wants and wills to commit that sin.

Relevantly, the Biblical word for temptation is peirasmos, and it means "to test or "to prove." This is important to note because the same temptation can either become a proof of righteousness or an inducement to sin, depending on one crucial factor — how we choose to respond to the temptation. If, in the power of God, we resist and overcome it, the temptation is a test that proves our faithfulness as believers. But if we cave in to the temptation, the temptation is sure to lead us into sin. This is the cycle we find in James 1:13-15: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."

This is a great picture of what is really going on behind the scenes of temptation. Evil powers certainly do everything in they can to make evil attractive and desirable to us. Satan, demonic forces, the world, and evil men all play a role in baiting the hooks, but what actually lures someone in to take a particular hook, James says, is that person's own inner lust: "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire" (James 1:14; emphasis added). One example where you can easily see this happening is the pornography industry. Under the influence of and in corroboration with Satan, the world produces, promotes, and markets all kinds of sexually illicit and explicit material. That's the baited hook. It's out there on TV, and all over the internet, and on the magazine racks at the convenience store. But what causes someone to turn to that particular channel, or to peruse that internet site, or to buy that pornographic magazine is not Hugh Heffner, Rupert Murdoch, or even Satan, it's the lust within that person's heart to gratify that sinful desire.

It's much easier on our egos to blame God's fallen creatures like the Devil or demons, or the world and its wicked inhabitants, or even to blame God Himself for the temptations we give in to. If we convince ourselves that somebody else is responsible for our weakness towards certain sins, then that makes us feel less culpable and guilty when we do sin. But by His example, Jesus reveals the faultiness and instability of this position. All of these tempters and temptations — the world, evil men, demons, and the Devil — thronged around Jesus Christ throughout His entire earthly life and ministry. And the Bible says that although Jesus "was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet He was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Why? Not because He was somehow removed from temptation but because there was no lust in Him, no evil desire that lured and enticed Him to cave in to the same temptations that we encounter. The problem of our sinfulness, and the agent responsible for our giving in to temptation, is not the external tempters, it's the internal traitor. That's what James 1 teaches us: our lust, when exposed to temptation, flares up, making us crave sin and enticing us to succumb to the temptation.

When you become aware that temptations surround you on every side, remember that God is omnipresent and omniscient, and omnipotently sovereign over every single thing, from Satan himself on down to the daily temptations you experience. And remember God's promises to His people. If you are a believer, He will put limitations on the temptations you face so that, in His power, you can resist and overcome them. People tend to think of temptation in purely negative terms. But in reality, God uses temptations as tests to strengthen us spiritually, prove our faithfulness, and help us recognize our dependence on Him. So temptation has potential to be either a positive, spiritually strengthening experience that clarifies the faith of the believer, drawing them closer to God, (think of Jesus tempted by Satan in the wilderness, Matthew 4:1-11), or a negative, spiritually weakening experience that leads the believer into sin (think of Peter tempted by Satan to deny Christ, Luke 22:31 & 55-62). The deciding factor is the believer's response to the temptation. No power and no agent of the enemy is stronger than God. He will always provide you an escape from every temptation so that you don't have to give in to it.

When we become Christians, we receive the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9) and the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). We are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) who belong to God eternally (Ephesians 1:13-14). Because God lives in us, we are not susceptible to demonic mind control or possession. Though Satan is a powerful enemy, he has already been defeated (John 12:31-32), his fate is sealed (Revelation 20:10), and he can only do what God allows him to do (Job, Zechariah 3, Luke 22:31-32). In light of the victory God has won on our behalf, believers do not have to live in abject fear of Satan, demons, and the powers of evil, but instead are called to live victoriously over temptation, sin, and Satan (Romans 8:37; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 15:57; Ephesians 6:16; James 4:7; 1 John 5:4-5).

Image Credit: Kersley Fitz

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | God-Father  | Satan-Demons  | Sin-Evil

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Published 10-10-16