Today I start a two-part series on temptation and sin.
“Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” Todd Wagner.
There’s so much to love about this time of year—Easter, warmer temps, March Madness, and so much more. But this season also brings along my biggest temptation: the jelly bean. I have an incredible ability to buy a bag of jelly beans and consume the whole thing in a very short period of time. In the 3.2 miles between my job and my house, I can devour an entire bag of Brach’s Spicy Jelly Beans.
I love them all. Starburst classic, sour, and jumbo jelly beans. Jelly Bellys. Brach’s Classic and Brach’s Spicy. I don’t discriminate against the jelly bean (except for those nasty Beanboozled jelly beans).
There’s nothing wrong in and of itself with eating jelly beans. The problem comes when I consume an entire bag in 15 minutes or when I think it will solve my problems or satisfy me in a way only Christ can.
My eating temptation doesn’t stop with jelly beans. It extends to many other foods. The struggle is real and the food temptations never stop for me.
And of course I’m tempted by much more than food. I’m tempted by lustful thoughts and images. I’m tempted by stuff, especially when I compare to others who have more than me. And I’m tempted by “fame” and the praise of man.
I know I’m not alone. We’re all tempted by many different things every day. What is it for you?
- Sex with someone who’s not your spouse
- Netflix, including shows with nudity
- Materialism and stuff
- Vaping and/or cigarettes
I’m sure I’m forgetting many other vices or sources of temptation. We live in a world filled with temptations, and unlike Jesus, we don’t walk through life resisting every temptation around us. The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Temptation is to be expected for we live in a world filled with all kinds of alluring, seductive choices. Even for the follower of Christ, we still struggle with sinful desires. Temptation is not just for the weaker Christian. Rather it’s our constant companion for our entire lives.
In this two-part series I’ll share why we all face temptations (Part 1) and what we can do to resist temptation (Part 2).
James, the half brother of Jesus, helps us understand more about temptation. In James 1:13-15 he writes:
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Three Things You Need to Know About Temptation
From this passage we can learn three lessons:
1) Temptation doesn’t come from God but from our own desires (v.13).
We try to blame our temptations on God, our parents, the circumstances of life, or peers. We’ll look to blame anyone or anything else. Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden (see Genesis 3) and you and I are tempted every day since. We know from James 4:1-3 that the reason we fight and quarrel is because of selfish desires and temptations that battle within us. The reason we’re tempted is because of internal desires, not because of God or anyone else.
Temptations in and of themselves are not evil. We know this because Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The problem comes when we give in to our desires, which leads to point #2.
2) Temptation deceives us and lures us in (v.14).
The language James uses in this passage brings to mind a hunter or fisher. A fisherman takes a hook, puts some bait on the hook, and lures a fish towards his line. Once the fish is deceived by the bait, it grabs hold of the hook and is lured in by the fisherman.
In the same way, temptation deceives us and lures us in. The goodies in the window at the bakery. The ads at the bottom of an online news article. The commercials we see on TV. We get deceived, take a bite, and get lured in.
For most of us, we’re deceived when we’re tired, in conflict with others, when we’re in the middle of some other sin, or when we’re stressed. Our defenses go down and we’re much more easily deceived by the “bait.” We think we’re above temptation and we give in and get hooked.
Sometimes we’re distracted and don’t make time for intimacy with Jesus. In his book A Hunger For God, Dr. John Piper says, “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.” We make time for everything else but little time for Jesus. As a result, we’re more easily swayed and deceived.
3) When we give it to our temptations, we experience sin and death (v.15).
Next James shows us where we’re lead when we’re deceived and lured in and why we need to fight our sin. Our desires give birth to sin, which then gives birth to death. When we give in to our temptations, the sin grows stronger and stronger. Sometimes we think to ourselves, “Just one more peek” or “Only one small bite.” Or we think we’ll just get the sin out of our system or if we give in one more time then maybe it will go away.
But in the process, like feeding a baby, it will get bigger and stronger. As we continue to feed our temptations and act out on our sin, we experience the consequences of our sin, which eventually results in death (usually not, but sometimes a literal death).
What are you watching? Where are you hanging out? We think we can stand up to our temptations and so we cross lines, which leads to sin and death.
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll address the fact that as followers of Christ we don’t have to give in to our temptations. In addition, I’ll share some ways you and I can fight our temptations before they lure us in.
What are some of your biggest temptations?
How are you doing right now at fighting temptation?
When do you most easily give in to your temptations?
Click here to read Part 2 in this series on temptation.