THE TEMPTATION TO SIN
The temptation to sin has been a problem for mankind since the beginning of the human race. It all started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.
Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Adam and Eve had free rein of the Garden of Eden except for that one tree. Now you would think that it would be easy to stay away from the tree, and they may have if hadn’t been for the devil tempting Eve with it as we read in,
Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
The devil is good at twisting things and enticing people, but even in this instance he did not have the power to force Eve to eat of the fruit, he simply made the temptation of the tree seem more desirable. This is good to know because this means that the devil cannot force us do anything either, but we must understand that he can use the temptations of the world to lure us into his snare. This is why John said,
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world.
That exactly how the devil managed to tempt Eve even though she could have resisted the temptation. From this point forward all humans have struggled with worldly temptations and all have sinned as Paul said,
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Again, I want to stress that no one can force us to sin, and God even provides us with a way of escape as,
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
This means we cannot blame God when we sin, and we cannot claim that the devil forced us to sin because it is our choice if we decide to do it. The reason God offers us a way of escape is because He loves us and will never forsake us Heb. 13:5. He has proven His love for us by giving us His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.
When we obey God’s plan of salvation by believing, repenting, confessing and being baptized, God wants us to do our best to avoid temptation so that we do not sin. Again, notice what John says,
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
John makes it clear that once we become a Christian, we are to follow the example of Christ. We are to walk in the light, which means we are to do our best to live wholesome lives based upon on the Word of God. Only Jesus lived His life without sin, and we should never think that we don’t have sin in our life because if we do, John says we are liars and the truth is not in us. Since Jesus lived a sin free life, He was able to become the propitiation of our sins, but as verse 7 said, we must continue to walk in the light.
Not only did Jesus prove that man doesn’t have to sin, He also serves a great example of how to overcome temptation. This is why it is so important that every Christian imitate Christ. As Paul said,
1 Corinthians 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
Also notice what Peter said,
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Following Jesus’ example is the only way that we can learn to overcome the temptations in our life, which is why we have so many songs that we sing that encourages us to do this such as:
“O To Be Like Thee”
“Have Thine Own Way Lord”
“Let The Beauty Of Jesus be Seen”
“More Like The Master”
As we consider Jesus’ life, some might ask was Jesus really tempted like us? The answer to that question is a resounding yes because He suffered and went through some of the same temptation that we have. Notice what the writer of Hebrews says in,
Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 2:14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
This writer is letting us know that Jesus was just like us, and that He was able to suffer and be tempted just like us. He felt pain and joy and all the emotions in between and this is what makes Him the perfect high priest. Since He has suffered like us, lived like us, and was tempted like us, He can sympathize with our weakness and He knows the best way to help us in our time of weakness. Again, the Hebrew writer stress this point in,
Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus has proved that it is possible to stay away from sin, and not to allow temptation to get the better of us. It should give us great comfort to know that Jesus understands what we are going through, He understands how powerful temptation can be, but we can overcome our temptation by drawing strength from Jesus. So, when we start becoming tempted by something, one of the first things we should do is pray about it and ask for help in avoiding that temptation. When we pray for help against a temptation, it will put our thoughts in the right place because in doing this we are making God be a part of our decision making.
We can learn a great lesson about overcoming temptation by looking at Jesus’ first recorded encounter with the devil in the N.T.
Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." 4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' " 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " 7 Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.' " 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.' " 11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
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In this story, we can see the nature of the devil because He waited until Jesus at His weakest and then He tempted Him, but Jesus was able to overcome the temptation by allowing God’s Word to be His guide. All 3 times the devil tempted Him, Jesus put him at bay, by using Scripture.
This is it why is so important that we make God’s Word a part of our everyday lives because the more we know it and live by it, the more prepared we will be to put the devil at bay and to say no to the temptations that come our way.
Back to our example of Adam and Eve, we learn that Eve told the devil what the Lord had said, which was good, but the problem was she started listening to the temptation more than what God had said and that is what got her in trouble. This teaches us that we must be consistent and not allow our temptations to override the Word of God.
We also learn from this story in Luke’s account that old devil never gives up because it says that he left, but that He would come back again at a more opportune time. So, if the devil would continually go after Jesus, we should never think for a minute that he won’t come after us time after time. This is why we must always stay prepared especially in our weakest moments.
Another thing we learn about temptations is that each temptation that we defeat is makes us stronger and more able to handle the new temptations that are set before us. Just remember, when we resist the devil in faith, he must flee. Jesus had already struck a hard blow to the devil by defeating death on the cross. When Jesus comes again, He will completely defeat the devil. So, when we become Christians, we have the power and the ability to defeat his works as well. We need to have the attitude that Jesus had when He said that devil has nothing in Me.
Notice how Peter encouraged those who were suffering and facing many trials because of Jesus.
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith -- the salvation of your souls.
The battle that we are fighting against sin is not an easy one, but it is worth it because when we win we gain the salvation of our souls.
But, what happens when we fail and we take the devil’s bait and we sin? Is the war over? No, it is not. Now the devil may have won that battle, but He has not won the war because we can stand back up and wipe that sin from our lives by praying to God and repenting. David certainly understood the importance of repentance and how God is willing to forgive those who repent. I want you to listen to the first part of the beautiful Psalm that David wrote about repentance.
Psalm 51:1 A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight -- That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
So, let us never forget that even when we allow a temptation to cause us to sin, we have no reason to allow it defeat us because God understands that we are not perfect and that we fall short of His glory. This is why He is always there for us. He is merciful, and while He will not be pleased with our sin, He is always ready to forgive us and He wants us to become stronger in the faith and to learn from our mistakes.
So, we have learned in this lesson that the temptation to sin will always be out there, but as Christian we must learn to avoid these temptations, and Jesus has shown by His example that we can keep sin out of our life. If we find ourselves being tempted, we should pray for strength and allow God’s Word to be our guide. We should always take comfort knowing that Jesus has went though some of the same temptations that we have and that is why He knows the best way to help us. We can never say that Jesus simply doesn’t understand how hard our temptations are because He does. Finally, we learned that if we do fail and we sin, we can be forgiven of that sin by praying and repenting to God, and once again, we will be ready start our battle with the devil as we journey toward heaven.