Temptation is not sin but sin results when one chooses to ignore temptation! Temptation is a natural outcome to living in our earthly bodies and, as Christ-followers, this is a lifelong challenge we are instructed to address. If we do not admit the challenge or take action in dealing with it, then life will be lived obeying the wrong master. The Bible talks extensively about the war between the flesh and the spirit and it would be unwise to simply sit in the middle of a battle ground with the expectation that we will not be affected. The blogs I write over the next several weeks will discuss various aspects of developing the ability to live in obedience to Jesus rather than the flesh desires as it pertains to temptation.
James 1:13-14 states “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed.”
The difficulty is that those “evil desires” may not seem “evil” at all. But, if they are contrary to how God would have us think or act, then they are evil indeed! Was it evil for the Israelites to grumble against Moses when they were thirsty and hungry in the desert? In our flesh, we completely understand their concern. But, if we stop to consider this from a spiritual perspective, then how could they grumble when they had just witnessed God’s mighty deeds in bringing them out of slavery. And, it’s easy for me to wonder how they could possibly not trust God after walking across a sea on dry land! But, my personal grumblings and doubts are no less of an offense. So, I must recognize my tendency toward the flesh desire overpowering my spiritual yearnings. I believe this begins in our mind!
When we are “dragged away”, we are allowing our minds to wander to the reality that we can think and act in the way of our own choosing. We have the freedom to fill our minds with the world’s answers rather than seeking first the things of God. Once we are “dragged away”, we have opened our mind to the enticements which include the possible ways to fulfill our needs and wants on our timeline. We may not consciously reject God’s methodology; we simply don’t choose to let His will reign over our own. We are thus fooled into believing that we must step up and take over because of the dissatisfaction we feel in the path life is following.
This battle between our flesh and our spirit is powerful and can only be overcome with a twist in our thinking! We are inundated with the logic of humanity and wonder why we have to suffer when we have served God so faithfully. Or, we recognize that we just don’t deserve what life has dished out and we don’t understand how a loving God could allow such terrible things to happen in our lives. But, God’s word reveals the truth to us if we will apply our minds to learn. Gold is refined by fire….as are we! We see that suffering produces perseverance. And, it is when we are the weakest that God is the strongest within us! It’s a twisted way of thinking but why wouldn’t we welcome the fire, the suffering, and the weakness if we truly believe God is who he says he is? As hard as it is to remember and live out, the truth is that this life we live is not our own. We are servants of the Most High God! We are His to be molded, strengthened, and used for His glory! The first phase of learning to overcome temptation is to submit to this twisted way of thinking.