If you are Christian like me, then this is good news for you,
Temptation is not sin
I have found that many Christian adults struggle with the distinction between temptation and sin. Bombarded by tempting thoughts, they conclude that there must be something pretty sick about them. They equate temptation with sin. But even Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are.” But finish the verse: “Yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). As long as we are in the world we are exposed to temptation just like Jesus was. But He didn’t sin, and we don’t have to sin either (1 Corinthians 10:13). In this post I want to define and describe temptation so you can easily recognize it and quickly refuse Satan’s invitation to do things your own way. THE BASIS OF TEMPTATION Since Adam, every person is born into this world physically alive and spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). Having no relationship with God as we progressed through our developmental years, we learned to live independently of Him, and we attempted to get
our needs met apart from Him. We developed patterns of thought and habits of behavior which centered our interests on ourselves. When we were born again we became spiritually alive, but our flesh, that collection of ingrained, self-centered habits and patterns which we learned when we were spiritually dead, remains to contest our commitment to walk in the Spirit. The essence of temptation is the enticement to have legitimate human needs met through the resources of the world, the flesh, and the devil instead of through Christ (Philippians 4:19). Every temptation is an invitation to live independently of God. The power of temptation depends on the strength of the strongholds which have been developed in our minds as we learned to live independently of God. For example, if you were raised in a Christian home where dirty magazines and television programs of questionable moral value were not allowed, the power of sexual temptations in your life will not be as great as for someone who grew up exposed to pornographic materials. Why? Because your legitimate need to be loved and accepted was met by caring parents who also protected you from exposure to illegitimate means of establishing your identity and worth. The person who grew up in an environment of immorality and sexual permissiveness will experience a greater struggle with sexual temptation after he becomes a Christian simply because that stronghold was well-established before he was born again. Too Much of a Good Thing Most of us won’t often be tempted to commit obvious sins such as armed robbery, murder, or rape. Satan is too clever and subtle for that. He knows that we will recognize the flagrant wrong in such temptations and refuse to act on them. Instead, his tack is to entice us to push something good beyond the boundary of the will of God until it becomes sin. He treats us like the proverbial frog in the pot of water: gradually turning up the heat of temptation, hoping we don’t notice that we are approaching the boundary of God’s will, and jump out before something good becomes sin. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). He saw nothing but green lights in every direction of the Christian life. Everything is good and lawful for us because we are free from sin and no longer under the condemnation of the law. But Paul also knew that if we irresponsibly floorboard our lives in any of these good and lawful directions we will eventually run the red light of God’s will, and that’s sin. Sin Versus Growth First John 2:12-14 describes three levels of Christian growth in relation to sin. The first level is compared to “little children” (verse 12). Little children in the faith are characterized by having their sins forgiven and possessing a knowledge of God. In other words, they are in the family of God and have overcome the penalty of sin, but they haven’t grown to the full maturity. The second level is “young men” (verses 13,14), those who have overcome the evil one. These are aggressively growing believers who are strong because the Word of God abides in them. They know the truth and how to use it to resist Satan in the battle for their minds. They are no longer in bondage to uncontrollable habits, and they have resolved the personal and spiritual conflicts which keep many Christians from experiencing freedom in Christ. They are free, and they know how to stay free. The third level is “fathers” (verses 13,14), those who have developed a deep personal knowledge of God. Their faith is securely founded on a close, intimate, loving relationship with God, which is the goal of our spiritual growth. Having challenged us to combat sin’s power in our lives through a commitment to growth, what do you think of temptation?