From Temptation To Sin
Updated: Mar 7
James 1:14-15 - "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
I stated in a previous post that many people think they have sinned when they have only been tempted. Truly, many have sinned in a particular situation and have failed to realize or acknowledge it, but in our effort to be sensitive to sin, some people have created an impossible standard for themselves and others. I mentioned the examples of Eve in the garden and David with Bathsheba and compared them with James’ words in his epistle (Please read the post: Temptation is Not Sin). With that in mind, I would like to break the passage down so we can grasp what is being said. Though there are distinct elements in this description of the “process” of going from temptation to sin, that is not to say that we are able to identify these elements as distinct when we are in a tempting situation. Instead, it allows us to evaluate ourselves in the light of God’s Word so that we can determine what is sin and what is not. I am in no way advocating for the ability to get as close to sin as possible without actually sinning, far from it. I have always remembered an illustration I read about years ago, in which an older wealthy lady who lived on top of a mountain always traveled to town in a wagon. The path down the mountain was treacherous, being very narrow at times, with dangerous ledges and drop-offs along the way. Because of these hazards, the lady had a full-time wagon driver that transported her back and forth. The day came when the wagon driver died. The aged lady mourned for the gentleman that had become her friend, but she also had to find another driver. She put the word out and three men applied for the position. She explained the treacherous path down the mountain to all three men, then she simply asked them to describe their wagon handling capabilities to her. The first man spoke up and said: “Ma’am, I am such a capable wagon driver that I can keep the wagon wheels within an inch of any ledge and keep the rig steady with no issues, and I can prove it.” He looked at her for approval, but her face showed no response. The second man, ready to one-up the first man, said: “Ma’am, I am such a good wagon-driver that I am able to let the wagon wheels hang slightly over any ledge and I can still keep it steady without fail! I can prove it!” Thinking he had impressed the lady he looked at her for approval, but again, she gave no response. The third man looked at the lady and said the following: “Ma’am, there is no doubt that these two men are very capable and skilled drivers. Perhaps you should choose one of them, because I do not have the boldness and skill that they have, and in fact, to tell you the truth, my only concern would be staying as far away from the ledge as possible.” The lady’s eyes lit up and she said: “You’re hired!” This should be our approach when it comes to sin in general, and men, seeing that the topic of this post is the specific temptation that women are to men, this should be our approach when it comes to dealing with this matter. Do not see how close to the ledge you can get without falling. Stay as far from it as possible. That is the surest way to safety. This is why many godly men avoid television, movies, magazines, etc., and why they are very careful with their eyes in public. They guard their hearts by protecting their minds.
What is temptation? Temptation is an object or idea presented to the mind as a means of pleasure or gratification, but in a forbidden context. In other words, it is the sight or thought of an object or idea that appeals to a person. God created us to be able to experience pleasure. Some people claim that our flesh is inherently sinful, and some Bible versions (like the NIV) even give an unwarranted interpretation of the flesh as "sinful flesh." But Christ was born of the same flesh we are, and I doubt anyone would be willing to say he had "sinful flesh." In fact, the flesh is neutral. It has no moral capacity. But if we walk in the flesh (are ruled by the gratification of the flesh), we sin. Instead, we should walk in the Spirit (be ruled by the Lord) and gratify the flesh lawfully. Pleasure is not sinful, though we are often tempted by the world and the powers of darkness, to gratify ourselves unlawfully. Furthermore, contrary to what some teach, people usually do not sin because they are wanting to sin, per se. They are seeking pleasure, and when they gratify themselves outside of God’s boundaries, they are sinning. Of course, people can form habits and create illicit temptations for themselves, but the end is still self-gratification, not always rebellion for rebellion’s sake. Those serving sin are still lost, and Christians that give in to temptation still must repent, but approaching the matter intelligently with them goes a long way. Yes, there are people that hate the Lord, but not everyone who is serving sin has taken a stand of hatred for the Lord himself. Perhaps they are like the lost people that Elijah accused of being neither committed to God or to a false god (or evil), but they are “halting between opinions.” The message is clear: they are undecided, uncommitted, and lost. If the Lord is God, then serve him in holiness. If Baal (sin, self-gratification) is your god, then follow it, but know that this is the way of death. The ungodly love the darkness because it is there that they can gratify themselves without resistance and rebuke, even if they are not the most evil people in the world. But do not take solace in the fact that you are not completely sold out to evil, if you have not completely surrendered to God.
The fact that an object or idea appeals to a person does not indicate sin, it simply means that the object or idea is able to garner the attention of our pleasure-seeking capacity. So, we are able to be 1) drawn away - lured from self-restraint, because 2) we have desires - an appetite for pleasure, and 3) this results in enticement - our passion is stirred by the excitement of the senses that correlate with the object or idea. Though we can all attest to this, and though those who seek to be holy have experienced it as well, and have felt terrible for the experience, at this point sin has not been committed. Though a person is in the clutches of temptation, he can still flee and “sin not.” But the moment one yields his will to the pleasure, the moment he “gives in” and indulges his appetite by the forbidden means, desire is conceived, and sin takes place. Death, proleptically speaking, is the result. When the forbidden look, thought, or behavior, is purposefully engaged in for the purpose of self-indulgence, sin has occurred.