More Steps in Temptation

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Read: James 1:12-14

In part 2, we learned there are six steps in the temptation process. The first three are found in James 1:14: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

The temptation process begins with gaining your attention, then attracting and alluring you. There is no sin involved in these first three steps unless you give mental consent to the temptation.

Now notice James 1:15: “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Here are the last three steps in the temptation process: acceptance, appetite and addiction, and, finally, the award for sin.

Let’s consider each of them.

Step 4: Acceptance

When a person chooses to stop fighting thoughts of evil and chooses to welcome them and to mentally visualize them with the assent of his will, sin occurs. In James’ terminology, to allow desire to “conceive” means you inwardly unite your will with the evil thoughts, thereby consciously allowing them to remain in your mind.

As a result, sin becomes the offspring of the attraction and the allurement which you allowed to seduce your will.

However, to become aware of evil thoughts and to fight against them, resisting them and renouncing them, proves that no sin has yet occurred.

To cry out to God and to tell Him that you want no participation in what is wrong but with His help you purpose to resist temptation even to physical death shows that you have not yet sinned.

Do not be surprised when Satan tries to make you feel guilty for having evil thoughts in your mind. He is their source. He projects evil thoughts into our minds and then when we become aware of them, capturing them and replacing them with biblical and godly thoughts, he accuses us of being the owner of the thoughts.

Then he taunts us with the charge that our heart is the source of the evil thoughts and therefore we have an evil heart.

We must remember that Satan is an accuser, a liar, and a deceiver (Revelation 12:10; John 8:44; Revelation 20:3).

Do not allow him to project false guilt into your heart and mind. If you are not sure whether or not you responded quickly enough to capture and expel the evil thoughts, flee to the blood of Jesus and ask for forgiveness and a fresh cleansing. You must keep your conscience clear (Romans 14:21-22).

Step 5: Appetite and Addiction

This step begins at the moment that sin is conceived through mental consent to the evil thoughts and concludes when sin becomes full-grown. James 1:15 says, “When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

The consent of the will determines whether or not sin has occurred when thoughts of evil enter our mind. If we consciously choose to welcome evil thoughts, we have chosen to sin. And, James warns, sin does not remain static; it grows and seeks to become “full-grown,” indicating a fixed habit. Sin never adds quality to our lives.

Although there are momentary pleasures in sinful activities (Hebrews 11:25), sin always subtracts from our lives. And willful sin, unless immediately repented of, will enslave. Paul says in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?”

When we choose to commit willful sin, we are always losers and never gainers, whether it be in this life or in relationship to the eternal. The Bible warns us that there is a way which seems right to a person, but if that way violates God’s Word, the end of that way is death (Proverbs 14:12).

The method Satan uses to enslave people physically is first to blind their minds to the dangers of sin (Ephesians 4:17-18). Then he urges them to sin repeatedly until mental, physical, and emotional addiction occurs.

When this happens, the sinner will gradually become callous and will eventually, apart from the prevenient grace of God stopping his progress, give himself over “to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Ephesians 4:19).

Step 6: Award for Sin

“Sin, when it is finished (full-grown), gives birth to death” (James 1:15). Apart from God’s gracious and merciful intervention, sin is in its very nature self-destructive and will end in death. Sadly, James is not speaking of physical death, for even the most godly people die physically.

Rather, James is speaking of spiritual death and separation from all that is good, forever (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:15). So temptation begins with first catching our attention, progresses to attracting us and then alluring or enticing us. Sin occurs if our will gives consent to the temptation.

Once sin is conceived, steps four through six will follow unless God graciously intervenes. Ultimately it climaxes in eternal separation from God. These are the six steps in the negative flow of temptation. During the first three steps, no sin occurs.

However, one should be alert to the danger and destructive power of temptation and immediately flee to Christ for help as soon as he becomes aware of any attraction to what is displeasing to God.

How to Successfully Combat Temptation

No Christian needs to be defeated by temptation. God personally promises that He will protect every Christian from experiencing a temptation that is too strong for him. In fact, he says to Christians, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience,” promising, that He “will not allow any temptation to be more than you can stand.

When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is great news for a Christian! The Almighty God Himself has promised to intervene in our behalf.

Further, we are told in Scripture that through Christ, we can be more than a conqueror over temptation (Philippians 4:13; Romans 8:37). Part of the responsibility for defeating temptation is to learn the biblical tactics for conducting spiritual warfare.

God has promised to give us grace, strength, and to protect us from the enemy; but God also has instructed us to learn to utilize the spiritual weapons He provides us. Let me suggest several tactics for successfully combating temptation.

Step 1: Make No Provision for the Flesh

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provisions to gratify the desires of the flesh outside of the will of God (Romans 13:14).

The contextual setting of Romans 13:14 reveals that a Christian must not allow spiritual lethargy to diminish his alertness to the dangers of temptation. Spiritual vigilance is an absolute necessity (Romans 13:11). The Christian must completely rid himself of all the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12).

When Paul urges Christian, “Let us put on the armor of light,” he is saying that the light we receive from God’s Word will protect us from the power of temptation just as armor protects a soldier from the attacks of an enemy. Light functions as armor. Further, we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).

This means we are to seek to become more like Jesus, and to receive by faith all that He is for our daily living. As we clothe ourselves with Christ, we will discover that His righteousness, His truth, His holiness, and His love become more and more evident in our lives.

We also are to make no “provision for the flesh, to fulfill its desires.” Flesh, in this context, is the desires of the mind and body that are forbidden by God. To make provision for the flesh means you knowingly expose yourself to things that will tempt you.

While we will continue to face temptations that appeal to our fleshly desires (desires of our mind and body), we must not knowingly expose ourselves to them.

On the contrary, we must make plans to shield ourselves and protect ourselves from those temptations. Here are some suggestions:

Locate. Locate in your life the areas in which you are spiritually weak and most susceptible to temptation. Then purpose with God’s help to avoid anything that would trigger temptation in those areas.

Build. God expects you to build barriers in your life that will protect you from people or things that pull you toward the world. Stay away from places that foster temptation.

For example, if your eyes are an avenue of weakness, don’t go past the magazine rack in the store. Don’t surf the Web, or the TV, or any other media you know will expose you to temptation.

If you can’t control it, get rid of it!

Repent. If you yield to temptation, thoroughly repent of it. And remember, to repent of sin involves more than confessing it and asking God to forgive you.

Repentance is a change of heart and mind toward sin that is demonstrated by a change in your attitude and your behavior. True repentance requires that you do whatever is necessary to stop yielding to what you know is wrong (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

Commit. Commit to full obedience to God and His Word. Analyze why you gave into temptation.

  • Did you override the Holy Spirit’s checks or promptings?
  • Do you need to ask someone’s forgiveness?
  • Is there bitterness in your life?
  • Is there hidden resentment?

Remember, willful disobedience is always the product of unbiblical thoughts coupled with the deliberate choice of our will.

 


 

Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.

Allan Brown
Dr. Allan Brown is Professor and Chair of the Division of Ministerial Education at God's Bible School & College. He holds his PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of several books and articles.