How Do We View Temptation?
In 1981, Terri Gibbs sang the popular country song “Somebody’s Knocking.” The lyrics go:
Somebody’s knocking; should I let him in?
Lord it’s the devil; would you look at him.
I’ve heard about him, but I never dreamed,
He’d have blue eyes and blue jeans.
I heard that song thousands of times on the radio, and every single time it reminded me that temptation doesn’t come in nicely identified packages with warning labels. Instead, temptation comes through the most common of things that we deal with on a daily basis, and those with whom we are most intimate. How we view temptation, and subsequently deal with it, makes all the difference.
First, I should view temptation with an eye of skepticism. It isn’t the temptation, per se, that I’m worried about; it’s the devil behind temptation that bothers me. Temptation never delivers what it promises because its object is not to provide me with that with which I am being tempted. That is the “snare” of temptation. Like a bird who has been lured into a trap with a morsel of bread, temptation will never deliver the whole loaf (1Tim. 6:9). Instead, the morsel is consumed and the prey are left with nothing but the trap. When temptation comes my way, I must first ask, “What is behind this apparent ‘good time’? Who has set the trap?” Satan is the great tempter (Mark 1:13).
Second, I should view temptation with a knowledge of consequences. Simply thinking about the consequences of some sinful action is often sufficient enough to dissuade one from performing said action. The Bible teaches, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Understanding that all choices have consequences, and weighing my choices in terms of the consequences quells temptation. How many have said, “I didn’t think that this would happen” after it is too late. Such is the problem with temptation: many simply don’t think about it.
Third, I should view temptation with a word of warning. The Bible warns repeatedly about the ubiquity of temptation and how I should handle it. It teaches me that God does not permit me to be tempted beyond my ability to resist. It also teaches that God provides the way of escape when I am in the midst of temptation. God’s faithfulness, love, mercy, and grace give me these tools so that I can work through the temptation to a successful conclusion (1 Cor. 10:13). The outcome of successfully handling temptation is that one will receive the crown of life (James 1:12). However, the Bible warns us that temptation is a deadly peril should I succumb to it (James 1:15).
Finally, I should view temptation as a tool for self improvement. There will be times when I will succumb to temptation and the sin that lurks behind it. However, such is no time to give up. I must repent of my sin, get up off of my proverbial back-side, and get back into the groove of things. I cannot let temptation and sin move me to quit living the Christian life. I must be like Peter, who, having denied Jesus three times, nevertheless repented and continued faithfully in the service of His Lord. Judas, however, allowed his temptation and sin to devour him; he hanged himself and went to his own place (Acts 1:25). While no one ought to desire temptation, and everyone ought to pray to be delivered out of it (Matt.6:3; 2 Peter 2:9), nevertheless succumbing to it is not the end of the story. God has granted forgiveness through the blood of Christ to deal with temptation/sin and provide us a way back to Him no matter what the circumstances might be (John 3:16). He truly wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Knowing this process is available means that I can improve in my walk with God even in the midst of my failure. Resistance is NOT futile!