Nobody likes to talk about temptation. Temptation is one of those things we know exists but because of its regular and negative effect on us we like to forget it exists. Many people deal with the subject of temptation in a number of ways. Passing off personal responsibility is the most common way temptation is dealt with. For example:
Flip Wilson used to say, “The Devil made me do it.”
Another way of dealing with temptation is making light of it through humor. Mark Twain used to say, “I deal with temptation by yielding to it.” Mae West once said, “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.”
May be you like Sam Levenson’s way of thinking of temptation, “Lead me not into temptation, just tell me where it is, I’ll find it.”
My personal favorite take on temptation has always been, “The problem with fleeing temptation is that we always leave a forwarding address.”
How should we view temptation? The Apostle Matthew tells us in his gospel, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41, ESV)
The Greek word that Matthew used is the word πειρασμος. It is used approximately twenty one times in the Greek New Testament. It carries a double meaning of both trials and temptations. Our human spirit has good intentions but our nature is wicked. Our sinful flesh or nature has a 100% proclivity to sin. This is why God creates a new nature in us when He saves or redeems us. He doesn’t mess around with the old by renovating it.
When πειρασμος is used for temptation it means to test a man’s fidelity, or his integrity, his virtue or his constancy. Temptation is an internal enticement to do evil. Temptation may be aroused or prompted by external and outward circumstances. Temptation is always an internal enticement to sin, or to violate the standards of God. Succumbing to our internal enticements even if stimulated by external circumstances is rebellion. Fortunately God forgives our rebellion when we confess our sins to Him.
James, the half-brother of our Lord and first pastor of the Jerusalem Church wrote a short letter to Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout various countries. These new Christians were being persecuted for their new faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Messiah and they were succumbing to temptations leading to sinful acts. James said this in this letter:
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15, ESV)
So, how will you deal with the internal luring and enticement of our inner being? Will you pass the buck and like Flip Wilson, simply say that the devil made you do it?
Will you deal with as Mark Twain did by simply giving in to it? Or maybe like Mae West, if you can’t resist it then you give in? Hopefully you are not like Levenson running full bore towards it. Remember fleeing it won’t do much good if you leave a forwarding address in order for temptation to find you.
I am sure you are like me and many others. You will deal with as Christ prescribed, watching and praying. Oh, there is that word I like so much, watching γρηγορεω, or the English word, Gregory, hmmm why do I like that? (Every time you see or hear the word watch you should now be thinking of my name, Gregory)
We will give strict attention to our inward proclivity and we will, be cautious when our internal desires attempt to lure us or entice us, especially when external circumstances are egging our internal desires on.
And we will pray. We will ask God for wisdom to recognize our innate sinfulness. We will ask God for His strength and energy to put down and kill those wicked proclivities. We will ask God to be victorious because we have done our part and we have trusted Him.