Temptation: The Devil Didn’t Make Me Do It
By: Dr. Steven C. Riser
“I can resist anything but temptation.” The fierce and sometimes fruitless flight against temptation is known to all of us. Sometimes we wonder if we are fighting a losing battle. Is there any hope for struggling Christians?
What do you do when you meet temptation?
One overweight young person said, “When I meet temptation, I eat it.” We may laugh at that response, but the truth is that when we meet temptation—too many of us yield too easily, too often. Too few of us realize the numerous negative consequences of yielding to temptation. If we did, we’d yield to it less often.
What happens when we yield to temptation?
We fall into sin and that produces a variety of negative consequences: a convicted conscience, mental anguish, personal pain, disappointment and perhaps most of all, we realize that we’ve fallen short of God’s desire and His best for our lives. Although human nature hasn’t changed, in some ways temptation is a greater problem these days than it used to be: there is more of it and it is more intense and complex than previous generations. For example, only in the past couple of decades have we been inundated with Internet porn. Our technology provides us with new tools which whet old appetites. There are no new temptations but the old ones come along more often. The advertising/marketing industry tempts us every day.
God has wonderful news for you… He wants to make you free! Jesus said, ”You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” There is no greater happiness on earth than to know you are free from guilt, from fear, from anxiety, from the slavery of sin and from Satan’s evil temptations that can keep you from enjoying all that God has for you. Temptation is a tool of your evil adversary, who uses it to lure you into sin and to keep you discouraged and distracted from the virtuous life that God wants you to enjoy.
No one is or will be exempt from temptation. There is no spiritual level in this world where Satan can’t find you. Even Jesus, the sinless Son of God, the most pure person who ever lived in the flesh, was tempted by the devil. The Spirit-filled disciples of Christ were also tempted. Paul, the great apostle whom God used to record great truths for our learning, found temptation to be an ongoing, everyday experience.
We also will experience temptation. Don’t be discouraged or disheartened. Consider this wise counsel from a minister I once knew… “If the devil is still after you, it means he ain’t got you.” The devil doesn’t need to bother himself with those who are blinded by him and who are already living for him (2 Cor. 4:4). The more sensitive we become to God’s ways the easier it will be to recognize temptation. Be encouraged, God has provided a plan and the power to overcome every temptation that Satan will throw our way.
One of the classic rules of warfare is: “know your enemy.” Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “We are not ignorant of his (Satan’s) devices.” Ignorance is not virtue, especially when it comes to knowing your spiritual enemy. “Fore-warned is fore-armed.” If we know how Satan operates, we can better stay out of his traps. In Ephesians Paul says that we should give no opportunity to the Devil. It’s our job to make sure that we don’t give Satan any ammunition with which to shoot us. We must depend upon the Lord for discernment over deception and for strength to resist the evil one (1 Jn. 4:4).
The only origin of temptation is the devil. God never uses temptation as a method of testing His people. The Apostle James says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (Jas. 1:12-17, NKJV).
Satan is well aware of our human makeup and our most basic needs. He knows our desires and even what lengths to which he must go and with him, the ends always justify the means. Jesus said, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26, NKJV). Some people are tempted to sell their soul for a bottle of wine… while for others the devil has to spend millions to enslave their soul for eternity. Whether the price is a Chevy or a Mercedes, a snort of cocaine or a Camel cigarette, Satan will pay whatever price you are willing to accept in exchange for your soul. Temptation is the price haggling negotiation. You are the prize and Satan is checking to see if you have a price for which you will sell your soul. This brings us to…
The Three Purposes of Satan Regarding Temptation
The First Purpose which most of us understand is that Satan uses temptation to lure us to commit sin. In other words, to disobey God’s wise and loving principles for living (i.e., laws). In doing so, Satan has affected our life in a most miserable way… because sin has no good side.
What does sin bring?
- Sin brings shame… “O my God, I am ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you, for our sins are piled higher than our heads and our guilt is as boundless as the heavens” (Ezra 9:6, TLB).
- Sin brings guilt… “So when they continued asking Him (Jesus), He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first. And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (Jn. 8:7-9, NKJV).
- Sin brings sickness, misery and pain… “Oh, what a sinful nation they are! They walk bent-backed beneath their load of guilt. Their fathers before them were evil too. Born to be bad, they have turned their backs upon the Lord and have despised the Holy One of Israel. They have cut themselves off from his help” (Isa. 1:4-5)
- Sin brings bondage… “The wicked man is doomed by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him” (Prov. 5:22, TLB). ”Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jn. 8:34, NKJV). ”Don’t you realize that you can choose your own master? You can choose sin (with death) or else obedience (with acquittal). The one to whom you offer yourself—he will take you and be your master, and you will be his slave” (Rom. 6:16 TLB).
- Sin brings destruction… “Calamity will surely overtake the wicked; heavy penalties are meted out to those who hate the good” (Psa. 34:21, TLB).
- Sin separates from God… “Yet no one calls upon your name or pleads with you for mercy. Therefore, you have turned away from us and turned us over to our sins” (Isa. 64:7, TLB). ”Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2, NKJV).
- Sin brings spiritual and physical death… “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. His sin spread death throughout all the world, so everything began to grow old and die, for all sinned” (Rom. 5:12, TLB). ”For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23, NKJV). “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1 NKJV)
- Sin hardens the heart… “But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” Heb. 3:13, KJV).
- Sin brings eternal punishment… Jesus said, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matt 18:9, NKJV).
The Second Purpose for Satan’s temptation is to discourage the children of God.
Discouragement is another way to keep God’s children in spiritual bondage where we are unable to be all God wants us to be. A Christian believer who is being tempted with a particular matter will be harassed by the devil to believe that he or she is a weak and sinful Christian. But temptation and sin are not the same thing. Luther said that while you can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, you can prevent them from making a nest in your hair. Satan strategically focuses where he can do the greatest damage. He focuses on those he does not have in his control and he is doing whatever he can to lure them back. The purposes of the unholy spirit are diametrically opposed to the purposes of the Holy Spirit.
The devil knows that you are a potential danger to his evil kingdom. He doesn’t want you to be a faithful, effective, fruitful Christian. Don’t allow Satan to hinder your spiritual growth or your Christian service by keeping you discouraged through repeatedly falling into temptation.
Satan’s Third Purpose for temptation is to make us self-centered. If Satan can keep the children of God so involved with their own temptation that they have no energy or desire to reach out to other people with the gospel of Christ… then Satan becomes the winner. He wants to neutralize our effectiveness for Christ! In short, he doesn’t want us to know Christ (learn/grow) or make Him known (serve/witness).
God wants to use you as an instrument through which your world can see and hear the gospel of Christ. Your daily spiritual faith is like a book that someone is reading. You are being watched and respected for what God is doing through you. Satan does not like that… and he will use temptation to get your mind and attention only on you so that the needs of others become less of a priority.
Does any of this sound familiar? Sure it does! Welcome to the community of Satan’s enemies! When we understand the nature of temptation and God’s provision for it, we are better prepared to deal with it. The nature of temptation involves three areas of our life…
- The lust of the flesh
- The lust of the eye
- The pride of life
We can’t say, “The devil made me do it” because… “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” Jas. 1:14-15, KJV).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abides for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17, KJV)
Let’s first deal with the word “lust.” It comes from the Greek word “epithumia” which means “a forbidden longing or evil desire” … in other words “a sinful, uncontrollable desire.”
This brings us to the word “desire”: We have many basic “desires” as human beings. In fact the basic desires we have are all God-given. For example, we have the desire for food, which we call hunger. We have the desire for self-survival, which we call fear and anger… and yes, God has also given healthy human beings the desire for sex… as well as other “desires.”
These are normal human desires for our health and continuance as a human species. If we didn’t have a desire for food… we wouldn’t eat, which would eventually result in death. We need nutrition to survive. If we didn’t have the “fear desire” we would jump off a high cliff not worried about the eventual splat below. Or, we would pick up a rattling rattlesnake and let him nibble around on our flesh for a while.
If we didn’t have the “desire” of survival then the lack of fear or anger would allow all the evil in the world to overtake us. We need the ability to get angry so that we can fight back when overcome with evil… rather than succumb to it. Anger is what caused the nations of the world to unite and fight against Hitler. Anger is what makes us put criminals in jail. It is a necessary “desire” for human survival.
And then there is sex … a desire for man and woman to physically merge in a way that our bodies were created to do. Without this desire man and woman would be repulsed to consider the sexual act and humankind would become extinct.
All these desires, and others not mentioned, are necessary for the health and continuation of our human family. But like all of God’s gifts, man has disrespected and abused these God given desires… and has suffered the consequences for them.
This brings us back to lust… Lust is an uncontrollable (sinful, evil) desire. We need to meet God-given needs in a God-given fashion. When we can’t control our sexual desires as God ordained and designed, then the desire becomes “lust.” When we can’t control anger to react in hostility against another… then anger has become “lust.” When we can’t control fear, or hunger… to use them as God designed them… then they too become “lust.”
A lack of self-control can turn a natural God-given desire into an evil desire or lust. This is the basis of all temptation… our natural desires that become uncontrollable. Satan has no other tool to work with than our natural, God given desires to make them “lustful.” Jesus came to earth as a human being to experience the temptations of man so that He may better be prepared to help us. God can’t be tempted with evil… but when God put on human flesh, He was able to be tempted in the flesh.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw
Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matt. 4:1-11, NKJV)
Notice that Jesus was tempted in these three areas of life…the lust of the flesh, lust of the eye and pride of life:
Lust of the Flesh… Satan said to Jesus, “make these stones bread.” After 40 days of fasting Jesus undoubtedly was very hungry and weak. While it’s no sin to be hungry and desire food, it would have been sinful for Jesus to use the powers that God had given Him for selfish reasons. Had Jesus yielded to this temptation to use His powers to make a stone into bread just to gratify His hunger… then Jesus may have been tempted to use His powers to relieve the pain and suffering of the cross to free Himself from Calvary’s tree… leaving us with no hope. Jesus knew that there was bread available somewhere for Him to eat… and He would not allow Satan to tempt Him to use His godly power for personal motives.
This is also true for God’s children. God has provided natural means to satisfy our physical needs. But Satan tries to tempt us to use God as an extraordinary supplier of that which He already has in place. There was a man once who would not work to support his family. He felt that he was called to be a minister and that God would supply his need. He lived on welfare and gifts from concerned people who gave him money for food. He rejoiced that God was supplying his needs by other people, but his spiritual testimony was disrespected by others who viewed him as a lazy bum who would not even support his own family.
Lust of the Eye… Satan took Jesus to a high mountain to show him the kingdoms of the earth. “All this I will give to you if you serve me…” Jesus was shown the wealth, power and glamour of the world where He could be a rich and powerful earthly king. Satan does the same thing to human beings. Satan will pay the price to gain followers. He has a lot of toys to attract the eye if we are willing to look. His marketing managers are at full speed with their luscious sales pitch. The more we see, the more we want and the more we want the less we think we have. Lustful eyes are never satisfied. Sin is subject to the law of diminishing returns.
Pride of Life… Satan put Jesus on a high building with the suggestion to “jump off and before you kill yourself God will send the angels to save you.” The idea behind this temptation was that Jesus could score immediate popularity and credibility… but He had to tempt God to save Him from a foolish act. It is no different with human beings. Satan is constantly tempting us to do extreme and foolish things for the acceptance and applause of others. Christians are tempted to prove their spirituality in a variety of ways… expression of spiritual gifts, excessive promotional giving, huge sanctuaries, elaborate worship services, etc. Putting on a phony face is always easier than putting on God’s armor and going into battle. There are six requirements to overcoming temptation
The first is to… Realize Temptation Is From Satan, Not From God… and that temptation is a tool of Satan to destroy your relationship with God. He will try and tempt us in our areas of greatest weakness and at the times when we are most vulnerable.
The second requirement is to… Realize That Temptation Is Not The Same As Sin… and that Satan wants to discourage you into thinking you are a weak Christian because you constantly have to battle temptation. Temptation is not Sin. Sin only comes after we yield to temptation. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15, NKJV)
The third requirement is to… Recognize Your Need To Abstain from the Evil Desires of the Sinful Nature… We live in a very permissive society where we are continually bombarded with secular advertisements and worldly philosophies that promote sensual pleasure. Our natural God-given “desires” are being trained to seek that which will feel good regardless of the price. The more we feed our “uncontrolled desires” the more we want. A willingness to say “no” to ungodly desires is needed to develop godly desires and to bring those Godly desires under control…to use them as God ordained them to be used. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:24-25).
The fourth requirement is to… Realize That We Must Submit To God and Resist The Devil… The spiritual battle with temptation is much greater than a human can overcome alone. You need help and God is available when we totally surrender our lives to His control. Note the process… first, surrender to God. Get God’s power on your side, then… resist the devil (reject his proposals). When you and God become partners there is a power that Satan cannot defeat (1 Jn. 4:4). When you surrender to God and then resist the devil, the devil has no other option than to “flee from you.” “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7, NKJV).
The fifth requirement is to… Recognize Our Need To Continually Abide In God… The word “abide” means “to remain steadfast.” It means “to continue in fellowship with” God in the good times… not just when we need Him to help us overcome temptation. Building a relationship with God is a daily activity… and the more we know Him, the more we feel comfortable to call upon Him in total trust in the time of trouble. God wants to be our friend as well as our deliverer. “All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major disruption in God’s order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in Him and sin is not a part of His program. No one who lives deeply in Christ makes a practice of sin. None of those who do practice sin have taken a good look at Christ. They’ve got Him all backward” (1 Jn. 3:6-9, The Message).
The sixth requirement is to… Put On The Whole Armor Of God… (Eph. 6:10-11)
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…. (Eph. 6:10-18)
A good warrior never enters a battle without proper gear to protect himself. The Christian warrior never goes into battle with Satan without the armor that God has provided for him. God’s armor includes the…
- Belt of Truth (to protect our vital organs)
- Breastplate of Righteousness (to protect the heart)
- Shoes of the Gospel (to carry us forward into battle)
- Shield of Faith (a shield to ward off Satan’s fiery darts)
- Helmet of Salvation (to protect the head and mind)
- Sword of the Spirit—the Word of God. (Our only offensive weapon)
Temptation is an everyday experience to the Christian believer. God has provided a method (1 Cor. 10:13) and the power to overcome all temptation (2 Tim. 1:7). We are more than over-comers through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37). Take God at His word, hide it in your heart (Psa. 119:11) and start enjoying the Christian life as He intended. Don’t allow Satan to steal your joy through falling into temptation. Pray as Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one” (Matt. 6:13).
One final thought, you may lose the battle but don’t lose the war. Proverbs 24:16 says, “A righteous man falls seven times and rises again.” We are not perfect and we may be hesitant, fearful or even ashamed to admit our imperfections. There will not be a single day when we do not need the redeeming grace of God in Christ.
Falling into sin is what humans do. Continuing to resist sin is what Christians do and accepting erring Christians is what God does. Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. Most of us take three steps forward and two steps backward. Thank God that He doesn’t turn around and walk away when we fail (1 Jn. 2:1-2). C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us. It is a very sign of His presence.” When we fall short we must admit it and claim God’s forgiveness and help to do better the next time. While we may lose some battles because our flesh is weak, by God’s grace we will not lose the war. And what a wonderful day is a waiting us when the war is finally over! (Rev. 12:11)
What Does the Bible Say About Temptation? (Inductive Bible Study)
- Was Jesus tempted? Why was He tempted? (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; Mt. 4:1-10)
- What example (method/approach) did Jesus provide in dealing with sin? (Matt. 4:1-10)
- Can we ever be completely successful in resisting temptation? (1 Jn. 1:8, 10)
- What role does the devil play in temptation? (Rev.12: 9; 1 Thess. 3:5; 1 Pet. 5:8-10; 1 Cor. 7:5)
- Why does Satan tempt us? (Gen. 3:1-6)
- What do we know about Satan’s methods of tempting us? (2 Cor. 2:11)
- How can we give the Devil a foothold in our lives? (Eph. 4:26-27)
- Does God resist human kind? (Jas. 1:13; 1 Pet. 1:6-7)
- What causes temptation? How does it begin? (Jas. 1:14; Mt. 26:41b)
- What should we pray about temptation? (Matt. 6:13; 26:41; Lk. 22: 40)
- When tempted, what are we to do? (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9)
- How can we keep from gratifying the desires of our sinful nature? (Gal. 5:16)13 What often precedes or precipitates giving into temptation? (1 Cor. 10:12; Prov. 16:18; 1 Chr. 21:1-3)
- What does God promise with respect to temptation? (1 Cor. 10:13; 2 Tim. 4:18)
- What provision has God made to keep us from falling into temptation? (1 Cor. 10:13)
- Are some temptations irresistible? (1 Cor. 10:13)
- What provision has God made if we fall into temptation? (1 Jn. 1:9; 2:1)
- What strategy should be employed when tempted with immorality? (2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:18; Gen. 39:10ff)
- Do we need to guard against temptation for ourselves and others? (Gal. 6:1; 1 Cor. 7:5
- Will marriage eliminate sexual temptation? (1 Cor. 7:28)
- What is a common temptation we need to guard against? (1 Tim. 6:9)
- How are we to respond to spiritual conflict? (Eph. 6:10, 13)
- What is a powerful prevention from sin? (Psa. 119:11)
- How does the shield of faith relate to dealing with temptation? (Eph. 6:16)
- What responsibility do we have in helping others deal with temptation? (Eph. 4:15-16)