Saturday, April 01, 2017

Where temptation comes from

These are some recent reflections on my quiet time with God. For details on what's involved in quiet time, see here.
Look: “...each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14).

Just before this, James says that we shouldn’t blame God when we’re tempted by sin. God isn’t in the tempting business.

I know that there have been times when I’ve blamed God for the sins that tempt me. Or I blame him for the sins to which I’ve caved. Whether I blame God overtly or subliminally, it’s all the same: Somehow, God is at fault for my feeling tempted. At other times, I may doubt God’s sovereignty. But I can be very devout in upholding the notion of God in being in control when temptations come or when I sin. “If God hadn’t allowed such and such to happen…” “If God hadn’t brought so and so into my life…” “If God hadn’t allowed such and such a thought to come into my brain…”

These thoughts echo the words of Adam and Eve after God confronted them with their sin. “The woman you [God] put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it,” Adam says (Genesis 3:12). “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” Eve says (Genesis 3:13). Somehow, we want to blame God or the circumstances of our lives for our sin. I do, for sure.

But the real reason I find temptation so enticing isn’t with God. Adam was with Eve when they both were being dogged by temptation (Genesis 3:6). And this is what tempted them: “...the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6).

As James puts it, they were “dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”

Listen: My temptations, sins, and inclinations to sin don’t come from You, Lord! I can’t blame You for them. You don’t create our temptations (James 1:13). They are entirely inside jobs, the result slowly of those particular aspects of my personality and character that most entice me.

But I’ve recently been memorizing this promise from Your Word:

“No sin has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. But God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out, so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

We can only be tempted when we allow our desires to be controlled by our sinful impulses. And the devil, the sinful world, and our sinful selves are very good at tempting us to make use of good things or even good people in the wrong ways, at the wrong times, for the wrong reasons. 
Respond: God, Your Word says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Help me to delight in You and so, desire what You want for me, which is always for my eternal good. When I am tempted, as I will be, since even Jesus was tempted and it’s an inevitable part of human life, help me to turn to You, trusting that You will provide a way out, allowing me to endure for the greater joy of life with You (Matthew 24:13). In Jesus’ name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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