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Facing up to Temptation In the book of Job, Eliphaz makes the observation, “It's human!

Mortals are
born and bred for trouble, as certainly as sparks fly upward.” (MSG-Job 5:7).
These sparks are tests that we face in our day to day lives. Sometimes we may
not see that is what they are, they are irritations and annoyances that plague
our daily existence.
These simple annoyances can accumulate, like water dripping steadily on a
rock, eroding the rock away. We need only look at the mountains around
Grenoble to see that. Their sharp, majestic peaks did not suddenly appear one
day; they are the product of millennia of water and wind that have shaped
them and turned them into what they are today.
I knew someone who said that he did okay with life, but things would build up
to the point that all it would take was to break a shoe lace as he tied his shoes.
But tests and trial are a fact of life as much as sparks from a fire. we notice
when they become something that impacts our lives, when they cannot simply
be dealt with so that we can get on with life. We can start to investigate this
topic further by asking ourselves, “what do we mean when we say test or trial,
and how is that different from a temptation”?

Let us look first at the issues surrounding the concept of testing and
temptation.
We will look at three areas related to the question of testing and temptation.
They are:
A. The nature of temptation; what is temptation?

B. What are some issues we face when we are tempted?

C. A little Spiritual Maintenance

A. The nature of temptation; what is temptation?


Tim Keller has described three aspects of temptation in a sermon on James 1.
The first question focuses on the nature of temptation: What is it? Am I being
tested or tempted?

The first point he makes is that every trial has the potential to become a
temptation. In both Greek and Hebrew, there is one word that can be
translated either trial or temptation, depending on the context. When you look
at James 1:2 and 1:12, the word is translated as test or trial
The same word is translated as tempt in v13 and 14. Why the difference?
Because everything that comes into our lives has the potential to be either a
test or a temptation. The context determines how we translate the word.
Take as an example the question of wealth in v9ff. If you are faced with
poverty, it can be a test or a temptation. If you rejoice in your status and
situation, giving God glory for all he is doing and it increases your dependence
on him, then you have passed the test, and the reward is the crown of life. You
are seen as mature and complete (1:4, 12)
But if you become bitter and angry and morose because of it, then you are
falling into temptation, and the result of that sin in your will lead to death if not
resisted.
The same is true for wealth. If you praise God for his provision, and use it to
promote the kingdom of God and you become generous in your giving, then
the reward is the crown of life. But if you become arrogant and greedy with
your wealth, thinking that you have this because of your work and luck and
ability, and somehow deserve it, then the result is that sin will give birth to
death.

The same can be said about adversity. As I encounter adversity in my life, it can
make me humble and compassionate, or I can become bitter, anxious,
depressed and despondent about my life.
Both are tests from the outside, but can have different results:
Enticed by evil desire Result:  gives birth to death (v14-15)
Mature and complete Result:  Crown of life (v12)
So everything has the potential to be either a test or a temptation. Our
response to the event is whether we pass the test or we succumb to
temptation and fall into sin.

Whether a test or temptation, you will not be the same.

One thing we should point out here, there is nothing sinful about being
tempted. If we are tempted by sin, that does not mean that we are sinning. Sin
occurs when we give in and yield to the enticement of sin, enter into it
willingly.

Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet did not sin (Heb 4:15). So if
Jesus was tempted, but did not sin, it follows that it is not that sin is not in the
fact that we are tempted, but that we give in to the seduction of temptation
and fall into sin.
The Second point: Why can every trial be a temptation?

To begin, let’s take a moment to talk about the nature of sin.

Our tendency is to see sin as a score card of the various acts and things that
we have done that we see as sin. These different things can be seen as sin, but
we should have a deeper understanding of the nature of sin.

God’s desire and plan for us is to have a relationship with him through Jesus
Christ. God draws us toward him out of his love and desire for us to have
fellowship with him.
But when sin enters the picture, it causes us to turn away from God, to move
away from him.
So sin is more than an act or event, an item to put on our personal scorecard.
It is first of all a rejection of a relationship with God, a turning away from him.
To put it another way, it is rebellion against God and his claim to be Lord of
our lives.

Repentance is when we turn around and move back toward God. We ask
forgiveness for that which we have done, and God is faithful and just to forgive
us our sins in Christ Jesus.
1 John 1 9But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Repentance is doing a 180° turn in our lives, away from our sin and rebellion
and back to God

So why is every trial a temptation? Because the potential to fall into sin exists
with every test in our lives.
Our desires are a powerful force in our lives. They don’t need to be prompted
to show up, and they can’t always be suppressed, at least not for long. Sin
stands by the door and waits for an opportunity in our lives. When the
opportunity presents itself, sin begins to entice and seduce us to follow our
desires and give in to them.

The American theologian Jonathan Edwards says that “we sin because we want
to sin.”
We have free will, which means that we will only and always do what we
desire to do, what we most want to do.
Take an example of something like this: “my boss made me lie; if I hadn’t I
would have lost my job.
No, Edwards would say. You wanted your job more than telling the
truth.

We want to sin, no one makes us sin, and there are no conditions that force
us to sin.

The third point tells us how trials bring about temptations.


Notice how many times Satan is mentioned in this section on sin and
temptation? We often tend to believe that we are victims of Satan’s
machinations and plans, that he dupes us into sinning. According to James, we
don’t need any help when it comes to allowing sin into our lives.
Sin begins when you take another lover, a lover other than God. Something
else gives you self-esteem, gives you worth, value and meaning in life, you find
it somewhere other than God.
When that happens, Sin plants a seed, literally, we become pregnant with sin,
and as it continues to grow in our lives, it gives birth, and viola!

Enticed – This is a sexual metaphor, which means seduced.


When you are seduced, there is conception, and then birth. Then there is a
grandchild, and when this grandchild gives birth, it is death.
Keller says it best when he says, “It is not that we want bad things, we want
things too badly.”
In OT, this idea of taking another lover is found in the act of idolatry, which
God calls spiritual adultery

So to review:
1. Every trial is a temptation.
Anything that comes into our lives as a test or trial has the possibility of
becoming a temptation.

2. Why is every trial a temptation?


Because of the potential to sin exists in every trial we encounter.

3. How trials bring about temptations


Sin entices and seduces us to give in to the temptation in our lives, and this
produces death, which will destroy our relationship with God is we do not turn
away from sin.

Having looked at the nature of sin, we can now move on to some of the issues
that we face when we are tempted to sin, and some consequences.

Genesis 3 is perhaps the one of the most well-known stories about temptation
and fall into sin.

As a side note, as we look at the story, as Eve was being tempted by the
serpent, where was Adam? He was standing right next to her!
The classic story of the temptation of Eve by the serpent tells us how the
tempter enticed and seduced Eve into sinning.
1. Did God really say...? The serpent tempts Eve by calling God’s word to her
into question. The implication is this: We stand in judgment of what God says,
his word is subject to our criticism. Is it valid? Is it necessary for me to do what
he says?
2. Did God really say...? In this instance, The serpent focuses on the negative
aspect of what God has said. The implication is that somehow, God is putting a
limit on our desire and ability to fully human. If I can’t do this, then something
is missing out of my life, and God is keeping it from me.
The problem is not that by eating of the tree she now knows the difference
between good and evil, the problem is that she is now subject to moral failure.
She may know what is wrong, but she cannot take appropriate action to fend
off sin. She will not be able always to do the right thing in response to that
knowledge.
3. The third thing is what happens to us in our response to these basic issues of
life.

“...the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to
the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.”
N. T. Wright has suggested these categories, based on Genesis, the gospels,
and 1 Jean 2:
Original State of Things Result of the Fall of Adam and Eve
Resources Money
Relationships Sex
Responsibility Power

Because of our rebellion, and our desire to have things too badly, sin has
twisted God’s ideals for us into a self-focused parody.
These issues will show up from time to time in other temptation stories in
scripture. For example, there is the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in
Genesis 39.

We won’t spend time reviewing the story, but if you are not familiar with it,
this might be a good time to stop and read the story, then return here.
1. How can I sin against God? This is what Joseph said in response to the
enticement of Potiphar’s wife to sleep with him.
Everything we do is affects our relationship with God. Nothing is neutral. He
might be sinning against Potiphar, but ultimately the consequences of his
actions would impact his relationship with God as well.
2. God has set boundaries. Joseph recognized that there were boundaries in
his life. He had responsibilities to Potiphar, to Potiphar’s wife, for the things
trusted to his care. For Joseph to go outside those boundaries and to breach
the trust given to him would have been sin and moral failure.

For us to move outside those boundaries is the abuse of trust and our
responsibility.
Relationships – Family, marriage, friends, et. al.
Responsibility – work, trust, etc

Return to this story on your own sometime and when you read through it, look
for how the issues of resources, relationships and responsibilities play out in
the life of Joseph.

The temptation of Christ is also a well know story of temptation.

One point that we should discuss is who was Jesus when he was tempted? We
readily agree that he was God in the flesh, and that he was the son of God. But
a mistake that we make is that somehow Jesus was immune to temptation and
rebelling against God. After all, wasn’t he like Clark Kent, who became
Superman by removing his glasses and outer clothing?
No, he was 100% human, as well as 100% God. But he chose to set all those
claims aside and not fall back on them when things got tough (Phil 2:5-11).
As a human being, he was susceptible to temptation and to the plight of sin,
but by his total dependence on the Holy Spirit, he was able to endure these
temptations and not fall into sin.
As a result, God’s understanding of temptation is not only theoretical, it is
experiential as well. Christ is able to help us in our time of temptation because
he knows the travail and power of temptation. As a priest, he stands as an
intermediary between us and God, to bring provision and power into our lives.

At the end of the 40 day fast of Jesus in the wilderness, Satan comes to Jesus to
tempt him. The first thing Satan does is cast doubt on God’s provision in the
midst of circumstances
Satan implies that Jesus was starving and hungry. If you are God, act like it.
He says that Jesus has failed, therefore if you want to get things done, fall
down and worship me.
Satan says, has God forgotten about you? Jump off this temple and God will
save you, and show you that he cares.
Satan offers Jesus some shortcuts to fulfilling God’s will. But at a cost.

When we doubt God we can’t see the future, or the end, goal or purpose of
things.

1. We may not be tempted to turn stones into bread, but I can act if I don’t
trust God in this situation.
2. I may not want to jump off any temples, but I can turn scripture to use it for
my advantage, or read it and not submit to it.
Temptation often focuses on whether we can trust God to act in this
situation, and whether he can supply my needs without my help.
A Little Preventative Maintenance
In my former life, I was a property manager in charge of a number of office
buildings and other structures. An important charge given to me was to keep
the buildings in good repair and safe for the people who worked in these
buildings. We approached the upkeep and repair of these buildings two ways.
1. Preventative maintenance. We did regular upkeep and service to keep
systems and equipment from failing and breaking down.
2. Repair Maintenance. Clients would call me when there was a problem, and I
would have to dispatch the necessary people to correct the problem.
We found that doing regularly scheduled upkeep and repair prevented many
problems from occurring.
The same is true of our spiritual life.
The best way to keep from falling into temptation and sin is to prepare and
strengthen ourselves before there is a problem.
To that end, we have a few suggestions on how to do this:
Thesis statement: God is light – We are called to live in the light, in relationship
with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. The epistle of 1 Jean
gives us some guidelines on how to live in the light, and to do some spiritual
preventative maintenance.
1. Living in the Light: Renounce Sin (1 Jn 1:8-2:2). Sin is anything that blocks
the light. When we sin, we build a wall between us and God, and the wall
blocks the light
2. Living in the light: Be obedient (1 John 2:3-11)
Jesus taught that loving God is worked out in how we obey and relate to him.
Cf husband and wife, two good friends. Do they follow laws to build and keep a
good relationship? They are doing what comes out of being.

3. Living in the light: Do not love the world or anything in the world (2, 12-17).
Note v16 – power, sex and money don’t come from God. These are the big
three from Adam and Eve –resources, relationships and responsibilities.
4. Living in the light: Keep the faith (2, 18-29)
The key is abiding. Do you recall the parable of the vine and the branch? If you
are not connected to the vine, the branch will wither and die. You are called to
abide and produce fruit.

In conclusion:
How can we respond? How can I face up to Temptation?
1. Preventative spirituality, spiritual disciplines
2. Healthy view of God – What is idolatry?
3. Community – friends, mentoring, accountability
4. Radical removal of source of temptation; heart eye connection.
5. Temptation is subtle. Notice Jesus, no big temptations: not tempted
by adultery, to cheat on taxes, or rob a bank

The French have an interesting word: Interdit


It can mean off-limits, out of bounds, unauthorized or forbidden. The basic idea
is, “don’t go there.”

This is the best advice for facing up to temptation: Don’t go there!