Every Man is Tempted
However rich our experience of Christ in salvation and sanctification may be, one fact remains patently the same for all: we live in a constant environment of temptation.
One great New Testament letter–to the Hebrews–has that as its main theme: how to be tempted and go through. Temptation was the downfall of the first Adam, and the victory of the last Adam. Its purpose, as well as its profoundest analysis, is given us by James. It is the only road to perfection: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." We must be tempted, because only by that means can we discover what is in us, and can we make our choices which finally fix our character and destiny.
If life is response to environment, and I live in two rival environments, those of flesh and Spirit, then each must keep appealing to me, keep drawing me, in every part of my being which still responds to its appeals. I must be tempted, and should be tempted, wherever I am still temptable. Only by this means can I learn and relearn the areas of my life in which I need an ever more complete deliverance, and can I be stimulated to refuse the evil and choose the good, and practise the way of faith by which alone that can be done.
It is plain that this life is probationary and progressive. It is from grace to grace, from faith to faith, from glory to glory: and temptation is the continual proof that God uses even Satan for these sanctifying purposes. God tempts no man, but from the beginning of time it has been by the devil’s temptations that He has proved us, humbled us, taught us of ourselves and Himself; that He stimulates us to seek for victory, and finally perfects us. Even His own Son suffered, being tempted, and was only made perfect through "learning obedience by the things which He suffered." Let us then brace ourselves to this unalterable fact. We shall be tempted at all points by all means to the last day of our pilgrimage on earth. These temptations are our great blessings in disguise. Woe betide us if we were to be without them; rather let us obey the command of James and count them all joy, whether they are the grosser temptations which assault us all through the desires of the flesh and the mind, or the trials that come through our daily circumstances and sphere of ministry.
Temptations are our battle grounds: no warfare, no victory. We see temptations from a new angle when we recognize in them ever fresh conquests for the Saviour over Satan, ever more glory to His name, ever new opportunities for exploits of faith and for testimony to others.
Temptation is enticement, and the channels by which temptation reaches us are always within ourselves. We may blame the thing that entices us. We would be wiser if we frankly recognized that temptation gets its grip through stimulated natural desires. Lusts, as James calls them: "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." As we become less susceptible to stimulation in various areas, so temptation in those areas will have less appeal to us. Instead, there-fore, of blaming the stimuli to temptation about us, we should do well to seek and find an ever deeper integration in the Spirit, resulting in an ever greater occupation with God, and quicker rejection of the first stirrings of false desire. It is equally true, however, that the closer we draw to Him, the more deeply we find ourselves to be sinners in other areas in which we had not formerly recognized any sin, for we find sin to be anything, even one per cent short of His perfection, any coming "short of the glory of God." So in that sense too we move from sin to sin, and, praise God, from cleansing to cleansing. But the track is always leading upwards, to that glorious conformity to the image of His Son, and to the day when it will also be true of us as of God Himself, that we cannot be tempted with evil.
A closer examination of the mechanics of temptation, as given us by James (1:14, 15), emphasizes, as we have already said, that its power is in its incitement of our desires in some illicit direction. Temptation makes us want to do a thing. It "entices" us. It makes us like it, and that like soon turns to love, and we are gone, for life is governed by love. What we love we inevitably do, unless we get that love redirected to a worthier end. We lust because we like to lust. We are angry because we want to be angry. We hate because we think we have good reason to hate.
None of these appetites or faculties are wrong in themselves. They were all in Adam, and all in Jesus, who "was tempted in all points like as we are." To be tempted does not affect the purity of our hearts or the reality of our relation-ship of union with Christ. Being wholly alive in spirit, soul and body, we are wholly susceptible to all forms of appeal: and the world sees to it that they are plentiful and blatant.
Temptation is not yet sin. "Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed." Young Christians must recognize the fact that the tempter is also the father of lies, and with all the various forms of temptation will constantly whisper the lie that because this or that continually pulls at us, we are therefore slaves to it, or that we are not truly delivered, and that our testimony to sanctification is a farce, and our claim to purity of heart a deceit. As we have already said, we must learn a clear and constant differentiation between the inner centre of the heart, purified by the blood of Jesus, where Spirit dwells with spirit, where thoughts and intents are now set on God, and the outer garments of the flesh through which all temptation reaches us, and which must be maintained by faith as crucified to us, and we to it.
Temptation passes over into sin when like becomes love. James says, "Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin." Conception presupposes a marriage union, and in this case an adulterous one, through a guilty passion. We are married in heart to Jesus:He has won our love. Along comes the tempter up some avenue of our personality and entices us to a guilty liaison– to love ourselves, to love a lust, to love a retaliation–and we consent. For a season our hearts have married that false desire, and the fruit of the union is sin: pride, anger or uncleanness. It is for this reason that later in his letter James boldly calls Christians "adulterers and adulteresses."
We need to watch that fact, that the power of sin over us is that we love it. It captures our affections. If we are born of God, John says, we cannot keep committing (and therefore loving) sin. Our hearts are now set on Him. But we see how a temporary attraction of pride, self-pity, unbelief, lust, resentment, can capture us. And sometimes it is possible to be sorry for a fall into sin, and to repent for the act, yet not to have recognized that behind the act is the love of it. Down deep we still do rather like to do that kind of thing, or feel that we had justification for that kind of attitude. Dig down to that false love. Expose it as the root of sin. Condemn it before God and ask that, as we have God’s love in our hearts, so we may also have His holy hatred (Heb. 1:9).
We face the raw fact that sudden sin, almost before we know where we are, does get an entry quite often in most of our lives. We suddenly realize that we are a bit hot in an argument, a bit hard towards or jealous of another, depressed through fear or unbelief, disturbed or strained instead of restful, self-pitying or self-conscious, stirred in mind or desire by lust, malicious or exaggerating in our words. Sin has got its lodgment. We may say to ourselves that perhaps it is only on the temptation level, and has not yet become accepted sin in our hearts. Maybe. The line between them is often very fine. But generally speaking, the thing which is not at once rejected and from which there is not the sense of immediate and complete deliverance, has got some hold, and must be regarded as a motion of sin in our members, needing repentance and the cleansing of the blood.
When sin does enter, above all, let us not be hypocrites. Jesus had special warnings for such. If we have taken our place in union with Christ by faith and assurance, if we have testified to this full salvation, it is very tempting to us to seek some means to avoid calling sin by its proper name. This is a special danger for any–and there are many thousands–who hold what commonly goes by the name of holiness teaching, including such doctrines as the destruction of the carnal nature, the removal of indwelling sin, the blessing of perfect love. They need to be specially watchful lest, in their God-given emphasis on the crisis of sanctification, they do not always strike a proper balance between the crisis and the ensuing walk, and face squarely the way by which sin can and does find re-entry into all lives. In maintaining the validity of the holiness experience, there is always a danger of calling by some other name, such as infirmity, what is in fact a sin in the daily life, a coming short, by however little, of the glory of God.
With the temptation, Paul says, God "will make a way of escape." The general way is what we have been learning: the counteraction of Gal. 2:20. I am enticed. If I don’t know the way of crucifixion with Christ, my only defence will be to try and resist the temptation. But the more I resist, the more my attention is focused on the enticing object, and the more it grips me. I am back in Rom. 7, and defeat is inevitable. I am already in the "liking" stage, and I have nothing with which to resist it except a negative, "Thou shalt not."
But when I know and practise the secret of release, I inwardly take my stand of faith, "I have been crucified with Christ." I say to Satan, "I am not here to respond. I am dead and buried with Christ." And as I say that, another realization will rise within me: "Christ liveth in me." It will be as the child said, "When Satan knocks at the door, I send Jesus to answer it."
The moment I realize His presence I am free. My heart has a counter-attraction, greater than the attraction of the temptation. My love for Him, my joy in Him cancels out the contrary pull. The more we live in Gal. 2:20, in the consciousness of the relationship it describes, the more we have a steady shield of defence in daily temptation, and the more accustomed we become to the natural use of it, "the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked."
The Liberating Secret
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 23 No 4
- What About Temptation and Sin?
- Editor’s Note
- Every Man is Tempted
- Victory in the Every Day
- Adversity or Adventure?
- Quick Down, Quick Up
- Dealing With Temptation–In the Home
- Bible Study: Real Deliverance From Sin: Is It Possible?
- Temptation and It’s Beneficial Effects
- Free At Last!
- False Condemnation
- It Remains Tough
- Words to Live By
- No temptation too great…