What About Temptation and Sin?
How can we say that it is Christ who is manifested when we are tempted? Let us look at what we do when we are tempted, and then at the remedy for it.
What happens during temptation is that the human part of us is being drawn away by some solicitation to function just as our old flesh-self used to; and what this means is that we temporarily forget who we are. We forget we are Christ in our human form, and we are pulled to respond as if apart from Him. Instead of being in our normal daily condition of subconsciously recognizing that we are in our vine-branch union (which is what Jesus meant by “abiding,” which in the Greek means “remaining”), we are diverted into believing in some attractive flesh-response of body or soul; and what we are believing in at any time holds us in its grasp.
Now in our former self-striving life, trying to combat temptation and sin in our own strength, we would try to resist it even while we responded to it and, as a result, have an inner sense of condemnation because we were even dallying with it. But usually the more we resisted and condemned ourselves, the more the thing gained its hold on us. So we lived a fighting, struggling, supposedly two-nature life—the one striving against the other.
But now, in our new understanding, we don’t deny or fight the temptation. We do not resist or struggle against it. No, we admit and accept it, because we recognize it is not sin but is the normal pull that the outer world, through the flesh, has on us—as it did on Christ—and that God means us to have it. But the importance of accepting, acknowledging, and not resisting is that this “draws the teeth” of the temptation. What you resist, resists you. What you fight, fights you. In this sense I apply Jesus’ words, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest thou be cast into prison.” In other words, acknowledge that he is your adversary, and that will take the bite out of him.
So the result of my accepting and agreeing is that it takes the heat out of any resistance by me, and loosens me from the grip of my diverted believing in this enticement…and as I free the temptation to be a temptation, I equally free myself from being bound to it by my false believing in it. And I am free to do what? To remember and recognize who I really am—Christ in me! Recognition is faith in its completed form. So I recognize that He is peace when I am tempted to worry. He is courage when fear grabs me. He is genuine love for a person I am feeling hatred for. Furthermore, He is other love who can reverse my temptation to an illicit love, and can cause me to love that one for his or her own benefit and not for my self-gratification. Since He is all these to me as me, I am the manifestation of peace, love and power. Christ is the light who uses the darkness as something which, by His swallowing it up, manifests Him as light in a new form. If I wasn’t tempted to hate, I couldn’t experience and manifest His love. If I wasn’t tempted to fear, I couldn’t experience and manifest His courage. If I wasn’t tempted to an illicit love, I couldn’t experience and manifest His other-love for the benefit of that person through me. My temptations are my assets in continually manifesting Him in new forms.
This is the way in which we totally reverse our outlook on our temptations. We used to be frightened of them because, while still thinking we were independent selves, we were afraid of ourselves and how we could be captured by sin…so we would pray the beginner’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” But now we see temptation as the adventure of faith! For it is this necessary negative on which the positive of Christ is built. That’s why I can say with James that I “count it all joy” (a strong, total word—count, not feel) when I have my various temptations.
Let us look a little more closely into how James gives us the remedy for the assaults of all kinds of double-mindedness, in his strongly practical letter. Here we will see works not as antagonistic to faith, but as its fulfillment. The basic question will be, How do we add the right kind of works to our faith?
In this epistle it looks as if we believers have a constant struggle. James speaks of us having the problem of two minds (either believing or wavering); having two standards in our brotherhood relationships (one for the rich but another for the poor); using two tongues (for blessing and cursing); holding two friendships (for the world and for God); having two motives in prayer (self-interest and for others). James mentions all these doubles and presents us as having a conflict between them, with the negative usually overwhelming the positive.
This is a two-nature struggle, all right, and it’s set forth in a letter to believing brethren! But now look more closely at the beautiful remedy James slips in for those eager enough to search it out and find it—or, shall we say, who are open to its God-given reality. In the first chapter he speaks of God’s goodness in “begetting us with the word of truth”—his expression for the new birth (1:18). But then, he continues, we get mixed up with all kinds of disturbing self-reactions, not yet knowing the remedy for the “self” problem. He calls this “all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” (1:21). So what is the answer? We experience it when, by faith, the living word of truth has not only begotten us but is also engrafted into us—his way of describing the vine-branch union relationship —and we become inwardly fixed. This fixedness comes as we see ourselves in union with Christ—that we are forms by which He is manifesting Himself. James calls this blessed insight “the perfect law of liberty” (1:25).
Now he gives this subtle illustration. While we are still in the old self-effort illusion and don’t yet know Christ in us as us, we are like a man who looks into a mirror and sees himself just as his normal, helpless self—with no hope of any means of changing himself (1:24). So he just goes away and forgets about it. But, James says, when we know the inner union, He in our form, then when we look into the mirror we no longer see our human, failing selves, we see our-selves as who we now are: human expressions of that perfect law of liberty, Christ Jesus, who is the Spirit of other-love. So now we can go out into life with confidence, because we are no longer just ourselves, we are Christ in us as us.
So now we understand the conflict of these doubles not as the contest of two natures, one pitted against the other; rather, we see the temptation as something not within us but something seeking to draw us away from who we are. So we “resist” that drawing not by denying or fighting it but by recognizing Christ in us as us. Thus He uses the temptation for a new manifestation of Himself by us.
So, James says, life will always consist of endless trials and temptations, because they are the negatives by which He the positive can reveal Himself. Therefore, when we lack wisdom in a situation and ask for it, let us take it for granted that He is in the process of giving it to us. But along come questionings. Will He really show us what to do? Now if we were in the old two-nature conflict, we should be swinging between faith and doubt; but we, knowing we are He in us, dissolve the temptation by saying, “I’m not taking that temptation to doubt. That is an external assault on me. I’m not double—I’m single. And Christ is my wisdom.” The stand of faith dissolves the doubt.
The same is true with our new tongues, says James (3:1-18). Our old tongue is a filthy one; our new tongue glorifies God and blesses man. So what then when our tongue slips back into some negative speaking?—if instead of blessing God we curse men, who are made after the similitude of God? Have we then two tongues, and must we always swing from the one to the other? No, says James, for we are like a fountain of water which can’t produce “both salt water and fresh” (NIV). We know we are a fountain of fresh water. Therefore, the salt was just something which got mixed up with the water as it flowed out of the fountain. The defect cannot be within the fountain itself, nor can it be in us. So we recognize the wrong things we said as a slip into temptation—not affecting the purity of the fountain in our union reality—and remedied by a word of repentance and cleansing. We no longer live in a struggle between two kinds of speaking, good and evil discourse. We speak positively and lovingly from our love source with what James calls “the wisdom that is from above,” rather than from beneath.
Then he raises the question of our motives in prayer (4:1-4). Are they sometimes double, and mainly for our own self-interest? Once that was so, and it caused us to question what we were asking for, as if we lived with double motives. But now we don’t. Our motives are pure from their pure center, and we go boldly forward in our prayer requests, asking, as Jesus said, “whatsoever we desire.” So we have become established in this glorious fixed reality wherein we see ourselves as the expression of the perfect law of liberty, that law which James also calls “the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” And we are that! And we remain unchanged through all the temptations. “I am single, not double.” The assaults of doubleness are only attempts to divert me from my basic singleness. That is why temptations are always such an adventure of faith, and the means of perfecting my faith so that I “count them all joy.” Finally, James calls on the brethren to move into this faith union in Christ, and out from that apparent double-mindedness. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded” (4:8).
There is one further question which is always being asked about the temptation issue—a favorite question. “But what about sin? Do we still commit sins?” Why do people always bring that up? Because, until we have found a way out, we are so congenitally sin-minded. We have become so used to our struggles and failures and guilt—and perhaps we also want some excuse for our continuance in sin!
The usual scripture on which people base that question is 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.” But our anxious concern about sin is what gives us away, for the whole point of this summit letter of John’s on the union is not about sinning, but our union reality. We are in the light as He is in the light (for He is the light in us). We walk as He walked (for He is walking in us). We know all truth (for the Spirit is the knower in us). We live the right life, as He does (for the sin spirit in us has been replaced by the Holy Spirit). We love as He loves (because He is love and dwells in us). We believe as He believes (with the world-overcoming faith of the Son of God). We are as He is (“for as He is, so are we in this world”—1 John 4:17). It is the total union level. The totally positive level. We are! We know we are! Yes, I am.
But because we have our real, temptable humanity, John started his letter with these sin statements. He declares that there is sin, and that if we sin there is this immediate remedy in Christ’s blood. If it is quick sinning, it is quick cleansing. Indeed, we add sin to sin if we don’t immediately replace the sin and guilt-consciousness with a total forgetting of it in Him of whom it is stated that “our sins and iniquities He remembers no more.” We go right ahead praising, and indeed use a sin “slip” once again to magnify the grace of God. The loss turned to gain! But then John also adds, “These things I write unto you that ye sin not.” That is all that John has to say in his whole five chapters about the possibility of our sinning. It is a detail to him. We are Christ-minded, not sin-minded. We walk so confidently in our new union-relationship that John says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, for his seed remained in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (3:9). We cannot return to sin as a principle, but if we do slip into a sin there is the immediate remedy. Confess it and forget it; don’t rehash it or ask sin questions. Talk Christ union and live it…because we can’t help it.
–Yes, I Am
For many years after his retirement as General Secretary of the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, Norman Grubb traveled extensively sharing the truth of our union with Christ. He was the author of many books and pamphlets, a number of which are available through the Zerubbabel Book Ministry. Norman P. Grubb entered the Kingdom at 98 years of age.