Important Distinctions Concerning Temptation
Temptation Versus Sin
It is important at once that we distinguish between temptation and sin. It is no sin to be tempted, seeing Christ was tempted, and yet without sin. It is only when the temptation is consented to, and the will yields to the suggestion and solicitation coming from the tempter, that sin enters. Temptation is that which proceeds from the enemy; sin is that which proceeds from the individual. Hence, we must not call our temptations sin, nor our sins merely temptations.
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Sin And Mistakes
A sin is a thing of the heart, whereas, a mistake is a thing of the head. A mistake is something you did when you knew no better; a sin is something you did when you did know better. Every tribunal of justice recognizes the fact that motive determines the morality of the act. Because of ignorance, and because the human intellect never becomes infallible, we may never be saved from making mistakes; but we can be and must be saved from all sin.
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Accusations of Satan And Reproof of The Spirit
In like manner, it is important that the sanctified soul should early learn to distinguish between the accusations of Satan and the reproofs of the Spirit. The accusations of Satan should be instantly resisted and rejected; whereas, the reproof of the Spirit should be instantly heeded and obeyed.
The Holy Spirit never taunts and torments the soul by accusing and criticizing, and insinuating against it; that is always the work of Satan. He had evidently been engaged in that nefarious business up in heaven, for we read in Revelation 12:10, “I heard a loud voice saying in heaven . . . the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” And since he is on earth he is ever seeking to torment, and falsely accuse the saints on earth. He will dump a lot of stuff on your doorstep, and then assume the role of a ventriloquist and accuse you for having it there, and thus seek to destroy the peace and happiness of the soul. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). The Holy Spirit simply gives light, and gently reproves, and warns, and woos the soul, and if persistently disobeyed, becomes grieved, and wounded, and Sadly departs, leaving the soul in desolation and darkness.
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Evil Thoughts And Thoughts of Evil
The failure to distinguish between evil thoughts and thoughts of evil on the part of a sanctified soul has occasioned much unnecessary suffering, and soul loss, Thoughts about evil are suggested from without, and cannot be avoided while the evil is all about us; indeed, we are obliged to think about the evil before we can hope to remedy the same; but “evil thoughts” originate within, and are the product and the evidence of an evil heart (See Mark 7:21) . However, when a person can feel complacent in the presence of that which suggests thoughts of evil, and takes pleasure in the same, thoughts of evil become evil thoughts, and must invariably incur guilt. As someone has well said, “While we cannot prevent the birds from flying over our heads, we can prevent them from building nests in our hair.” A person may have thoughts about evil and have a pure heart: but no one can have “evil thoughts” and have ‘a clean heart. Of evil thoughts it has been said,
“Sow a thought and reap a desire; Sow a desire and reap an act; Sow an act and reap a habit; Sow a habit and reap a character; Sow a character and reap a destiny.”
Christ had thoughts about the evil that is in the world, and came to save men from the evil, and its consequences; but Christ had no “evil thoughts.” If the fountain is clean, the stream issuing from the same will be clean.
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The Twofold Source Of Temptation
The Bible clearly teaches that there are at least two separate and distinct sources of temptation; the one that we may ever expect to have, and the other that we need not, and should not have. To make this clear, we would first refer to the temptations of Christ in the wilderness, as mentioned in the fourth chapter of Matthew. The record plainly states that He was “tempted of the devil.” These temptations were wholly from without. Satan was not in Christ, hence the temptations came from the outside. This is what may be termed the legitimate source of temptation, to which the Christian will be subject as long as he is in a state of probation. The Christian must not expect Satan to quit business simply because he has set up shop; he is not that sort of a devil; and he will ever ply his nefarious business.
But in James 1:14, we read of another source of temptation, as follows: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Here the source of temptation is from within — from “his own lust.” The word “lust” in the Scripture has reference to any unholy desire. The apostle is here saying, there are certain unholy desires, originating within — springing up from our own depraved natures — by which we are “drawn away” and “enticed.” We are undertaking to say that Jesus did not have this form or source of temptation; and we need not and should not have it.
In order to state this matter more clearly we would say, the carnal mind, “our old man,” original, or inbred sin, which was inherited by us as a result of the fall in the garden of Eden, is a most potent factor in temptation we think this will be readily admitted by all Christians. Now, whatever part this depravity of our own natures may have in the matter of our temptations, was certainly lacking in the temptations of Christ — for the most excellent reason that He was always pure and holy, and had no carnal nature.
At this point someone is likely to quote the statement found in Hebrews, that Christ was “tempted in all points, as we are.” So we would ask the reader to turn to this passage, found in Hebrews 4:15, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” That is how we read it, and that is what it seems to say; but a little more careful scrutinizing of this passage will disclose the fact that there are three words italicized: “we are yet.” Every Bible student knows that this is done so that the reader may know that these words were not in the original text, but have been supplied by the translators. Since these three words were not in the original text, we will omit them, and read, “but was in all points tempted like as . . . without sin.” He was tempted as a holy soul is tempted; as a person is tempted who is “without sin.” He was not “drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,” for He had no indwelling sin; and neither should we have indwelling sin-since the blood of Jesus will cleanse it out of our hearts (1 John 1:7).
It may be interesting to note what part this indwelling sin-nature plays in our temptations. “Our old man” (Rom. 6: 6) and the devil are of close kin, and work together. For instance, when Satan knocks on the door from without — through some provocation, aggravation or temptation that may touch us — if the “old man” is still within, he is likely to respond and open the door by prompting us to “give as good as they sent,” and “let them know what we think of them,” and “stand up for our rights,” etc., and thus let bitterness come into our hearts.
It was not so much what the other party said, or did, that caused us to backslide, as it was what we said and felt in our own hearts. It is that inward response to the temptations from without, that is our greatest peril, and occasions the inward conflict, and struggle, and unrest. We would insist that this inward foe may e entirely eradicated and exterminated by the sanctifying baptism with the Holy Ghost; so that although the enemy will attack and assault us from without, we may have constant victory and peace and rest within.
Some have inquired, “How could a holy soul be tempted?” We would answer, just as Jesus was tempted; or just as holy angels have been tempted; or just as our fore-parents who were created holy in the garden of Eden, were tempted. There certainly was no appeal to, nor response from, anything that was evil within, They were not “drawn away” by their “own lust, and enticed.” The temptation entered through the will, seeing they were free moral agents, having the power of choice.
The unregenerate heart may be likened to a field covered with weeds, and thorns; in the experience of regeneration these weeds and thorns are all removed, and the surface of the soil is clear; but some roots remain in the soil and these roots are inclined to sprout and manifest themselves in impatience, and pride, and doubt; in entire sanctification all these roots are removed, Now there must be placed around this field a fence — the posts of which are obedience, and the rails of faith. But the enemy is ever alert and busy on the outside, and ever seeks to destroy, or break down this fence — and if he can succeed in doing so, he will again quickly sow the seeds of sin, and tares in that field (heart) that had been entirely cleansed.
How could a sanctified person sin? Just as a person who has been entirely cured of some malignant disease, might be stricken again by failing to observe the laws of health, or by undue exposure. But in such case the fault is wholly his own.