1. It is well to remember that there is no Christian experience, no state of grace, no calling nor profession, and no station or location in life in which we are exempt from temptation; that while in a state of probation we are necessarily subject to temptation.
2. We must learn to distinguish between temptation and sin. It is no sin to be tempted. Christ was tempted, yet without sin. Temptation is simply the solicitation and enticement of the adversary to commit sin. Until there is the yielding, or consent of the will to the temptation, there is no sin. We are not to blame for the suggestions and solicitations of the devil. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
3. The Scriptures clearly indicate that there are two distinct classes of temptation: one from within, the result of a heart condition; the other from without, entirely of Satanic origin.
In James 1:14, we read, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed,” This temptation comes from within, and is the result of a heart condition. The words, “his own lust,” here indicates unholy and improper desires, resultant from a wrong heart condition. Christ never experienced this class of temptation. Here we need to make the discrimination Dr. Fowler has brought to our attention with reference to Heb. 4:15: Christ “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” It will be seen that the words “we are, yet” are italicized, which indicates that they are not in the original, but have been supplied by the translators. In omitting these three words, we read, Christ “was in all points tempted like as… without sin.” That is, Christ was tempted in all points like as we are when we are without sin. Christ was tempted as a holy soul is tempted; but He was never “drawn away of His own lust and enticed.”
The depravity of our natures — original or inbred sin — is most surely a factor in temptation: and whatever part this factor may play in temptation was certainly wanting in the temptations of Christ; for Christ had no original, or inbred sin, and, therefore, could only be tempted as a holy soul. The temptations of Christ were entirely from without, and wholly of Satanic origin.
4. From the foregoing we may learn that the person not yet delivered from inbred sin, has the two classes of temptation whereas, the person who has been wholly sanctified, and so is cleansed from “his own lust,” has simply the outward temptations: the outward assault and attack of the enemy. Herein lies a great advantage, in that all may be quiet and peaceful and victorious within, despite the fact that “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Any one can see that to have both an inward and an outward foe greatly increases the danger, and complicates the situation. Two enemies without are not to be as greatly feared as one — an ally — within.
“Our old man” is such close kin to the devil, and so deceitful and treacherous, that whenever the devil knocks at the door, “our old man” is likely to attempt to open the door, and invite him in. But when that has been removed from within which responds to the solicitations and temptations of the devil from without, the victory is more easily and readily achieved.
5. This raises the question, bow could a holy soul be tempted? We usually answer this question by asking another: how could Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, and Angels in heaven, and Christ Himself be tempted? They surely were holy and had no predisposition to sin. Even as they were tempted, though holy, so we may be tempted, though saved from all sin. It is well to remember that Satan never presents sin as sin, but as something “to be desired” — as though it were innocent and “harmless;” and thus he hides the poison, and the result of the act, from view. If one could see the blackness of sin, and its fearful consequences before yielding to the temptation, it is safe to say, none but a devil would ever consent to commit sin. But Satan throws a charm upon the soul by his very temptation, and so deceives and beguiles the unwary. Sin is often the mere mis-use and abuse of things in themselves proper and legitimate. It is no sin to eat, and yet eating — to excess — may become a sin. The good and t he evil are ever before us and the fact that we are free moral agents and have the power of choice, ever leaves with us the possibility of making a wrong choice. Hence, the command of the Savior, ever to “watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” (Matt. 26:41.)
6. How to meet temptation. First we would insist that men “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” What is “the whole armor of God,” but full salvation? That men should be sanctified wholly and thus be delivered from the inward class of temptation, where one is drawn away by “his own lust, and enticed.” For the continuance of this source of temptation the individual is himself largely responsible. By coming to the cleansing fountain, and so having the source of this class of temptation removed:– “knowing this, that our old man is crucified:” — this class of temptation should entirely and permanently cease.
As to the temptations of the devil from without, we have the assurance that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able: but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (I. Cor. 10:13.) We learn from this that God has a check-rein on the devil; hence we never need to bear what is beyond our strength to bear, for God will not permit it to come upon us. Perhaps the best way to meet these temptations is to meet them as Jesus met them — by the word of God. Jesus simply said, “It is written,” each time the enemy assailed Him, and thus triumphed over him. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” is still the most effective weapon that one can use. As “God is faithful” and makes the “way of escape,” there can be no excuse or reason for yielding to the temptation; but it becomes our privilege and duty to escape.
The writer has learned that the “way of escape” is not found by trying to climb up and out of the difficulties, and wanting to die, and go to heaven at once and so get away from all the trouble and temptations of life; but rather by humbling yourself, and keep on going down, down at the feet of Jesus; and when we get down low enough we will always find a place large enough to pass through, and thus slip through the trap or the net the devil had set, and thus find the “way of escape.” “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.”
7. Some one may inquire, Why does God “suffer” me to be tempted at all? The answer doubtless is, that He might prove us, and develop our Christian character. James intimates that temptation develops the iron graces of patience, and faith, and fidelity, which are essential to the perfecting of our Christian character. Hence he says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” (Jas. 1:2-4.) Temptation is to the Christian what the gymnasium is to the athlete. It develops spiritual fiber, and keeps us from becoming molly-coddles, and jelly-fish Christians. It discovers to us our weak and most vulnerable points, and teaches us how to “fight the good fight of faith.” As a chain is never stronger than the weakest link in the chain, so the weakest point of our character determines our spiritual strength. It may be well to note that James does not say, “Count it all joy when ye walk into divers temptations.” We have no right to walk into temptation and thus tempt the devil to tempt u s. We should learn to keep off of the devil’s territory. It would be folly to stick your band into the fire and then expect God to keep you from being burned. The three Hebrew children did not walk into the “fiery furnace,” but were cast in. “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
8. In case a soul has been wholly sanctified, and for a time really enjoyed victory over the world, the flesh and the devil; but in an evil hour, through lack of watchfulness and prayer, the soul is overwhelmed and suffers defeat, what should be done? We should say, at once confess – to God, and to whomsoever it may concern put away the evil, and immediately plunge into the fountain of cleansing, as when the experience was first obtained. What else could be done? Do not give up in despair, and conclude you never had the experience, and conclude you could not live it, and wait for another holiness camp meeting or holiness revival in order to go again to an altar; but erect an altar instantly wherever you are, and confess, forsake and believe, and go on to victory. “Though he (the good man) fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.” (Ps. 37:24.)
After the children of Israel had made the second crossing and come into Canaan, they enjoyed great victory at Jericho, but suffered defeat at Ai. But this defeat did not prove they were not in Canaan. However, if they had simply made excuses, and tried to cover up the wrong, God would have left them, and their enemies would have utterly driven them out of the land. But what must they do? Go clear back into Egypt, cross the Red Sea again, and then later the Jordan, and so start all over again? No, no! They must simply find Achan and all that appertains to him, kill him out, and put away the evil thing, and stay in the land and go on to victory. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” (Jas. 1:12.)