The Source Of Temptation
There are three sources of temptation in the life of the believer:
1. Temptations come to the unsanctified soul through the carnal nature. Sin is twofold in its nature. We have all sinned (the act), but the Bible teaches that there is a sin nature in us, that comes to us as the result of the fall of Adam. Therefore, every child that is horn into this world is born with a sinful or depraved nature. Paul says, “And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:3). David, the sweet singer of Israel says, “Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin, did my mother conceive me” (Psalms 51:5).
We not only need our sins forgiven as a sinner, but we also need to be cleansed from that old sinful nature that is in us. When we are regenerated, our sins are blotted out, and we are born into the Kingdom of God. We have had new spiritual life imparted into our soul. We are new creatures in Christ Jesus our Lord (II Cor. 5:17).
After being gloriously converted, there is an inward war that goes on, between the fleshly mind, and the Spirit of God. Paul says, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would”(Gal. 5:17). This causes a double-minded condition in the heart. There is the infusion of new spiritual life in the soul at conversion, but there is also the old man that dwells within. While the sin principle does not reign, yet it does remain.
The Apostle James speaks of it in the most practical language, “Cleanse your hands ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). Again, James reminds us that the double minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). Who is a double-minded person? It is not the sinner, for he is single-minded. He has but one mind, and that is the carnal mind. But the man who has become a Christian, has spiritual life in his soul, and yet the carnal mind within causes a warfare — an inward struggle. Perhaps you have heard of the turtle that had two heads on its body. It was indeed a strange creature — one head desired to go in one direction, but the other head desired to do something else. Thus it is in the divided heart of the believer, who has not experienced the fiery baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Thus the unsanctified Christian has two minds — the carnal mind, and the spiritual mind. This indwelling principle will cause the believer to experience an inward conflict — a cross pull in his nature. The words of the poet well describe this condition with some believers, when he said, “Prone to wander, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.”
At one time in the railroad station in Cincinnati, Ohio was a large mural which portrayed in a startling way this tug of war inside of a believer who is not filled with the Spirit. It was a painting of two men wrestling. At first glance it was a puzzle, for the two men were identical. Their faces, heads, and physiques were exactly alike. One had thrown the other, and was standing with one foot on his neck, the other on his loin. It was, of course, a man fighting against himself. Below was written this thoughtful title: “The Eternal Tug of War.”
The classic illustration of it in English literature is the story that Robert Stevenson told of Dr. Jeykyll and Mr. Hyde. Some people call it a split personality. The psalmist and the prophet said that God could make our feet like hind’s feet and give our lives perfect coordination. Thank God, there is deliverance from this condition, through the sanctifying Spirit of God. (Romans 6:6);(I John 1:7); (Acts 15:-8, 9); (Acts 2:4).
The unsanctified believer struggles with this evil nature within, and is sometimes defeated, for which he is ashamed and repents with bitter remorse. This nature is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be (Romans 8:7). According to the Hebrew writer, this double-minded believer is in danger of being led astray by an inward root of bitterness. “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God — lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15). There are shoots of pride, envy, rebellion, and many other things that might spring up to trouble the believer.
Unless the believer gets deliverance from this dispositional sin in his heart, it will become a great source of temptation. It will be like the fifth columnist that steals in and betrays the soul in some time of weakness. This was the thing that tripped David up and caused him to commit the black sin of adultery. He recognized this fact, and confessed it in the fifty-first Psalm. He was born with something in him, that made him want to do the awful thing he did. In his prayer, he not only prayed that God would have mercy upon him and blot out his transgression, but he also prayed that God would create within him a pure heart and renew a right spirit within him (Psalms 51:10).
A great many people seem to feel that the experience of holiness is an elective course in Christian experience — can either be taken or left off. A few people take the attitude that they have been converted and are getting along so well, that they do not need to press on to perfection (Heb.6:1). This is not true, for the Bible says, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification” (I Thess. 4:3, 4). God’s will is not complete in justification — it has only begun. The Lord wants each true believer to go on and receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost.
Yonder is a doctor who lives in a small town, enjoys a good practice, and is well thought of in the entire community. He was a fine Christian man, and belonged to the church. This man had been exhorted to seek the blessing of holiness. But each time he would reply, “I am having such a wonderful time in this new-found joy, that I do not feel my need to seek for holiness.”
Rev. Bud Robinson was one of the workers in the annual camp meeting. The camp closed on Sunday night with many seekers at the altar. Among the altar workers was this fine doctor. On Monday morning the doctor took his gun, and rode out on his ranch. He met one of his renters, and a discussion ensued over a debt the renter owed the doctor. The renter became enraged over the difference in the amount of the debt. He assailed the doctor with bitter oaths, and the man who was at the altar on Sunday night as a worker, leveled his gun and shot the man to death. That rebel which was in his heart, suddenly came to life, and the doctor committed the awful sin of murder. Later he said, “O what made me do it, what made me do it?”
2. We will be tempted through our natural desires and appetites. We may be ridden of the sin nature that we inherited, as a result of Adam’s fall, and we may be done with this particular form of temptation. Yet, we are still human, and will have our natural desires and appetites. We may be Spirit-filled, but we will not be petrified nor dehumanized. We are still human beings, and will have our normal God-given desires. Adam did not have carnality before he fell. His temptations did not come from his carnal nature, but they came from without through the suggestions of Satan.
Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). Doubtless these were not the only temptations that our Lord had. No doubt, He was tempted on many other occasions. The first temptation came to Him at the end of forty days of fasting. This first temptation was an appeal to the physical appetite. His second temptation came through the desire for the applause of men. The third temptation was through a normal desire to accomplish a worthwhile achievement.
These temptations came about exactly like those that came to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Satan used the same approach in both cases, the difference being that in Eve’s case Satan was successful, but in the case of Jesus he was defeated. According to the record in Genesis, “The woman saw that the tree was good for food (an appeal to the physical), and that it was pleasant to the eyes (an appeal to the aesthetic or worthwhile), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (an appeal to the desire for recognition)” (Gen. 8:6). And then the Apostle John sets forth the same three principles of temptation in his first epistle: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of your Father but is of the world” (I John2:16).
Let me remind you that temptation is not synonymous with sin. Some object to the idea of temptation in reference to Jesus, because in their minds temptation implies sin. To such people the temptation of Jesus was not real. But temptation does not always involve sin, and certainly did not in the case of Jesus. Temptation does not always appeal to the base and the ignoble in man. The temptations of Jesus appealed to that which was normal and good. The danger was in the appeal to gratify a good desire by using improper methods. Here we come to the essence of sin – the perversion of the good.
There are those who ask this question: “Could Jesus, Who was the Son of God, be tempted?” These take the position that since Jesus was divine He could not sin — therefore, the temptations could not be real. We cannot agree with any such thinking. It is foolish to think that God would record for us an experience in the life of Jesus, which was nothing more than a mere stage play. There is every reason to believe that the temptations of Jesus were real, as real as any temptation that ever came to man. So, the writer of the Book of Hebrews says of Jesus, “But was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).
Thus the temptations that will come to a believer will appeal to that which is normal and good. The appetites and desires in man are God-given, and constitutional. Sin is not in our normal, God-given desires, but in our satisfying these desires through improper methods. Sin comes in the misuse of the good things that God has given us. Therefore, the perversion of our natural desires becomes sin.
It is not wrong for a healthy boy to stand before a glass window and his mouth water for ripe oranges on the inside of the window. But, if he does not have any money to purchase the oranges, and is determined to satisfy his appetite, even if he has to steal them, he has committed sin in his heart. The late Dr. R. T. Williams says, “All temptation has within it the element of desire. Without desire there can be no temptation. One could not be tempted to eat food that does not exist, or one of which he never heard. Desire is not necessarily sinful within itself. It was not wrong for Eve to desire the delicious fruit. It is not sinful for a robust, and healthy boy to desire a red delicious apple, nor a well-cooked beefsteak. It is not sinful for a healthy man, full of life and vigor, to feel waves of passion within his body, but it is a sin to break over lawful bounds within or without.
“Sin enters with a decision to satisfy desire by unlawful means or illegitimate methods. The harm is not in the desire for fruit, but it is in the consent to satisfy that desire unlawfully. It is not a sin to have the flash of passion, but when a man looketh upon a woman to lust after her, to satisfy his desire if he had the opportunity, he has already committed adultery in his heart.
“No act can have moral quality till the will has entered into the act. There is no virtue till the will has decided upon benevolent attitudes and conduct, neither is there guilt in the truest sense of the word till the will has made a choice, with right and wrong before it. The union of the will with a desire constitutes a motive.
“Desire within itself may be holy and perfectly legitimate. Sin enters in when the will consents to satisfy the desire by unlawful or wrong methods. The female desire, and the male will unite, conceiving. Whether the desire is ever satisfied or not, the will consents to it, and it becomes sin.
The Apostle James says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:13-15). We are told that the word “lust” means desire. We usually think of the word “lust” as an evil thing, but in many cases in the Bible it means desire.
Men therefore are tempted, when they are drawn away of their own desires and appetites. James does not say that a person has sinned because of his natural desires. Yet, he does say, that one is tempted. But sin has not as yet entered. Perhaps the man is now wrestling with the temptation that has come to him through his natural desires and appetites. Through these desires he is tempted through the enticements of Satan. But it has not become sin, for James says in the next statement, “Then when lust (desire) hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.”
The word “conceived” is a very striking and suggestive word. It is like a woman becoming pregnant, and after she has gone through the period of pregnancy, then she bringeth forth. The apostle says that is the way sin comes into being. The desire plants the seed in the mind, and if it finds fertile soil and is given the proper ground in which to grow, it will germinate, and finally bring forth sin — but the temptation itself is not sin. The germ of desire can be killed in the early stages of temptation, and never conceive and bring forth sin.
Some Christians have supposed that if they were sanctified, they would henceforth have no more temptations and trials, but would have nothing to do but rejoice and shout the praises of God. They soon become disillusioned, for it is likely they will now experience more intense, if not more frequent assaults from the enemy than ever before.
This is on the principle that burglars will make a more determined effort to burglarize a mansion known to possess great wealth and riches, than they would to burglarize some vacant or dilapidated shack. Doubtless there are some persons whom Satan does not annoy or tempt because he knows they do not possess anything of value, and he is reasonably sure of them anyway – why should he tempt them?
This reminds me of a hunter who said to a Christian Negro man, “Why is it that Satan is always after you, and lie is never after me? For you are always reminding us of the severe temptations of Satan.” The colored man replied, “You will remember that when you shoot into a bunch of ducks, you never run after the dead ducks, but you always chase the wounded ones. Satan knows you are a dead duck, and leaves you alone, and chases after me because I am still alive.”
3. The Christian will be tempted from without. He will not only wrestle with his natural desires and appetites, but he will also have to contend with the forces of evil without. Paul says, “Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: It is against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore, you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground” (Eph. 6:11-13), (Phillips).
These principalities are the chief rulers of the highest rank and order in Satan’s kingdom. The apostle refers to this same truth in Ephesians 1:21, when he says, “Far above principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Here is a reference to the authorities, who derive their power from and execute the will of the chief of rulers — Satan.
This power is extended to the world-rulers of the darkness of this age, the spirit-world rulers. When the ancient Daniel prayed for an understanding of the vision concerning his people, his prayer was hindered. In fact, his prayer was delayed for twenty and one days. The prophet was greatly disturbed about the delay, and the Lord answered him in these words, “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me” (Dan. 10:13).
Still the Apostle Paul reminds us of spiritual wickedness, that of the wicked spirits of Satan in the heavenlies. Often Satan is transformed into an angel of light. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14); and Peter says, “Because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
Satan sometimes wears the garb of spirituality in order to decoy one away from Christ. Let us not forget, that Satan attends church to hinder, to detract, and to deceive those who worship God. Even Job and his family who gathered together for Christian worship, were confronted with Satan. The Lord said unto Satan, “Whence comest thou?” And Satan replied, “from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it” (Job 1:7). Satan often attends church as a counselor, advisor, and deceiver.
This world is no friend to grace. There will be more people who will try to tone you down, and get you to compromise, than will get behind you to help you along with the struggles of life. There will be more people who will try to cool you off than will ever try to fire you up. In fact, many times our own loved ones and close friends will try to hinder us in being deeply spiritual. Many times you will have to grit your teeth, and seek God in prayer for grace to go through. We will have to contend with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Truly, we will be forced to realize that we are “soldiers of the cross and followers of the Lamb.”