– Frederick W. Faber
Temptation Is No Sin
Temptation cannot be the same thing as sin since Jesus was tempted three times in the wilderness by Satan himself, and we know that Jesus was sinless. Even though He was tempted, He never sinned; therefore, we know that temptation is not the same thing as sin. Temptation can lead to sin if it is not resisted, as we see by James’ writing, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:13-15). God never tempts anyone because when people are tempted (and we all are) and it is not resisted, “their own evil desire” becomes “full-grown” and “gives birth to sin,” and when it’s “full-grown,” it “gives birth to death.”
Persevering Under Temptation
James wrote, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (1:12). Every second we resist the temptation to sin is a victory over sin. We are not saved by works, but we must strive to overcome sin by resisting temptation and by not going to places where we know there will be a lot of temptation. For example, I know of a man who has battled alcohol all his life. The last thing he needs to do is go to a bar because he would be putting himself in a situation where the temptation to sin (get drunk) is much too strong. James gives us the formula for this situation: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Moment by Moment
I have heard many alcoholics tell me that they must take it one day at a time, but often they say they must take it moment by moment because our own man, the old flesh and carnal nature, is not completely dead when we are saved. After Paul’s conversion, he still battled his old nature, writing, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom 7:18-19). I am glad I am not alone in this struggle as a former drug addict and alcoholic and went from disaster to pastor by God’s grace, but I, too, still face great temptations to go back to that drug or that bottle and will likely have to battle it the rest of my life.
We can only take it moment by moment. When temptation comes, we can drop to our knees, ask for God’s strength, read His Word, and submit to God, and the Devil will have to flee. It is so true that “every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory,” even if it’s only a few seconds at a time.