What is the nature of temptation? Does God send temptations into our lives to test our faith and commitment to Him? James 1:13-15 gives us a good picture of how temptation works in our lives.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
This passage reveals that temptation and sin are actually by-products of our own desires. It suggests that at its core humanity is basically self-focused, putting our own individual desires and goals above all else, even God. It is this self-focus that leads us to sin.
One of the great things about Jesus coming to earth in human form is that He lived a life that we can emulate. If we look to Jesus as an example of what humanity should be we find an individual who laid down His own desires to be in complete submission to the Father. The call for the Christian is to be like Jesus. We will overcome our temptations as we recognize our desires and then redeem those desires by allowing God’s desires to take priority in our lives. The other key thing to keep in mind here is that God lives in us in the form of the Holy Spirit. One of the main reasons for the indwelling of the Spirit is to help us overcome the sinful nature that we were born with.
Here are a couple verses that show that Jesus was able to resist temptation and also that the Holy Spirit inside of us will give us what we personally need for us to resist any temptation.
15 For we do not have a high priest (Jesus) who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
These verses keenly point our that there is no temptation that Jesus did not endure therefore we can be confident that any temptation that comes our way is not unique to us and because that all temptations are common to Jesus the Holy Spirit can and will empower us to resist them all as we submit to His leading. This is good news because in submission to the Spirit we can overcome those things them seem to trip us up and cause us to stumble.
So what is the application? I think the big take away here is that we have to take responsibility for the temptations and sins that we are challenged with. If we make the mistake and try and blame God or give the devil too much credit for our temptations and sins we run the risk of not addressing our own natural bent for selfishness. It is in the absence of addressing our own selfishness that we tend to give into temptation and to sin.
What about you guys? When you think about the temptations and sins you deal with, do you see their origins based in your own desires or do feel like they are something external to you?