What is Temptation?

A lot of people think that temptation* is sin and so they get very upset when they are tempted. Many think that because they are tempted so often, they must be very, very bad. But it is not true. Temptation is not sin...and everybody is tempted.

In Matthew chapter 6, verse 13, Jesus said in His prayer: "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." What did Jesus mean by that? The word for temptation has the same meaning everywhere in the New Testament. It means to test someone, to see if he will stay faithful. Two tempt us - one is Satan and the other one is God. God tests us to make us strong Christians. But Satan tempts us to see if he can make us do sin!

In the verse in Matthew, then, the prayer asks God to keep us strong when we are tested by Satan. When we become Christians, although we have a brand new, living spirit inside us, we still have our old body and so our old self always tries to get us to do sin. So, Matthew chapter 26, verse 41 says: "Watch and pray, that you do not enter into temptation: the spirit is willing (to do good) but the flesh is weak." In the New Testament, the word 'flesh' is often used instead of the word 'body'.

We often hear Christians say that they could not help doing this sin, or that sin. They say that they could not fight the temptation. This is wrong. For God tells us that He gives us strength. Read the First book of Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 13. It says:

"All temptations are known to all men. But God is faithful and He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can cope with. When you are tempted, God will give you a way to cope with it. "

This is a very important verse. It tells us that everybody can be tempted by the same things. Some Christians are very proud when other people sin. They say that they would not do the same sin! But they are wrong...God says that we can all do the same sins, if we give in to temptation. Christians have got help. God tells us that when we are tempted to do wrong things, the Holy Spirit is there to stop us. But He will only stop us if we want him to do it. The Holy Spirit tells us to go away from the evil we are tempted with. We must then pray and get away from what is tempting us. Because God says He helps us, we have got no excuse if we sin. And we cannot tell God that we could not help sinning. Look at this example:

If a Christian man is married and he meets a lovely woman by accident, Satan might try to tempt him to go off with her. That would be the sin of adultery. Because he is a Christian, he knows already what the Bible says about adultery. So, if he is tempted to go off with the woman, he must pray about it. Then he must go away - he must not stop. After that, he must forget all about her and thank God for helping him not to sin. BUT -he must NOT PRETEND to forget her! Nor must he pretend to pray, when he really wants to sin! The only reason he will pretend, is that he secretly wants to sin. But, God tells him not to sin. What will he do? If he does not listen to God, then he will sin with the woman. Remember, too, that he will sin even if he only thinks about going off with her. To God, the thought is just as bad as doing it. It is the man's own fault if he sins. He cannot blame temptation or the woman! God blames him for doing sin!

The book of James, chapter 1, verses 13 and 14, tells us why we are tempted:

"let no man say when he is tempted, that he is tempted by God...for God does not tempt any man.

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn by his own lust. "

In these verses, we are told that God does not tempt any man. That is, He does not tempt him to do evil. So, we cannot blame God if we sin after being tempted. Who, then, can we blame? Well, the verse tells us that we are tempted by our own lusts. A lust is a deep desire for something which is forbidden* by God. That is, we want to do sin, but we do not tell anybody. Of course, we forget that God already knows what we are thinking deep in our hearts!

Inside each one of us, there are things we want to do which are sinful. Usually, we keep these thoughts inside us and pretend they are not there. But Satan knows they are there and he tries to make us do the sins which are inside us. He brings something to us, which will make us want to sin. This is called temptation. Satan is very clever. He does not try to tempt us with things which do not interest us. Instead, he waits, sometimes for many years. Then, when he thinks we are ready, he will tempt us.

So, if a man's deep sinful thought is to go off with another woman, Satan will make sure that a woman comes along at the right time. Then he makes sure that the man starts thinking about her. Soon, if he is not careful, the man forgets about God and he begins to want the woman. As soon as the man starts to think about wanting the woman, he has sinned! And if he then goes off with her, he sins even worse.

Or, a secret sin might be to steal money. So, Satan waits until the time is right. Then, he puts the person in a place when it would be easy to steal some money. Satan makes the person think about doing it...and the person sins. The only answer is to pray straight away and to leave, as soon as temptation comes.

God does not want us to sin. He wants us to be happy and to live a holy life. In the book of James, chapter 1, verse 12, He says:

"Blessed is the man who endures* temptation -he shall be given the crown of life. "

God blesses those who endure temptation. That means, he gives them a reward if they cope with temptation and do not give in to it.

Temptation is said TEM-TAY-SHUN

Forbidden means that we must not do it.

Endures is said EN-DEW-ERZ

© November 1993

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