Temptation and sin - How does sin progress?
One of the most frustrating things about trying to live the Christian life is the issue of temptation and sin. On the one hand, we know that as we are saved and the Holy Spirit works within us, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. Yet on the other hand, we continue to fight our human lusts, whether for money, sex, power, or something else.
The mechanics of temptation and sin are simple and are spelled out in the Bible several times. Satan, the great tempter, uses deceit to convince us that our flesh-driven desires are NOT in conflict with God's desires for us.
This dance of deceit goes back to Genesis, when Satan (in serpent attire) convinced Eve to ignore God's warning not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5). Since then, Satan has stalked humankind with false promises of wealth and power when he can only deliver despair and death. As the Bible states in James 1:14-15: "Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
As humans, we have a built-in fascination with sin. We love to see how close we can get without actively sinning. And once we have been tempted and have given in to sin, we seem to be even more susceptible to Satan's influence. Our society makes it even easier by displaying - even celebrating - sin in movies, on television, and sometimes even in our churches.
The progress of temptation and sin is well illustrated in the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel. David, one upon whom God had showered many blessings, begins to lust after the wife of one of his soldiers. Even knowing the woman is married, David pursues her, sleeps with her while her husband is fighting in a battle and she becomes pregnant.
David, knowing he has sinned and that the sin will be made known through the pregnancy, still does not repent. Instead, he orders the husband to the front lines where he is killed, and David takes the woman for his own wife.
Through the prophet Nathan, God rebukes David, who repents and is eventually restored to God's grace after being punished.
Today, we can thank God that Jesus faced temptation and remained without sin. So we may rely on His death on our behalf to bring us back to God's grace when we sin. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
We may also do our part by running from temptation when we see it, rather than allowing our fascination to draw us closer. This is especially important in dealing with sexual sin. God provides for this in 1 Corinthians 10:13: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
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