The Test of Temptations
When students are taking a course, they usually have to study to pass their tests. Even so, in the “school” of Christian discipleship we need to do some studying to prepare for the temptations that face us in a fallen world. Evidently, this instruction has been essential in parental training among the people of God for thousands of years.
In Proverbs 1:10-19 we have a vivid example:
“My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
If they say, ‘Come with us,
Let us lie in wait to shed blood;
Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause;
Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
And whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
We shall find all kinds of precious possessions,
We shall fill our houses with spoil;
Cast in your lot among us,
Let us all have one purse’ —
My son, do not walk in the way with them,
Keep your foot from their path;
For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood.
Surely, in vain the net is spread
In the sight of any bird;
But they lie in wait for their own blood,
They lurk secretly for their own lives.
So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain;
It takes away the life of its owners” (Prov. 1:10-19).
This is preventative and remedial counsel that is still relevant today.
Discipleship Journal readers responded to a survey regarding issues of temptation. They ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them this way:
- (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.
- (Tie) Sexual lust.
- Lying. 
Which would you identify as your vulnerable issues? Is there an area of temptation where you keep “failing the test?” How can believers live in consistent victory over intentional sin?
Perhaps it will help to examine just how we end up failing these tests. James explained, “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14,15).
Notice that temptation itself is not sin! Christ, after all, was tempted in every area, yet remained sinless (Heb. 4:15). Yet the Tempter, Satan, tries to deceive us by accusing us of guilt even before we have yielded to the temptation. However, by learning how to say “no”, we can pass these tests.
Areas of attack: the world, the flesh, and the devil
The apostle John counsels us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15,16).
Sadly, Genesis records how Eve was originally deceived by this three fold temptation. The forbidden fruit was good for food (the lust of the flesh), pleasant to look upon (lust of the eyes), and desirable to make one wise (the pride of life) -Gen. 3:6.
1 John 2:16 mentions two of our key sources of temptation–the flesh and the world. Behind both is the third nemesis, the devil. Let’s define these dangers.
The “world” in this context is humanistic society arrayed independently of God. A typical snare of the world is the love of money. Paul warned, But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Tim 6:9). Those who have a gambling addiction or who have sacrificed relationships in pursuit of wealth can testify to this indictment.
The “flesh” can be defined as the body’s ungodly programming that contains the depraved tendencies, values, perceptions, and conditioning of living independently of God. The flesh is distinct from the “old man” (who we were before salvation-Rom. 6:6); it is in us (Rom. 7:18), yet is not essentially us (believers-Rom.7:20,22). Our essential identity is “in Christ” and our essential nature (in the redeemed human spirit) is holy (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 7:22). The apostle Peter wrote, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
The spiritual source behind the world system is the Tempter–The devil (1 Thess. 3:5). He is a fallen angel who is called the “god of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” “the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2; 6:10,11; 2 Cor. 4:4). Although he is ultimately a defeated foe, this chief adversary is permitted during this age, to “prowl around as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).
In part two we will explore how God fulfills this promise:
“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Christ living through us is the “answer key” for passing the tests of temptation.
Part 1 of 4