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… Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created’ (1:13-15, 17-18)
God is tempting me’; ‘It’s God’s fault’; ‘The devil made me do it.’ We use many creative excuses to rationalise our sin!
Each of us has a whole catalogue of ‘desires’. Many of these desires are perfectly legitimate, but they can be twisted, warped and abused. If that happens and we are exposed to external testing, it is possible to be dragged into sin (verse 14). The idea is similar to hooking a fish and dragging it out of the water. So imagine, for example, a situation comes along and it’s not my fault. There is a desire within me that at first was legitimate, but now it has become warped and twisted and I’ve hung around long enough so the hook is set in my mouth. Before I realise what is happening, I’m being dragged away, and the situation that was a testing to prove me has turned into a temptation that has produced sin and death.
That is how temptation works. In contrast, there is nothing in God that would respond to an external event in such a way that it could produce sin. He does not tempt. He permits, he ordains, he allows, he uses tempting, but never with a view to our sinning, always with a view to our maturing. And just as the sun, moon and stars go on shining, so he goes on graciously, generously giving to us, unchanging, pure and holy in his character, making available to us all we need, in order that we might respond as we ought. Indeed, God took the divine initiative to give us his Holy Spirit and generate within us a response that would result in new birth. The whole point of this new birth is that we might become mature, holy, a kind of first-fruits to God, the beginning of the harvest.
Have you tasted the metal in your mouth? Your desires have been warped; wrong thinking about yourself and God have made you vulnerable to being dragged into sin. All of a sudden, without realizing it, the devil has you hooked like a fish.
- Ask for God’s forgiveness today.
- Ask for foresight to recognise when you are being tested.
- Ask for God’s strength not to fall into temptation.
- Ask for God’s help to use difficult times as a means of maturity and spiritual growth.
- Personalize Paul’s prayer and make it your own:
‘We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins’ (Colossians 1:9-14).