By Joel Plunkett
In Genesis 22:1 we are told that God tempted Abraham, yet James says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God. . .” (Jas. 1: 13). Do these two verses contradict each other, or can they be harmonized?
When we understand that the primary meaning of temptation is to prove or test as in the case of Abraham, then we can understand God’s testing or giving His people opportunity to prove their faithfulness. It would be extremely difficult for us to mature without some form of test. The secondary meaning of temptation is to entice as used in James 1:13. Hence, God does not entice His people to do evil but does allow them opportunity to express their spiritual maturity. If we are to overcome both the tests of God and the enticements of the devil, it is mandatory that we understand temptation.
Three Categories of Temptation
Temptations or trials may be placed into three broad categories. The first category may be referred to as hereditary temptations. By this, we mean those tests that come upon us because of our commitment to God and His holiness. Immediately after He was baptized, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Unlike Lot, He did not choose the well-watered wilderness and pitch his tent in that direction, but He followed the direction of the Spirit. Likewise, trials will come upon us when we take up our cross and follow Christ. We inherit these temptations when we place our mind, soul, and body at the feet of the crucified One.
The second category of temptations are environmental. These are trials that come upon us because we are in the world. In Romans 12:2 Paul says, “And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” When the child of God accepts the challenge to live in this world and to let the mind of Christ dwell in him, then he will be tempted. Let us remember we are not thermometers that reflect the world in which we live, but our Master requires us to serve as thermostats, altering the evil environment. We have not caused or asked for these trials, but we should neither fear nor try to avoid them. They will always be present and we must overcome them.
Unlike the first two categories, the third category of temptations is self-inflicted. These temptations will be dealt with in detail in the remainder of this article. They are the result of foolish or immature decisions on our part in failing to discern between good and evil. In Genesis 13, we find Lot in an ungodly city that vexed his soul, but let us remember that it was a city of his own choosing. Many of God’s people today are living in tormenting conditions because they, like Lot, have taken from the proverbial shelf that which looked good, felt good, or made them look good for a very, very short season. The best of God’s people, like David, have failed to “pull down their window shades” when women in the world, like Bathsheba, fail to “use their shades.” These temptations we are to fear and avoid, because they will destroy our own souls and taint the church of the living God. The wise man expressed this precise idea in Proverbs 4:14-15. “Enter not unto the path of the wicked and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and pass away.” The word of God teaches that we are in grave danger when we dally or flirt with either sin or the sinner.
1. When are God’s people guilty of flirting with sin? 1. When we marry a worldly person in spite of the warning signals (1 Cor. 15:33).
2. When we consume a daily diet of adultery, humanism, and materialism on our televisions, in magazines and in our reading material (Prov. 23:7).
3. When adultery, fornication and all uncleanness become so common that it no longer vexes our souls and we tease or joke about it (Eph. 5:12).
4. When the music that entertains us speaks constantly about getting high, losing our self-control, or “if loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right” (Gal. 5:21).
5. When we allow children to wear less on the street than they do in their bedroom at night (1 Tim. 2:9).
6. When our friends and our children’s friends are not only in the world but are worldly-minded (Jas. 4:4).
7. When we allow our children to forsake the services for work, ball games, and school affairs (Matt. 6:33).
8. When we allow our teenagers to sit in the back of the building and talk or write notes during the services (Acts 10:33).
9. When we fail to keep our marriage vows daily, and we let our mate feel that he or she is of little or no value to us (Eph. 5:21-33).
10. When we allow our conversation to be punctuated with crude or gutter language (Col. 3:8).
In Proverbs 14:9 Solomon says, “Fools make a mock at sin.” Brethren, only a fool would do so! Let us remember that while Peter was warming his hands around the enemies’ fire, his heart grew cold and he denied our Lord. May God give us the wisdom to identify the enemies’ fire and avoid it.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 20, pp. 627, continued on pg. 626
October 18, 1984