As you begin the new year, it is wise to look back at last year to see areas of success, failure, and the need for improvement in your spiritual life. Regardless of how great your year was, you have sins that need to be repented of. There are temptations that need more diligence in guarding against.
Being watchful against sin means knowing when temptation arises and having a plan for how to fight. One way is to look closely at the cycle of temptation in order to develop a battle plan. Since temptation is a part of the fabric of life for the believer, it is wise to understand a general pattern for temptation.
5 Steps In The Path of Sin and Temptation
In Genesis 3:1-7, we see Eve faced with temptation from the "crafty" serpent who is later called "the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan" (Rev. 20:2). Taking a closer look at his tactics will reveal a lot about the process of temptation. As you read, consider how you’ve seen this progression in your own life.
1. The Word of God is twisted and contradicted. (Gen. 3:1-4)
Satan asks Eve tricky questions to trip her up and bring confusion: "Did God actually say?", "You will not surely die". Sometimes—because our flesh is weak—Satan doesn't even have to prompt such twisting. Men often twist the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16). This first layer of temptation is especially dangerous for those who are lax in their devotional lives, especially Bible reading and prayer. If we don’t have a steady diet of daily bread, we will be anemic Christians in times of temptation.
2. A convincing argument is made against God and the meaning of His Word. (Gen. 3:5)
Satan offers a convincing argument for his contradiction and paints God as keeping something from Eve. This happens so often and so subtly. For example, "Be angry and do not sin" gets turned into, "you have the right to be angry, so your response can't be sinful! Even Jesus turned over tables and beat people with whips!". See how assumptions turn into facts and allow us to justify sin?
You can also see Satan sneakily throw shade at God: “For God knows that when you eat...you will be like God.” It’s like Satan said, “See Eve! He’s keeping something from you! He doesn’t want you to be happy or live your life to the fullest! Break free from this bondage and really find out what it means to be in the image of God!” Again, craftiness at it’s best.
3. The contradiction and argument are embraced. (Gen. 3:6)
Eve thought enough about Satan's argument to change her mindset about the tree. She set her mind on the flesh (Rom. 8:6). She began to covet what she didn't need rather than appreciate the forest around her, leading her into idolatry (Col 3:5). The fruit appealed to the flesh, eyes, and pride of life (1 John 2:16).
How often are we settled in our convictions about a sin only to conjure up some strange reason for why we might not have to fight it after all. For example: "It's only lust if you look twice, right?". We hear the lie, consider the serpent’s logic, and then embrace the contradiction.
4. The sin is committed. (Gen 3:6)
Eve took of the tree and ate. She embraced the lie of Satan so much that she threw away God's command like yesterday’s trash. When we get to the point of committing sin, it may not always be as conscious and certainly not as willful, but we all still take this step and make this choice. We can never say, “the devil made me do it!”. James 1:14 is clear that when we sin, it is due to being “lured and enticed” by our “desire”. Eve demonstrated this clearly when she saw that the tree was “to be desired to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6).
Sadly, we often sin with that anxious feeling in our stomachs because we've wrestled with it, but ultimately saw fruit that seemed more glorious than God. We must fear this lest we be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:13).
5. Others are invited to partake in, or are supported in, their committing of the sin. (Gen 3:6)
Finally, Eve gave some fruit to Adam (who was with her!), and he ate. Even in our “secret” sins, we often try to convince others that it’s not such a big deal, or we partake in sins that involve others. In turn, we "give approval to those who practice them" (Rom 1:32).
Consider the sin of gossip. You’ve heard more than you should have, or you know about a situation more than others. You know you shouldn’t ask for more details or get into the nitty gritty of what you know. In that moment you could be honest and say, "You know, this is moving into gossip, I’m sorry. Please forgive me." Instead, you give the details with a perceived sense of concern or righteous anger, but you really just enjoy the conversation. Now you’ve brought others into sin with you. Replace with gluttony, along with many other sins, and you can see the same outcome.
A Beam of Hope
While some Bible readers spend much time trying to determine what the fruit was, what it meant for Eve to talk to the serpent, what the nature of her sin was, etc., it is more important to realize that we are weak and need help in the time of temptation. Jesus, our great High Priest, was "in every respect, tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). As we behold the glory of Christ, we are being transformed into His image (2 Cor 3:18). We are only able to fight temptation if we have trusted in Christ as our Savior and are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In your temptation, rely on the Spirit and look to Christ. Before your temptation, behold Christ’s glory by drinking deeply from the rich well of scripture. If you fall into sin, trust that He is interceding for His sheep and has paid for sin once-for-all for those who have placed faith in Him. Christ is the headcrusher of the serpent, and He is our very present help in time of need (Ps. 46:1).
Next time, Lord willing, we will look at fighting temptation the way that Jesus did.