1 John 2:16
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16)
In Romans 12:1 (Do, not conformed to this world but be transformed) Paul emphasizes the pressure of the world—other people, things, circumstances, perhaps. People can cause us to stumble (Matthew 18:6,7), making us angry, seducing us, or making sin look attractive. Also, things and circumstances like poverty or riches (Proverbs 30:8,9) can put pressure on us. External sources.
Paul also identifies minds that need renovation—our inner desires and impulses. Ultimately it isn’t the people or circumstances, it’s our response to them that’s the source of our temptation. We’ve given ground already in our minds—”Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed” (James 1:14).
Of course, Satan is the original source of all temptation, and he still is on the prowl, ever ready to pounce on the unwary (1 Peter 5:8). We should be ever on guard (Ephesians 6:1), never give ground (Ephesians 4:27), always fight back (James 4:7), stay alert to his stratagems (2 Corinthians 2:11).
All those above can be sources of temptation except one: God. God tempts no one (James 1:13). How then does the Bible sometimes finger the same tempting circumstances as coming from both Satan and God? It’s the motive. Satan uses people or circumstances to bring us down whereas God uses those same circumstances to bring us up, or to test and prove our allegiance.
Have you ever stopped to analyze just what temptation is? It doesn’t look bad, it looks good; otherwise, it wouldn’t tempt. And actually God is the one who designed our desires in the first place. Enticement to sin is actually the temptation to abuse a God-given desire. God created us to enjoy our bodies, to possess things, to amount to something. But we are forever trying to fulfill those desires in wrong ways. And that’s sin. So the next step is to identify the enemy, discriminate between what is temptation and what isn’t.
Some hold that all sin is found in one or another of these categories— lust (abuse of our desire to enjoy food or sex), covetousness (desire to possess something not mine or not in God’s will for me), and pride (taking credit for some achievement of God). But I think there is a further variety of sin that may not be any of those: unbelief. Some say it’s the source of all the rest! Eve certainly fell before temptations to lust, covet, and act arrogantly because she doubted God’s word, so maybe unbelief is the taproot sin. In any event, it helps to identify the enemy precisely so I can fight it successfully.
Eve fell to the temptation to enjoy the tasty fruit which God had forbidden; Christ resisted the temptation to use his power to create bread from stones. What temptation do you have currently to enjoy what God doesn’t intend or to enjoy it in wrong ways? Eve fell to the temptation to get something very pleasant to see and Jesus resisted the temptation to get in a wrongful way the world which was rightfully his. Your temptation to covet? Eve reached for that which the Liar said would give her the very wisdom of God and lost everything. If the crowds in the temple courtyard saw angels intercept Jesus’ free fall, the applause would have thundered to the heavens. He chose rather to hang on a tree in humiliation. What is your temptation to gain recognition?
Temptation always masquerades—it looks so appealing, promises so much good. That’s why it’s a temptation. If it wore it’s own face it would be so ugly we’d run! So the first task is to unmask the temptation, identify it for exactly what it is: lust, covetousness, pride, or unbelief. Such enemies—they could destroy you! And they certainly make the Spirit sad.