“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:13-15)
Surrender seems a strange way to win a victory, doesn’t it? When faced with temptation, the only way to win is to give up! However, we do not surrender to the enemy or temptation but to the Victor. “I plead with you,” says Paul, “to make a grand presentation of yourself to God. Present yourself as if you were a carefully prepared sacrifice at the temple. Surrender yourself, your rights, even your life. That’s where victory begins” [Romans 12:1, my paraphrase]. Sacrifice can be painful. Sometimes you must give up
- a friend who deflects you from God’s highest and best.
- the ambition that is really an ego trip.
- that fun thing that eats up time you should be spending on God’s business.
- a purchase so that the hungry of the world may eat.
Those sacrifices can hurt. But the grand presentation God demands is more than those little particulars. God wants all of you – a living sacrifice. That alone starts you on the way to holiness and is acceptable to God, but in the light of all God has done for you this living sacrifice is only reasonable. Presenting yourself unconditionally to God is only the beginning. The next step is to identify the source of temptation.
Paul also identifies minds that need renovation-our inner desires and impulses. Ultimately our source of temptation isn’t the people or circumstances, it’s our response to them. We’ve given ground already in our minds-”Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14) . Satan is the original source of all temptation; and he still is on the prowl, ready to pounce on the unwary (1 Peter 5:8). We should be on guard at all times (Ephesians 6:11), never give ground (Ephesians 4:27), always fight back (James 4:7), and stay alert to his tricks and deceptions (2 Corinthians 2:11).
From where do your greatest temptations come? Which are your most frequent temptations . Number them in order of their strength: Satan, inner desires, impulses, other people, things, circumstances, or God.
All the sources of temptation above can be sources of temptation except one – God. James 1:13-14 clearly states that God tempts no one. How then does the Bible sometimes credit the same tempting circumstances as coming from both Satan and God? (See 2 Samuel 24:1 and I Chronicles 21:1). The motive is the key. Satan uses people or circumstances to bring us down. God uses those same circumstances to test or prove our allegiance and make us stronger.
If I give in to any impulse long enough, I will become that type of person. Lust yielded to creates a sensual person. Covetousness too often indulged ends in a materialistic outlook. Pride may so often prevail that I become egotistical. To win the battle against temptation, we sometimes need to recognize the root sin, not just the outward result. We especially need such understanding when a sinful attitude becomes entrenched as a disposition. For example, outbursts of anger may actually be rooted in some unresolved bitterness. From where did the bitterness come? What caused it? To root out the basic problem, we must identify both the problem and the source.
Temptation always masquerades-it looks so appealing, promises so much good. That’s why it’s a temptation. If it wore its own face, it would be so ugly we’d run! Temptation fights dirty; but you can spot any disguised temptation by focusing Scripture on your situation. Make your choice about that temptation. Choose right and grow stronger, choose wrong and grow weaker. Which will it be?