Temptation is a common theme in the Bible, but I wonder how often you actually think about the nature of temptation. What does it mean to be tempted?
A temptation is anything that promises satisfaction at the cost of obedience.
Temptation is when circumstances work together [desire + circumstance/opportunity] so that you have the desire and ability/opportunity to do something that God forbids.
It is money but without work (so you steal), popularity but without kindness (so you gossip), sexual fulfillment but without marriage (so you commit adultery)—it is the satisfaction you want but through disobedience rather than obedience.
James 1:14: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
We have good desires and bad desires. What James is referring to here are the bad desires, the longings we have for things that God has prohibited.
Your sinful desires give you a hunger, an appetite, for something forbidden, something you think you need, something you think you can’t be satisfied without. Then an external circumstance comes along and acts like bait, like a lure. That circumstance dangles the opportunity before you, and you are tempted to take a bite. But what you never seem to see is that buried in that bait is a sharp, nasty hook. First it lures you, and then if you succumb to the temptation it hooks you and drags you away.
Temptation is not a kidnapper who drags you into his van kicking and screaming and takes you where you don’t want to go. You climb in all on your own! You are a willing participant in your own kidnapping, in your own temptation. As John MacArthur says, “The problem is not a tempter from without, but the traitor within.”
James 1:15 “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
When you jump in the back seat with evil Desire, Desire will inevitably conceive and give birth to a child named sin, and sin will eventually give birth to a child named death. This is an earthy metaphor he uses here. You can’t fool around with your girlfriend and then act shocked when you find she’s pregnant; you can’t fool around with evil desire and then act surprised when you sin.
How do you stop the cycle of sin leading to temptation leading to death? It is remarkably simple. You do all you can to avoid the circumstances that lead to temptation, and you work at the level of the desires, putting those evil desires to death, so temptation can no longer dangle that seductive bait in front of you. When the desire is dead, the temptation is no longer attractive.
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit YOU put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Dependence on the Spirit and personal responsibility to make war against the desire to sin in your life is the Christians call to the pursuit of holiness!