The temptations that come upon us are not counted as sin to us unless we submit ourselves willingly to them. Whether it be in the continuation of our thought process’, or with the actions of our physical body, once we follow after them of our own accord, they have produced the fruit of our sin. Satan only has three avenues that he can traverse in this area of temptation, they are the three that our Lord hates, (1 John 2:16) and the longer we spend on these paths, the more time we apply to them in our lives, the more entrenched they become within us.
The lust of the flesh was placed before our Lord when Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread, (Matt. 4:3) something that He could have done quite easily, in fact He could have made Himself a three course meal out there in the wilderness if He had wanted to, and for a moment He was tempted to. Therein lies the basest terminology of temptation, it is no sin to us unless we succumb to it, the action of temptation, the fruition of it is what makes sin, not the transitory, or fleeting thought of it. This is why in Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus told of the one who had sinned in the action of adultery, it wasn’t because of the passing thought of lust for her, it was a continuing, free will choice to leave his mind on the woman and the pleasures of her flesh for his own gratification, even though he never touched her and she knew nothing of his desire for her, it became sin because he would not of his own choice remove her from his mind. The way out? It is better to marry than to burn, (1 Cor. 7:9) and the marriage bed is undefiled. (Hebrews 13:4)
It matters little what the lust of the flesh may be, food, money, sex, if our thoughts continue in the pattern of desire unfulfilled yet constantly sought after, it becomes a sin, those things that we serve become our masters, (1 John 2:15) and all temptations that we succumb to are hard task masters indeed. He who lusts after silver will never obtain enough silver to satisfy himself, (Eccl. 5:10) hell and death are never satisfied (Prov. 27:20) nor do I believe that the flesh is either. “All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt. 4:9) What we see we want, sometimes to fulfill the lust of the eyes, at other times just because someone else has it, and yet at others we believe we deserve it. To each his own taste of course, a woman who sees a dress that she wants, but it is in a color that she abhors, will not remove it from the rack to purchase it, but she will search diligently for the same fashion of dress in a different color of her liking. It is not the glancing look that is a sin, it is the searching continuously for the way to obtain that which we desire, and as is usual to the human nature, once the desire is fulfilled, the next item must be sought after.
It is not just what the eye sees though, the blind are just as easily tempted in this area my friends, we have five senses, and Satan will use every one of them against us. And it is not always the obtaining of the object that is necessary for us to fall into sin, the thoughts of the unobtainable can be just as much a deterrent to our walk with Christ as the having of a thing. Pick any object that you have ever desired, realize for a fact that you will never own as your own, and your heart will know sadness, your heart will know of a loss that it never had in the first place. Satan did not offer to turn the rocks into bread, he has no power to create, Christ would have had to do that Himself, but he could give the kingdoms of the world to our Lord, for they are his, (Matt. 4:8-9) all our Lord would have to have done is accepted them. The lust of the flesh Satan can offer us, all we need to do is reach out and take them, he cannot force them upon us, it must be an action that we undertake of our own free will. The lust of the eyes though, the things of the world, we need only to accept, for they are his, he is the prince of this world, (John 16:11) and what he owns for the present time he can give to whomever he chooses, we don’t even have to say “Thank you.”
“If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Matt. 4:6) Pride says I don’t need God, and it is the interwoven thread that ties all three of these temptations together, it binds them securely, and without it our adversary holds little power over us. I have more money than you, my husband is more attractive than yours, I am better at this than you are. All three of these temptations are intended for one purpose, “You will be like God,” (Gen. 3:5) and we all fall into them many times in our lives, no exceptions. We want without having to be given that want, we deserve to have what we do not own, others should see us for what we are, better than them, if only in an area or two. We are gods, (John 10:34) and so we should be in control.
Our Lord used words from His own book, the book that He wrote to defeat the adversary, all from a book that I fear very many of us study often, the Book of Deuteronomy. He could have just as easily said, “How about I turn you into a loaf of bread, you old serpent,” “You know, I’m the reason all those kingdoms exist in the first place,” “Jump down, why shouldn’t I just fly down there?” It has never ceased to amaze me how submissive to the Will of the Father our Lord was, how polite He was to Satan, and how loving He is to us. Anything He wants to do at any time He wants to do it, He can do, nothing is impossible for God. In His infinite wisdom He has given us the free will to do almost anything that we desire, but we are still bound within the laws of His creation, that alone should tell you that we cannot be like the Most High. Even if you decided to search out and apply vigorously all three of these actions, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and accomplished more and obtained more than any that have ever come before you, but then lost your immortal soul, (Mark 8:36) what good would it do you, you are not God and you never will be.
Think of the self-deception necessary to say the words “I will be like the Most High,” (Isaiah 14:14) and then try to pass it off to all of humanity as truth. Incredible. Every single temptation comes with a way out, think of that, there is always an escape route provided, but never forced upon us, the temptation is never forced, nor is the way out, it is always left up to us. We want what we know we should not have, we desire what we hate, and we obtain what we should not have sought after in the first place.
I cannot imagine the temptation in the mind of Adam as he held the fruit, just before he decided to take a bite out of it, as his hand moved toward his mouth. The thoughts that occurred within him the moment that it touched his lips and the journey of sin and open rebellion to the Creator of all that it began. I have always wondered if a smile crossed Satan’s lips as he left the garden at that moment, in fact, I have wondered if he stuck around just to see what God was going to do to these first two parents of ours. I do know how Adam felt though, and so do you if you have ever given yourself to temptation, and then realized what you have done to the One who loves you more than any other ever could. Each time that we recall with perfect clarity those moments when our hearts were broken, when we as Peter did, wept bitterly, it strengthens our resolve, it gives Satan less of a foothold, and we honor our Father in Heaven by resisting each new temptation.
We must always remember the way that 1st Cor. 10:13 ends though, “that ye may be able to bear it.” Some of these temptations in our lives are never going to depart from us, these are some of the crosses that we are to bear, no cross is carried in the continuance of sin, and though the temptation may appear from time to time, it is no more than a pesky fly that we can now by His grace and mercy simply shoo away. There will be more, our adversary and our flesh never rest, but you can rest assured in this, one day one of them will be cast into the lake of fire, and the other will finally die. Until that day persevere, grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, rest in His faithful promises, He will never leave you or forsake you. His grace is sufficient for us.