Temptation Begins Earlier than You Think

It is no secret that believing lies leads us into sin.  We see this as far back as Genesis 3 when Eve believed the lies of the serpent and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree (vv. 1-6).  But perhaps it is not as obvious that we also believe lies as we seek to repent of the same sins that were influenced by lies in the first place.  This is, of course, not true repentance, but rather, a false repentance that pleases others, and even ourselves, but not God.  What is an example of a lie that we can believe in those moments after our sin has been exposed and we are called upon to repent?  

Does this sound familiar?  Confronted with a choice to embrace true or false repentance, we can wrongly believe the lie that things will be different next time.  Regarding this lie, sin has been chosen, accompanied by feelings of sorrow and regret, but there is also the desire for life to remain the same; for nothing to alter the sinner’s comfortable patterns of life…even those patterns of life that encouraged the sin.  Therefore, the sinner tries to convince himself that he won’t let it happen again, while taking no practical steps for preventing the unrighteousness.

This lie preaches certain justifications to try and prove its validity.  One such justification is the belief that there is so much sorrow and guilt now, in the wake of having just committed the sin, that the sinner cannot imagine giving in next time.  The present revulsion of the sin deceitfully proves to the sinner that he will be able to handle the temptation on the following occasion, even without making a strategic plan to change.  

This kind of thinking flies right in the face of what Jesus says in Matthew 5:29-30: If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.  

Here, Jesus is using extreme language to communicate the utter seriousness of our fight against sin.  The note on these verses in the ESV Study Bible says, “Even things of great value should be given up if they are leading a person to sin.”  With this in mind, it is a faithful decision to end a relationship that encourages fornication, or, quit a job that encourages dishonest business practices.  But the reality is, that it is even things not of great value that we refuse to cut out of our lives for the sake of obedience to Christ.  Are you willing to cut out things of lesser value such as social media, certain stores, or specific TV shows to inhibit temptation?  

For our pet sins, we need to remember that temptation doesn’t begin with the next opportunity we have to choose them, but in the moments when we have already chosen them and we are deciding on what must be done in response.  We must anticipate that our hearts will begin lying to us much earlier than we expect in order to secure future gratification.  In knowing this, we can choose those moments to make a plan for future faithfulness as we are informed by Paul’s words in Romans 13:14: But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  This will ensure that things really will be different next time as we decide how we are specifically going to nurture our relationship to Christ and block the opportunity to sin.

Note: This article originally appeared on thecbcd.org. We encourage you to visit the Center for Biblical Discipleship and Counseling where you can find helpful, biblical resources by a number of trusted pastors and authors.
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Brent Osterberg