Temptation and Sin

            When man was first made, Adam and Eve wore no clothing. The reason for mentioning this is to emphasize their innocence. You wouldn't be caught dead running around naked where others could see you, yet when you were small I am sure you ran around buck-naked after a bath and never gave it a thought. You see, young children have no concept of right or wrong. It is only after we grow up and learn of good and evil that we become conscience of our own actions in terms of right and wrong (Deut. 1:39). The fact that Adam and Eve were naked and not conscience of it shows they did not have a concept of right and wrong as applied to their own actions.

            Satan took possession of a cunning animal, called a serpent. We know Satan was involved from other verses: Revelations 12:9, 20:2. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for serpent (nachash) is very similar to the Hebrew word cachash, which means "a liar or deceiver." Take a look at Jesus' description of Satan and his followers in John 8:44.

            The serpent challenges Eve over the exact nature of God's command not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice that when Eve repeats God's command, she does not repeat it word for word. Instead, she embellishes God's words. Compare Genesis 2:16-17 to Genesis 3:2-3. God said not to eat of the fruit. Eve said they were not to even touch the fruit. This embellishment gives Satan the opening that he needed. Satan knew that Eve could touch the fruit without harm. Once she touched the fruit and found out that nothing happened, then it would be easy to convince her that perhaps the rest of the command wasn't true.

            By the way, the fruit was not an apple. This is a common myth. Nowhere in the Bible is the fruit named, other than it was the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In fact, since we don't have this type of tree today, it is safe to assume that the fruit was unlike any fruit we have today.

            Before we go further, we need to understand the nature of temptation. Eve was facing a severe temptation, just as every one of us face throughout our lives. Now, we are not tempted to eat of a certain fruit, but each of us must endure Satan trying to lead us into breaking God's Law (James 1:13-16).

            First, let us define a few terms. Every one of us have built in desires that are given to us by God. For instance, we all have a desire to eat, called hunger. We are reminded to drink by a desire called thirst. Everyone has a desire to be wanted and to be loved. After puberty, we become of a strong desire for sex, which encourages us to marry and have children. Desires are different from lusts, though these two words are often used as synonyms. Lusts are more than strong desires. A lust is a desire for something that is not lawful for you to have. For example, the desire to eat is a normal function of your body, but to desire to overeat is a sin called gluttony. Gluttony is a lust. Take a look at Jesus' comments in Matthew 5:27-28. It is normal for a person to have a desire for sex, but to desire to have sex with someone who is not your wife is a sin. It doesn't matter if you actually commit the sinful action. The fact that you are thinking about breaking a law of God is by itself wrong.

            Lusts come from within ourselves. In Proverbs 23:7, we are told that as a person thinks, that is his true nature. It is rare that a person just accidently commits a sin. Most of the time a person thinks about it for a while; convincing himself that he can get away with the sin. In Mark 7:18-23, Jesus said that evil thoughts will eventually lead to sinful actions. That is the meaning of Jesus' words in Matthew 6:22-23. The direction of our lives depends upon our goals. If we are thinking about evil things then we will become evil. If we keep our minds on righteous things, we will become better people.

            Lusts are often associated with younger people (II Timothy 2:22). It is not that older people don't have trouble with lusts. It is just that during our youth is when lusts strike the hardest. When we are young we are inexperienced in dealing with our desires. We are also inexperienced in resisting Satan's devices and so we become a prime target. Satan will often take advantage of our weaknesses to get his own way. Sometimes our own bodies work against us. Lusts start from the desires of our bodies. That is why Peter said to abstain from fleshly lusts (I Peter 2:11). During adolescence, various hormones flow through our bodies to cause changes from childhood to adulthood. Those hormones magnify our emotions, making them difficult to handle. Hence, lusts are particularly difficult for young people.

            Other terms that we see in the Bible related to lusts are the words "lasciviousness" and "licentiousness." These are old words that are not often used today. Newer translations use words such as sensuality, lust, lewd, or wanton. The Greek word that is being described is defined as "a love of sin so reckless and so audacious that a man has ceased to care what God or man thinks of his actions." In other words, "lasciviousness" is more than just a lust -- a desire to break God's law. A person who is lascivious has sinned so often that it no longer bothers him. He doesn't care what anyone else thinks about what he is doing, he is going to do it anyway.

            In I John 2:15-16, John tells us that lust comes in three basic flavors. First, there are the lusts of the flesh. These are your normal bodily desires that get out of hand, such as when you fulfill the desire to drink by getting drunk on beer. The second type are the lusts of the eyes. These are when your desire for things that look good causes you to want them when you should not have them. For example, there is nothing wrong with admiring a new car, but it becomes a lust when you want that car so badly that you are envious of the owner or you are willing to steal it to have the car. The third type of lust is the pride of life. These are lusts that come from our desire to be admired by other people. When the desire to be admired gets out of hand and you want fame or fortune so badly that you will do just about anything to get it, then the desire has turned into a lust. An example of the pride of life is when young men or women build up their bodies just to be admired by the opposite sex.

            Notice that in the garden of Eden, Satan used all three types of lusts at the same time to tempt Eve. Look at verse 6. Eve saw that the fruit was good for food (lust of the flesh), it was pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and able to make one wise (pride of life). Often, we only have to endure temptation from one route or the other. Eve was hit from all sides at once.

            When Jesus came to this world as a man, he too faced all three types of temptations. Take a look at Matthew 4:1-11. The first temptation that Satan used against Jesus was hunger. Jesus had just spent 40 days without eating. I don't know about you, but I would be a bit hungry by that time. Satan dared Jesus to prove himself by turning some stones into bread. Satan was appealing to the lust of the flesh. The next temptation was to prove himself by showing that God would care for him. Satan was appealing to the pride of life. The last temptation was an offer to give Jesus all the world if he would worship Satan. Satan showed Jesus all the nations, appealing to the lust of the eyes. So you see, Jesus faced all the types of temptations that we must face, but he managed to resist Satan. (See Hebrews 4:15.)

            By the way, marketing people understand these same principles and use them to encourage people to buy their products. Take a look at the ads you see in magazines or on television. Why do they have a pretty girl sitting on a pickup truck? Because they want to appeal to a person's lust of the eyes. Ads for steaks look mouth watering good, because they are appealing to the lust of the flesh. Even the ads for the military with their slogan "Be all you can be" appeals to the pride of life.

            In James 1:13-15, we learn about the process Satan uses to get us to sin. All sins first start out with our own desires. These desires are normal and natural. Everyone has them and they serve a good purpose by themselves. However, Satan takes advantage of those desires by placing us in situations where it looks like the only way to fulfill those desires is to break some law of God. This situation is called temptation. When you begin to think about possibly giving in to the temptation, then you have begun to lust for something you should not have. Those lusts will eventually entice you to actually break a law and that yielding to the lust is called sin. If Satan can get a person to sin once, then it is not so hard to get him to sin a second time, then a third time, then a fourth time, and so on. Soon a person is not bothered by the sin at all. That is the point that we defined as lasciviousness. When a person no longer cares what anyone thinks, then Satan has them trapped. The person's own callousness to sin keeps him in sin. He no longer looks for a way out of the sin, so he may serve God. At that point, the person has died in a spiritual sense.

            Death is a separation. Physical death is when our physical bodies are separated from our spirit. Physical death is also when we are separated from those still living in this world. Spiritual death is a separation of a person from God (Isaiah 59:2). You see, God is a purely righteous being. There is not a trace of sin within God (I John 1:5). In fact, a sinful person could not survive in the presence of God. So when we sin, we put a barrier between us and God. This is one of the reasons God told Adam and Eve that in the day they eat the fruit, they would die. They would break God's law and separate themselves from God.

            God has offered us help in our battle with Satan. Take a look at I Corinthians 10:13. The first thing we must understand is that Satan doesn't use new techniques. The temptations you face and will face are the same ones that other people have faced. You are not the first, nor the last, to face the temptation. Now, the temptation you face may not be exactly the same temptation that I must face. Everyone has their own weaknesses. However, I can guarantee that someone, somewhere, at some time has already dealt with the same problem. Some have overcome the temptation. Others have given in to the temptation and sinned.

            The second point is that God has promised that no matter what temptation Satan puts in front of us, there will always be a way out that does not involve sinning. Now, that way out may not be easily found. And it won't be the most desirable course of action, but it will always be there. Satan cannot trap us where we don't have a choice.

            We will talk about this in a later lesson, but a good example of finding a way out is what happened to a young man named Joseph in Genesis 39:7-12. Joseph had a difficult life before this incident takes place. He grew up in a home where his brothers did not like him. It became so bad, that they almost killed him. However, they decided to sell him into slavery instead. Somehow, Joseph remained faithful to God, and God blessed him by making him a good household manager for his owner, who was named Potiphar.

            Things were looking better for Joseph, except for one problem. Joseph had grown into a handsome young man. It is estimated that he was between 17 and 19 at this time. Potiphar's wife looked at him and decided to have sex with him. Joseph refused, which just made her press him all the more. The situation became so bad, that Joseph had to make sure that he was never alone with the woman. However, one day she managed to catch Joseph in the house when everyone else was gone. Can you imagine the temptation that Joseph faced? Obviously, his body's desire for sex would be pushing him to comply. At Joseph's age, the hormones are strong and the desires for sex are hard to ignore. Then, there is the fact that Joseph is all alone in a foreign country. His family would never know if he gave in this one time. In fact, they sold him into slavery, so they probably wouldn't care even if they did find out. There were no witnesses. Obviously, the woman wanted to have sex. In fact, if he didn't give in, she would continue to make his life miserable. And on top of it all, she is already starting to take his clothes off. What would you do?

            Joseph's desire to serve God was stronger than his desire to sin. Even though no man would know, Joseph understood that God would know. So Joseph looked for and found a way out. He ran out of the house. Now this wasn't the most desirable option, for you see, Potiphar's wife had a hold of his clothes. He had to run away in what we would today call his underwear (or possibly without any clothing -- depending on the style of clothing slaves wore in Egypt). I don't know about you, but I can think of a number of better things to do than to run down the street in my underwear. However, to Joseph, this was the best option because it avoided committing a sin.

            We must not consent to sin (Proverbs 1:10). God is on our side and he will provide the help that we need (Philippians 4:13). God will not keep us out of temptation, but he will restrict Satan so that there will always be a way out. In fact, the third point in I Corinthians 10:13 is that God will not allow Satan to tempt us with something that we can't handle. It may not seem that way while you are being tempted, but every temptation that you face is something that God knows you could overcome if you truly wanted to do so.

            Therefore, have nothing to do with immorality, impurity, lusts or other sins (Colossians 3:1-5). However, be forewarned. Just because God offers a way out of temptation, do not think that you are protected from committing a sin. While Solomon was discussing the problem of prostitution in Proverbs 6:25-28, Solomon asked the question: "Can you hold hot coals against your chest and not be burned?" You can't try walking the line between sin and righteousness and not one day stumble into sin. This is why pornographic material is sinful. It is literature designed to arouse lust and lewd emotions in its readers. Repeated exposure to this type of stuff produces a desire to do things that are in violation of God's law.

            Satan, though, attacks in even more subtle ways. For example, many of the television shows and movies feature sexual acts that take place outside of marriage. These acts are portrayed as normal and desirable. How long do you think it would take watching such things, before you start to think that sex outside of marriage is normal and right? We have to be very watchful for the many ways that Satan may tempt us. Not all temptation that you will face will be sexual in nature, but these are often the hardest ones to resist, so I used them for the various illustrations.

            Eve did not take the way out of sin. She did not have to eat of the fruit, but she did it anyway. She then gave the fruit to Adam and he too ate. Paul tells us in I Timothy 2:14 that Eve was deceived by Satan, but Adam was not fooled. Adam knew what he was doing, but he went ahead and broke God's law. I can't say why Adam did this, the Bible doesn't say, but Adam sinned. I think that it is because Adam sinned knowingly that this fall of man is often referred to as Adam's sin, even though Eve was also involved.