|Volume 21 Number 3 March 2019||
A person “sins” when he disobeys any law of God: “sin is lawlessness”(1 John 3:4). To every mentally developed person, God has given a limited knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-24). God has also revealed His law in its completed form in the Bible. The Old Testament portion of the Bible was God’s law for Israel until Jesus died on the cross. The New Testament portion of the Bible is now God’s law for all people (Ephesians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:15-17). A person sins when he disobeys the basic knowledge of good and evil, and he sins when he disobeys the laws of God written in the New Testament.
To “tempt” means to test or to examine. James writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:13-15). This passage shows us that temptations come to us through our desires.
Some desires are sinful in themselves. For example, the desire to take a person’s life is an evil desire. Other desires are not sinful in themselves. God created humans with several kinds of natural desires. For example, the desire for food and the desire for a mate are not evil desires in themselves. These desires can be satisfied, without sin, by working to buy food, and by marrying to obtain a mate.
Our God-given desires can become sinful desires. They become sinful when we let them become excessive or when we direct them at the wrong things. For example, if a person has an excessive desire for food, he may soon become a glutton (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:19). If a person desires to marry someone who is already married, he may soon become an adulterer (Matthew 5:32; 1 Corinthians 6:9). The Bible teaches us to control our desires so that they do not lead us into sin. Paul preached about “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come”(Acts 24:25). Satan, the enemy of righteousness, tries to turn our desires into sinful directions and sinful excesses.
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but He did not sin. After He had not eaten for forty days, He was hungry. “Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:3-4). His desire for food was not sinful, but it would have been sinful for Jesus to satisfy His desire by obeying the will and suggestion of the tempter, the devil. It was not the will of God for Jesus to make the stones into bread. Jesus chose to obey God rather than the devil.
Jesus desired to be spared from the agony of death on the cross, but He did not sin. “He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:39); “who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications [petitions], with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9). Jesus strongly desired to be delivered from the suffering and death on the cross, but He had a stronger desire to do the will of His Father in Heaven.
Now let us consider James 1 again. He wrote, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). When I feel a strong desire, I need to think about it, to discern where it will lead me. If I see that the desire would lead me into sin, it is “decision time.” Will I follow the will of God, or will I follow my own desire? If I decide to follow my own desire, that decision is a sin. “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:15). After the sinful decision, the sinful action often follows; “and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).
It is not always a sin when we feel a strong desire. We are not sinning when we are struggling to control a strong desire. Yet, we do sin when we decide to follow any desire that leads us away from doing the will of God.
Jesus never sinned, but He did experience very difficult temptations. They tested His loyalty to His Heavenly Father. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Giving All Diligence, Add to Your Faith
Ronald D. Reeves
The ideal congregation is truly committed to the spiritual growth process and the development of spiritual graces, individually and congregationally. The apostle Peter exhorted Christians to “add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:5-7). When obeyed, this exhortation assists in developing full maturity in attitude and in daily living. Furthermore, divinely approved fruitfulness is dependent upon the abounding presence of the qualities that Peter herein enumerated. Fulfilled maturity requires one to live up to his potential (Matthew 25:14-30; Mark 12:41-43). We should not be content with past achievements if we hope to reach full maturity. As we seek to be all that we can be, let us do so courageously with unyielding and confident faith, as servants of God and as servants of those about us. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure. Personal spiritual security is the blessing awaiting the obedient child of God.