“Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” – Hebrews 2:18
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
How is that for an enticing blog title? Are you reading this entry because you succumbed to it? By it I refer of course to temptation. Temptation is an invitation to sin. There is no sin in being tempted, for the perfect Jesus was “tempted in every way just as we are – yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). However, all sin is from temptation (James 1:14). Sin is a fruit that comes only from that root. So we must strike at that root that we may not eat its fruit. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 26:41, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Prayer is self-explanatory but what does Jesus mean by “watch?” It of course means to be on our guard, to take heed, to consider all ways and means as to be on our guard, great carefulness and diligence that we may not be entangled. In keeping with this idea of watching, Dr. Kevin T. Bauder has done us a great help.
Dr. Kevin T. Bauder has written a concise article on the progress of temptation over on his blog IN THE NICK OF TIME.
In his opening paragraph he writes:
Temptation occurs in a series of stages, each of which involves a growing element of implicatedness in the sin toward which one is being tempted.
He then summarizes seven stages of temptation, explaining how each stage brings one more deeply under the domination of the object of temptation:
- The first stage is inclination.
- If inclination is not resisted and dismissed, however, it leads to consideration.
- Unless it is interrupted, consideration will lead to permission.
- Naturally, permission is often followed by participation.
- As indulgence continues, temptation moves to the level of habituation.
- The last and worst stage occurs when temptation turns into identification.
- One other stage may occur, though it occupies no particular place in the order of temptation. It is the step of legitimation.
He then concludes with this exhortation:
Every temptation must be dealt with at the earliest possible stage. To wait for later stages is to multiply exponentially the difficulty of resisting the sin. It is also to involve one’s self increasingly with the sin itself. The first stage—inclination—brings with it no necessary guilt, but each of the succeeding stages involves growing participation in the sin. At no level is a sinner beyond the ability of God’s grace to deliver, but to presume upon deliverance at some later stage is to put God to the test in the way that Jesus refused to do. Consequently, every Christian must seek God’s grace early and employ those means that God has ordained for securing sanctification in the face of temptation
For further thought and reflection on sin and temptation I cannot recommend highly enough John Owen’s classic, Overcoming Sin and Temptation.” But be warned, John Owen is not for the casual reader. Studying Owen’s writings requires hard work but the effort required to read Owen is richly repaid.
“It is the great duty of all believers to use all diligence in the ways of Christ’s appointment, that they fall not into temptation.” – John Owen