Many times we think about the meaning of temptation and immediately think it’s a sin. The bible says that God can never be tempted, right (James 1:13)? Then again in Hebrews it says that Jesus was tempted in every way that any of us have or could ever be tempted (Hebrews 4:15). How is it possible that he can’t be tempted but was tempted in every way?
Being tempted and falling into temptation are two different things. Let’s take a quick look at Adam and Even in the garden. It all started with a tree, right? They were both told they could have anything they wanted in the garden except that tree. The enemy came and spoke lies (or a skewed view of the truth) to Eve causing her flesh to be curious about the fruit from that tree. Tempted: She was tempted to try the fruit because it looked good.
Was that a sin?
It wasn’t a sin that she looked at the fruit and was tempted because she wanted to see what it tasted like. Sin: The sin didn’t happen until she actually ate the fruit. That’s when she fell into temptation. She allowed her flesh to overrule what she knew was right.
When you read that Jesus was tempted in every way but that God can’t be tempted (and Jesus and God are one in the same), then you might wonder why it’s contradictory. It really isn’t contradicting itself, though. We are being told that Satan brought every temptation known to man in front of Jesus, but Jesus never allowed his flesh to take control. He never fell into that temptation.
Because we aren’t Jesus, as I’m sure you’re already aware, we let our flesh take control too many times to even want to name. Paul talked about this type of spiritual warfare in Romans. Spiritual warfare is a fancy word for knowing what’s right but still desiring to do what’s wrong. It’s like on TV where the angel is on one shoulder telling the person what to do while the devil is on the other shoulder trying to get the person to do opposite. Have you ever felt like that? You know you’re supposed to turn away from something, but you do it anyway, and then you’re just mad at yourself for doing it. Then, you still decide to do it again sometimes. It’s a horrible feeling, but we’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another. Let’s look at what Paul said:
So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Does this sound familiar? I remember the first time I had ever read this scripture, I was going through this exact same thing. I was at a point in my life where I knew God and had a close relationship with him but wanted to do some things that I knew was wrong — and did them. I read this scripture and was shocked that Paul had the exact same thoughts that I had been having!
If you find that you are tempted often by the same things, then you know that particular thing is a real struggle for you, and you shouldn’t face it alone. God places people in your life for this very purpose. Try to look around for strong, Godly leaders who have crossed your path at some time or another, and hold them close to you. Find one or two who you feel comfortable talking with about personal struggles and allow them to hold you accountable. That means that you explain to them your deepest struggles and temptations. Go to them when you are tempted to do those things and go to them during those times that you went ahead and did whatever it was that tempted you. They aren’t there to judge you. They are there to help get you through those times, and really they are there to make you stronger and help you avoid hurt that they know is ahead in certain situations.
Most importantly, don’t allow the enemy to tell you that God no longer loves you after you’ve made mistakes. That is absolutely not true. God loves you, and nothing can ever separate you from his love.