When Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit in the garden Satan gained a foothold in the souls of men that will continue until the coming of the Lord. His influence, power and cunning plans lay siege to the hearts of men filling their minds with the pernicious desires of his evil seduction. The devil is ruthless in his abandon of destroying every person created in the image of God. Jesus acknowledged the success rate of the old serpent would be the large part of humanity (Matthew 7:13-14). This will include some of the children of God who at one time threw off the shackles of unrighteousness and now find themselves returning to wallowing in the mire of ungodliness and the vomit of wickedness (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Peter was very familiar with the devil breathing down his neck as he struggled to fight off the “sifting” of Satan (Luke 22:31). In his second epistle Peter contrast the blessings of God with the challenge of Satan and exhorts his fellow pilgrims to resist the allurements of evil. “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 5:6-11). Resisting the devil requires humility and submission to the Father. The Lord will give us strength to overcome sin because the Lord cares for us. Our task is to be of sound mind and realize the dangers that lurk from a roaring lion waiting to devour our lives in sin. We are not alone in this struggle and through our suffering of temptation will be made perfect, established in our faith and given the strength to overcome.
Jesus shows the avenue of overcoming the devil when he taught the multitudes on the mountain how to pray. Prayer is pleading the promises of God and the Lord has promised we can overcome Satan if we try. Prayer is humbling us before God to ask His strength to overcome temptation. Our resistance to Satan comes from the power of God in our lives. “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:13). Our Father will not lead us into temptation to sin. He disciplines us through trials to strengthen our hearts for greater service (Hebrews 12:3-11). We fall into temptation when we jump headlong into the waiting arms of Satan. Praying this prayer will not magically keep us from temptation because we have to do our part. God will do His part to keep us from the evil one.
Paul reveals the character of our Lord when he writes how to overcome temptation. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:12-14). We should not be so smug to think we can defeat Satan alone. Pride brings shame and destruction (Proverbs 11:2; 16:18). Every man and woman is tempted and every temptation is not something new. If sin had an “AA” meeting it would be filled with every human being on the face of the earth. Temptation is the common lot of every person. No one is exempt. Our frailties cannot be used as an excuse to say that “no one understands the trials I have” or that “I was made this way and can do nothing about it.” No one can plead innocence when it comes to sin. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
God is the faithful one that for His children will not leave them without the power to overcome the Adversary. The faithfulness of the Lord is sure and steadfast. “It is impossible for God to lie; we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:18-19). Jesus Christ is the gift given by the Father for all men to find relief from the pains of temptation. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the assurance God has given to me that He will not allow sin to have dominion over me. Here is the plain truth: I WILL NOT BE TEMPTED BEYOND WHAT I AM ABLE TO BEAR. That is not a maybe or a possibility or a wish; it is reality. The reason I sin is because I choose to do so.
In the prayer on the mountain Jesus affirms the promise of the Father by teaching us to plead that we be not led into temptation. Yet we choose to do so against the Father’s will. Facing the roaring lion and feeling the breath of his hatred to the bottom of our souls a way of escape is offered. When we fail to take the avenue of escape we fall prey to temptation and sin. God will always (and He means always) make a way of escape so that we can escape the snares of the devil. We sin because we make that choice. We sin because we fail to take advantage of the means of escape given by the Lord.
James examines the nature of sin and temptation in his epistle. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 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. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:12-17). The happy man is the one who has prayed for the Father not to lead him into temptation and to deliver him from the wicked one; who believes that God will not allow him to be tempted beyond what he is able to bear and takes the opportunity to follow the way of escape. The man who endures temptation has succeeded on all levels. But then there are those times of failure.
Drawn by the desires of the flesh and seduced with pleasure sin conceives in the heart and without aborting the embryo of Satan sin is born. When left unchecked sin can bring about death. Allowing sin to continue in life without purging the temptations from life will destroy the soul. Throughout the process the Father has offered His help and His power to overcome. Whether one accepts or rejects the blessings of God will determine the outcome. In the final analysis we sin because we want to sin. God does not tempt us but offers a way of escape. We are tempted when “WE” are drawn away and when “WE” choose to follow the path of least resistance. The justice of God’s punishment for sin is He has given His only begotten Son to “redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). No one can blame God for their sin. No one can blame God for temptation. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Paul understood the awful nature of sin when he admitted, “O wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24).
Until man comes to grips with the responsibility of his own sins he will never enjoy the blessings of a forgiving Father. David said what we all must say. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). He later writes in the psalm, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge” (Psalms 51:3-4). His sin with Bathsheba was because he failed to take the way of escape offered by the Lord when he stood on the rooftop of his house. He sinned because he allowed the seed of passion to give birth in his desire for Bathsheba. The tragedy of his wickedness led to the death of one his mighty men and the husband of Bathsheba. His legacy of sin was noted even in the writing of Matthew hundreds of years later (Matthew 1:6). David sinned and bore the penalty of his sin.
Nathan brought home the sin of David but he also brought to the heart of David the mercy of God. “And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die’” (2 Samuel 12:13). Sin will not have dominion over those who seek the mercy of God. As sin is the common lot of all men found in the mercy of God is His love. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). God is faithful to offer a way of escape and He is faithful that when we fail He is willing to forgive us and to remove our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). A repentant heart realizes the sting of death and how terrible our rebellion is to our heavenly Father. What a wonderful God we serve that He is willing to receive the prodigal home. The mercy and grace of God is limitless when we come before His throne in penitent hearts. His cleansing is full and complete.
The good news is that sin will end one day. In death the child of God is released from its hold and when the Lord returns sin will be destroyed (Revelation 20:10-15). Sin is temporary as Satan knows his fate. The glory of heaven will be filled with the “overcomers” who worship a Father full of love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness. “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:23). “Enter in” – the most wonderful words a man can hear. Lord come quickly.