The Inevitability of Temptation
My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
In the church today, especially in the West, we peddle the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the “good news” as it is known, yet conspicuously fail to tell our young, trusting converts the “bad news” that comes along with the total package of salvation. And that “bad news” is that right now, as a believer, as a Christian, as one redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, you have an enemy. And your enemy is powerful, numerous, well-equipped and an experienced, battle-hardened veteran ready to fulfill his evil mission for your life— to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” you and all Christ has done for you (John 10:10).
And our enemy, Satan, works tirelessly, 24/7 to accomplish his task.
In fact, the neglected truth of the Gospel is that once someone passes from death to life, once they’ve been “delivered from the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13), a huge bulls eye is placed on their chest inviting and directing all the evil in the world to come and test this new Man of God.
But this reality should be of no surprise for someone who knows the Scriptures. For they promise us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim . 3:12) and that we shouldn’t be surprised by or “think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Why? Because Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18) and because “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). Jesus then continues by assuring us we will face persecution and suffering because “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20) and when these times of testing come, we should “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” (Matt. 5:12).
Which raises a few questions for us. Did the world persecute Jesus? I think the answer is obvious. They persecuted Him to His death. Did the world try to entice Him to sin, to falter, to fail in His mission to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 7:27)? Absolutely. And the world enticed Him to fall continually, daily in fact, from His temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11) to the angry shouts at the cross to save Himself “if You are the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:37).
Jesus was enticed to sin so much that the book of Hebrews states, without question, that He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). In other words, whatever you and I face regarding temptation— the allurement, the enticement, the almost irritable draw to sin and lust and pride— Jesus was also tempted in the very same way, and much more so, yet without sin. And He, as One who walked in our shoes and yet did not consent to sin, He is our perfect example of the life we are to live in Him.
The Inevitability of Temptation
In Proverbs 1:10 we see the loving father again giving his naive, impressionable son sage advice on how to live righteously in the fallen world that is the home of our enemy. His advice shows the inevitability of temptation and the power behind that temptation as nothing more than the cruel reality of our life in this world we are not part of any longer (John 17:16). But it also shows us the way through that temptation and the choices we must make to live above the fold of sin.
Proverbs 1:10 – My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
The advice begins with the personal words we see repeated over and over again in the Proverbs: “My son.” These words are personal, loving, coming from a father who desperately wants to mature his young son before he faces the temptations and enticement that come to all men living in this world. The father knows what his son will soon face, the father has been where the son is soon to walk, and the father all the more implores the son he loves to listen to the “instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).
And the message of the father is simple and direct. “If sinners entice you, do not consent.” The message begins with the word, if. Unlike its usage today, this if does not primarily mean a conditional phrase or clause, something that might happen someday, to somebody, but probably not today and certainly not to you. It means “since or because” or “when or whenever” and implies a condition that is capable and expected of being fulfilled regularly, at any moment. And so it is with the temptation to sin.
For the Believer, temptation is a fact of life we face every day. There’s no escape from temptation and no way around it. Temptation should be something we expect and embrace, not something we’re to fear. Why? For even our Lord was tempted and overcame by the Word of God. And so can we.
But who is doing the enticing, the tempting? The word is sinners. And this doesn’t mean just anyone who occasionally sins. No, this word refers to those who are “habitual sinners, those abandoned to sin, and especially those in this context who make robbery and bloodshed a profession.” It describes those who, by their very actions, are under the wrath and judgment of God.
But don’t be mislead. Sinners are not just creepy old men lurking under a street light, living in the shadows, looking for someone to draw away and entice into sin. They’re not always the nameless and faceless people behind porn websites that entice you with alluring pictures to simply “click” and enter into their fantasy world of sin. And they’re not always the strangers, the one you really don’t know, the ones who live in anonymity, that are your biggest threat.
No, your greatest temptation, your greatest enticement to sin can come from the very members of your own family, those in your own home, or from your closest friend. Why? Because misery and sin love company and blood is not always thicker than water, as they say. And even those closest to you can try to lead you astray. Just ask Abel about his brother Cain. Or ask Joseph about his jealous brothers and what great harm they did to him, and their father, simply because of their pride. Then there’s Job and his faithless wife and friends who seemed committed to the task of trying to destroy Job’s faith and trust in God. And there’s even the family of Jesus who mocked Him by claiming “He is out of His mind” (Mark 3:21) when He spoke the words of God to them and others. Remember?
None of this should surprise us. After all, Jesus promised a division among friends and family solely because of faith in Him. He even went so far as to say:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (how) For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matt. 10:34-36).
But as bad as all this sounds, our greatest enticement to sin will often come from within, from where we least expect it, from our own flesh.
Enticement Comes from Within
James reveals to us that often our enticement to sin comes from within and speaks about how we are to respond when we find ourselves suffering in the midst of a great trial or a seemingly irresistible urge to sin. How do we overcome in the middle of the battle? And how did we get into this no-man’s land anyway? Plus, whose fault is it anyway? Where does the blame lie?
First, note the blessing promised the man who is tried in the fire of temptation and enticement, yet stands strong and is found approved, or whose actions are found pleasing and acceptable to the Lord.
James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who (what) endures (or, remains under, to persevere, sustain, to bear bravely and calmly) temptation (or, a trial of one’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, to put to the test); for when he has been approved (or, tried and found pleasing and acceptable, to be tried as metals by fire and be purified), he will receive (what) the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Then, notice how our natural tendency is to point the finger and find someone to blame for our trials, someone other than ourselves. And unfortunately, that Someone is often God. But God never tempts us to sin and God is never the source of our sinful desires or lusts. Never.
James 1:13 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; (why) for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor (what) does He Himself tempt anyone.
But someone is tempting us to sin, we reason. It’s got to be someone’s fault when we find ourselves in the midst of a great trial. Somebody has to take the blame. Someone did this to us. And we demand to know just who that someone is.
But the answer to our quest for blame is quite revealing.
James 1:14 – But each one (you and me) is tempted (how) when he is drawn away by (what) his own desires and enticed (or, to bait, entrap, beguile, deceive).
So our temptation also comes from within, from the very core of our fallen nature. And it’s our flesh, our pride, the insistent demanding of our own rights, our rebellion, our insolence, and our lusts and desires that can plunge us into the darkness and despair of sin. And just how great is that darkness?
James 1:15 – Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
The Scriptures reveal that desire naturally leads to sin and sin will ultimately bring forth death. And you know, it really doesn’t get much darker than this.
But since we often think these things will never happen to us, James adds the following admonition:
James 1:16 – Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
That’s right, do not be deceived into believing these verses don’t apply to you and your situation. Or that maybe you’re too spiritual, too mature to fall for some inward temptation. After all, you’d never be foolish enough to be “drawn away by your own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). No, that may happen to some, but never to you. Right?
Remember, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (James 1:16).
Finally, the Proverbs state that sinners will entice us and, when that most certainly happens, we are told not to consent. But what does entice mean? And why did the Lord choose that particular word to describe temptation?
The word translated entice means “to be spacious or wide open, to deceive, to persuade, to seduce.” The word describes those who are simple, naive, gullible and are overcome easily into sin. It’s the same word used to describe Delilah as she enticed Samson to explain the source of his great strength (Judges 16:5). Proverbs 16:29 tells how a “violent man entices his neighbor” in order to lead “him in a way that is not good.” The word speaks of persuasion and deception in order to get one’s own way among those who are naive and easily manipulated.
And that persuasion and deception can come from others, on the outside, as well as from ourselves, on the inside. As the comic character Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” So it is also true with being enticed to sin.
So, My Son, the father implores, if and most certainly when sinners entice and persuade you into sin, your only hope and deliverance in the midst of the temptation is to commit beforehand to do not consent.
Do Not Consent
But how is that done? What does the father mean when he says to his son, “Do not consent”? And what does that look like in real life, in practical terms?
That’s something we will look at in the next chapter.
1. What things do you struggle with in your spiritual life? What sins or carnal mindsets always seem to get the best of you? Are there some areas in your life you have tried to change and failed so many times that you’ve given up and quit trying to change altogether?
2. Can you see any common thread in your struggles with temptation? Is there any particular area in your life that you are more susceptible to sin than in others?
3. Do you believe it’s possible to have victory over your sin? Or have you resigned yourself to the roller-coaster life of sin, ask for forgiveness, and then sin again?
4. And if you believe victory over your sin is possible, are you experiencing that victory today? If so, what is that like? How did that happen? Can you share the steps you’ve taken to achieve your victory? But if you haven’t experienced victory over your sin, do you know why? Is the failure with Him? Or is the failure with you?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?
Next Step Challenge
The Hebrew word for “entice” is pathah, and means “to deceive, to persuade, to be gullible. It describes a person who is simple and naive and is, therefore, easy prey to sin.” Take your Bible and look up the various uses of the word in the Old Testament and see if you can grasp a deeper understanding of what the Lord is saying to us in the Proverbs by seeing how the word is used elsewhere in His Word. For example:
2 Samuel 3:25
1 Kings 22:20-21
Proverbs 24:28; 25:15
What do the various uses of pathah show regarding its use in Proverbs 1:10? What does “entice” really mean? How has your understanding and appreciation of the word changed?
Do you have a deeper desire to study the Word of God word by word? Do you see the importance of every word given us by our Lord? Has this compelled you to become a student of His Word, in a much deeper sense, in order to “present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)?
And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?