Temptation and Condemnation Part Two
By Fred Pruitt
Temptation Is Not Sin
Temptation and the necessity of it is one of the least understood aspects of our spiritual lives. That lack of understanding has been one of the greatest impediments to living an overcoming life in Christ for millions upon millions the world over. In contrast to that, probably many, maybe even the majority of believers, would say sin and sins are the greatest encumbrances to a holy or productive Spirit life. Whether that is the case or not, the precursor to anything we would call “sin” or “righteousness” would still have to be the experience of confronting temptation. It is the first stopping-off point on the road to any “movement” on our part, whether it be by thought, word or deed.
One of the great misconceptions we have about temptation, is that there is something wrong about me, if I am being tempted in a certain area. Now, the reason people think that is, for instance, if I had been a heroin addict in my past, I would be more likely to being pulled by heroin, as opposed to a person who had never been an addict. While that may be true, it does not mean I would be more likely to succumb to the temptation. We’ll cover that more, later. However, it is still very important to understand that temptation itself cannot be considered sin, even if there are some corresponding “feelings” or “mental cravings” that are sometimes stirred up in us when we experience pulls from various temptation.
Why is knowing the difference between temptation and sin that important? If anything, shouldn’t we be more sensitive to sin’s pulls, even repenting for stuff we thought was sin but wasn’t, instead of taking a chance we’re not repenting enough?
Well, to address every issue brought up in that question could keep us here until next spring, but at this point I’ll just hit on what majorly concerns us at the moment. And that simply is this: to believe we are “in sin” or “sinning” when we are not, puts the focus on ourselves (and whether we have sinned or not sinned), and takes us out of the “work” of the Spirit for the interim, because we’re inwardly blocked up. It’s the simple law of faith. What we take, takes us. If we believe a certain thing or activity to be “sin,” we in a sense “sin against ourselves” if we wind up doing or believing the “sinful” thing. That’s where Paul’s Rom 14:23 word comes in: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
Notice in that chapter that God honors both weak and strong faiths. The subject is about eating meat that had been offered to idols. Some have no conscience against it because they know there are no other gods, so the blessing on the food for the idol-god’s sake is a moot point and they eat heartily. However, another brother, whose faith Paul called “weak,” cannot distinguish between the fact that the meat had actually been offered to idols (as if that was a real thing), but that it did no harm to the believers to eat it in faith. Since they could not see that, eating the meat truly was “sin” to them. And if “sin,” then in ourselves (never in God) there’s a bit of a dark pall because the enemy has come in on the heels of the banquet and has started up his cacophony of accusations and “I told you so’s.”
While we consider sin and sins to be our focus, which is exactly where the enemy would like to keep us at all times, we’re a bit absent from the Lord. Not from His side of things, but from ours. Fellowship, love, compassion, grace etc., are the only way the Father sees. No disturbance can come into that intimacy. It’s not a “rule,” it’s just the way it is. No disturbance of any kind whatsoever. That’s why there is no more consideration of sin, because sin cannot be there.
As long as our focus is mainly a “sin-focus” always asking, “Oh, what’s up with me?”, instead of, “Lord, let’s get those folks taken care of,” where the attention is not on “me,” it can dam up the outflow of our River of Life a bit. It doesn’t completely dry up, but just takes us back to self-focus instead of others-focus for a time. The Spirit uses that time to educate us again on Who we really are, so nothing is lost. All good! That is an example of our daily exercise according to Heb 5:14, referred to in Part One.
But there can come a day when we realize we can dispense for the most part from going off into ourselves and reflecting on “our” behavior, dedication, righteousness, holiness, our love. That period of our lives is over.
Why? Because, we have FINALLY REALIZED we do not have any!!* How can any of that stuff belong to or be instigated by dead people? “For you are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3). *(It may surprise some people when I say that God does not “give” us any of the stuff on that list. He IS all those attributes within us, but He does not give them to us as our own self-possession. No, righteousness, holiness, wisdom, etc., are forever God’s, but – and this is the best part – He IS those things in us, just as He was all that in Jesus Christ. And He by the Spirit operates it, too, as Jesus said, “The Son can do nothing of Himself,” and, “The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.” [John 5:19; 14:10])
From that point, it being finally clear to us that our old “self-oriented” life has died in the Cross, we rise confidently as the New Man in Christ. Once that others-focus has been restored by the Spirit, it’s a completely new day for us, where we realize as Paul said so many times, “And all things are of God.” (2 Cor 5:18). That makes the world change for us, from a place of always imminent danger because we could be overcome at a moment’s notice, to a place of security and shelter, where we can walk confidently in and through all that danger, knowing what David knew:
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.” (Ps 91:1-7).
Therefore, it is good for us to nail this down, that temptation is not sin! And at least scripturally or theologically, that’s not hard to do. The best and prime example is Jesus Christ Himself, of Whom it was written, “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15). He experienced every temptation that all His brethren (including male and female) experienced in their lives – in fact all points of temptation that every human being ever has or ever will experience, all the same pulls and draws and enticements, and yet without sin.
Why is this important? Are we merely trying to “feel better” about ourselves? Once we do understand this, to some degree we probably will “feel better” about temptation. Really, though, it doesn’t have much to do with how “we feel.” It is not about that. Our “feelings” are probably the least important aspects of this issue. Feelings are fickle and can change without warning. Truth, however, always remains Truth.
Since there are a few more aspects of the truths about temptation that I would like to address, I’m going to conclude this one so we don’t make another encyclopedia.
God’s blessings everyone!