Do We Still Experience Temptation?
By Fred Pruitt
This writing you sent is really kind of a mixed bag, with some radically true statements along with some conclusions some of which don’t ring the bell with me. But I don’t know everything, do I?
I guess the best thing to do is to take some of the statements one at a time.
The first, to quote the above: “When we were born again we were set free from the law and now we are not under law but under grace.”
Our real confrontation with the law comes after being born again, not before. Before we might be concerned about right and wrong as far as it affects us, but our guilty conscience comes from the death life we live more than anything. “Offending God” is not one of our priorities.
However, once we are born again, almost every new believer within themselves want to now live lives pleasing to God. It is the new nature in us, the Spirit right there in our earliest days beginning to teach us who we really are, by showing us the difference between the “old” and the “new” within our very being. Our desires change. Before, we wanted to do certain sinful things that we may have even hated, but we weren’t out to please God. In the new me, who has now the “divine nature” within, a clean and right desire comes up in us to desire a spiritual life. It doesn’t even have to be “preached” to us. For most of us it just comes up.
However, our minds have yet to be renewed, so we all still for the most part see the way we used to see, and we still only know ourselves as independent entities separate from God, with a “gap” between us.
So, out of our own inner consciousness of separation which has yet to be broken, we in a sense impose the law upon ourselves, thinking, just as we did before, we “ought to” or “ought not” to do certain things, and we should seek God’s help to overcome those things and become better – whatever – believers, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, stewards, ministers, witnesses, etc. In our beginning we see God has all that and we realize we aren’t that so we think the way to get what God has, love, joy, peace, power, etc., is to better align ourselves with His help to His commandments.
I’ve watched people come to Christ (including myself) for about 45 years now, and that’s pretty much how we all start out. We don’t know we’re going about trying to establish our own righteousness. We just want to improve our behavior, not realizing those two goals are one and the same.
It takes Romans 7, where we, as believers, “who delight in the law of God after the inner man,” (vs 22), find ourselves in Paul’s Romans 7 predicament, and if we are honest we admit at one time or another or lots of times that we have been confronted with the impasse Paul speaks of, desiring to be what we believe God wants us to be, agents of His will, but not knowing how to accomplish it, as he says in vs 18:b – “for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”
And what Paul found, eventually, was that he was not a crazy man, sometimes walking in the flesh, and next moment in the Spirit, back and forth all day long. His problem was in his “mindset,” which for lack of a better word, is like the channel to which the radio is set. Paul’s “radio” was malfunctioning it seemed like, changing back and forth sporadically between channels. And he couldn’t control the switching! That caused him to finally realize he was powerless to deliver himself. Then comes the great revelation. First he thanks God for His Deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ, finally reaching his goal, finding his victory over the temptation and struggle of Romans 7, when he arrives at his 8:2 conclusion: “For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, hath set me free from the law of sin and death.”
However, before Paul found the liberty, it had seemed at first at the end of Romans 7, that he is left forever stranded in the middle trapped in a seemingly lifelong struggle, “So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (7:25b)
That chapter division was put in an awkward place by whoever divided it up later. That is one continuous flow from Romans 7 into 8. But because of that chapter division, millions of believers over the centuries stopped right there, camped out and made doctrines, that there was no going over that hump, we are forever as if we’re two people, a flesh person and a spirit person, who are always fighting it out to see who wins. But hallelujah, Paul’s revelation and his explanation of it DOES NOT STOP there! He caps it off in 8:2, to announce our liberation from sin and sins, and then the next few verses that explain it further.
That exercise of the senses Paul experienced in Romans 7, coming from his temptation on the coveteousness issue, was how Jesus made Paul into who he was, not just in an ethereal “spirit” way, but that in Paul the consciousness of Christ increased because the Spirit took him through that – AND – brought him out on the other side in victory.
Here’s the next section: “To be a law breaker, we have to be under a law in order to break it. It is impossible for us to break the law because there is no law for us to break or keep. We have been set free from the law and thus free from sin.”
That’s not quite true. One, no one “sinned” from Adam to Moses, because there was no law. But they still walked in death (in the kingdom of darkness), lived in death and experienced death. They broke no laws either. But they did break the law of their inner being, which is not written in stone, but in spirit and flesh. By “law of our inner being” I just mean that all of us are the “offspring of God,” as Paul told the people on Mars Hill, which means that at bottom we are all composed of Who and What God is in our humanity, which is that we are compounded of Love, because God is love, and since He is All in all then His love is also All in all. So while mankind may have not broken any written or codified “divine laws” before Moses, death reigned, i.e., the “wages of sin.” Why? Because in breaking the laws of their own being, they condemned themselves. Not in a legal sense by another party, but in an existential sense, by self-accusation and judgment. And the Spirit goes along with this. Consider Romans 14, where Paul tells us not to judge our brothers who seem to have weaker faith. Paul knows that meats and vegetables, whether sacrificed to an idol or not, were just meat and vegetables, and carried no spiritual significance. It was not sin to Paul to eat food from the marketplace from pagan sources. But to some of the brethren, it was sin. They condemned themselves in the power of their own faith, turned just slightly the wrong way.
Here is Paul’s take on it.
“Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” (Rom 14:22,23)
And that really is one of the main keys of the sin issue. When we walk in faith, and as Spirit people we do walk in faith, we walk in the righteousness of Christ and there is no sin. When Paul says “he that doubts is damned,” he isn’t meaning they are cast out into outer darkness and left there for all eternity. He just means that they have stepped back from faith a bit, perhaps like Peter when he saw the winds boisterous and began to sink. And like it was for Peter, His Hand is always outstretched toward us to save and lift us up out of the angry sea or miry clay, it’s the same for us.
We get a little fearful sometimes and forget, but He jerks us back in, and our memory comes back again. We’ve lost nothing and gained experience.
In the same way, and even more so because we are experiencing a brighter purer Light than in our old days, our beings are compounded in love. And as Paul pointed out, “To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.” (1 Cor 9:21).
So Paul is saying there that we are not under the old law written on stone tablets, but points out that we are not outside the law of Christ, which is simply the law of love, of which we are compounded and created.
As Christians, we don’t go back to a life of deliberate sin, but we can dip our hands in death a time or two and make a mess. It will be educational and God imputes to us no sin, but it’s good to know because if we think it is impossible for us to temporarily trip up or sometimes take a destructive path, it isn’t impossible. We are still in the devil’s domain and he is still a tempting force. We trust God to hold us up. If we have a slight slip, and it happens sometimes, no condemnation, and remember the Lord’s Word again: “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” (Ps 37:23,24).
Alright, now let’s look at the last part you asked about.
“You have been set free from the desires and pull of sin itself? Now not only will you no longer desire to sin, but you will feel as if its influence is gone replaced by wonder and gladness.”
We are no longer in bondage to them, but we still do feel desires and the pull of sin. It just that it has no power over us anymore. Yes, we desire to NOT sin and do righteousness, but to tell people they will not feel these things is not fair to them, because they will. Understanding soul and spirit is really helpful as well as understanding how the Spirit uses temptations in our lives to increase again our consciousness of Christ. It is as Peter said, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 1:6,7).
The best example that shows we are always tempted is Jesus Himself. He lived tempted. Only a few times are we given glimpses into His temptations, but they are very real and continued up until the moment He gave up the ghost on the Cross. It is the same for us because temptation enlightens and empowers us, once we have been set free from its power.
As far as feeling like you’ll never desire the wrong things anymore, those can still come up in our soul. They are not in our spirit and that is where our real fixed personhood resides. In our spirits we are free, whole, complete and needing nothing. In our soul we have every feeling everyone else in the world has. If we did not, we would no longer relate to anyone out in the world. But even Jesus didn’t do that. In Philippians it says He “emptied Himself of His Divinity” and became man like any other man, with the same thoughts, feelings and desires. The scriptures say He was tempted in “all points like us, yet without sin.”
And this is the important thing to see here. HE WAS TEMPTED, YET HE DID NOT SIN!
People really have this confused. Why? Because of wrong statement like the one above, that says we’re not going to be tempted again and we’re not going to feel draws, pulls or desires anymore of a tempting nature. So, follow me here, if we believe we will not feel the pulls and/or desires toward sin, and then we do feel those things, we will believe we sinned because we felt them or desired them, or conversely, those desires we previously believed were sinful, we now believe to be legitimate, because we believe we cannot be tempted anymore, that we’re “beyond it.” That’s why this subject is so important to see correctly.
How do I know it isn’t sin to feel those desires and pulls? Because of Jesus in Gethsemane. Not only did He feel the desire and pull to escape the suffering He was about to endure, by His own confession He WANTED TO escape it, “if it were possible.” He knew good and well that He had come to the moment of finishing His Intercession on earth, and that it was His to do, and no other’s. But still, He admitted to not wanting to go through with it when He said to the Father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”
Where was the sin? Nowhere.
Think about it. From the very beginning of His ministry, He had said He had come to fulfill the Father’s will and not His own. He always knew that, though the implications of it probably grew in Him day by day as the completion drew nearer. He KNEW He must go through with it. Yet, here He is, in the final hour, wishing He could wiggle out of it, a very human thing to do. But no sin.
On the negative side of this question, as I said above, if we believe we can never be tempted again, in a sense that makes everything we feel and think and desire to be God, and we can act on it. People have been confused about that for a long time. In our union life fellowship back in the 1980s some people got the idea they could no longer be tempted and from that reasoned that whatever feelings or desires they had, including adultery, were from God, not realizing that certain elements of that were temptations on the level of who they really were.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling feelings and/or thoughts to be “sins” in and of themselves. Because we have human bodies that are not yet redeemed, we are still susceptible to pulls and feel certain emotions and physical desires. We have the same ones in our body and soul as everyone else in the world has, though each set of those are particular to us individually. To “feel” sexual pulls, for instance, is common because it is first of all a human or physical response to certain stimuli, which is normal. To “feel” that is not wrong.
James describes a scenario that demonstrates what I am talking about. First James puts temptation in the right perspective for us. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” (James 1:2). Count it joy? C’mon, James, you can’t be serious! Let’s read on.
Next he shows what happens when we are tempted and overcome the temptation: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12). That’s not necessarily speaking of rewards in heaven to come. The “crown of life” is also in this life, because when we come out the other side of the temptation having been victorious (the Lord victorious within us), we are increased in Christ. Increased how? Increased in the unsearchable riches of Christ, which are eternal and incomparable with anything else. It is an increase in understanding and vision, which in our terms is a raised consciousness. (Raised into Him!)
The two incidents Abraham and Sarah had with Egypt’s Pharaoh and the Philistine King Abimelech are both demonstrations of this. Even though we might humanly judge Abraham for being cowardly by both times allowing Sarah to be taken by the two kings, saying, “She is my sister,” it was really the only option he had to save both his own life and rescue Sarah. If they had known they were married, they might have had Abraham killed in order to have Sarah to themselves. But by saying she was his sister, Abraham put himself in a position to be as her father when confronting Pharaoh, i.e., to be able to negotiate terms by which they might acquire Sarah from him in a legal and proper manner (for that day).
There is no record of the Lord condemning Abraham’s actions. However, in both stories, both kings have dreams that they know are from God, and both their bodies as well as those in their households became sick. Both kings realized they were about to commit a grevious sin in an adulterous relationship with a woman married to a man of God. Both of them were told that in a dream by the Lord. Both were angry with Abraham for wihtholding that information, and both kings sent him away with gifts, presents and goods that increased his riches yet again.
God isn’t concerned with earthly riches, that are here today and gone tomorrow. But He is mightily involved with our knowing the heavenly riches, which isn’t “stuff” but instead is the Eternal Person, our Treasure hidden in a field, our Pearl of Great Price. The more we “see” Him All in all, the more we see Him “all in all” in us! As Paul says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor 3:18). That’s what the “heavenly rewards” are in this time, and how the Spirit brings them to life in us is through the power generated in the temptation and overcoming by the Spirit that we actually “walk through” as our education, as He did in Moses. “He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.” (Ps 103:7)
You see, temptation isn’t a bad thing when you know what it is for and WHO is going to uphold you. (“Behold my servant, Whom I uphold.” Isaiah 42:1) We’re afraid of temptation until we understand its purpose as well as come to consciousness about Who we are. Temptation scares us if we don’t KNOW the Lord will bring us all the way through. So God gives us some exercises in that to inform us to not worry, He’s got us, and He will bring us through. And God Who is love does it time and time again, eventually getting through the thick foreskin covering our spiritual ears, and we finally realize the great blessing of being tried, and through Christ by the Spirit, we overcome!
Back to James and we’ll finish up for now.
James outlines a temptation scenario in chapter 1, verses 14-16. He starts out saying every person is tempted when he is drawn by strong desires and enticed. When we used to read that we interpreted it to mean that we have these desires or ways in us that are we believe are inherently sinful, sexual “lust” being at the top of the list especially for men, as well as jealousy, anger, laziness, desire for food, etc. The thing is, not one thing on that list is sinful in itself. Every one of the things above has right uses and wrong uses. In Christ, we learn we can turn pulls that always used to go toward wrong usage, upward into righteous usage.
Paul complained about his covetousness in Romans 7 but in other passages he speaks of coveting good things for his people. The covetousness he faced in Romans 7 was essentially the same covetousness he experienced toward the desire to see his flocks espoused as pure virgins to Christ. The Romans 7 version was an attempt by the enemy to cause Paul to believe that his covetousness was for himself and sin, which essentially was Paul’s “sin” in Romans 7. Covetousness was NOT Paul’s sin, though he was certain it was. But Paul found the right answer in looking into himself. He found a “principle,” a “pattern.” Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. He knew it wasn’t him, the essential Paul. He knew he himself wasn’t the problem, but something foreign, not him, which he identified as “sin” working in his members. “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (7:20)
Next he says he sees another laws “in his members,” which wars against his mind, bringing him to captivity to the law of sin, again, “in my members.”
That’s a very important phrase – “in my members.” Why? Because it does not come from or originate in Paul. “In his members” means this “sin” functions in his outer self as an attachment or an infection, but it is NOT PAUL. And, there is a way through.
Then he finally hits the key of keys but it is so subtle only one who walks it out sees it, because it is not available to mere theoretical theology.
It is this:“I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (vs 21).
See it? It’s the 8th word in the quote above.
There it is, the teeny tiney hidey hole of this little pest, in that little one-letter so potent “word.” “I!”
When “I” would do good, evil is present with me.
That’s when he sees it, that when he by what we call “self-effort” attempts to walk and talk the spiritual life, especially in the areas of self-improvement which is an impossibility and a sin to boot, evil is present.
You can hear the air go out of his self-baloon at that point as the Spirit takes him over that hump to the complete victory of Romans 8:2, which we will quote again.
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”
Paul came to that through the temptations he experienced in Romans 7. So, let’s let temptation have its way while we trust the Lord’s upholding at all times.
We’ll stop here for now.
“1 I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2 My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. 3 O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. 6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. 8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. 9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want [go without] any good thing.