“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” (i.e., to sin); For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; (God tests our faith to purify and strengthen us –but never tempts us to sin – James 1:2-4) but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. (By Satan/world). Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; (“I will do what I want even if it is against God’s Word/will.”); and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (death = separation; – for believers this means broken fellowship with God and with the person we sin against. God wants unity and oneness; Satan wants division). Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (Satan works in the shadows of darkness to make sin, a bad gift, look appealing, like a good gift.) He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (Saved people are new creatures in Christ and have new and godly desires and want to and can now please and obey God. I will say more on this later.) (James 1:13-18)
No the devil didn’t make me do it. No I’m not depraved because I was deprived (a line from West Side Story; i.e., blame it on my parents or someone). No Adam, it was not because of the woman God gave you (Genesis 3:10). No Eve, it was not because of the serpent (Genesis 3: 13). I, they, we, all sin because of our own evil desires. That was/is true of Satan (Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28) it’s true of Adam and Eve and it is true of you and me.
I heard a man begin his testimony by saying, “I grew up in a dysfunctional race; the human race.” It’s true. We don’t function the way God created us to function; to love and glorify Him and love and serve others. And it’s because of our evil desires. Until we start there we will spend the rest of our life blaming God, Satan, and everybody else but ourselves. 1 John 5:19 says all unsaved people are under the power of Satan, and Romans 3:10-18 says man is not basically good (pop psychology says man is basically good) so we see selfishness and sinfulness rule. It begins when we are born. (Psalm 51:5) We don’t have to teach our little ones to lie, be selfish, mean, and rebellious. (Proverbs 22:15) (Non-Christians can do good works but unless our desire is to please and glorify God, i.e., give Him the credit, they are not “good” in His eyes. Matthew 5:16)
But, believers are basically good, according to God’s Word. As Paul laments about the evil in his flesh, he affirms that his deepest desire is to please God. “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature (flesh). For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law.” (Romans 7:18-19, 21-22) This means that as believers our deepest desire is to obey and please our Lord. But our new desires must be worked out by spiritual disciplines – prayer, knowing and submitting to God’s word, help from other believers, etc. “Work out (not work for) your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
Let’s look at the sin of unforgiveness and see how we can “work out our salvation” (spiritual growth) and resist the flesh and Satan’s temptation to sin. (By the way, the flesh, not Satan, is the primary locus for spiritual warfare.)
First let’s look at the anatomy of sin: desires (evil fleshly desires) → deception (“enticed” by Satan) → disobedience (“desire conceived- sin birthed”)→ death (broken fellowship with God and people).
1) It may be true that someone hurt me and treated me wrongly but it’s also true that in my evil desires I want to hurt them back. This could be with hurtful words/actions or sinful withdrawal from the relationship. In marriage we call this “cold war.” So when I wrongly nurse and rehearse the grudge I am “dragged away by my own evil desire.”
2) Then Satan “entices” me to hurt them back. He speaks to my mind (fiery darts of temptation) and tempts me to sinful revenge.
3) And when I act on my angry, hurt feelings and say something or do something hurtful to them, sin is birthed. “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.”
4) That brings forth death; “and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Death = separation; – for believers this means broken fellowship with God and with the person we sin against. God wants unity and oneness; Satan wants division. When God conceives something in us it brings forth life, not death.
Now let’s see how we can do it God’s way and “work out our salvation” (spiritual growth) and resist the flesh and Satan’s temptation to sin.
1) This process begins with choosing to pray, both confessing my hurt (“cast your cares upon the Lord because He cares about you”) and then “listen” to and for God’s Word (pray, “please speak to me Lord”) rather than “listening” to my feelings (of hurt, anger, desire for revenge, etc.). Thus I must regularly read God’s Word to know what He has said and is saying.
2) Yes it’s true that she/he hurt me but since God forgave all of my sins at the high cost of the torture, humiliation and death of His only begotten Son Jesus, I will forgive this person the relatively little sin against me. (See Matthew 18:23-35 on our huge sin debt against God compared to the relatively negligible sin committed against me.) Some sins are greater than others (murder, rape, etc.) but since God forgives even murder and rape at the high cost of the death of His Son, then I can and must forgive my offenders. My “cost” of forgiveness will always be small compared to the painful, humiliating death of God in Christ.
3) I now choose to obey God’s Word as it relates to forgiving those who hurt me. Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) If God leads us to speak any words of correction it must only be done out of love and for their spiritual good, not any sense of retaliation or vindication on our part.
This entire process is supernatural; “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” He wants our willingness too (work out your salvation”; “not my will but Thine be done”) but He will empower us as we yield to His will even as Jesus did in Gethsemane. As new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) we can walk in the Spirit and experience God’s supernatural power. Paul reminded the Corinthians of their new nature/power when they were sinning against each other. “Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:3)
Finally, this process takes time with God to really do business and not just say the words, I forgive you. As Jesus says in Matthew 18:35, we must forgive from our heart not just with our lips. Don’t bury your true feelings with busyness for we bury emotions alive and they come out sooner or later in hurtful, sinful ways. “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (and so you won’t sin).” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Claim this promise from God and look for and take His way out.
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen