Temptation is something we deal with on an ongoing basis. Christians must constantly be aware that the enemy seeks to pull us away from holy and victorious living. We don’t have to yield to temptation, however, as God promises his grace to help us overcome it.
I am going to post three articles on dealing with tempation. I could do it in one, but that would make it a very loooooooonng post and I don’t want to do that. We will begin in I John 2:15-17 discussing the nature of temptation. We will then compare the temptations of Eve and Christ. Finally we will look at how we can rely on Christ to overcome our own temptations.
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the God abideth forever.
As we make verse 16 the focus of our discussion, let us keep in mind that man is made up of three parts: body, spirit and soul. This is a reflection of being made in the image of God. Thus, the world has an appeal to all three parts.
The lust of the flesh is referring to the excesses of fleshly desire. There are many fleshly desires that are not intrinsically wrong, yet when carried to excess they become sin. For instance, the flesh can become hungry. Eating is not wrong, but gluttony is. Being tired causes us to desire rest. This is not wrong unless it leads to slothfulness. Even desire for sexual gratification is not wrong unless it causes us to cross God’s moral boundaries. The fact is, our flesh is completely corrupted by the sin curse and has no strength of its own to withstand temptation. It is there that we are most vulnerable and thus we must also guard against the other temptations.
The lust of the eyes is the temptation of our spirit. When we gaze upon something and begin to covet. When we see something that we allow to provoke us to ungodly imaginations. When we desire something because we think it will make us better than someone else. Jealousy and envy also come into play here. The epistle of Galatians teaches us much about overcoming this aspect of temptation. We must realize that God, through His Spirit, will work in our Spirit if we will submit it to Him. This helps us to walk in sanctification, subduing both the spirit and the flesh to the will of God.
The pride of life is another matter. This is more than fleshly or even spiritual pride. It is a level of self-awareness and esteem that causes us to lift ourselves up against God. It is the same pride that motivated Lucifer to rebel against the Son of God. This is the deepest and most critical temptation. This is literally the temptation for our soul. Until we yield our soul to God through salvation, we will be powerless to overcome the temptations of the spirit and flesh. Failing in the temptations of flesh and spirit affect our fellowship with God, failing in this temptation affects our relationship with God.
Having said that, let me say that a true believer has irrevocably overcome the latter temptation. Those who have been born again are secure in their relationship with God. This places upon us the responsibility of overcoming the temptations of the flesh and spirit.
In the next post in this series, we will see the parallels between what we have discussed today and the temptations of Eve and Christ.