Temptation has been a part of this world from the beginning. Adam and Eve were tempted in the garden which led to sinning against God. All men face temptation in some form or another. John wrote in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” The world we live in is troubled by temptation and sin.
But where does this temptation come from? There are only two forces in the world: Good and evil. James tells where temptations come from (James 1:13-15). The one behind temptation is Satan. And he is always seeking opportunity to tempt us with something (cf. Luke 4:13).
But we do not have to succumb to temptation. We can overcome it by choosing to follow God and seeking His help. Paul tells us, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There is no “I couldn’t help it” or “the devil made me do it.” Giving in to temptation is a choice. And if we want to please God and not sin, then we will choose not to give in to temptation.
In our battle against temptation and sin, Jesus gives us two serious warnings that we need to be always mindful of.
1) “Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” (Matthew 18:7). We must be sure we are not causing others to be tempted to sin. Because of such, we need to be very mindful of how we dress, our speech and our conduct.
2) “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell” (Matthew 18:8-9).
What was Jesus emphasizing by using such a strong illustration? I believe He was stressing the fact that we need to do whatever it takes to remove anything from our lives that is a temptation for us and will cause us to sin. Each of us must fill in the blank for ourselves of what it is that we need to get rid of seeing that we all have different temptations. Maybe it’s certain shows that are on TV. Maybe it’s the time you spend online which lures you in to viewing things you shouldn’t. Maybe it’s the people you are currently spending time with. The list could go on. The answer is this: find out what tempts you and then do everything you can to keep it away from you. Remember the words of 1 John 2:17, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” If we continue to give in to temptations, we will be destroyed like the world. But if we follow God and reject the temptations of this world, we will live on in eternity with God in Heaven. We must ask ourselves which is worth more: the fleeting pleasures of sin or the eternal blessings of God. When in doubt, look to the example of Moses who choose “…to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin….” (Hebrews 11:24-26).