But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. James 1:14 (NIV)
There was this overweight business associate who decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his diet very seriously – even driving to work by a different route in order to avoid going past his favourite bakery. But one morning he arrived at work late, and with a gigantic coffee cake. Everyone gave him accusatory looks. Realising an explanation was in order he said, “You have to understand. This is a very special coffee cake. I accidentally took my old route to work and driving past the bakery I saw a host of warm goodies in the window. That made me wonder whether or not God had wanted me to drive past the bakery so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious cakes in the window of the bakery then please let me have a parking place directly in front of the bakery.’ And sure enough, the eighth time I went around the block, there it was!”
From the dawn of time it’s been man’s first instinct to find someone or something to blame for his sin (e.g. Genesis 3:12). People try to pass the buck. They say they’re not guilty. They blame their circumstances, the way they’re made, and their fellow man. We’re experts in evasion and do everything in our power to avoid responsibility for our sin.
The Bible strongly rebukes this business of casting blame. We’re individually responsible for giving in to evil. According to James 1:14-15 there are four stages that we go through when we fall into sin:
Desire: The first stage in the downward spiral of sin involves the emotions. What the Bible calls “evil desire” James 1:14. Notice it’s “evil desire” and not just “desire.” Normal desires of life are given to us by God for our benefit. However, when we attempt to satisfy a desire outside of God’s will we get into trouble. As we well know, eating is normal, but gluttony is sin. And sex is normal, but sex outside of marriage is sin.
Deception: The second stage in the downward spiral of sin involves the intellect. What the Bible refers to as being “dragged away and enticed” James 1:14. This is when we’re deceived into believing that something is more alluring than it actually is. It’s like a baited hook. We see the bait, get excited, then go after the bait. The bait attracts us while concealing the fact that hidden in the bait is something that will eventually bring sorrow and punishment. David is a good example. He may never have committed adultery with Bathsheba if he’d foreseen the tragic consequences that would follow: the murder of Uriah, the death of Bathsheba’s son, and the violation of Tamar.
Disobedience: The third stage in the downward spiral of sin involves the will. The Bible says that “after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin” James 1:15. Disobedience begins the moment plans are made to fulfill the emotional desire and rationalize the intellectual deception that’s taken place, i.e. desire is the conception which grows into deception and gives birth to disobedience.
Death: The final stage in the downward spiral into sin is death. “Sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” James 1:15. There’s a story told in South Africa of a group of boys who devised a plan to catch some ducks that were feeding in the reeds on the edge of a river. Going upriver they placed pumpkins in the water and let the current carry them down to where the ducks were swimming. At first the birds were nervous and flew away, but they soon decided they had nothing to fear and allowed the pumpkins to float among them. It was time for the second part of the plan. Each boy scooped out the inside of a pumpkin and made two small holes through which to see. Placing the hollow pumpkins over their heads, they quietly slipped into the river. Allowing only the white decoys to show above the water line, they moved slowly toward their victims. The plan worked. Before the ducks knew what was happening the boys had grasped the ducks’ legs under the water and captured their prey.
Sin is like that. As the pumpkins of desire, deception and disobedience float down the river of life we at first think we can live with them and experience no harm. Then, often when it’s too late, we find ourselves in the clutches of some fatal sin or habit. As Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.” That’s the bottom line. Sin results in physical death, separating the soul from the body; spiritual death, separating the soul from God; and eternal death, separating both body and soul from God forever.
So be on your guard. See desire, deception and disobedience for what they are and recognise that temptation is a battle that can only be fought when you allow the Holy Spirit to renew you from within.