We are now in the second post in the five part series on killing sin. The first post gave us a working definition of sin. This post will give us a working definition of desire and temptation. The goal is to heed John Owen’s words, “Be killing sin, or sin be killing you.”
The question still stands, how do we kill sin? Well, to kill sin, we must get to the root: temptation. Thus, another question stands before us, what is temptation?
As we briefly noticed in the previous post, temptation is what brings us into sin. Without the desire and temptation toward sin, Adam and Eve would not have sinned and we would not be in sin. It was Eve’s desire for the fruit that caused her to act on it (Genesis 3:6). It was Cain’s desire to fulfill sin over righteousness that caused him to kill Abel (Genesis 4:7). The fact is, sin is crouching at all of our doors, with a desire for us, yet we must rule over it. We are all in the same boat as Cain–either sin will rule us, or we will rule sin–but what will we do?
It all begins with one simple understanding: desire is not sin! Read that last sentence again. Desire is not yet acted upon either in intent nor action. Each of us have different desires and temptations that we struggle with. For one, it may be addiction to cigarettes or alcohol. For another, it may be disrespect for authority. For another, it may be pornography. However, just because one struggles with something, does not mean it is sin.
All of this is explained to us by the brother of Jesus, James. He writes,
“But each person is tempted when he is drawn and enticed by his own sinful desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14–15, CSB).
We have three stages here, given by James.
First, the stage of desire and temptation. At this stage, one is not yet in sin, but being lured in that direction by “his own sinful desire.” For Cain, it was when he felt a desire toward anger, but had not yet acted on it by killing his brother. For the alcoholic, it may be looking at a bottle of whiskey, but not yet picking it up.
Second, desire must reach the point of conception in order to give birth to sin. Just as a husband and wife carry the potential to have a child, until the act is performed for conception, the potential remains potential. Likewise, until the desire and temptation toward sin is acted on, the potential remains potential.
Third, once sin has been committed, it brings death through its wages (Romans 3:23).
Where Are You?
Each person is in one of these three stages. You may have desire and temptation, but have not acted upon it. The Christian life is to be spent in this stage, for God is to receive our desires and affections, even though sin is calling our name. Others may be in the second and third stage, giving in to these desires, which will earn the derelict wage of sin: death.
In order to engage in the warfare against sin, you must identify where you are. You must identify the sin that you are battling. Until you do this, every step toward killing sin will prove tiresome and useless.
Our desires must be reoriented toward the right direction, that is Christ! As a compass points in the direction of true north, our desires should point to the direction of true righteousness. A map informs us of our location, so we can move in the proper direction.
Look for the next post that will help us understand what it is to engage in battle against sin!