The Devil Made Me Do It!1
If I asked "what's the one thing Satan tempts you with most often"…how would you respond? Most of us will immediately have an answer. But would you actually share that answer with me? We prefer to focus on our strengths rather than reveal our weaknesses. Strengths are great, but we need to know those weak points because over time they can cause trouble…
We have a tendency to blame Satan for things that go wrong, including temptation. But in reality not every problem we encounter is a result of the devil’s doings. Neither is every sin. Please hear me out on this…
There’s no question that Satan wants to bring you down. But if you’re a follower of Christ, he has no power over you. He can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.
So, if the devil can’t cause us to sin…why do we fall short?
It all starts with our own desires. We begin by thinking about something we really want and pretty soon we’re plotting ways to get it. James described the downward spiral this way in his letter to first-century believers:
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
– James 1:14-15 (NLT)
James clearly tells us how sin begins, and warns us of the tragedy that will follow if we allow our desires to go unchecked. When we fail to deal with sin it will grow. Eventually, different areas of our life die: our career, our marriage, friendships with others, and even our physical bodies.
Almost every person in the Bible allowed their desires get the best of them at one time or another. (Of course, Jesus is the lone exception!) Some of them realized what was happening and turned around before it was too late. Sadly, many were ruined. All of them experienced some kind of negative consequences.
A great case study is found in the book of Genesis. It’s the story of Lot, a well-to-do fellow who had many things going for him. The problem is, he couldn’t manage temptation. In the end, he lost just about everything.
His loss didn’t happen in a day…or a week…or even a month. It took years. That’s how it usually happens for us, too. Sin doesn’t develop instantly.
However, it does follow a predictable pattern that consists of several phases. This week we’re going to look at the first phase: flirting. We’ll look at the other phases next week.
Flirting is seeing how close we can get to something without actually doing it. Basically, it’s a spiritual game of “chicken.” Here’s how Lot flirted with sin…
Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.
– Genesis 13:12-13 (NLT)
In the beginning of his story, Lot traveled to the vicinity of Sodom…then made his home there. He was still outside the city, but certainly within the sphere of influence.
In case you’re wondering…yes, it is possible to flirt with sin without actually sinning. When he relocated, Lot wasn’t technically doing anything wrong. But he was setting himself up for a fall.
Hanging around something that gives you trouble is never a smart move. Remember the old saying “if you play with fire, eventually you’ll get burned?” Flirting with sin is like that. You may not catch on fire, but your hair will be scorched!
There’s only one way to successfully deal with temptation…run! If you really want to leave, God has promised he'll provide a way to escape…
When you are tempted, he [God] will show you a way out…
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)
Let's look at a situation that occurs in real life. Assume you’re married, but you find a new co-worker interesting and attractive. Will you invent reasons to be close to them…or decide to steer clear?
In this situation, God’s plan is for you to protect your vows. If you’re wise, you’ll steer clear and only contact that co-worker when work requires. It’s smart to set up boundaries before the temptation grows into something bigger that you'll have difficulty controlling.
As we wrap up, here’s good question to ask yourself: “Am I flirting with something I should be fleeing from?
Be honest! If the answer is “yes,” now is the best time to stop flirting and turn away. Quitting may be tough, but the benefits of stopping are far greater than any temporary disappointment you may experience.
I look forward to sharing two more phases in my next blog! Until then, have a great week!