Sin is a Slow Fade

Sin is a Slow Fade from Faith

 

 

James 1:13-15: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (NASB)

 

 

What do you crave? What crosses your mind late at night when sleep is difficult? What thoughts do you have that you know you shouldn’t have? What secrets do you hope no one will discover? What makes a temptation…. a temptation?

 

Temptations come in all sizes and flavors. James uses the term “lust” which in this context means desire, craving, longing, covet, impulses; something apart from the will of God. “Lust” includes, besides the appetites of the body, the evil dispositions of the mind, such as pride, malice, envy, vanity, love of ease, for examples.[1]

 

It is not a sin to be tempted; only when we act on the temptation and it becomes solidified by our action does it become sinful or a sin. The sinful act of adultery begins with a thought, and then when an opportunity arises it tickles that thought and begets more thoughts, however usually those additional thoughts are the indulging kind, not the kind of thoughts that would dissuade a man or woman. Once the thoughts have been kindled towards giving in to the temptation, it is almost certain that “action” will follow and thus begins a slide down a slippery slope to disaster. We can think of King David and Bathsheeba as a prime example (2 Samuel 11).

 

In other words, lust “conceives” when our will consents and allows our mind to dwell, then when the opportunity of temptation arrives, if that lust (personal desire) is not battled with prayerful resistance, we will choose to give in to it. When lust is merged with the approval of our will, then sin is born and slowly matures into a settled habit, bringing forth death.

 

Many people believe that if they could just block their action or stop their behavior then they could overcome temptation; but that is not where the decision point rests. The real decision point is prior to the temptation itself; it is a battle plan in the mind and thoughts “before” the temptation and opportunity ever arise. In order for the sinner to never sin again, he or she must already have a plan to follow when the opportunity to indulge presents itself, which it will. We can all count on being tempted in whatever we lust or wish for in our minds; all throughout our lives. We must be ready.

 

What is your sin? Is it pride and the need for a higher approval than others around you? Is it a lust unquenched? Is it something as seemingly small as perfectionism or a need to have victory over all endeavors taken on no matter how exhausting? Every sinful desire (we all have them) has a root hurt or wound that, if not addressed, will grow over time. Asking God and the Holy Spirit to reveal the root hurt and provide the cure is a crucial first step to conquering our lust for “x” in our lives.

 

It is interesting that James uses metaphors of hunting and fishing in these verses.   The word “carried away” means to draw and lure out in hunting and fishing. And the word “entice”, means “to bait” or “catch by bait”.[2] Just like hunted animals are baited and lured out of their safe hiding places, so are we also baited and lured out of our safe places (the self restraint to sin) by our own lust and the one who “hunts”, deceives and kills. A man sins only when he is “enticed” by the bait, and “drawn away” by the hook of “his own lust.” That is, the impelling power, which seduces towards evil is the corrupt nature within us. [3]

 

Why is sin so bad? Many people think that if they don’t get caught in their sin, and if it doesn’t hurt anyone around them, then it’s not so bad. But sin to the Christian means to be separated from the fellowship with God. Sin brings forth nothing good and the wages of sin is death. Death is the fruit of all sin.

 

The word “death” is the Greek term, θάνατος (thanatos), the misery of the soul arising from sin, which begins on earth but lasts and increases after the death of the body.

 

C.S. Lewis, author of “The Screwtape Letters” colorfully depicts the thought in James 1:14-15:

 

“…But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” [4]

 

Two things are going on in what both James and Lewis are exemplifying: The first is a warning from James about the outcome of unquenched temptations; the second is a description from Lewis of a slow fade into sin until we are in so deep that we cannot get out. If we were to merge the two messages in one thought, we would have a very common situation of what human nature faces every day: Our own fleshly desires will lead us to temptations (never from God), which if are not overcome by our faith, will become sin (separation from God) and we will fall down that slippery slide into “Nothing”, the road to Hell without “signposts” and enter in to eternal death and separation from God (true believers do not go to Hell but will sacrifice rewards in Heaven).[5]

 

We need a battle plan. We need to know how we plan to respond to temptations before the temptations lead us down the path to sin.

 

Here’s How:

 

First, we must become humble and admit to God (and ourselves) where we are weak and will stumble or have stumbled before; or even where we feel we will “never” stumble. Is it an addiction? Is it a propensity to be too nice (people-pleaser)? Laziness? Food? Pleasure? Anger? Is it the need to be better than others? Is it the need to prove self worth to family? The list can be long. Find a time to be alone with God without distractions from others or a computer or cell phone. Linger in the silence, opening oneself to God’s Spirit, listen, confess, “feel” the sorrow, and ask for healing of the root reason why that particular need exists. Perhaps do a little research to investigate the “whys” along with reading the Psalms or other Bible chapters.

 

Ask the Spirit to reveal His giftings to you and discover how to better use His gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ rather than to cover a self-need. Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. When we are not using our God-given gifts and talents to edify the body of Christ, we sin as well (James). This “back door” gateway of slipping from our good habits of Spiritual disciplines is no different than slipping into sinful habits. Soon, one day without reading scripture and praying turns into two, then three, then it is too hard to catch up and we no longer have the Word of God to help us.

 

A good way to discover our known weaknesses is to list where we’ve fallen before. Maybe there are several. Beside each one list a name of a person you can count on for an accountability partner and ask him or her if they would be willing to support you in that. An accountability partner is one you can meet with one on one and pray together and encourage one another.

 

Another good way to line up a defensive line is to list areas that you should avoid that bring on a temptation such as the bar does with an alcoholic or being at home alone feeds our laziness.

 

For a reading exercise read the Parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) and journal how you can be like both sons and how you can become more like the father.

 

Lastly, for this reflection, is the practice of “exchanging thoughts” and “physical distraction”. Perhaps place the thought replacement on a 3×5 card and keep one in your purse and one in your car. This is a plan where one can swap “thoughts” when tempted. For example, if a person wants to stop drinking alcohol, what thought can be exchanged for that thought? Something like; “I don’t want wine because when I drink wine I get sleepy, cranky, can’t drive or express too many secrets”. Oftentimes, when we think of how we will feel after we indulge it can be enough to dissuade us. Also, what physical diversion can we make an effort to do in order “not” to run out and indulge? By thwarting boredom and keeping busy with physical projects, we can help through the temptation until it passes. The silver lining of temptations is that it always does pass; it may return later, but it does pass.

 

Personal Prompts:

 

Can you think of a time when you were once strong in the faith and then led away by a temptation? What was the temptation and how do you think you could share with your listeners a way of warning that even those who are strong in the faith can stumble?

 

Can you think of an illustration of how a career goal or strategy can interfere with being obedient to God and lead to a tempting fork in the road? How could you help your listeners understand the consequences of choosing to give in to the temptation?

 

What temptations have you given in to over the course of your career? How did they or could they have become a sinful habit that separated you from God? How did you overcome and climb back on the path to righteousness?

[1] The term “lust” is the Greek term, ἐπιθυμία (epithymia)

[2] Thayers, Vines, Strongs, BLB,

[3] Pulpit Commentary, Vol. XXI.

[4] The Screwtape Letters, London: Geoffrey Bles Ltd. 1942, pp. 64-65), cited by The Collective Works of C.S. Lewis, ISBN: 0-8848-6338-7, 1996.

 

[5] Whether or not believers in Christ can go to Hell is highly debated. For information regarding both sides of the debate, search for the “Calvin and Arminian debate”. Desire is covert, but sometimes it manifests itself overtly. If we do not check our desire, it will lead to sin, and if we do not confess and forsake sin, it will lead to death (Romans 6:21-23; Romans 8:6).

 

 

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