8. Temptations to SinRelated Media
Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.
Genesis 3:1-6 (NET)
What are some common temptations to sin? First Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” Also, 2 Corinthians 2:11 says, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Being aware of common temptations is important so that we won’t succumb to them and experience the consequences of our failures. With that in mind, we will consider the temptations that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden of Eden.
Temptation to Doubt God’s Word
Now the serpent was more shrewd than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”
The serpent, who was empowered by Satan (Rev 12:9), tempted Eve when he said, “Did God really say?” He was tempting her to doubt God’s Word—what she had already heard from God about not eating from the forbidden tree. If Eve doubted God’s Word, she would disobey what he said. Likewise, Satan tempts us to doubt God’s Word all the time: “Is God’s Word really true?” “Is it really wise to wait to have sex before marriage?” “Is marriage truly only between a man and a woman?” If we begin to doubt truth, we will fall into sin and reap the consequences of it, which could affect generations after us, even as it did with Adam and Eve.
Temptation towards Legalism and Other False Teaching
He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”
When Satan asked Eve if God had said to not eat from “any tree of the orchard,” he was adding to God’s law. This happens in Christianity all the time. Any time we add prohibitions that aren’t in Scripture, we become legalists. “Don’t eat!” “Don’t drink!” and “Don’t touch!” are common reframes of legalism; however, when we add to God’s laws, we find that there is no grace to keep those laws. If we’re able to keep them through our flesh, it leads to pride and judgmentalism. If we fail, it leads to condemnation and depression. Either way, it pushes us away from God and his grace towards our own self-sufficiency. The Pharisees were legalists. They added to God’s law and boasted in their keeping of these extra commands, all the while neglecting what God actually said. It created pride that pushed them away from God and others. Beware of legalism—adding to God’s laws.
In fact, we should be careful of any type of false teaching, whether that be adding to God’s law or taking away from it. Satan always spreads counterfeit teachings in the church to lead people away from God. Paul called them “demonic teachings” (1 Tim 4:1). We must beware of them.
Temptation to Doubt God’s Goodness
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’ ” The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”
After Eve corrected the serpent, saying that they could eat from every tree except one, Satan aimed to make her doubt God’s goodness. He said, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil” (v. 5). Essentially, Satan called God a liar and implied that he was keeping good things away from her. Satan wanted Eve to not only doubt God’s Word but his goodness as well. Similarly, when Satan tested Job, his desire was to make Job curse God (Job 1:11). He wanted Job to believe that God didn’t love him and have good things for him. Satan does the same with us. He wants us to doubt God’s goodness and love, so we’ll ultimately turn away from God and curse him. Beware of doubts about God’s love and good plans for us. In Jeremiah 29:11, God said this to Israel: “For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” No doubt, this is true for us as well. Romans 8:28 says he works all things for our good, including bad things.
Temptation towards Independence from God
The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like divine beings who know good and evil.”
The tree was placed in the garden to remind Adam and Eve that they were not God. Though ruling the earth, they were to do so in submission to and dependence on God. He would direct them, including telling them what was good and bad. Therefore, Satan tempted them towards independence—to not rely on God and to seek their knowledge apart from him. In the same way, we are constantly tempted towards independence. When we live apart from God’s Word, prayer, and the church, we are living independently of God. In fact, we must discipline ourselves to remain dependent on God by practicing spiritual disciplines.
Paul said this to Timothy: “train yourself for godliness” or “discipline” yourself (1 Tim 5:8). Since we live independently from God by nature after Adam and Eve’s rebellion, we must discipline ourselves daily to rely on God.
Be careful of living independently from God, according to our own wisdom or that of the world. We must allow God to lead and guide us. Christ taught that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must become like a child (Matt 18:3)—dependent on the Father for salvation—but he also taught that the “greatest in the kingdom” are like little children (Matt 18:4). To be saved, we must put our faith in Christ to deliver us from sin and its consequences, but also, to grow in our faith, we must continue to learn childlike dependence on God. In fact, the ones God has used the greatest for his kingdom have depended on him the most. Jesus is the perfect example of this childlike dependence. He always said, “I only say the words my Father says.” “The works I do are from the Father.” And, “I only do the Father’s will.” Beware of living independently of the Father—that is natural to our flesh and one of Satan’s chief temptations. Christ said, without abiding in him—being totally dependent on him like a child—we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Temptation from the Flesh, the Eyes, and Pride
When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.
After Satan directed Eve towards the tree, she experienced several other temptations which are common to all people. In 1 John 2:16 (NIV), John calls them, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” When Eve saw that the fruit was “good for food,” she experienced the lust of the flesh. These are any natural desires, which aren’t bad in themselves, such as: eating, drinking, sleeping, and having sex. All of these desires are good when practiced properly. However, when practiced outside of God’s will, they are bad and even destructive. Eating is needed to survive, but gluttony is sin. Sleeping is needed to function, but out of balance, it becomes laziness. Recreation is good to be refreshed, but it can quickly become idolatry. The desire for sex is healthy in a marriage, but outside of God’s will, it can lead to pornography, adultery, rape, and even terminal disease.
When Eve saw the food was “attractive,” she experienced the lust of the eyes. Proverbs 27:20 says, “As Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so the eyes of a person are never satisfied.” Though Eve had every tree in the garden, she was not satisfied. She wanted more, including what God had forbidden. Likewise, we are often not satisfied with what God has given us—our friends, family, jobs, homes, cars, phones, and other amenities. Therefore, we complain and lust for what we don’t have. In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul said,
Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either. But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.
“Shelter,” literally, means “covering” and, therefore, probably refers to shelter and clothing. We must learn to be content with godliness and the necessities of life. If God gives us more, that is great, but we shouldn’t be discontent and disgruntled without it. In order to not be tempted, Eve had to be content with what God had given her. We must learn to be content as well.
Finally, Eve was tempted by the pride of life. She was not only drawn to the fruit because it was “good for food” and “attractive” to the eyes, but also because it would make her “wise” like God. The pride of being like God drew her to eat of the tree. This was the same temptation that caused Satan to fall while serving as an angel—he wanted to be like God (Is 14:13-14). Pride is often the motivator behind many of our actions, including seemingly neutral ones, such as the careers we choose, who we marry, the car we drive, and the clothing we wear. Pride also drives people to do many obviously bad things—stealing, criticizing others, and fighting. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, Solomon said it this way: “And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Our pride, including coveting what others have, is an offense to God. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.” Also, Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Beware of pride, it leads to further sin and disastrous consequences, including God’s discipline.
Satan tempted Eve with the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. He does the same with us, often through the media and our peers; so we must be careful of these widespread temptations.
Temptation from Relationships, Including Societal Pressure
…She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it.
After Eve experienced all these temptations, she ate of the tree’s fruit and then gave some to her husband, Adam. What’s interesting about this is that Scripture says Eve was deceived and that Adam was not. In 1 Timothy 2:14, Paul said, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.” This means that Adam sinned because his wife did—though he understood the morality and consequences of her decision. He experienced a form of “peer pressure.” We can be sure that was Satan’s original plan. As taught previously, since Adam was the federal head of creation, his sin would affect not only himself, but all of creation, including all humans. Adam and Eve were co-rulers of creation, but God made Adam her head (cf. Gen 2:23, 3:20, 1 Cor 11:3, Rom 5:12-14). Therefore, Satan’s ultimate goal was probably to use Eve to get Adam to sin. Likewise, Satan commonly does the same with us. He will use friends, family, co-workers, and society in general to press us to rebel against God. First Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” Proverbs 13:20 says, “… a companion of fools suffers harm.” Satan aims to lead us into destruction through temptations from our associations, including the pressure of the world—an evil system which he controls. Since Satan rules the world (cf. John 14:30), there will always be great societal and cultural pressures on believers that don’t align with God’s Word. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Though relationships can be some of the biggest catalysts for spiritual growth and obeying God, Satan commonly tries to use them for evil. We must decide to follow God, even if everybody else turns away. Also, we must realize that even godly people and people we love can, at times, be used by the enemy to tempt us to sin. Job had to rebuke his wife who encouraged him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). Christ had to rebuke Satan who spoke through his chief disciple, Peter—encouraging him to avoid the cross (Matt 16:23). We must wisely discern the voice of Satan through others, even as Job and Christ did. The primary way we do this is by knowing God’s Word so well that we can easily discern lies, regardless of who they come through. To avoid temptation, we must be careful when Satan brings it through others. This is often the most powerful kind of temptation.
What are common temptations towards sin that people experience?
- Temptation to Doubt God’s Word
- Temptation towards Legalism and Other False Teaching
- Temptation to Doubt God’s Goodness
- Temptation towards Independence from God
- Temptation from the Flesh, the Eyes, and Pride
- Temptation from Relationships, Including Societal Pressure
- Which temptation(s) stood out most and why?
- Why is being aware of common temptations so important for conquering temptation (1 Cor 10:13, 2 Cor 2:11)?
- What are some other practices or insights that are helpful with conquering temptation?
- What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?
Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown
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