As a follow-up to our last post, here are a couple of examples from my own experience to help us understand the difference between temptation and sin. But first, let’s be reminded of the temptation-to-sin progression from James chapter 1.
“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. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death” (James 1:13-15).
Let’s say that you are sitting in a Monday morning staff meeting. And everyone is taking their turn reporting on what they accomplished last week. How many sales calls, how many deals closed, how many call backs, etc. For you personally, it has been a terrible week. You have literally accomplished nothing for various reasons, one of which might be your own lack of initiative.
So you begin to say to yourself, “Well, I am going to have to make up a pretty good story about what I got done last week. In fact, I wonder if our managers ever follow up on what we claim was done. Because, when it is my turn to report, I really am going to have to outright lie to get out of this spot I am in.”
Or how about this scenario? You are working on your tax return. You realize that, “Hey, if I just move this decimal point over a couple of places, I can claim an additional $100.00 in my refund that is actually not due me. But how can they ever find an error this small? Plus, the IRS has bigger cheaters to be looking for. I think I could get away with this one. I think I could get an extra 100 dollars in my pocket for free.”
In both cases, you are now at the fork in the road where God is waiting to meet you. Are you going to continue down the temptation road until sin is accomplished and lie about your week’s activities or cheat on your income taxes? Or are you ready to hear from the Lord that lying is not who you are, cheating is not who you are? Are you ready to turn your back on these temptations and tell the whole truth, enter the correct numbers? The choice is in your hands. And the power to make the righteous choice is in your being, through Christ living His resurrected and righteous life in you. The choice is yours.
So far these have been a temptation, but you are on a path where sin is just around the corner. This is where I believe taking every thought captive comes in. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (II Cor 10:5).
We have been erroneously taught that “taking every thought captive” means we do not even have these thoughts to sin, these temptations in our minds. Somehow we block them out through I don’t know what. Will power? Self-discipline? To not have these thoughts, to not face these temptations, you would have to not be in this world. If we see these initial thoughts as sin, we will always feel defeated in life because these temptations are inevitable, they are part of being human.
I believe taking every thought captive starts after those thoughts to sin come flooding into our brain. God has given us the power over sin to capture those thoughts before they turn into sinful actions. We can capture them. We can bury them. We can overcome and resist the temptations by the power of Christ living His live in us. What does the passage say? “Taking these thoughts captive leads us to obey Christ.” Obedience is what the new you is designed for. This is who you are!