It isn’t biblically accurate to say that temptation is only sinful when we yield to it. This minimizes the truth of sin and temptation. Nor is this a trivial point to make. Richard Sibbes sounded a note of caution when he wrote: “And in nothing the sinfulness of sin appears more than this, that it hiders all it can, the knowledge of itself.”
As a middle schooler I remember sheepishly raising my hand and asking my Sunday school teacher the question: “Is it sinful to be tempted?” It was a genuine question arising not so much out of theoretical speculation, but out of the guilt and shame that often accompany daily temptations. My teacher quickly quoted the pithy proverb popularized by Martin Luther: “You cannot prevent the birds from flying in the air over your head, but you can certainly prevent them from building a nest in your hair.” I understood his point, and it’s a conclusion that many people have made: temptation is only sinful if we give in to it. But is that true?
Temptation - Something - William - Bridge - Satan
Temptation is something that’s important to understand. As William Bridge once observed: “Satan tempts, and then he tempts a man to think it is no temptation” (Works, 1:162). A key part of the Christian life is to pray and watch against falling into temptation, so there’s few subjects as practical as that of temptation — its nature, power, and danger; and how to overcome it. And, in light of what the Bible teaches about it, I think the previously mentioned conclusion needs to be carefully challenged.
To be clear, there’s at least some temptations that aren’t sinful. After all, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). If falling under the subtle solicitations of Satan—great and...
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