Enticements and Desires

Understanding how we are tempted is helpful in understanding how to overcome temptation. It is important to understand how the devil works and why his temptations are so successful against us. Once we understand that, then we can know how to resist temptation and not yield to them.

“Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires [lusts] and enticed.” James 1:14. Although the New Testament typically uses the word lust to describe a very strong, forbidden and unlawful desire, there are a few times when it is used in a different way. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He used lust to express His strong desire to eat the last supper with them. However, most often, the New Testament uses it to describe a strong, forbidden desire for something unlawful.

There are two elements to temptation—the lust that is common within our own nature and the enticement we experience from an outside source. James is saying, and this is an important point to remember, the lust that is involved when we are tempted is our own lust on the inside. To be enticed is to be seduced, lured, or drawn out. Enticement has to do with craftiness, deceit, guile, or subtlety from the outside, to be seduced by promises or persuasions to do something that is evil.

“Temptations from without find an answering chord within the heart, and the feet slide imperceptibly into sin.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 425. This statement brings together the desire of the heart (the carnal, sinful nature within) and the art of enticement (subtle deceit from without). Enticement meets an answering chord in the sinful nature of man, and the result is that we imperceptibly slide into sin unaware that we are yielding to temptation.

I knew a man who was struggling to quit smoking and hadn’t smoked for many days. But one day, while going through a grocery store checkout, the person ahead of him lit up a cigarette and handed one to him. He took the cigarette, and before he even realized it, had smoked the cigarette half through. The enticement came from the outside when the other man handed him the cigarette, but he responded because of the answering chord that existed within his heart.

The temptation from without is the promise of a liar enticing us to sin, but the responding chord from within is our own desire for something forbidden.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; but an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45. It is in the heart that we find the seat of these lustful desires, the emotions of good or evil. How does Inspiration describe the condition of the heart of man?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurably wicked. Who can even know it?” Jeremiah 17:9, literal translation.

Moses said, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. Because of the sinful nature of man’s heart, the imagination of the thoughts are evil continually.

The word imagination has to do with a forming of or, figuratively, a conception, something framed in a person’s mind. The imaginations of man’s heart are the conceptions and purposes that are formed or framed in his mind. So Moses, talking about the heart, is referring to the mind in these verses when he talks about the imagination of the heart.

Mrs. White says, regarding the heart and the mind, “What is the new heart? It is the new mind.  What is the mind? It is the will.” Sermons and Talks, Vol. 1, 210. When the word heart is used figuratively, it is generally associated with the things that we love. “The mind controls the whole man. All our actions, good or bad, have their source in the mind.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 426. “The will is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or choice.” Education, 289. These references reveal the role of the mind in relation to the will.

The mind is the link between the heart (what we love) and the will (what we choose to do). When you understand this, then this next quotation makes perfect sense. “Every mind is controlled either by the power of Satan or the power of God.” The General Conference Bulletin, March 30, 1903

What will happen if Satan is in control of my mind? This is imperceptible to us, so we do not recognize that the intelligence controlling our minds today is not the same as it was in the past, once we experience the “new man” conversion. “Full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” Acts 13:10 (KJV)

What will we do if Satan controls our minds? “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do.” John 8:44, first part

So, a quick recap of everything we looked at over the last few issues.

When man was created, God was in control of his mind and his nature was pure and holy, governed by the principles of righteousness. But at the Fall, when Adam, the legal representative and father of our race, yielded his allegiance to Satan by eating the forbidden fruit, Satan took control of his mind, and the natural desire of his heart—now governed by the principles of selfishness—was changed. Everything was changed.

The Bible tells us that they immediately began to find fault with each other. Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the serpent. But they both, by extension, blamed God. Having sinned, the devil now was in control of their minds and immediately there was contention in their paradise home.

“The carnal mind [the fleshly mind] is enmity against God: it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Romans 8:7. Notice, it is impossible for the carnal mind to be subject to the law of God. When someone says, “I can’t overcome this,” they are telling the truth. The carnal mind is enmity against God, and therefore, it cannot keep the law of God, no matter how much it might want to.

“Human nature could not keep the law, even if it would. Apart from Christ, without union with Him, we can do nothing.” The Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895. The carnal mind is now our natural mind, the same one that every son and daughter of Adam possesses. And why is this mind of man hostile toward God?

“When man sinned all heaven was filled with sorrow; for through yielding to temptation, man became the enemy of God, a partaker of the satanic nature. The image of God in which he had been created was marred and distorted. The character of man was out of harmony with the character of God; for through sin man became carnal, and the carnal heart is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Ibid., February 13, 1893. When Adam sinned, he became a partaker of the satanic nature, yielding control to Satan, and as a consequence, all of his descendants bear the same.

Inspiration uses heart, mind, and will synonymously. “You need to drink daily at the fountain of truth, that you may understand the secret of pleasure and joy in the Lord. But you must remember that your will is the spring of all your actions. This will, that forms so important a factor in the character of man, was at the Fall given into the control of Satan … .” Testimonies, Vol. 5, 515

Everything that we think, say, and do is formed in and springs from a will, heart, and mind now controlled by Satan. “… And he has ever since been working in man to will and to do of his own pleasure, but to the utter ruin and misery of man.” Ibid. That’s why, speaking to the people of His day, Jesus said, “O generation of vipers. How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

“As Satan had done in heaven, so he did on earth—declared God’s government unjust, the restrictions of His law unnecessary, and bade men, as he had angels, to throw aside the yoke and let the dictates of their own nature be their only guide and law.” The Signs of the Times, December 15, 1914

This was a scary statement when he made it to the perfect angels in heaven. But then Satan told man, and continues to tell man, to let the dictates of his own nature be his only guide and law. What a terrible delusion! “I decide what to do with my life because I know what’s best for me.” I might believe that I am in control of my life, but in reality, it is Satan who is controlling me.

Satan is subtle and cunning, using deception and craftiness to lead men astray. “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Genesis 3:1, first part. “That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world; he was cast into the earth.” Revelation 12:9. The devil is a liar, a murderer, a deceiver and it is his determined purpose to deceive the whole world.

How does he achieve this? “Satan must deceive in order to lead away. ‘In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird.’ Underhand work must be done; a deceptive influence must be exerted; pretenses must be set forth as truth; suspicion must be lulled to sleep.” The Review and Herald, September 14, 1897

When the enticement comes from the outside and finds a receptive chord inside our mind and heart, temptation comes with overwhelming power. The devil looks into each of our lives to see our strongest desires and weaknesses. The strength of his outside enticement matches the strength of our inward desire, and we are trapped. The devil intimately knows every single one of us. He puts in our hearts the belief that we can overcome it later, but it’s just too hard to do it right now. He tells us that God won’t hold it against us, that He will forgive us, and seeking justification so that we can do what we want to do, we believe what he says.

But when a man decides to serve God, and no longer be controlled by his inward desires and the devil’s outside enticements, the devil changes his tactics from deception to oppression and persecution. “No man can serve God without enlisting against himself evil men and evil angels. Evil angels well know that one soul accepting the truth as it is in Jesus, will by precept and example weaken their hold upon other souls, for the truth is aggressive. Alarmed because he is losing his prey, Satan will first seek to deceive, next to oppress and persecute.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 3, 118

“The way in which Satan tempted Christ, he is today tempting every soul. He seeks to hold men under his reasoning.” The Review and Herald, May 3, 1906. The devil wants to keep you under his control. He first deceives you to believe that you are a terrible sinner, too weak to overcome, that you are lost. He does this to every soul—including you and me.

Imagine a person whose besetting sin is impatience. After decades of expressing impatience in thousands of circumstances, a habit has developed that holds him like chains of steel, impossible for him to break. He will never be free from the sin of impatience unless he is set free by divine power, nor will he be able to be patient without divine aid.

The standard of the gospel is the same for everyone. But the devil is trying to keep us under the control of his deceptive reasoning. A person intends to overcome, but he may say just not right now. He has not reached the point where he can say, “Lord, I want to overcome today.”

Satan has a very special deception for those who proclaim to be followers of Christ. He has deceived even the most educated Adventists into believing that it may be a sin under these circumstances, but in this case, it is not. The world calls that “situation ethics.” “Satan clothes temptation and sin with the garments of righteousness, and by this deception he wins many to his side.” The Review and Herald, September 14, 1897. Reason all you can, but sin is sin no matter what form it may take. There are no circumstances under which we can justify sin to make it right.

I was in a Sabbath School class many years ago when a young man was trying to prove that in certain situations it was all right to tell a lie. I was young myself and not very tactful. I said, “Listen to this.” And I read him this verse: “And why not say, ‘Let us do evil, that good may come’?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.” Romans 3:8

“Through his deception and delusion, Satan would, if possible, deceive the very elect. His is no minor deception. He will seek to annoy, to harass, to falsify, to accuse, and misrepresent all whom he cannot compel to give him honor and help him in his work. His great success lies in keeping men’s minds confused, and ignorant of his devices, for then he can lead the unwary as it were, blindfolded.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 423

You and I must daily ask the Lord to make clear to us the deceptions that the devil has especially prepared for God’s people. It is his determined purpose to keep us under the control of his deceptive reasoning. He intends to raise up false christs and prophets, to show great signs and wonders so that, if it is possible, he might deceive even the elect people of God. We must beware. We need to stay awake or we, too, will be deceived.

“The nearer we come to the close of this earth’s history, the more delusive will be the snares of the enemy. As time passes, his attacks will grow fiercer and more frequent. Satan’s supreme effort is made to ensnare and deceive if possible the very elect—the church and the ministers of Christ.” The Review and Herald, November 14, 1912. Satan is trying everything he can imagine to deceive the members and ministers of the Adventist church. Sadly, he has been too successful.

“With all their ingenuity he and his agencies are working to deceive if possible the very elect. If he can lull them to indifference to their high calling, his triumph is certain.” Ibid. What is my high calling? The promise of the gospel is that God will reproduce the very likeness of Jesus Christ in my mind if I cooperate. Peter said, “Having escaped the corruptions that are in the world through lust you might be partakers of the divine nature.” 2 Peter 1:4. John says that we can once again be partakers of the divine nature, having a Christlike character (See 1 John 3:2, 3). That is our high calling. If the devil can lull us to be indifferent toward receiving Christ’s likeness in our own character, or deceive us into believing it has already happened when it has not, or convince us that we are okay as we are, then his triumph is certain.

Webster tells us that indifference is a state of mind in which there is no feeling of anxiety or interest in what is presented to it. Satan’s supreme effort is to lull the very elect to indifference to their high calling. And his great success will be in keeping our minds confused and ignorant of his devices. So how important is it for me to know what my high calling is—for me to be awake to my peril and not to be confused or ignorant about the devices of the enemy working against my soul?

Paul said to the Philippians, “Forgetting those things that are behind, pressing toward those things that are before, I press [I urge] toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13, last part, 14. To the Colossians he said, “The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26, 27. God has promised that the spiritual image of Christ will be reproduced in every one of His children. I must claim that promise every day in prayer. I see myself as miserable, poor, blind, naked, and completely destitute, but God has promised to reproduce the image of Christ in me, and I can rely on God to keep His word.

Paul continues by saying, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth, and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:16–19. “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16

Satan has been misrepresenting the character of God to mankind for 6,000 years. He wants us to doubt and distrust Him. On the one hand, Satan says that God is not loving and merciful, but vengeful; while on the other hand, he posits that if God were loving and merciful, then He would overlook just a little sin. If we fall for the devil’s lies, no matter how they are presented to us, then we will yield to temptation and fall into sin every single time.

I must claim God’s promises, fully surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit, believing that He says what He means and means what He says. Then, through that power, the character of Christ will be reproduced in my character. It won’t matter that I have a fallen human nature where no good thing can be found. It won’t matter that I am assaulted from without by the enticements of the devil or that inside I have an answering chord that strains to respond to them. None of it will matter, because if I surrender and claim the promise, the Lord will work a miracle in my life and I will seek to do His will. I don’t have to be lost.

“You cannot comprehend what a terrible thing it is to be lost. Your conscience has become hardened in sin and transgression and unbelief; but you may, if you will, fall on the Rock Christ Jesus and be broken before it is utterly too late, crying, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, have mercy on me.’ If you do this, God will not leave you to perish. …” Testimonies on Sexual Behavior, Adultery, and Divorce, 145

“The whole mind must be molded by the Holy Spirit. Divine power will combine with human effort, when we seek earnestly to be complete in Christ Jesus. The Lord will help everyone who seeks Him with all his heart.” Sons and Daughters of God, 285

“By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced in the disciple; he becomes a new creature.

“It is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, which Jesus said He would send into the world, that changes our character into the image of Christ; and when this is accomplished, we reflect, as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.” God’s Amazing Grace, 246

Whatever suggestions Satan may make to keep your soul bound in sin and despair, no matter how much your inner desires may want to respond to his enticements, go to Jesus, the sin-pardoning Saviour, without delay. The Lord, who is mighty to save, will rescue you from the snare of the devil.

“God is faithful who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.