What’s Wrong With It?
The subject of the young believer and temptation is one of great importance, because the manner in which the Christian responds to the experiences of youth will largely determine what kind of Christian he will become in later life. It has been well remarked that,
“A thought put in motion becomes an act, and an act repeated becomes a habit, and a habit continued forms a character.”
Reputation is what others say of us, but character is what we really are as a result of the process of development. Thus the constant yielding to temptation will develop a life of spiritual failure, whereas continued victories over sin and temptation will lead us step by step onward in a life that will be pleasing to God.
In the Epistle of James chapter one and verse thirteen, we are made very conscious of the fact that God never tempts a man. This, of course, could not be, as evil is contrary to the very nature and character of God. He does, however, permit Satan to tempt us, and He permits and sometimes brings us face to face with testings and trials to prove either the reality or the depth of our Christian witness of Christian character. Let us ever remember that we are in the school of experience, and after having been taught a series of lessons, God may permit a test to come, and how we meet the test may determine whether or not He can lead us on into deeper experiences with Himself or whether He can trust us with greater responsibility.
Abraham’s faith had to be tested in order that he might not stagger at the greater promise he would yet receive. It was necessary for Joseph to pass the tests that were his ere he could assume the great position to which he was elevated. Moses responsibility of leading the people from Egypt to Canaan was predicated upon the manner in which he passed his testings. David’s testings were many and grievous before he ascended the throne of Israel. Even so it is today, we must be faithful in little things before God can favour us with greater responsibilities.
James points this out in Chapter one, verse 26, “If any man among you seem to be religious and bridleth not his tongue.” Control of that little member is of vital importance to the spiritual progress of any child of God. How can an older man do the work of an overseer if he has never learned to control his tongue? Matters of very delicate and private nature are sometimes revealed to the elders of an assembly of God’s people, therefore, a gossip who cannot control that little member, the tongue, must be disqualified from being an elder. Such control does not develop over night, but rather must be learned in the younger years. So it is with many other things; character is formed in early life by our reaction to circumstances and experiences.
To return more expressly to the subject at hand; James again makes it plain that when a man is tempted, he is “drawn away of his own lust.” In other words, we fall into temptation when we permit the evil principle of the flesh to become active in our members, and, unfortunately, all too often we enjoy the experience.
Much of this is occasioned by the attitude which is often prevalent and expressed by the age-old question, “What’s wrong with it?” Far better were we to reverse the query and ask, “What’s good about it?” or “Will it glorify God or bring honour to our Lord Jesus Christ?” These would be much more profitable questions. A most delightful expression is used concerning Job. The Spirit of God records that Job was one “who feared God and eschewed evil.” Too often we are one-sided. We fear God all right, but we do not hate evil as the word eschews implies.
It is unfortunate that we spend so much of our lives wondering if there is anything wrong with certain practices. Instead, we should turn away from that which is negative or perhaps questionable, and seek to live in a positive manner and find out what we can do for the good and blessing of others as well as for the glory of God.
The supreme example, of course, of all this is our blessed Lord Himself. In Psalm one, He is described as the “Blessed Man,” and although the negative side of things is presented in verse one, the positive side of His life is presented in verse two with the glorious results displayed in verse three. How wonderful to live a life like this instead of groveling in those things about which we must constantly ask, “Is there anything wrong with it?”
Temptation will come; how then are we to pass the test? Our Master and Lord is our perfect example. When Satan tempted, He, the Holy Spotless Son of God, relied upon the infallible Word of God. Rend again Luke chapter four, verses one to thirteen, and note that when Satan departed it was only for a season. Undoubtedly, the devil tried time and time again to reach our Lord Jesus Christ, but the Holy Scriptures would constantly be the armour and sword which He would use to defeat him. How important then it is for us to read, and read, and be constantly reading our Bibles! “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.”
We are not going to be judged, however, primarily on how near we came to, or how far we remained away from sin and temptation, but rather we are going to be judged by the “perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25; 2-12). The fruitful Christian life is not negative but positive. In other words, we are not to be bound or kept under bondage by a list of do’s and don’ts or a kind of New Testament decalogue, but, rather, we have been set at liberty. For what purpose? To use it for our pleasure? No indeed! Having been set at liberty, we are now free to serve the Living and the True God and to wait for His Son from Heaven.
Let the believer in the early days of his Christian experience set aside the questions, “May I do this?” or “What’s wrong with it?” and substitute it for the prayer, “Lord what wilt Thou have me to do?” He will never lead us into temptation, but contrariwise He will lead us onward and upward to greater and more wonderful experiences for Himself. Those experiences may not necessarily be spectacular or occupy the limelight, so to speak, but they will be pleasing to Him if we are doing His will. A cup of cold water given in His Name cannot escape His notice. How wonderful to be privileged to go through life just proffering cups of refreshing water to our fellow-believers instead of tasting of the broken cisterns while constantly being plagued by the question, “Is there anything wrong with this?” When we must ask this question, it is because we want to use something for our own enjoyment and pleasure without hurt, if possible, to our consciences. In other words, we want whatever it is to minister to our comfort, convenience or amusement. Remember that our Lord Jesus Christ came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.
We may never be called upon to lay down our lives as martyrs, but we can make our lives a sweet sacrifice to God by laying it down for Him moment by moment of each day. If we are occupied with the service of our God, time will not permit the dabbling in those things that are questionable. When Sanballat and Tobiah could not frighten or ridicule Nehemiah out of building the wall, they proposed a compromise with a “tempting” offer to sit down together. Nehemiah’s reply is classic, “I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3). There was no need to ask, “Is there anything wrong with it?” He was doing the will and work of God. May the Lord of the Harvest give us spiritual discernment and energy to be occupied with His work, and surely if we are thus occupied, He will keep us from evil and temptation.