The Truth About Temptation by Pastor Mark Garver

The Truth About Temptation
Pastor Mark Garver

Author Mark Garver is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Word of Life Church in Madison, Alabama. He founded the church in 1993 as a graduate of RHEMA Bible Training Center. Pastor Mark has a strong vision for the world and frequently travels overseas to minister the gospel in Bible schools, churches and ministers’ conferences.

To order Mark Garver’s new book, “No Longer Shackled: Breaking Free of Sin’s Control,” visit

Truth About TemptationThe more we understand what sin is all about and how it works, the better equipped we are to break free from its control. Actually, people usually don’t like to talk about sin, and yet, understanding how it works gives us the advantage and the power to get free from it. Turning on the lights always chases away the darkness.

Let’s begin to consider the truth about sin by asking ourselves some important questions on the topic and then searching God’s Word to find the answers. Where does sin come from? Is sin God’s way of testing us? How does sin Work? Best yet, how can we stay away from sin altogether?

Many people believe God uses sin, temptation and the evils of this world to test us, but that’s not the case. The Bible clearly tells us where sin, temptation and evil do and don’t come from, so let’s be clear that they don’t come from God.

Temptation and sin never come from God. It’s important to be rock solid on this truth because if we don’t know the origin of something, we don’t know who or what we’re fighting against or resisting. We know that we shouldn’t fight against God, but since many people think the temptation to sin comes from God as a test, they’re not sure whether to roll over and accept it or resist it. They change their voices and go all King James-sounding, saying, “Mine heart is saddened that I have fallen into sin and failed the test that God sendeth me.” That may sound reasonable and religious, but it’s still wrong.

We can resolve this once and for all from the Word of God. James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Then 1 Thessalonians 3:5 says, “For this season, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (NKJV). Who tempts you? The devil is the tempter.

God has never tempted your flesh to sin, but the devil has been tempting you as far back as you can remember. Did you get that? Temptation to sin only comes from one source: the devil. Period. That’s right. The devil is the “bad boy” who does the tempting.

Notice how James teaches us on the topic.

James 1:12-15 (NKJV)
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation;
for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life
which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”;
for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own
desires [lusts] and enticed.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin,
when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Did James say that God tests us with temptation and sin? No. He said the exact opposite. What did we just read in James 1:13? It said, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God.’” James went on to tell us that “God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”

Verse 14 gave us even more detail and said, “…Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires [or lust] and enticed.” Notice that last phrase again, “when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.” We will talk about lust and enticement later because it has much to do with sinning and not sinning. But again, who does the tempting and entices us? First Thessalonians 3:5 said it was the devil. He’s the culprit. The title of tempter belongs to the devil, and he tempts you every time he can get by with it and every which way he can; the devil downright coaxes you to sin and probably does a happy dance if we fall for his plan.

Let’s look at a few more scriptures where the Bible clearly identifies the devil as the tempter. Matthew 4:3, “Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stone become bread’” (NKJV). Second Corinthians 11:3 says, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

Who was the serpent? The devil. Clearly, it’s not God who tempts us, but the devil. God is not the tempter, and He doesn’t tempt you in anyway, anywhere or anytime. Recognize that temptation and sin are weapons of the devil to trick you, defeat you and get you off track. Refuse to let him influence you.

Even after some folks become convinced that God will not tempt them, they begin to ask if God will test them. Yet, there is a very big difference between a test and a temptation. A test can come from God, but a temptation will never come from God. Even more importantly, a temptation is never a test. People sometimes struggle to find the line between a temptation and a test, but think about these examples for a minute.

Guys, let’s say a woman walks by you in a string bikini; it’s not a test from God to see if you can maintain pure thoughts. It’s not a test to see how well your eyesight functions or anything like that. Women, if a guy walks by shirtless showing his tanned, rippled abs and huge pecs, it’s not a test to see if you can keep your mind focused on the Lord or keep your mind focused on your husband. It’s not a test to see how disciplined your mind is.

Along this same line, if you were delivered from alcohol, God doesn’t send one of your buddies by your house with a six-pack to see how you’re doing. That would be the devil. That’s not how God tests you.

You may be laughing as you think about these examples, but a lot of people struggle to understand that God is not the tempter. God does not steal, kill or destroy (John 10:10). He doesn’t steal our health. He doesn’t steal our money, and He doesn’t send trouble our way. God sent Jesus to give His children abundant life, and anything that is not abundant life is not from God.

Consider this example. Let’s say a man used to steal when he was a kid, but when he’s much older he stands in front of an ATM that suddenly beings to spit out thousands of dollars that are not his. Is that God testing him? No.  Let’s say an armored car travels down the street and the driver drops $10,000. Is that a test from God? No. God does not set you up for failure.

That’s not how God tests us. But God will give us open book tests with His Word. In other words, God will check to see if we’re obedient to his Word or if we follow the leadings and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. For instance, God says, “Will you obey me?” “How will you handle your money?” “Are you going to tithe?” That’s how God tests us.

On the other side, as we saw in James 1, the devil very deliberately comes to tempt you. He’s not playing around; the devil wants you to mess up and get in as much trouble as possible. He’s out to ruin your life. Yet, the Bible says if you’re born again that the devil is under your feet (Ephesians 1:22). You’ve been raised to sit in heavenly places with Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:6). The Bible says that you don’t have to be ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). The Bible says you can win against the devil every time (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Therefore, when sin comes in front of you, you don’t have to wonder, Where does this come from? When sin comes along, you’ll be able to confidently know and say, “That’s the work of the devil. That’s the devil trying to get me out of the will of God. That’s the devil trying to pull me away from my heavenly Father. That’s the devil trying to pull me away from my family. That’s the devil trying to ruin my life.”

The devil doesn’t come against us with a red suit and tail, horns and a pitch fork. How does the devil come? He comes with sin. Sickness. Confusion and every evil work. But I’ve got good news. First John 3:8 says, “…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (NKJV).

You’ve got to clearly know that temptation is the work of the devil, and you’ve got to know there’s a way out. When a temptation comes to a born-again believer, there’s always a way out. You don’t have to give into the temptation and commit a sin.

You also need to realize that the temptation is not the sin. Temptation first comes as a thought to disobey God and His Word, but that in and of itself is not sin. The sin comes when a person acts upon the thought. So don’t act upon the thoughts of temptations; cut them off before they escalate.

Jesus Himself was tempted. Hebrews 2:18 says, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” The word succor means to run to the cry of and assist and relieve those who are tempted. The Bible also says in 2 Peter 2:9, “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…” (NKJV). Isn’t that good news? If you find yourself tempted, there’s help available. God has made a way out of all temptation, and He will deliver you out of them all if you’ll follow Him.

We’ve established that the devil is responsible for introducing temptation and sin, but that’s not the end of the story. James explained there’s another element of the sin equation: you. James said that temptation comes because we are drawn away of our own lusts, and when lust is conceived, it produces sin.

That means the devil isn’t the sum total of the sin problems; you’re the other half of the problem. The devil may dangle temptation your way, but you choose whether to give in to sin or turn it down. But know this. The Bible arms you with insight into your enemy and gives you all the equipment you need to defeat the temptation and the devil.

God says that as Christians we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37), and we can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). So it’s our job to understand the process of sin and walk in the freedom from sin that Jesus won for us.

The first thing we need to understand about the process of sin is that sin doesn’t just happen to us out of the blue one day. A person might feel that way. A person might feel shocked that he or she gave way to sin and feel like the trap of sin came out of nowhere, but the truth is, the act of sin developed over time. It was a process. One thought after another and one poor choice after another paved the way for the sin to overpower us.

You see, sin is a result of temptation, and every man, woman, boy and girl endures temptation; we all have to deal with some level of temptation all our lives. If we don’t deal with the temptation when it first raises its ugly head and is small, then it’s likely to grow beyond our ability to control it.

Notice again what God’s Word has to say on the topic. James 1:14-15 says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” The scriptures go on to say that when lust has conceived it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. Here’s the devil’s formula: temptation + lust = the conception of sin.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word conceive means “to become pregnant with, to take into one’s mind, to cause to begin, to form and imagine in one’s own mind.” Do you see the pattern here? The devil dangles a well-chosen carrot of sin in front of a person to entice him or her, and then the person takes hold or becomes pregnant with the idea of something. The entire process of sin begins when a person takes an idea or thought or image into his or her mind and considers it, forms it, plays with it and imagines it.

As I was studying this subject a few years back, the word conceive seemed to jump off the page as I read this scripture; it gave me real insight. Notice James 1:14-15 again: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

This word conceive highlights an important point: It takes two to tango. The process of sin is similar to the process of creating a baby. A man and a woman come together and conceive a child. It takes both the sperm and the egg. If the sperm and the egg don’t come together, there will be no child. In the same way, the process of sin also requires two components—temptation and lust.

So, it’s like this. We cannot control what the devil does. We cannot control when the devil comes. We cannot control that sin produces death. But we can control the lust of our flesh; without its participation, sin will not be conceived. Sin will be stopped in its tracks. It will be stopped cold.

Sin always begins with a single thought and continues to grow larger as it’s fed with more thoughts and imaginations and eventually poor choices and actions. So let me clue you in here. The devil is after your mind and your body because that’s where he does his dirty work to influence you. He wants to dominate your mind and your body, and he wants your spirit too weak to rise up and shut him down.

But we’re going to put a stop to that. We’re going to expose the tactics of your enemy and give away his strategies because if we can show you how he operates, you can refuse to cooperate with him. If you begin to realize how he operates, you’ll be empowered to “go and sin no more.”

To understand more about how he works, let me remind you that the Word of God explains that every human being is actually a three-part being. Each of us is a spirit who has a soul (mind, will and emotions) and lives in a body or suit of flesh. If you are born again, you believe in the resurrection of Jesus and have confessed Him as Lord; the Spirit of God now lives within you, and when it comes to the devil, you’re large and in charge as long as you follow God and obey His Word.

The devil has no authority over the born-again spirit where God dwells. If we walk in the freedom and authority we’ve been given, every shackle of sin drops off. We can break free from sin and no longer be ignorant of the devil’s devices and schemes.