What motivates you to not give into temptation? I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a person might not give into sin because they want to sleep well at night.
These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal consequences and relationships. The couple is staying together for the kid’s sake, what holds the marriage together when the kids move out? When the employee figures out how not to get caught, what will keep him or her from stealing? When a person learns how to cope with guilt and shame so they can sleep at night, what’ll stop them from sinning? In short, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing consequences and/or relationships, we will yield to temptation and sin.
There has to be a better way in fighting the battle against sin. There is and it’s the #1 reason not to sin… God. To learn this lesson, let’s start with the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife from Genesis 39.1-20.
- JOSEPH’S REASONS FOR NOT SINNING WITH POTIPHAR’S WIFE
- His Position of Trust (v. 8) – Joseph wasn’t going to betray the high position of trust Potiphar had given him.
- His Master and Mistress (v. 9a) – While Joseph was a powerful member of the household he still respected his master’s and mistress’ authority in the house.
- His God (v. 9b) – Most importantly, Joseph wouldn’t sin against his God.
- SIN AS A CIRCUMSTANTIAL OR PERSON-TO-PERSON PROBLEM
- This is not to suggest we should ignore the importance of circumstances or personal relationships when facing temptations.
- Joseph uses them both to resist temptation (Genesis 39.8-9a)
- Jesus teaches us what to do when someone sins against us individually (Matthew 18.15-17)
- But to solely see sin in circumstantial or person-to-person terms decreases our motivation to fight temptation.
- Our problem with fighting sin is that we’re self-centered. We resist sin simply because we don’t like its consequences, or because we’re ashamed of the stigma attached to it. These are inadequate reasons. We’re called to be God-centered in everything, especially in how we view sin. Realizing that all sin is sin against God brings focus and purpose to our resisting temptation.
- ALL SIN IS A PERSON-TO-GOD PROBLEM
- The Bible consistently presents sin as a person-to-God offence. A sampling of verses reveals:
- God kept Abimelech from sinning against Him (Genesis 20.6)
- David says he sinned against God alone (Psalm 51.4)
- He who oppress the poor sins against God (Proverbs 14.31)
- Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5.3)
- We’re all guilty of sinning against God (Romans 8:23)
- A GOD-CENTERED VIEW OF SIN WILL…
- REFUTE THE LIE: IT’S NOT A SIN IF NO ONE IS KNOWS OR GETS HURT. David’s sin is the classic example. It appears it was going to be “secret” affair but snowballed (2 Samuel 12.12). Sin is never secret God knows.
- GIVE US THE PROPER MOTIVATION TO FIGHT TEMPTATION. As mentioned temporal circumstances and relationships maybe useful but aren’t the best defenses against temptation. The Hebrew writer (Hebrew 10.26-31) gives us a healthy reminder of who we’re really sinning against and the consequences.
- DEMONSTRATES THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE GOSPEL. Why do we show grace, and mercy, and love and forgiveness to others? Because Jesus Christ has shown us grace, mercy, love and forgiveness, despite the fact we have sinned against Him (Colossians 3:12-17). Without a God-centered view of sin, there’s no God-centered gospel to truly transform the sinner.
So, if we want to overcome temptation, then we have to see our relationship with our God as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (1 Peter 1.15-16). It won’t always be easy. Joseph does the right thing (because he’s thinking the right thoughts), he maintains his moral high standard and resists temptation. Yet, as a result of his righteous behavior, he’s framed and thrown into prison (Genesis 39.20). Making a stand for what is right is going to be tough, but it’s a fight we must win through Christ Jesus because our souls are at stake. Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “Lord may we store up Your words in our heart, that we might not sin against You” (ref. Psalm 119.11).