Category Archives: Sin

IS TEMPTATION A SIN?

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Temptation, by its very nature, feels wrong. God’s moral law is written in the heart of every human being (Romans 1:20), and when a sinful temptation is introduced, our consciences immediately sense danger. However, the temptation itself is not the sin. Jesus was tempted (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:1-13), but He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). Sin occurs when we mishandle temptation.

There are two avenues by which we are tempted: Satan and our own sinful flesh. Acts 5 gives an example of someone tempted by Satan. Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, wanting to appear more spiritual than they really were, lied to the apostles and pretended they were giving as an offering the full price of some property they had sold. Peter confronted them: “How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”(verse 3). In this instance, Peter knew that the temptation to lie had come from Satan. Ananias and his wife both gave in to that temptation (verses 7-10). The betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot is also attributed to Satan’s influence (Luke 22:3; John 13:2).

Ultimately, since Satan is the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the father of lies (John 8:44), all evil originates with him. However, our own selfish nature is an ally of Satan’s. We need no prompting from Satan to entertain sinful ideas. James 1:13-14 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”

Even though we may desire to do good, we are all tempted. No one is above it, even someone like the apostle Paul. He shared his own struggle of flesh against spirit when he wrote in Romans 7:22-23, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.”

Temptation is not of itself sinful. It becomes sin when we allow the temptation to become action, even in our minds. Lust, for example, is sin even though it may never be acted upon (Matthew 5:28). Covetousness, pride, greed, and envy are all sins of the heart; even though they may not be apparent to anyone else, they are still sin (Romans 1:29; Mark 7:21-22). When we give in to the temptation to entertain such thoughts, they take root in our hearts and defile us (Matthew 15:18–19). When we yield to temptation, we replace the fruit of the Spirit with the fruit of the flesh (Ephesians 5:9; Galatians 5:19-23). And, many times, what was first entertained as a thought becomes action (see James 1:15).

The best defense against giving in to temptation is to flee at the first suggestion. Joseph is a great example of someone who did not allow temptation to become sin (Genesis 39:6–12). Although tempted to sin sexually, he did not give the temptation time to take root. He used the legs God gave him and physically fled. Rather than stay in a potentially dangerous situation and try to talk, reason, justify, explain, or otherwise weaken his resolve, Joseph took off. The temptation was not sin for him because he dealt with it in a God-honoring way. It could easily have become sin if Joseph had stayed around and tried to overcome the temptation in his own strength.

Romans 13:13-14 (ESV) gives us a guideline for avoiding situations that can lead to temptation. “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” If we determine to “make no provision for the flesh,” we will keep ourselves out of situations that may prove too tempting. When we put ourselves in situations where we know we will be tempted, we are asking for trouble. God promises to provide a “way of escape” when we are tempted (1 Corinthians 10:13), but often that way is to avoid the situation altogether. “Flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22). Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:4), but we have a responsibility to pay attention to the direction God is leading us and avoid temptation whenever we can.

 

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS ABSTINENCE BEFORE MARRIAGE A REALISTIC MESSAGE?

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Many in the modern culture have declared that sexual morality is dead, that abstinence isn’t realistic, but it is instead old-fashioned and outdated. Is abstinence before marriage even reasonable in today’s “hook-up culture”?

God designed sex to be enjoyed within a committed marital relationship. When God brought Adam and Eve together in marriage, He established the “one flesh” relationship. Genesis 2:24 tells us that a man will leave his family, join to his wife, and become “one flesh” with her. There are numerous verses that declare sex before marriage to be sin (Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). The Bible commands complete abstinence before marriage. Sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approves (Hebrews 13:4).

God’s truth is eternal—not old-fashioned or unrealistic. However, God’s truth isn’t always easy! Sexual abstinence before marriage is often difficult and requires commitment, self-control, and some strategy. In a sense, it requires a person to be a rebel in a “sexually enlightened” culture.

In reality, the sexual enlightenment philosophy has brought our culture a lot of negative things—porn addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional damage, and abortion on demand. Many in today’s culture say that a “hook-up” is the goal of the night. Singles bounce from club to club looking to hook up with a stranger for casual sex. But that’s not how God designed sex to work.

Blogger Matt Walsh describes this well: “Describing sex as ‘casual’ is like describing the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel as a ‘nice little doodle.’ . . . The people who diminish and cheapen sex are the ones who get to pass themselves off as ‘sexually enlightened.’”

Perhaps you are in a committed relationship, maybe even engaged to be married. For you, sex would not be “casual”; even so, God wants you to wait for the marriage relationship before you have sex. Saving this special, God-given intimacy until marriage will deepen your relationship and prevent future regrets.

Many see abstinence as unrealistic because no one has shown them how to live it out. If someone just shakes a finger and says, “Don’t have sex before marriage,” but doesn’t give the tools to live that message, abstinence becomes a lot more difficult. Here are some tips from those who have faced the temptations and walked the path of abstinence:

• Understand that you can be a rebel in the culture. No one should force you to have sex before marriage. If you want to honor God by saving sex for a marriage relationship, then you can do it!

• Keep your eye on the prize. That prize isn’t your future spouse. It isn’t your wedding night. Your end goal is becoming more like Christ. That’s God’s plan for you.

• Don’t put yourself in situations where you’ll be tempted to compromise your values—or your sexual purity. This may mean not being alone together. You know what those situations are, so avoid them.

• Date people who are like-minded. When both of you are on board with abstinence, you can help each other keep the commitment of abstinence.

• Set boundaries. Ask a good friend or mentor to keep you accountable.

Abstinence is more than not having sex before marriage. Strive for sexual purity in all areas of your life—in thoughts, in words, in actions. If you think about or talk about sex a lot, you’re going to have a lot harder time not doing it.

Whether the culture says abstinence is realistic or not doesn’t change God’s truth. He has established sex to be limited to marriage, and He will equip you to honor Him through abstinence. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

Is abstinence realistic? Yes. Is abstinence always easy? No, but, with God, it is possible.

Note: Perhaps you’ve already lost your virginity. Please know that God is in the business of second chances. He wants you to come to Him in repentance, and He will forgive your sins and heal your heart. It’s not too late to make the choice to live righteously and in ways that are pleasing to Him.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHY IS IDOL WORSHIPING SUCH A POWERFUL TEMPTATION:

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Ultimately, the answer to this question is “sin.” It is the sin nature of man that causes us to worship modern idols, all of which are, in reality, forms of self-worship. The temptation to worship ourselves in various ways is a powerful temptation indeed. In fact, it is so powerful that only those who belong to Christ and have the Holy Spirit within them can possibly hope to resist the temptation of modern idolatry. Even then, resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle that is part of the Christian life (Ephesians 6:11; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3).

When we hear the word idol, we often think of statues and objects reminiscent of those worshipped by pagans in ancient cultures. However, the idols of the 21st century often bear no resemblance to the artifacts used thousands of years ago. Today, many have replaced the “golden calf” with an insatiable drive for money or prestige or “success” in the eyes of the world. Some pursue the high regard of others as their ultimate goal. Some seek after comfort or a myriad of other passionate, yet empty, pursuits. Sadly, our societies often admire those serving such idols. In the end, however, it doesn’t matter what empty pleasure we chase after or what idol or which false god we bow down to; the result is the same—separation from the one true God.

Understanding contemporary idols can help us to understand why they prove to be such a powerful temptation. An idol can be anything we place ahead of God in our lives, anything that takes God’s place in our hearts, such as possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, greed, addictions to alcohol/drugs/gambling/pornography, etc. Some of the things we idolize are clearly sinful. But many of the things we idolize can be very good, such as relationships or careers. Yet Scripture tells us that, whatever we do, we are to “do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) and that we are to serve God only (Deuteronomy 6:13; Luke 16:13). Unfortunately, God is often shoved out of the way as we zealously pursue our idols. Worse yet, the significant amount of time we often spend in these idolatrous pursuits leaves us with little or no time to spend with the Lord.

We sometimes also turn to idols seeking solace from the hardships of life and the turmoil present in our world. Addictive behaviors such as drug or alcohol use, or even something like excessive reading or television viewing, may be used as a means of temporarily “escaping” a difficult situation or the rigors of daily life. The psalmist, however, tells us that those who place their trust in this behavior will, essentially, become spiritually useless (Psalm 115:8). We need to place our trust in the Lord “who will keep [us] from all harm” (Psalm 121:7) and who has promised to supply all of our needs when we trust in Him. We also need to remember the words of Paul, who teaches us not to be anxious about anything, but rather to pray about everything so the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, can guard our hearts and our minds (Philippians 4:6–7).

There is another form of idolatry prevalent today. Its growth is fostered by cultures that continue to drift away from sound biblical teaching, just as the apostle Paul warned us, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). In these pluralistic, liberal times, many cultures have, to a large degree, redefined God. We have forsaken the God revealed to us in Scripture and have recast Him to comply with our own inclinations and desires—a “kinder and gentler” god who is infinitely more tolerant than the One revealed in Scripture. One who is less demanding and less judgmental and who will tolerate many lifestyles without placing guilt on anyone’s shoulders. As this idolatry is propagated by churches around the world, many congregants believe they are worshipping the one, true God. However, these made-over gods are created by man, and to worship them is to worship idols. Worshipping a god of one’s own making is particularly tempting for many whose habits and lifestyles and drives and desires are not in harmony with Scripture.

The things of this world will never fully satisfy the human heart. They were never meant to. The sinful things deceive us and ultimately lead only to death (Romans 6:23). The good things of this world are gifts from God, meant to be enjoyed with a thankful heart, in submission to Him and for His glory. But when the gift replaces the Giver or the created replaces the Creator in our lives, we have fallen into idolatry. And no idol can infuse our lives with meaning or worth or give us eternal hope. As Solomon beautifully conveys in the book of Ecclesiastes, apart from a right relationship with God, life is futile. We were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and designed to worship and glorify Him as He alone is worthy of our worship. God has placed “eternity in man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to fulfill this longing for eternal life. All of our idolatrous pursuits will leave us empty, unsatisfied, and, ultimately, on the broad road that most people take, the one that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS IT WRONG FOR A CHRISTIAN TO HAVE A GOAL TO BECOME RICH AND FAMOUS?

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Being rich and famous is not sinful. However, making that a primary pursuit in life is sinful. “People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9, NLT). “Do not toil to acquire wealth” (Proverbs 23:4, ESV).

The world would have us believe that the only way to become rich and famous is to set goals and pursue them doggedly. The Bible paints a different picture. Consider three biblical figures whose examples speak to this issue:

1. First and foremost is Jesus. When tempted by Satan, He intentionally rejected the opportunities to become rich and famous (Matthew 4:1–11). Jesus devoted Himself to the tasks God gave Him (John 5:19). We are compelled to take the attitude of Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing. . . . He humbled himself” (Philippians 2:5–8). What was the result of Jesus’ humbling Himself? “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (verse 9).

2. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. As a slave, he had no ambitions to be rich and famous. He only did the work that was put before him. In Potiphar’s house, Joseph’s faithfulness resulted in his being put in charge of everything. Later, in jail, he helped his fellow prisoners, earning a trust that ultimately led to his being put in charge of all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. In short, Joseph focused on what God wanted him doing, and as a result he became one of the most powerful and famous men in the world (see Genesis 37—41).

3. He was not wealthy, but the apostle Paul was perhaps the most famous Christian ever to live. How did his fame become worldwide and timeless? He simply did what God put him on earth to do: make disciples. He certainly had a claim to worldly fame, describing some of his accomplishments in Philippians 3:4–6. Yet what did he think about these pursuits that would have warranted fame? “Whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” (verse 7). Paul’s ambition was never to become famous or gather the accolades of men. His burning ambition was to do God’s work and glorify Christ. That was his higher calling.

In Matthew 6:10–20, Jesus teaches us not store up treasures on earth, but in heaven. Then He says, “You cannot serve both God and money” (verse 24). And “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [the basic necessities of life] will be given to you as well” (verse 33). That is, stop trying to be rich and famous, and instead simply seek after God, living out His purposes for your life. If God wants earthly riches to come your way, they will.

For those whose ambition is to be rich, the Bible has many cautions. Jesus said that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:24). Material wealth has a way of taking our eyes off of what’s important and eternal. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:16–21 teaches that it is foolish to store up earthly things and take no thought of heavenly things.

As for pursuing fame, the Bible is equally cautioning: “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled” (Matthew 23:12). Paul says that “a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:29, NLT). James asks, “Don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Those who are rich and famous often struggle to obey basic biblical commands such as “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5) and “Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16, BSB) and “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you” (James 5:1).

To be clear, it’s not wrong to have wealth. It’s the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). But those with wealth should understand where the wealth comes from (God), the purpose for having it (to further God’s work), and it’s transitory nature (see Proverbs 23:5).

Ecclesiastes 2:24 notes, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.” But the same passage clarifies the Source of our blessings: “This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?” (verses 24–25).

We should not make fame and fortune a primary pursuit in life. Rather, we should make glorifying God our primary goal. We love Jesus and obey Him (John 14:15). We follow Jesus, which means we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow wherever He leads (Mark 8:34). Jesus blesses the meek (Matthew 5:5); being rich and famous is not usually His plan for His children in this world.

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS IT A SIN TO BE RICH?

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The Bible talks a lot about the poor and makes it clear that we should not ignore their plight (Proverbs 22:22; Deuteronomy 15:7; James 2:5–6). When God sent His Son into the world, He did not place Him in a palace or mansion. Jesus was born into a family of humble means (Mark 6:3; John 1:46). The Bible has examples of rich people being blessed by God, including Abraham (Genesis 13:2), Jacob (Genesis 30:43), and Solomon (1 Kings 10:23). But, in the overwhelming majority of cases, when Scripture speaks of material wealth, it warns us of the dangers of having riches. It is not a sin to be rich, but riches certainly invite temptation. The sin is not in possessing wealth but in our attitudes about that wealth and in the ways we use it.

First Timothy 6:9 says, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Verse 10 goes on to say, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. By craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Many have misquoted this verse to say that money is the root of all evil, but that is incorrect. The verse says that the love of money is what ensnares us. Our idols define us. When we focus on earthly success, wealth, relationships, or fame, we become idolaters. When our earthly goals become the most important things in our lives, we cannot also please the Lord (Romans 8:8).

God may grant earthly riches to His people who will distribute those riches the way He wants. Rich Christians who do not treat money as an idol are a blessing to many. They start charities, contribute to help orphans and widows (James 1:27), and keep their local churches financially stable (Malachi 3:10). Without wealthy Christians, many missionaries could not serve on the field.

Zacchaeus was a rich man, but his gains were ill-gotten and his life was characterized by greed. But then he met Jesus, and the Lord changed his life. Zacchaeus’s transformation affected every part of his life, including the way he handled money: “Look, Lord,” he said, “I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8, NKJV). In finding salvation in Christ, Zacchaeus also found a new purpose for his wealth. It was not a sin for him to be rich, but it would have been a sin for him to continue cheating people or to use his riches for selfish purposes. God gives wealth to the wealthy for them to benefit others.

God wants us to enjoy all He has given us, as long as we don’t allow the gift to become the god. We are to consider everything we have as a loan from the Lord and ask Him how He wants us to use it (Psalm 50:9–12). When our hearts are not drawn away by the desire for riches, we can prove ourselves faithful stewards of that which God has entrusted to us.

Prophet Nathan Emol