If you believe that humanity is basically good, then I have to tip my hat to you, because you have more faith than I do. I cannot believe how anyone could actually accept the premise that humanity is basically good.
What I do believe is that humanity is basically bad. God gives us all a choice in life. It is something called free will, which is the ability to say yes or no. Everyone has that, and we are not forced to choose God. However, consider these words from Scripture: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living” (Romans 6:16 NLT).
The book of Genesis records the first temptation ever to take place on Planet Earth:
The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.'”
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too. (Genesis 3:1–6 NLT)
In one sentence, we find a summary of temptation in all its forms: “She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her” (emphasis mine).
The Bible says, “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16 NKJV).
Every temptation will fall into one of three categories: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life.
Think about it. There is the lust of the eyes, which is temptation that comes through the realm of the mind – mental temptation. Why do we get tempted in our minds? Because it is command central. It is here that we reason. It is here that we intellectualize. It is here that we contemplate. It is here that we even fantasize. It is here that we dream. It is here that we can do some horrible sins. We can reach into the past through our memories. We can reach into the future through our imagination. You don’t have to do it, we reason. Just think about it. That is all. It doesn’t have to go any further than this.
Notice the subtlety of the serpent, who tempted Eve in the realm of her mind. He asked, “Did God really say …?” He did not deny that God had spoken; he simply questioned whether God had really said what Eve thought he had said. But there is a big difference between dealing with doubt and entertaining it.
That is how Eve was hit: through the lust of the eyes. Eve, check it out! Have you ever seen a piece of fruit like this?
Then came the lust of the flesh. Having seen it, Eve wanted to taste it.
First you think about something, and then it transfers into action. After a while, thinking about it isn’t enough. After a while, fantasizing about it isn’t enough. You want to take it to the next level. So you start flirting. You start touching. You start tasting. And the next thing you know, you are caught up in it.
Then there is the pride of life. You might be avoiding the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh, but you could be falling in the pride of life. You might say, “I am not thinking impure thoughts. I am not out there doing horrible, wicked deeds.” But you might be so full of pride that you say, “I don’t really think I need Jesus Christ. I am a moral person. I am an educated individual. I am sophisticated. I don’t need religion; that is only for weak people. I am above it all.” That is the pride of life. And that keeps you from Christ.
Which of these categories are tripping you up today?
Whenever God says no, it is for our own good. If something is a good thing, God will say yes to it. But if he says no to something, then it is for our own good.
Eve was at the wrong place at the wrong time, listening to the wrong voice, which ultimately led her to do the wrong thing.
If you have been hanging around with the wrong people and going to the wrong places, don’t be surprised when you get tempted to do the wrong thing. Stay away from those situations, those relationships, and those places where you know you are weak and vulnerable.
Maybe you have felt guilt over sins you have committed lately. You have been aware that certain things you have been practicing are wrong. God has been kind and gracious enough to make you aware of the fact that you are going in the wrong direction. So what do you need to do? You need to acknowledge your shortcomings and ask God for his forgiveness.
It is not enough to intellectually acknowledge that certain things are true. You must act on them.