THE PATHOGENESIS OF TEMPTATION
By Akin Ojumu
Recently, I shared a molecular animation depicting the process by which HIV infects a T-cell and transforms the cell into a viral factory. The scientist in me finds it fascinating and pretty cool. As a Christian, however, I couldn't help but think of the universality of nature as I watched the sophistication of HIV in the animation. In my mind, the industry, dexterity, and versatility of the tiny virus looks eerily similar to the operations of demons in the soul of human beings.
Take for instance, the step-by-step process by which a man gradually falls into temptation, as depicted in James 1:14-15.
“But 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.”
Let’s take a dive into these rich passages of Scripture and learn about the pathogenesis of temptation. The key words to pay attention to are “drawn away”, “enticed”, “conceived”, and “bringeth forth”.
DRAWN AWAY (JAMES 1:14)
The word “drawn away” is a term used in hunting. It's used to describe the luring of an animal into a trap. A trap is baited, and the animal is lured into the trap. It means to be led, to be compelled, to be impelled, to be lured into a trap. To be baited and caught.
Notice that James 1:14 says, “drawn away of his own lust.” The verb itself helkō (-mai) means to be drawn by an inward power. In an earlier verse, James 1:13, we are told that God does not tempt any man. Just like the HIV uses what's in the hosts cells to propagate itself, what draws us away into temptation is something that already exists within us. It's our own lust and not somebody else’s that lures us away. It's our own weakness, the things that catch our fancy. They may vary from person to person. What draw Mr. A. away could be women, or automobile, or drugs. Whereas for Ms. B., they could be shoes, food, or something else.
But whatever the thing is, it all begins with a feeling – a desire. Feeling of wanting to be satisfied, wanting to acquire something to satisfy your hunger. Something new, something that’s been dangled in front of your eyes.
ENTICED (JAMES 1:14)
The word “enticed is a fishing term. It means, literally, to capture or catch i.e., to catch a fish with bait. To bait a hook and catch. The same word is found in 2 Peter 2:14 (BEGUILE) and 2 Peter 2:18 (ALLURE). It means to entice a fish with bait.
The reason that animals are baited and trapped, and fish are baited and trapped is because the bait looks good. It looks attractive. It looks inviting and all they see is the bait. It dangles out there and it promises a tasty indulgence. It promises a satisfying morsel. It promises greater pleasure, fun, reward, and it lures the suckered victim into its trap and hook. But instead of the anticipated pleasure when they grab the bait, comes the pain of capture and death, so it is with temptation.
So, what happens at this stage of temptation is that the person begins to justify and rationalize in their mind, telling themselves they have earned the right to have the thing desired. The person lusts after it and convinces himself they deserve to have it, that they can’t live without it – and that their life won’t be complete if they don’t have it.
Remember the temptation of Eve by the serpent. In Genesis 3:6, after being told of all the good things that will come to her if she ate the fruit, Eve began to rationalize in her mind. She looked at the fruit again with adoring eyes and began to salivate. It looked good for eating, she'll become wise and be like God. So, she took it, ate, and died.
CONCEIVED (JAMES 1:15a)
Here the person begins to plan and strategize how they are going to acquire the object of their lust. This occurs in the will. The person goes from feeling (i.e., emotion) to the mind, and not to the will. What your mind has already concluded, your will is now forming a strategy for its execution.
It is at this point that temptation is conceived i.e., lust becomes pregnant.
BRINGS FORTH SIN (JAMES 1:15a)
Once lust is conceived it brings forth sin. The product of the pregnancy is a baby, and the baby is sin.
The word it “brings forth sin” means to give birth to sin. This occurs in the behavior. The actual act goes from the emotion to the mind to the will to the behavior. The emotion leads the mind to rationalize, the rationalized mind leads the will to plan, and now the baby is born, and the deed is done.
BRINGS FORTH DEATH (JAMES 1:15b)
As soon as the baby – i.e., sin – is born, it brings forth death. When sin is born, it is born a murderer. It all comes to an end when the child is born, and the child turns out to be a stone-cold killer.
And that, my friends, is the progression of temptation. It starts with a burning desire, which leads the person to rationalize, then they strategize, actualize, and the end result is spiritual death.
Which brings up the question. At what point in our lives do we deal with sin?
It’s the person who is able to control their emotional responses, i.e., their feelings and desires, that is going to be able to effectively deal with sin. You cannot expose your emotions continually to things which lure you away from the things of God without paying a heavy price.
If you let your emotions run wild and expose them to everything the world is throwing out at you, and you let your mind becomes an open door for everything to fly in and out, and it’s not cultivated and plowed deeply with the Word of God, then you will conceive sin and you will bring forth a child which is death.
Sadly, the places of worship do not help matter at all. The minds of hapless believers are under assault by the stuff they see and hear that feed their temporary urges and earthly desires. They are put under pressure by the flamboyance, extravagance, and lavish lifestyles of the men on the pulpit and are spiritually choked to death by the health, wealth, and success messages. Diverse temptations are dangled before their eyes in the Houses of Worship. When you feed the intense spiritual hunger of people with fluff, they wither away in their soul and die a spiritual death.
Romans 12: 2 tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Having the mind of Christ is the only way we can save ourselves from our inner urges. Our minds have got to be renewed and set on things above and not on the things of this world. We need to cultivate a mind that is marinated in the Truth of God’s Word. It must dwell in us richly. We must expunge from our minds earthly cravings and focus intently on the things that redound to eternal life.
And just so you know, nothing I have written here is original. I have no greater knowledge of Scripture than many of you. This write-up is nothing but the notes I took listening to a truly gifted teacher of the Word of God I respect very much. Like you, I learn from those who know these things more and better than myself. It's the only way I know a Christian grows spiritually.