Inspired by “Not Going To Let (The Devil)” by Joe Antonelli
One of my favorite comedians of all time is a man by the name of Flip Wilson. In the1960s and 1970s, Flip quietly broke through racial barriers, simply by being funny. Wilson always played it cool and never crossed the line into controversy. His performances covered a broad range of topics, but often reflected on his deeply seeded religious background. On January 11, 1970, Flip made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show and shared with us his most famous characters “Geraldine” and her line “The devil made me buy this dress.”
If you want to see the whole monologue you can go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SLifea3NHQ
We’re all familiar with the old saying “the Devil made me do it!”, but I don’t think most of us would take that excuse very seriously if we heard it from somebody who’s done wrong. But it does raise an interesting question: what exactly is Satan’s relationship to sin? Are there situations in which the devil actually could make us sin against our will? Let’s take a look at what James says in the Bible to get a better answer.
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.”
According to James, the devil tempts believers, but he does not and cannot make us sin. James also tells us that God is not to blame either when it comes to our decisions to do something wrong. So, if Satan isn’t to blame, and God isn’t to blame, who can we blame? Obviously it has to be someone’s fault right? Well, let’s continue reading in James to see if he has anything else to say on this topic.
In James 1:14 he says, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” Just like a fisherman uses bait to lure his prey, so our own evil, unchecked desires leads to us giving into temptation and sin. In other words, there’s no one to blame but ourselves. Our sin is our own; the devil may tempt us toward sin, but we’re the ones who make the final decision to obey or disobey God.
Temptation is not a test from God but rather a trap from satan that is baited with seductive snares in every size, shape and appeal. Paul reminds us that we are not alone in our temptation. “But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.” (including Jesus) I can’t tell you how much comfort it brings me to know that Jesus understands what it feels like to be tempted in the same way I am tempted. Religious hypocrites taunted Jesus, trying to lure Him into the trap of anger and pride. Jesus understood physical pain as well as the pain of loss. He wept when His friend Lazarus died, and He cried out on the cross when those nails were driven into His hands. Jesus was lonely and felt abandoned when the disciples fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and was well acquainted with betrayal and ulterior motives. I am certain women threw themselves at Jesus. After all, He was a controversial, powerful and exciting man. Jesus was also very human. That is the point! Jesus came to earth as a frail, weak and flawed vessel just like you and me. Yet, He was able to withstand temptation and in doing so, offers us His proven strength to withstand the same temptations.
Life would be so much easier if Satan was obvious but he isn’t. He is subtle and clever as he mixes lies with truth. He never shouts; he whispers. His goal is the total destruction of your life and his opening attack is temptation. We have to remember that temptation is not sin. Eve did not sin when she began her conversation with Satan nor did she sin when she questioned God’s instructions. Eve sinned when she mentally agreed with the lies of the enemy because that mental choice led to an action of disobedience. Believing and crying out that “the devil made me do it” is crediting Satan with power that he doesn’t have, for he cannot make you do anything. Shifting the blame by telling others that you were held “spellbound or hooked” by the devil’s power is a false accusation, because you’ve always had the power of choice.
So, what’s a person to do when faced with trials and temptations? Obviously we will never eliminate our sinful nature, but there are a couple of things we can do to cut down on it. First and foremost, we must take the thought captive. In most cases, we know when we’re about to sin. If we’re saved, the Holy Spirit, which lives inside us, rejects sin and convicts us about it when the first thought of it enters our mind. We must learn to recognize what’s going on and do something immediately. Taking the thought captive means we must seize the thought and deal with it responsibly rather than allowing the devil to use it to tempt us into sin. We also need to limit the opportunity to sin. If you’re prone to drink, stay out of bars. If you are prone to steal, it’s probably not a good idea to go into a store without money. Whatever you struggle the most with, the more you interact with it, the better chance you are to eventually partaking in it. Finally, don’t ever forget that no matter how hard you try, you will slip and fall. The great thing is there is a loving God standing by ready to forgive you but you have to ask him. That’s what John meant when he said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
I want to close with one final analogy. A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there, “If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?” It was a strange way of asking how deep the water was, but the fisherman had a good answer. “No. Falling into the water doesn’t drown anybody. It’s staying under it that does.” Remember … temptation is not sin. It is an invitation to sin. Just say “no.”
Tim Ewing is the founder of Kindred Concert Ministries. You can learn more about Kindred by going to www.facebook.com/kindredconcerts or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Antonelli is a singer/songwriter from Wynnewood, PA. Not Going To Let (The Devil) is from his debut CD titled Walk By Faith which can be purchased on itunes, CD Baby or on his website. For more information about Joe Antonelli you can go to his website at at http://joeantonelli.com
Want to read other devotionals written by Tim? Go to: https://www.facebook.com/notes/kindred-concerts-for-christ/kindreds-devotional-series/463516160364310