By Neil Anderson
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin
I have found that many Christians struggle with the distinction between temptation and sin. Bombarded by tempting thoughts, they conclude that there must be something pretty sick about them. But even Jesus was “tempted in all things as we are.” But finish the verse: “Yet without sin.” As long as we are in the world, we are exposed to temptation just like Jesus was. But He didn’t sin, and we don’t have to sin either (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The basis for temptation is legitimate human needs. We will either look to the world, the flesh and the devil to have our needs met, or we will look to Christ who promises to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19). The essence of temptation is the invitation to live independently of God.
The power of temptation depends on the strength of the strongholds which have been developed in our minds as we learned to live independently of God. If you were raised in a Christian home where magazines and television programs of questionable moral value were not allowed, the power of sexual temptation in your life will not be as great as for someone who grew up exposed to pornographic materials. Why? Because your legitimate need to be loved and accepted was met by parents who also protected you from exposure to illegitimate means of meeting your needs. The person who grew up in an environment of immorality may experience a greater struggle with sexual temptation simply because that stronghold in the mind was well-established before he was born again.
Jesus was tempted to meet His own physical needs by using His divine attributes independently of the Father to turn a rock into bread. But instead He responded, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We also must respond to temptation by relying on God to meet our needs.