Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 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.

James 1:13-15

“Let no man say, I am tempted of God!”

You and I should never say that. It is sinful to do so. But a bit of soul searching reveals that we often do exactly that, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

The occasion for saying that is that we have sinned, and we know it. It also bothers us. But now our deceptive heart seeks an excuse. “That’s my sinful nature.” But who gave you that nature? “I really could not help it, I was in a bind.” As if God placed us in a situation that made it necessary for us to sin! “I had no intention of doing that, but my companion really talked or forced me into that.” Who gave you that companion?! “That filthy liquor always gets the best of me, and I had no one to drive for me.” Who drank the liquor that was offered to him?! Thus we could go on and on. There is a familiar saying that speaks of the road to hell being paved with good intentions, and, we may add, with excuses.

Never say in any form or manner, “God tempted me.” For thereby we are heaping sin upon sin. The simple fact is that God Himself cannot be tempted. Would you imagine that the devil is greater than our God and could tempt Him? God is holy, upright, righteous, and just! God is God, the supreme Ruler of heaven and earth, far removed above all that is evil!

Nor does God tempt any man. It is true that our temptations are under the supreme rule of the Most High God. Nothing befalls us apart from God’s will. The devil is not a power apart from or equal to God. God is also sovereign over the devil. The devil cannot stir except by the will and power of God. Therefore, when we are tempted, that temptation is also in the wise, good, and eternal plan of God. His counsel stands and He does all His good pleasure.

Yet God does not tempt us. It is the devil who tempts. God tries His people. There is a definite difference between “trying” and “tempting”—a difference in the motive, in the manner in which it is done, and in the purpose.

God’s motive is always love for His people. God always tries His children in love. The devil is always motivated by hatred against the people of God. He hates you and me.

Moreover, God deals with us honestly, uprightly. When God sends fiery trials He does so openly. He even warns us not to sin. By His indwelling Spirit, our voice of conscience speaks loudly to us, even though we do not heed it. We know very well that what we are doing is wrong. On the other hand, the devil uses every form of trickery and cunning to deceive us and urge us into sin. He assures us that, under the circumstances, it is perfectly proper for us to do the wrong. We condone in ourselves that which we condemn in others.

Finally, God’s purpose is always pure. God tries His people as by fire, that they may come forth out of the fiery trial stronger and purer than before. But the devil is determined to deceive us, that he may make us his friend and take us along with him into hell.

Therefore, let us never say when we are tempted, “I am tempted of God!” For God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt any one. But let us be honest and say, “I am tempted of my own lust. The guilt of my sin lies with me.” For that is the truth of the matter.

There is indeed a drawing away and a deception that leads into sin, and that also is according to the will and counsel of God for our good. Satan is given the power, otherwise he could not attack us. An example of that is given to us in the book of Job. God calls Satan’s attention to His servant Job, of whom He says that he is “a perfect and upright man, and one that feareth God and escheweth evil.” Upon Satan’s request, God gives the devil power to take all his children and all his possessions from him, but Satan may not touch Job’s person. Later, Satan is given power to turn Job’s wife against him, to cover him with sores that make his life most burdensome, and even to cause his friends to heap accusations and scorn upon him. Yet, in the end, God revealed to Job that He is sovereign Lord over all and does all things for the welfare of those He loves.

For us, temptations remain very real. The devil is very cunning, very deceptive. He can also summon many forces to his aid. He has many demons at his disposal, possibly an organized host with degrees of authority, one over the other, so that each demon is appointed to a certain person or task.

He also has the whole world of wicked men at his beck and call. That world can lure with all its riches and entertainment, all of which strongly appeals to our sinful flesh. Especially in these affluent times we can readily forget that we are pilgrims and strangers in the world, and that our treasure is laid away for us in heaven. How rarely shall a rich man enter into the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, this present evil world can also threaten our business, our position, our job, or our family. The closer we come to the end of the ages the stronger that threat will be. The time is not far off when we will no longer be able to buy or sell, because we belong to the party of the living God. Our possessions will be taken away from us, even our automobile that seems so necessary for our existence. If we still have a home, the beast will know every word we utter and everything we do, even in the confines of our home. We may even be imprisoned or lose our lives for Christ’s sake.

Moreover, the devil can use those who are closest to us, a friend or a member of our family, to lure us into sin or betray us. Especially as we approach the end of the ages, all the powers of darkness will put forth one final effort to destroy God’s cause, including us, from the face of the earth. Only he who endures to the end will be saved.

Yet, all these powers of evil could not affect us in the least if it were not for our sinful nature, the old man of sin within us. There dwells within us the lust of the eyes, causing our eyes to be drawn to sin; the lust of the flesh, warring within us to destroy us; and the pride of life, that big I that likes to be as God. He imagines that he is so much better than others. If all men were like him, what a splendid world this would be.

Paul writes: “The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murder, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Gal. 5:19-21).

All this has its origin in our sinful lust. James warns us that “when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin.” Like a woman who becomes pregnant with child, so lust conceives and brings forth a very ugly offspring, sin. That sin produces another child, even more ugly than the former, a worse sin. And that second offspring produces a third, worse than before, and so on and on….

Sin is separation from God; therefore, under His righteous judgment, God gives the sinner over to His sin. The sinner is in bondage, the bondage of sin. Even his will is in bondage. He will never, as long as he is in the bondage of sin, admit that. He boasts that he can stop sinning any time he wishes. But the sad fact is that he never reaches the point where he wishes. He can only will to sin, and he becomes more involved both with body and soul in the bondage of his sin. That accounts for the fact that the devil, who knows that he is fighting a losing battle, never gives up. And the sinner, who knows disaster awaits him at the end, still tries to tell himself that all is well.

Sin is rebellion against the Most High majesty of God. It is transgression of His holy law. Under the righteous judgment of God, the soul that sins must die. Look at what happened in paradise! Witness what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah! To Lot’s wife! Sin may very well result in the destruction of the body, so that death results. A drunkard may burn up his body with his drinking. A fornicator may bring on an incurable disease. Besides, we do not live on an island. Others are involved in our lives—our families, our friends and acquaintances, our church. We are an influence upon them for good or for evil.

Sin involves particularly our families. A parent may depart from the truth and bring his family with him on the road of heresy. He may be a church delinquent, who attends church only once on a Sunday or finds a ready excuse not to attend. His children often break away from the church completely. Our example of a sinful walk places its stamp upon the children. “As father, so son.” Besides, families are brought into poverty, into trouble and shame, even to the point where the family is torn apart.

But the certain outcome is that the soul ends in everlasting destruction in hell. Sin breeds sin unto eternal death in torment, where the worm never dies and the fire of God’s just wrath never ceases to burn. There we suffer for our own sins, but also for the influence we have had upon others. There was good reason why the rich man in the parable wanted Lazarus to warn his brothers. He was not eager to meet them there in hell fire.

That death is eternal. Can you conceive of endless suffering in soul and body, endless torment, utter despair? There is no end, no escape, no hope for the future. In hell is only endless remorse. In the parable, the rich man in hell is not allowed so much as a drop of water to cool the extremity of his tongue for a single second.

There is no escape from sin as far as man is concerned. No psychologist, no evangelist, no matter how powerful or influential he may seem to be, can deliver one soul from that bondage. No resolution to change, no matter how often made, can bring deliverance and peace to the soul.

There is but one way out: the grace of God in Christ Jesus. The debt of sin must be paid, and that debt is so great that only the atoning blood of Christ can cover it. The power of sin is so great that only Almighty God in Christ Jesus can make you and me new creatures who are made aware of the dominion of sin over us. We must realize that we are hopelessly lost in sin and death. With David we must confess, “the sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” We must admit our complete unworthiness and helplessness. As the apostle Paul confessed: “The good that I would I do not, but the evil that I would not, that I do. … O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”