Passing the buck has been a part of human nature since the start. From the very first time sin entered the world, we wanted to blame something or someone else. It was the serpent’s fault. It was the woman’s fault. From the beginning we failed to recognize the guilt that lies within our own hearts. Because of the fall in the garden, we are born into sin. We have a sin nature. We have no concept of life apart from sin. Can you imagine what that would feel like? No? Me either.
We all struggle with temptation. But temptation is not sin. It is merely the warmup band to the real show. Temptation is not something that we can lay at the foot of the cross. Temptation is something we have to nip in the bud right out of the starting gate. If we fail to do that, we can enter a dangerous sin cycle.
Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Scottish theologian and professor at Redeemer Seminary, has put it this way. The sin cycle begins with Attraction. It’s something (an idea, action, desire, or attitude) that catches our eye. There is something about it that seems pleasurable or satisfying to us.
Fifteen minutes more sleep in the morning is oh so attractive to me.
Then along comes Deception. We move along with our attraction to this thing that will ultimately harm us, and deceive ourselves into thinking that it is really harmless. We are quite convincing, we are. It is amazing to me how, in my sleep-clouded mind in the mornings, that I can manage to do the math and convince myself that fifteen minutes more sleep will not make me late to work. Yet I can. And I’m not even all that good at math.
Once we are deceived by our own minds, we become preoccupied with the idea. Yes, sleep is good. More rest is beneficial. I deserve this last fifteen minutes of blissful rest in my nice, warm bed. And then the Conception of sin is upon us. It is birthed, and I hit the snooze bar on my alarm clock, blissfully unaware that when I awake from my last fifteen minutes of sleep, I will then suffer Subjection to my sin.
When the alarm goes off for the final time, and I look at the clock, I am awakened to the realization that my laziness has left me with not enough time to get ready and make it to work on time. Yet now, there is nothing I can do about it. I have to begin my day, subject to my sin.
The final stage is Despiration. Despiration’s close friend is hopelessness. When we get to this point in the sin cycle, Ferguson says, “We despair on account of our circumstances. And confronted by our failure, we’re told by Satan that we might as well give up completely because we are in such dire difficulty that there is no way back.” And many times, we believe him, and so we stay mired in our sin, blind to the way out.
Satan gets alot of credit for the sin in our lives, for the temptations that come our way. But we have to remember, that while he was the author of sin, it is now in our very nature to sin. While he may be in the wings cheering it on, we are active participants in the cycle sin plays in our lives. James tells us in his letter that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”(James 1:13-15, italics mine)
One of the biggest lies Satan tells us about sin is that there is no way back from it. We believe that, and so deceive ourselves. Our hope and our rescue from the sin that entangles us is His holy scriptures. In verse 22, James tells us to read the Bible, and then do it. When we read it, then do it, we find freedom from the sin that grips us. It is not enough to merely seek holy wisdom. We must also follow it. Once wisdom is sought and found, we are held accountable for what we know. We are expected to exit our sin, stage left, and we can take our leave at any point in the sin cycle. The earlier we do, the better.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul tells us, that there is no temptation that is special to us. We all have the capacity to fall to every sin. He also reminds us that God is faithful, and that he will not let sin tempt us beyond what we can handle without giving us a way out, so that we are not destroyed by it. No matter where you may be in the sin cycle, remember that sin is always an inside job. It began as an attraction, a thought or an action we initiated. Look for your way out… seek wisdom, and follow it. It was put there by your heavenly Father to rescue you, to set you apart from all He created.