Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Christ, our high priest, sympathizes with our weaknesses because He was tempted in all things, yet was without sin. What a comforting verse! This world indeed tempts Christians to seek personal comfort, exercise authority and put God to the test — the same temptations Satan used in his failed efforts to dissuade Christ from going to the cross (Luke 4:1-13, Mark 8:31-33, Luke 22:39-46).
But have you ever noticed that all of His temptations came from outside of Him? In His nature, Jesus never envied or boasted or lusted. His thoughts remained pure. We know they were pure because He equated lust with adultery in Matthew 5:27-30. Furthermore, in Mark 7:14-23 He made it painfully clear that sin originates in the human heart.
His half-brother James gave the sharpest description of how we generate our own temptations:
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~~James 1:12-15 (ESV)
Christ faced external temptations, certainly. Therefore His temptations were always morally neutral. I think of the time in my childhood when two of my friends encouraged me to go outside, even though our teacher told me to stay inside (I had a cold that day). Initially, I bore no responsibility; the two girls merely presented an option that I knew I shouldn’t take.
Ah, but when I pushed my walker across that threshold, I demonstrated that I actually wanted to disobey the teacher. The temptation began outside of me, but it took hold because I really wanted to go outside. The girls appealed to a wrong desire that was already in my heart.
Many professing Christians argue that certain temptations are morally neutral unless we physically act on them. Based on Scripture, I disagree. Although Christ experienced severe temptation, those temptations lacked any power over Him because He was pure.
We must never mistake our own lusts for external temptations.