Yesterday I made the distinction between external temptations and temptations that originate from our own sin nature (you can find the blog post here). In future parts, I’ll explain specifically why I wanted to draw this distinction, but at this point I’d prefer to confine my remarks to generalities.
As I demonstrated yesterday, temptations often come about as a result of our innate depravity. This fact cannot be overstated. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable truth that flies in the face of self-esteem, and our post 20th Century sensibilities cry out against it with a vengeance. Recognizing ourselves as wretched sinners except for God’s grace repulses even the most doctrinally sound Christian.
But let me take you back to the Scripture I alluded to at the opening of my last article:
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~~Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)
The Hebrew Christians originally receiving this letter were being tempted to return to Jewish rituals as part of their worship of Christ. So the writer warns them that such a return to works actually betrays their disobedience to the Gospel. God would expose and judge their disobedience.
Then he directs them back to Jesus, the merciful High Priest Who has experienced temptation. Not that His own sinful desires tempted Him (He had no sinful desires), but He well knew how it feels to be tempted. Furthermore, He knows how vulnerable we are without His sustaining grace.
Regardless of whether a given temptation comes from outside sources or from our own lusts, Jesus willingly offers His grace so that we will resist the pull. Although we mustn’t ignore our culpability, our gaze must always rest on Christ.
As a matter of fact, Christians who understand the depths of their sin appreciate God’s grace so much more fully than do people who minimize their depravity. The penitent sinner marvels at the Lord’s merciful grace, and adores Him for His kindness. If anything, the sinner readily confesses her sinful condition in order to highlight the wonders of her Savior.