The Seductiveness of Sin

June 6th 2024

The Delight of Sin

Let’s be honest: sin is attractive.

Were sin not so appealing to us, we would not struggle so mightily against it (Rom 7:18–19). Make no mistake. It is the attractiveness of sin that makes sin a struggle and a fight for believers in this life. The nineteenth century English minister, J.C. Ryle, addressed that sobering reality, saying, “The true Christian is called to be a soldier, and must behave as such from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. . . Even after conversion he carries within him a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. That heart will never be free from imperfection in this world, and it is a miserable delusion to expect it.”[1]

Ryle, sadly, is correct. Our sin nature is such that it is a “miserable delusion” to expect that we will ever be free of our struggle with sin in this life. Even as believers, our hearts can be, as Ryle said, “weak” and “unstable” (Matt 26:40–46). That truth is something the apostle Peter learned the hard way. In a moment of what can only be described as fleshly arrogance, Peter, in the presence of Christ, as well as his fellow disciples, dared to boast of his resolute and unwavering loyalty to Jesus only to end up, to his great regret, denying three times that he knew Him (Matt 26:33–35; John 18:25–27).

The Design of Sin

The seventeenth century Puritan, Thomas Watson, said, “Sin first tempts and then damns. It is first a fox and then a lion. . . Sin first brings us pleasures which delight and charm the senses, and then comes with its nail and hammer. Sin does to the sinner as Absalom did to Ammon. When his heart was merry with wine, then he killed him (2 Sam 13:28). Sin’s last act is always tragic.”[2]

Since the Garden of Eden, sin has been a seducer of God’s image-bearers. In Genesis 3:6, three adjectives are used to describe how attractive sin was to Eve after discoursing with the serpent: Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise. “Good,” “delight,” “desirable”—three seemingly innocuous yet theologically profound words that capture the heart attitude of our first parents when they chose to disobey God and, consequentially, plunged the entire world into a state of corruption, the spiritual effects of which the human race continues to experience to this day (Rom 8:19–21).

The Desire of Sin

Though it is true that, as followers of Jesus Christ, sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom 6:8–14), that does not mean that sin no longer has any power over us at all. While you and I are in this world (1 Pet 4:2), there remains within us a remnant of our yet-unredeemed flesh that desires to gratify the desires of our old self (Eph 4:22). That spiritual tug-of-war is graphically depicted by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:17, where he says, “For the flesh sets its desire against Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you do not do the things that you want.”

It would be a serious error, for any professing believer in Jesus Christ, to believe that salvation renders sin completely impotent in our lives. The power of sin is intrinsic to every temptation we face. As the sixteenth century Puritan, John Owen, writes, “All sin is the result of temptation (Jas 1:14). Sin is a fruit that comes only from that root. Even though a man is suddenly or violently surprised by any sin, yet it sprang from some temptation or other. . . . Therefore, when a man is surprised and taken unawares, as it were, temptation was the cause of it.”[3]

The Deceit of Sin

Scripture never speaks of our being tempted to obey God, but only to disobey Him. If sin were completely bereft of power, we would not be commanded to resist it (Gen 4:6; Matt 26:41; Gal 5:15; 2 Tim 2:22; Jas 1:13, 4:7). Even as followers of Christ, sin can be so appealing and enticing to us that we will even go so far as to try and hide from God the sins we desire to commit – as if such a thing were even possible (Ps 90:8). King David is a prime example of that kind of deceivable mindset. In an attempt to hide from God his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:1–5), David lied and committed murder, only to eventually have his sin exposed by the prophet Nathan (2 Sam 12:1–15).

In his book The Wiles of Satan, the seventeenth century Puritan, William Spurstowe, cautions, “Satan is more successful in his undertakings because he acts from experience, and fully understands when and how to apply himself in every age and constitution. All his methods of temptations are like the aphorisms of physicians, which are nothing but the collections of experimental observations drawn into rules to direct and order their practice by.”[4]

Though sin is not omnipotent, it is potent, and its power is most effective upon us when we attempt to resist temptation in our own strength (Jn 15:5). After withstanding the devil’s three temptations in the wilderness, Scripture tells us that Satan left Jesus alone but only until an opportune time (Lk 4:1–13). Sin is an opportunist. It is always seeking an occasion to decimate us and leave us in a state of spiritual ruin. As believers, however, God has not left us defenseless. Our responsibility is to discerningly employ the weapons God has provided us (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:10–17; 1 Pet 5:8), as we strive daily for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14).

[1] J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots (Evangelical Press: 1999), 51-52. [2] Thomas Watson, The Mischief of Sin (Soli Deo Gloria Publications: 1994), 20. [3] John Owen, Temptation: Resisted and Repulsed (Banner of Truth: 2021), 59. [4] William Spurstowe, The Wiles of Satan, Soli Deo Gloria Publications (2004), hardcover, p. 19.

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Author: Darrell Harrison