James says this to us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." James 1:13-15
It is good to take a closer look at the day or days leading up to your sin. What I found was that often I was either being set up or was setting myself up for a fall. The first thing James tells us is that we are NOT being tempted by God. Too often we think, "God, why did You do this to me? Why did you have this temptation come my way?" We think God is responsible for our circumstances - at least these that surround sinning. God is most definitely Sovereign over all things - BUT - He does not tempt us. Not blaming God for our problems is a huge first step towards freedom.
James does mention where all this comes from in life. He says that we are "tempted by lust" and then when we don't respond to it properly we are "carried away" by it. First comes temptation - from which I must flee! Lust here is not referring to sexual sin exclusively. It is referring to a strong desire that arises out of our self-centered and self-honoring fallen nature. If I find myself not responding and reacting to these intense fleshly desires immediately. (which I usually did not in this process) my heart would begin hardening to God, to His Word, and to the promptings and warnings of the Holy Spirit. I was not being responsive to Jesus. Left unchecked, these strong desires would grow and I would find myself being "carried away by lust." Soon I would find that not only was I being tempted - but because I was "lingering" - I soon was carried away by my lust into sin.
Let me ask you something at this point. Ever have one of those times when you think, "Man it was like I was unable to stop - like I was being carried away! Well - unfortunately - that was exactly what was happening. You did not stop sin at the point of your own desires being perverted from the truth. Therefore they became so strong that you felt like you could not resist. It was like someone else was controlling you. That is the power of sin and lust. It is powerful - and will dominate you if you do not resist early and often. At this point you are having lust conceive in your heart - and that conception is about to give birth to sin.
The next step is to give birth to sin. The strong desire, left unchallenged, has now dominated our minds and our actions. This means we are about to sin - to choose to disobey God - to choose to disregard Scripture - even to choose to silence the protest of our conscience as we act out in a way that is in defiance to God's standards and commands. The result of this will be death. Spiritually we will feel dead. There will be a grieving of the Holy Spirit and a deadening of our ability to discern what God desires. Rather than being led by the Spirit - we are allowing ourselves to be led by the flesh. The Spirit's fire will be doused within us - we may even feel things like a lack of desire for the Word - an aversion to prayer - and plenty of condemnation. Yeah - pretty much plenty of death is available to us at this point in our sinful escapade.
A "post-mortem" analysis of sin asks the following types of questions.
- What was I allowing myself to linger over in what I saw, what I thought, what I considered, or even what I fantasized about?"
- What was I doing that led up to the strong desires that came upon me?
- Was I watching, listening, participating in anything that weakened my desire for God prior to sinning?
- Was I neglecting time in the Word, prayer, fellowship prior to the sin? (One of the things that I see most in my post-mortem looks - is that I was neglecting either my quiet time - or prayer.
- Was there any kind of incident where I became angry, bitter, or unforgiving toward someone?
- What kind of thoughts were going through my head? Did I seek to combat them with Scripture?
- Was there any direct link between the temptation - and anything I've done in the last 24 hours?
When we do this, we will most likely find and identify the things that led up to our sin. We will see things like television shows or movies that led to lustful thoughts. We may find that we were wandering from God for days before this thing hit. We will often find that our minds were definitely NOT being renewed with the Word. And one other "usual culprit" will be bitterness and unforgiveness - especially when it is toward a brother or sister in Christ - or a close family member.
The last step in this "post-mortem" analysis is to identify the activities or choices made that led to sin. But that will not be enough. We need to deal with these things. There is a very simple truth here we must grasp. We CANNOT do these things and remain pure. We MUST address these things with the Word and with repentance and a purpose to act differently in the future. This will be the way to turn a sinful situation into one that will not only instruct us - but will in large measure - protect us from things that will lead us into sin in the future. It will also help us to greatly lesson the areas where we feel that when we take a small step - we are gone - because sin has such power over us so quickly. Think of it as CSI - Jesus. The Lord takes apart the crime scene (here a sin-scene) and examines it to show us all the evidence that points to us acting in ways that are going to end up embracing sin and ungodliness. That will be more valuable to us than gold!