God makes one thing very clear in the Bible in Isaiah 46:9 –
Remember this, keep it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
No superhuman power resists Gods will and the Bible leaves us in no doubt as to where the blame lies. Man is tempted within himself. Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-19 –
But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Sin comes from our minds. We are tempted to sin by our own natural desires. But the temptation itself is not sin – it is part of human nature. It is when we give in to our wrong desires and allow them to become evil thoughts or actions that we sin: “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14,15).
Jesus himself spoke of sin and also showed that it comes from the mind in Mark 7:21-23:
“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft,murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride,foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Because sin is caused by failure to control our wrong desires, James shows the importance of keeping our desires under control: “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel …” (James 4:1,2).
Even the best of us fail to control our human desires. Paul found it hard to do good and easy to do wrong (Romans 7:18,19). Our minds are naturally self-centred rather than God-centred. We sin by seeking our own desires rather than God’s will. It surprises many people to find that the first time the devil is mentioned in the Bible is in the New Testament, when we are told about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. If the devil is an all-powerful wicked being, where was it in Old Testament times?
The word ‘devil’ is an ordinary Greek word (diabolos) which means ‘slanderer’ or ‘false accuser’. It is occasionally used about people who say wrong things about others: “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behaviour, not slanderers or slaves to much wine” (Titus 2:3). See also 1 Timothy 3:11 and 2 Timothy 3:3.
The word is used of Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus: “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him” (John 6:70,71)
But this same word ‘devil’ is used in the New Testament to represent human sinfulness. Hebrews 2:14 says that the devil “has the power of death”. It is sin that leads to death: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned …” (Romans 5:12) “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23). These verses show that what the Bible says about the devil, it also says about sin making them the same. The word ‘devil’ is used in the Bible to represent sin. It is an example of personification – speaking of something as if it were a person.
But why is it that the Bible so often uses the word ‘devil’ instead of just saying ‘sin’? And why does it speak of this devil as if it were describing someone with tremendous power? It is surely so that we can understand just how powerful and deceitful sin is, to make us realise how much we need to fight against it each day. In the temptation of Jesus, the devil is used as picture language to describe the battle that took place in Jesus’ mind. This battle against his own desires required all the strength he possessed. This is why the temptations to sin are described as a great power – the devil. It shows us how much we need to fight against sin each day and helps us to appreciate what the Lord did for us in overcoming sin.
It is very important to understand that sin is unacceptable to God. It comes from our minds and so the problem lies within us. We are responsible for our own sins and cannot blame anyone else. It is only when we accept this that we can begin to understand our need for forgiveness and God’s grace and mercy to us. Then we will be ready to turn to God and repent (be truly sorry for our sins and seek forgiveness), and make a new start in life through baptism. It is only through repentance and baptism that our sins can be completely forgiven.