Temptation is not sin. We know this because Eve was tempted before she fell and Jesus was tempted, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Temptation is a disorienting, defiling experience when evil is presented to us as good. Destruction comes dressed up to look like happiness. Sin only occurs when we believe that the destructive lie can actually grant happiness.
One key to resisting temptation is learning to recognize what I call the “mirage moment.”
The Mirage Moment
A mirage is that hallucination parched people sometimes experience in a hot desert. A real desire for water and the shimmering heat of the sand play disorienting games with the mind and emotions. A refreshing oasis seems to appear in the distance promising the happiness of a quenched desire.
A thirsty person might know that no oasis has previously existed in that location. But his desire to be happy, fueled by the hope that this time he just might find happiness there, or at least relief from misery, tempts him to believe the vision. If he yields, he discovers his hope was hopeless and his desire dashed because the oasis was a sham.
In temptation, the mirage moment occurs as we are tempted by a vision promising happiness. Some shimmering oasis of promised joy or relief from despair appears where God said it shouldn’t be.
The mirage’s appearance taps into our real desire to be happy. Our disoriented emotions begin to respond to this desire with a feeling of hope — hope that maybe this time, even if we’ve been disappointed many times before, the oasis will quench our desire. But we know that God has told us it is a false hope.
So we are faced with a choice between temptation’s compelling appearance and God’s promise. We are tempted, but have not yet succumbed to sin.