The Sin of Tempting God – November 1, 2022 Standard Bearer

In the latest issue of the Standard Bearer (Nov.1, 2022), a Reformed magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association (rfpa.org), Rev. Jon Mahtani, pastor of Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI (Walker), has penned an article with the above title – “The Sin of Tempting God.” And though the article is addressed to the youth of the church (for the rubric “Strength of Youth”), it is applicable to believers of all ages. For the sin of which he writes is not limited to the youth, but is one that plagues all of us, since we all share the same fallen nature, a nature that is prone to hate God. And one of the ways that contempt for God manifests itself is in tempting Him.

In his article, after showing from Scripture how serious a sin this is, pastor Mahtani lays out several ways in which we practice it:

And yet, we tempt God. First, we might tempt God regarding our physical health and safety. Similar to jumping off the temple pinnacle, if we needlessly risk or neglect our bodies, we tempt God. For a name or for a high, Christian young people live “on the edge.” They leap into danger as though they are indestructible. And as the Israelites said, they might say, “Is God among us? He will save me, will He not, even when I put myself in harm’s way?” Likewise, neglecting the care of the body is also a manner of tempting God. Reformed Christians who immoderately smoke, vape, drink, or unreasonably circumvent doctors and medications, may rationalize this neglect with the hyper-spiritual claim that this is to trust God. On the contrary, this is to tempt God. Another example pertains to the physical health of others in the church. When the church knows the real danger of abuse in her midst, and then takes little to no action for the protection of Christ’s lambs, we tempt the Lord. We put His mercy to the test.

Secondly, we might tempt God regarding our spiritual health and safety. To stand on a proverbial precipice and presume upon God’s mercy by throwing ourselves into spiritual danger is to tempt God. Do you struggle with drunkenness? Then don’t hang out with those who encourage the sin. Do you struggle with pornography? Then don’t look at a screen without accountability. Do you struggle with bitterness? Then stop listening to and reading material that is full of slander. To pray, “Lead me not into temptation,” and then to cast yourself into it is not only foolish hypocrisy, but it is to tempt God. Whenever we intentionally cast ourselves into spiritual danger while claiming God’s preserving care, we tempt Him.

Likewise, the neglect of spiritual responsibilities while presuming upon God’s grace is to tempt Him. For example, God has revealed that while prayer is not a condition, He will give His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray. To neglect prayer, presuming that He will give His grace and Holy Spirit no matter what, is to tempt Him. Additionally, God has shown that His gracious covenant promises are to children of believers, yet he fulfills His promises in homes where parents faithfully instruct these children. Parents tempt God when they insist on God’s mercy as they neglect their children’s spiritual care. Another example demands the reminder that while repentance is not a prerequisite for salvation, God shows us that we will enjoy the peace of His forgiveness only in the way of sincere repentance. To insist by doctrine or life that God has already forgiven you while you remain impenitent is to tempt God.

And yet, he does not leave us without hope in the gospel of Jesus, for he adds at the end:

To tempt God is grievous sin deserving destruction. When the Israelites tempted God in the wilderness, He sent fiery snakes to destroy them (Numbers 21:7 & 1 Corinthians 10:9). God’s word threatens: “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (Psalm 95:8-11). Each of us must repent, for each of us is guilty of this sin. While turning from this sin, believe in Jesus Christ. Turn to Him who was cursed for us that we might be blessed. Turn to Him who endured God’s wrath that we might enter His rest. Turn to Him who though tempted, never tempted God, and whose perfect obedience is judged as our own.

For Jesus’ sake alone, He forgives. For Jesus’ sake, He gives repentance and faith to hear that forgiveness. And for Jesus’ sake, He gives His Spirit to resist the devil’s temptation to tempt God. So the child of God cries, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins” (Psalm 19:13a).

Published in: on November 12, 2022 at 9:10 PM  Leave a Comment