The following is an edited transcript of the audio.
How would you counsel someone who blames their temptations on God's sovereignty?
I would ask, "How is this affecting you when you say, 'At least indirectly, I see my temptations as coming from God'?"
I know the text that a person would use from James 1:13: "God is not tempted and does not tempt." But I'm going to leave that aside for a minute. My way of handling this would be to ask, "How does this affect you? You say that you feel this way because your view of the sovereignty of God is causing you to sense that this is indirectly from God. So what?"
And if they say, "So I'm giving in to it," that would be one issue. Or they might say, "So I'm having trouble seeing him as righteous," which would be another issue. Another would be, "So it seems to me that it's not a real temptation anymore: it's the will of God."
Those would each be different responses as to what effect this view is having. And all of them would be mistakes.
I would then try to take them to the Bible and say that it clearly shows that God is indirectly behind temptation. Judas is a plan! Peter, being tested (tempted), is a plan! Jesus knew it was going to happen. He predicted it. He prayed for him. He said, 'When you turn, strengthen your brothers.'
The sufferings that come into our life are gifts from God, according to Hebrews 12, and they clearly tempt us to be unbelieving!
When James says, "God is not tempted and does not tempt," you have to ask, "In what sense is he not tempted?" And the answer is that he is not lured away with an experience of evil desire in his heart. God can't feel any evil desires. But you can objectively present him with a temptation, a test. (You shouldn't, but you can.) So he can be tempted in that way, but not any other way. He doesn't ever feel any inward hunger for evil. He doesn't have any sinful desires that are luring him, drawing him. And that's what he doesn't do: he doesn't plant those in us. They come from our will, they come from Satan.
The question this person is raising is, "But doesn't he ordain it? Couldn't he stop it?" And the answer is, "Yes. He could stop it. But he doesn't stop it, even though he knows it's going to happen. Therefore he ordains it."
So how would you counsel me? I would say, "Rejoice that God has given you the insight into his sovereignty. But do not infer from God's total sovereignty over all evil that it is less evil. Don't infer from your being lured away into greed or into anger or into lust that that lure is somehow less wicked and less horrible and less displeasing to the Lord."
In other words, enlarge your capacities to understand the sovereignty of God by saying, "God can ordain something he absolutely abhors!"
If you can't pull that off—if you don't have a category in your brain for God ordaining something to happen which he abhors, then the view of God's sovereignty will make you feel like temptations are not really temptations, and you might as well do them because, "Que sera, sera! God's in charge of everything anyway; let's just eat, drink, and be merry, because we're all puppets." And that would be a dramatically unbiblical view of the sovereignty of God.
God does ordain all things that come to pass, ultimately. And he abhors some of them for what they are in and of themselves. And therefore we should abhor them for what they are in and of themselves. And we should then flee temptation, flee fornication, flee greed, even though it is ordained. God has ordained it that we flee it! God has ordained it that we would see it as ugly and be refined by rejecting it!
That's what I would do in my counsel.