“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

The shocking story of David’s fall into great sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11) is a vivid illustration of this verse from James, which teaches something we might the “cycle of sin”. If you want to have a reasonably happy and fulfilled life, understanding the cycle of sin is something that would be beneficial.

The first step in the cycle of sin is desire.

“But each person is tempted…by his own desire,” James writes. We often think of sin as something outside of us that blindsides us out of nowhere. When David walked out on his roof that fateful night of his great sin, he wasn’t thinking, “I think tonight I’d like to destroy my family and my future.” Then Bathsheba appeared unexpectedly on the roof. And began bathing herself. Foul temptress!

But the temptation that stirred in David’s heart awakened from within him. It wasn’t his desire that was wrong. God made us sexual beings, and the longings we feel are a beautiful gift he has given to the human race. What makes desire evil is the yearning to fulfill that desire in a way that God denies. Bathsheba was not for him. End of discussion.

Notice then where temptation meets us – at the point where our desires meet up with God’s boundaries. What should David have done at this moment? At this stage in the cycle of sin, we’re to resist. I fight the desire to sin with a bit of grace-fueled discipline and simple obedience. Temptations at this stage are like bubbles. What do you do when bad desires drift by and you don’t want to get slimed? You pop them. Push them away. Get off the roof David. Go write a psalm.

Atomic Habits guru James Clear tells the story of a hospital that wanted its employees to be healthier, so it put its soda machines in hidden alcoves, and set up water stations everywhere. Soda use plummeted. Not because the employees had so much will-power. But because visual temptation plummeted by popping the soda machine bubbles.

If you don’t resist at this step, then you’ve just made things a lot harder on yourself moving forward.

Because the second step on the cycle of sin is deceit.

James writes, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” This is where the desire to sin presents itself to my mind with reasoned arguments.

Temptation, when you let it breathe, will in short order cause you to question God’s boundaries. It was the original temptation, in the Garden of Eden. God tells Adam and Eve, “You can eat of any tree you like, just not this one.” The fruit on this tree though looked as good as the fruit on the other trees, and it awakened good desires for food within Adam and Eve.

The devil comes along and meets Adam and Eve at the point where their desires and God’s boundaries meet. And at once Satan says, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” With temptation comes deception, a twisting of the truth that causes us to doubt what God has said.

Rather than resist, the story tells us that David “sent and inquired about the woman.” This is David telling the devil, “Hey, grab yourself a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, let’s talk about this. Maybe we can work something out.” Now it’s not as simple as popping a bubble. Now the temptation comes to us fully formed and solid, like a basketball. It’ll take more work now to push these thoughts away. But grace can meet us even here. What do we do now? We fight fire with fire. We fight the deceit of sin with a love for truth and for God.

David’s messengers come back and say to him, “Is not this Bathsheba…the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Here is God reasoning back at David, using truth from his friends to call him to his senses. She’s the wife of another man, David. A man you know. A man who fights for you. A man inspired by your own courage, your own integrity. He wants to be like you, the man after God’s own heart. The boundaries, David, remember?

This is what we need to do at this stage in our fight against sin. We reason. We fight the deceit of sin with a love for God’s truth. We call to mind the countless reasons why God’s boundaries are best. God created me to be Christlike. I’m more than an animal; I’m an image-bearer of God. Christ died to free from sin, not wallow in it. I’m an eternal creature. I need to live for more than this moment. And for more than sex. Sex is not the be-all and end-all of life. Of course it feels good up front, but boy is there a whirlwind of trouble on the backside of it. And think of all the people I will hurt if I do this. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do I really want to throw away all the closeness I’m enjoying with the Lord.

David though did not listen to his friends, or his conscience. The very next words in the story are heart-sickening. “So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.”

Which brings us to step three in the cycle of sin: disobedience.

This is flagrant in-your-face-God rebellion. James put is like this: “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” What this tells us is that our sinning is not a spontaneous, uncontrollable thing that sideswipes us out of nowhere. It’s the product of a long process of gestation.

It begins with the fertilization of a good desire with a corrupting temptation in our hearts. It then moves to the womb of our mind where we cross-examine the boundaries of God or of our conscience. We can feel the baby start to kick inside of us. Then finally the temptation is passed along to the will which decides, “Yes” or “No”. And once the will signs off on it, sin is born – a bleeding, kicking, screaming act of defiance and rebellion against our God.

At this stage, sin doesn’t come to you like a bubble, or a basketball. Now it comes to you hard, encrusted, and lethal, like a baseball or bocce ball. Getting out of harm’s way now is going to require everything from you. But don’t fall for the line that there’s no way out for you – you couldn’t help it, you were born this way, everybody’s doing it, it’s my father-wounds, etc. Even here, God stands ready to meet you and help you if you will come running to the cross of Christ, and repent.

What is astonishing about this story is that even David found God’s mercy in the end of this devilish, awful sin of his. And by the way, David’s sin is nowhere near to being finished yet.

The final step in the cycle of sin is death.

After the fall comes the fallout. Before the dust all settled on David’s rebellion, Bathsheba was pregnant, and her husband Uriah was dead on a battlefield, by order of David himself. From here on out, David will be marked as an adulterer and a murderer.

Yet even at the end of all this unspeakable evil, David would live to hear God say, “The Lord has taken away your sin.” His consequences will not be removed. The fallout is coming. But the judgment and the hell David deserved, God forgave. The way a thief on a cross a thousand years later would hear Christ say to him while he was dying, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” That in a story this awful, the good news of our faith can still be found, should speak something to each of us today.

If there was hope for David, then there is certainly hope for you, whoever you are, whatever you have done. It’s not too late. Jesus Christ will still forgive you and still begin that work of healing in your heart. But like that thief, and like David, you must humble yourself before God, confess your sin, repent, and come home now. And not waste another minute in doing it.


 See if you can summarize the Cycle Of Sin.

James 1:14-15 – The Cycle Of Sin

Step One Of Sin = Desire. Temptation meets me at the point where my desires clash with God’s boundaries. I fight the desire to sin with discipline and obedience. Key word: resist.

Step Two Of Sin = Deceit. The desire to sin presents itself to my mind with reasoned arguments. I fight the deceit of sin with a love for truth and for God. Key word: reason.

Step Three Of Sin = Disobedience. I disregard God’s boundaries and yield to the desire and deceit of sin. I fight the destructiveness of disobedience with confession. Key word: repent.

Step Four Of Sin = Death. I press on in doing what is right in my own eyes. I either change my view of God or forget him altogether. In doing so, my sin enslaves me and leads me to judgment. Key word: recoil.


Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His latest book, “Communion With Christ” is now available through Amazon. His blogs and scripts can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is also the author of “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon. 

Liked it? Take a second to support bearclifton on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!