Popular culture represents it with two figures on our shoulders; one angel urging us to do the right thing, and one devil luring us toward the wrong thing. We are just the helpless pawns who must choose between these two opposing forces. We're neutral like Switzerland, and these warring factions keep trying to turn us to their cause.
It makes for a good cartoon, but is off theologically.
When Adam and Eve were created, they were sinless, perfect, and innocent. No evil inclinations were at work in them, no toying with evil thoughts distracted them. Their only negative directive (in the sense of something they should not do), was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They complied...for a while.
The popular picture of the tempting devil probably has its origins in the story of the Garden of Eden; innocent Adam and Eve being enticed and convinced to do that which they shouldn't. Satan made a house call to accomplish his goal. Adam and Eve succumbed. Once they partook of the fruit, evil no longer resided as a force outside of themselves. It had come to live within them. They, and all their descendants, no longer needed a serpent to lead them astray. The human race had become corrupted.
While Christians will say that they are involved in spiritual warfare, fighting suggestions from the devil and demons, they fail to realize that the greatest temptations come from the spark of evil within ourselves. Outside forces may fan the flames, but the fire starts with us.
James puts it this way:
James 1:14-15There is no mention of Satan and his minions, which is not to say that they are not at work, but simply that they are not required for evil to exist in the world. We are our own worst enemies, spiritually speaking.
"but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
Never again in scripture do we see Satan tempting humans face to face, that is, until Jesus enters the wilderness to be tempted for forty days. Once again he graces scripture in a direct interaction with another human.
"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit in to the desert to be tempted by the devil."
Jesus had to be tempted in the wilderness because he had no inner inclination to sin. As a perfect and sinless human, original sin was not present in him to urge him towards evil. Temptation had to come from outside of himself. He was the second Adam, facing the new litmus test for humanity. Satan had a chance, once again, to try and corrupt God's plan.
Jesus became the first human to remain pure. He was Adam 2.0...Cosmic Reboot.
"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted."
More coming later........