temptation_-_cat_and_goldfish_bowl

One of the first things I dealt with as a serious Christian was the distraction of worship. There are two ways that we can try and worship God. One way is in Spirit and in truth and the other way is according to our own preferences which are outside of the Spirit’s leading. It’s not wrong for us to have preferences, but it is wrong for us to base our decisions on those preferences. There are many times that we, as Christians, will use proper worship as an excuse not to actually do God’s work.

Imagine that there is a group of people who are just lost in sin. We will use our desire to please God as an excuse not to engage those people even though God loves them and actually wants us to reach them with the good news about Christ. Sometimes in our lives, there are things that seem so right that can actually be wrong. Such is the case with our staying away from people we perceive as sinful. Jesus Himself dealt with some of these.

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Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

But He answered, “It is written:

Man must not live on bread alone

but on every word that comes

from the mouth of God.”

Then the Devil took Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

He will give His angels orders concerning you,

and they will support you with their hands

so that you will not strike

your foot against a stone.”

Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”

Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”

Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written:

Worship the Lord your God,

and serve only Him.”

Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.[1]

 

Here we read Matthew’s account of when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness. In the first temptation, Jesus was hungry and Satan went to Him telling Him to take some stones and make them into bread. This temptation strikes me as odd in this way: When I am hungry I usually do not see it as wrong to eat something and satisfy that hunger. Remember here that Matthew is a Jew and he is writing to Jews about the Messiah. The serpent in the Garden of Eden first tempted people to sin against God by eating what was forbidden. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Where people fell, Christ restored.

Here’s what I learn about the nature of temptation: Desire is not evil, but Satan will use our own desires to tempt us to do evil. For instance, God created people for intimacy. Intimacy is not wrong and sexuality is not evil. God created these things. Satan can use these desires to tempt us to do evil. Sexuality outside of the bonds of marriage becomes an insult to God because God established the marriage covenant. Satan is sneaky, using what God created to be good for evil.

Jesus responded by telling Satan that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Here He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. If we live only to fulfill our desires, then we will not be satisfied in life because we will always get hungry again we eat to satisfy our hunger and then need to eat again later. When we fulfill our desire for intimacy, that fulfillment ends and the desire begins to grow within us again. Our desires must be used as an avenue through which we live to please God. This is the only way that we can experience true satisfaction in life.

In the second temptation, Satan asked Jesus to prove His power and authority by jumping from the temple and calling the angels to save Him. There will be times when we are tempted to prove that we are right even when it means failing to accomplish the purpose that God has for us. We should consider the fact that even Jesus, at this point, was unwilling to show His authority. Instead, He practiced understanding and worked to serve other people. This should serve as an example for our lives.

Thirdly, Satan tempted Jesus with immediate authority and power and Christ turned it down. What I learn here is simply that we do not have to gain in this life. Instead, we empty ourselves in this life and gain in eternity.

 

Jesus successfully resisted all temptation. That is something that we cannot do because of sin. This is why it becomes so important for us to trust in God’s forgiveness and mercy and to have the same forgiveness and mercy toward others. Temptation can be very sneaky. Even what is wrong can feel so right.

If you find it difficult to decipher between right and wrong, you are not alone. The important thing is that we try to honor God with our lives. Christ offers unlimited forgiveness and good guidance to everyone who believes in Him.

 

[1] Matthew 4:1-11 (HCSB)

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