Temptation

Temptation

Temptation!  That’s something we all have to grapple with.  The NKJV uses this word 35 times.  In the Old Testament it occurs only five times and each time it is about God’s people tempting God.  Exodus 17:2&7, Deut. 6:16, Psalm 78:41, Malachi 3:15.  In each of these cases the Hebrew word should be translated “tested” instead of “tempted.”  James tells us that God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.  Evil has no sway with God.  It offers God nothing, but only offends God’s character of holiness.

We, on the other hand, can be and are tempted by evil.  Somehow, our fallen condition with knowledge of good and evil has power to work against us by allure and fleshly desires.  Our desires can be awakened and attracted to that which is evil.  Sin can have this terribly deceptive power over us so that we can be deceived by and even committed to that which is evil.  Jesus once said, “A time will come when whoever kills you will think that they are rendering service to God.”  John 16:2.  Then Jesus prayed for us, “Keep them in the truth, your word IS truth.” John 17:17.  Jesus said, “If you remain in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  Psalm 119:160 All your words are true, all your righteous ordinances are forever.

The only way we can know love is to know God.  The only way we can know truth is to know God’s word.  Jesus is the living word of God and He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but my me.”

Since God is not tempted by evil, it comes as a bit of surprise that the Bible tells us that Jesus, God’s Son was tempted. In fact, Hebrews chapter 2 and 4 teaches us that it was necessary for Him to be tempted in order to be a faithful High Priest for us.  Jesus had to become like us in all ways, so He was tempted in all ways like us, except without sin.

I will leave the texts untouched that we will be looking at tonight in our group discussions, but suffice it to say, the gospel story of Jesus being tempted by Satan has some Christians scratching their heads, wondering how it could happen.  Others simply deny that Jesus was, in fact, tempted because, well, He is divine and shares equality with God.  Here’s one answer I found interesting by a Christian apologetics writer:

If Jesus was really God, why did Satan try to tempt him? Doesn’t he know that God can’t sin?

Answer

Of course he does—that’s why he tried to tempt him. If Jesus had succumbed, the devil would have known that Jesus wasn’t the real Messiah.

Remember, the devil isn’t God—he isn’t omniscient or infallible and so doesn’t know everything. He can make mistakes.

While that is a clever answer, it is very flawed.  First, Jesus WAS tempted.  Satan didn’t try to tempt Jesus to see if He was God’s Son, He tempted Jesus BECAUSE He is God’s Son.  Every evil spirit that ever saw Jesus in the gospels would cry out in recognition of who Jesus is as the Son of God.  Satan twice uses Jesus’ oun identity as the Son of God as leverage in the temptations: “If you ARE the Son of God…”  Prove it!  Jesus mission was not simply to provide proof of who He is, but to be our sacrifice for sin.  The Father’s path for making Jesus our perfect Savior and High Priest included His being tempted in all ways like we are.  Satan was inadvertently doing things that produced that perfection in Jesus for us.  These were not merely bothersome encounters between Jesus and Satan.  They were real temptations.  Jesus was indeed tempted by them.  In being tempted, Jesus endured and overcame temptations in ways that are a model for how we may endure and overcome.  Jesus leaned on the word of God, the truth, just as we must do.  Jesus provided a model for us to follow.

What temptations do you and I face today?  It is interesting that after He was baptized and had fasted 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus was tempted three times by Satan.  In this, Jesus is the embodiment of Israel in the wilderness, and instead of failing, Jesus was faithful.  These three temptations correspond to the three ways we are all tempted according to 1 John 2:16 For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.

James 1 describes temptation this way:

14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

We simply MUST see how dangerous temptation is.  We MUST realize the life and death balance that is before us.  Christians who take sin lightly simply can NOT see what they are dealing with.  We need a Christ centered faith.  We need to fix our eyes on Christ on the cross and see what sin costs.  Only when we take sin seriously and believe what the Bible says about it and its consequences will we begin to equip ourselves against the tempter’s power.

Keith Green wrote a song in the late 70’s or early 80’s where the devil sings:

Oh, my job keeps getting easier

As time keeps slipping away

I can imitate your brightest light

And make your night look just like day

I put some truth in every lie

To tickle itching ears

You know I’m drawing people just like flies

‘Cause they like what they hear

I’m gaining power by the hour

They’re falling by the score

You know, it’s getting very simple now

‘Cause no one believe in me anymore

Oh, heaven’s just a state of mind

My books read on your shelf

And have you heard that God is dead?

I made that one up myself

They dabble in magic spells

They get their fortunes read

You know they heard the truth

But turned away and followed me instead

I used to have to sneak around

But now they just open their doors

You know, no ones watching for my tricks

Because no one believes in me anymore

Everyone likes a winner

With my help, you’re guaranteed to win

And hey, man, you ain’t no sinner

You’ve got the truth within

And as your life slips by

You believe the lie that you did it on your own

But don’t worry

I’ll be there to help you share our dark eternal home

Oh, my job keeps getting easier

As day slips into day

The magazines, the newspapers

Print every word I say

This world is just my spinning top

It’s all like childs-play

You know, I dream that it will never stop

But I know it’s not that way

Still my work goes on and on

Always stronger than before

I’m gonna make it dark before the dawn

Since no one believes in me anymore

God’s word speaks of an enemy of the saints called Satan, or the devil, or Lucifer, the serpent of old.  Those who have walked with God throughout the ages have all experienced his temptations. The Bible reveals to us that he is real. He is dangerous.  He is evil.  Jesus said he is a liar and the father of lies.  He has been cast down and that he goes about like a roaring Lion seeking whom he may devour.  Jesus came here to destroy the works of the devil, and to free those who have been captivated by him to do his will.  The book of Job reveals how he accuses God’s people and seeks permission from God to sift and test God’s people.  His days are numbered and ultimately his power is broken, but while he can, he seeks to kill and steal and destroy.  His greatest tool is the deception of sin, and our weakness of the flesh to desire it.

As God said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door, but you must master it.”  We are given both empowerment and instruction in how to face and have victory over sin.  The question is, will we listen to God, trust Him and do what He says, or will we listen to the deceiver and follow his lies?  Jesus, our Lord and Savior, did not stray.  We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, has defeated Satan, sin and death.  He has paid for your sins and mine.  Will we listen to Him and follow His words as the way of truth?  Will we resist evil and do good?  Do you need strength to do that?

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