Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dealing With Temptations

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Matthew 4:1-3

As we read in Matthew 4:1-3, Jesus was approached by Satan with three temptations at the end of a forty-day fast. Notice how crafty Satan is! He always tempts us when we are most vulnerable. He comes when we are physically weak or when our child is sick and dies. He comes when we are promoted and successful. He comes when we are downcast and depressed. Satan knows when to come.

The first temptation was based on the personal need of Jesus. The Holy Spirit had led Jesus into the desert where there were wild animals but no food. After forty days and nights of fasting, Jesus was famished, and it was then that Satan came to tempt him. We do not know if the temptation took place in the form of a vision or literally, but it reminds us of the time when God led the people of Israel into the wilderness and humbled them by causing them to hunger. Why did he do this? He wanted to see what was in their hearts and to see whether they would be loyal to him or not (Deut. 8:2-3). At that time the Israelites chose to murmur against Jehovah.

Now we see the true Israelite, Jesus Christ, in the wilderness, and like he did with the people of Israel, God was humbling Jesus and causing him to suffer hunger. (PGM) The question is, would Jesus murmur against the Father, who had just declared, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased"?

It was at this moment that Satan came to Jesus with the first temptation. He began "If you are the Son of God. . . ." Now, Satan did not mean that Jesus's sonhood was doubtful. What Satan was saying was, "Jesus, because you are the Son of God, as you heard your Father say at the time of your baptism, then you know that you have the power and authority of God himself. Aren't you hungry? And isn't eating a legitimate activity? We both know this is a wilderness and there is no food here. But don't you think it would be all right to make stones into bread? After all, you are the Son of God and have power to command the stones to become bread. It would be so simple, and then you could eat. So, Jesus, why don't you go ahead and prove yourself as Son? Make some bread. It would be ridiculous for the Son of God to go hungry when he could do something about it, wouldn't it?"

The second temptation had to do with a public spectacle. In a vision or literally Jesus was led to the highest place in the temple complex--the pinnacle of the outer wall, probably the southeast corner of the wall which overlooked the Kidron Valley more than one hundred feet below.

What was Satan's temptation? "Now, Jesus," Satan was probably saying, "aren't you the Son of God who can do all things? Now I understand that you believe in the Bible and its authority and you will not do anything contrary to Scripture. But let me ask you about a scripture." You see, the devil knows Scripture, isn't that true? "You see, I also believe in God's word and tremble. But Jesus, I want to ask you about Psalm 91:11-12. Doesn't it say, 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'? My question is, why don't you cast yourself down, Jesus? Won't God command angels to bear you up and prevent any harm from coming to you?

We can imagine how the devil would continue to taunt Jesus. "This would be such a great feat, Jesus. It would give you instant popularity among the people. Then you would certainly be known as the Messiah. Besides, isn't there a rabbinical tradition that says that when the King Messiah reveals himself, he will come and stand on the roof of the Holy Place? And Jesus, you really have nothing to worry about. Isn't this the holy city where God dwells? His presence is so thick in this place. I know he would never forget you."

Finally, the devil would conclude, "So, Jesus, I urge you: Jump! Be popular! Receive the acclamation from people. Be the popular Messiah rather than the suffering Messiah. Say goodbye to this path of humiliation, this suffering servant idea. Forget about everything and jump!"

Let me assure you, the devil may believe in the Scripture but he interprets it falsely. And many Christian people interpret Scripture the same way the devil interprets it. They pick and choose verses to prove their particular interests.

The devil uses scriptures to oppose Scripture. The devil uses scriptures in the same manner that theologians and cult leaders use them. He refuses to believe in the unity of Scripture and that scriptura ex scriptura explicanda est --scripture is explained by Scripture.

Psalm 91 speaks about God's protection for those who are godly, who trust in him implicitly and dwell in his presence. It does not speak of God's protection of those who act rashly, of those who manipulate God, of those who provoke God, of those who challenge God, and of those who demand that God act in a certain way.

Like the devil, many Christians use scriptures to provoke God. Suppose you are a student and you come to church and say, "I am not going to study or anything. God will take care of me." That is provoking God. That is the devil's way of interpreting Scripture. Suppose you are a person who refuses to take care of your body but you want perfect health. What would you say? "God will take care of me as I indulge in every vice." Suppose you want to be wealthy but you refuse to work. What do you say? "God, you are supposed to provide for me. Now do it!" That is provoking God. Suppose you want to be saved and yet refuse to make use of the means of grace. Suppose you want your children to grow up as obedient children, submissive to God's word, and yet you refuse to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. All that is provoking God. All that represents demonic use of Scripture.

The third temptation represented the goal of all temptation--demon worship, Satan worship, idolatry. It was the mother of all temptations. We are told the devil took Jesus, either in a vision or literally, to a very high mountain. And Luke tells us that the devil showed Jesus, in an instant, all the kingdoms of the world in all of their glory and splendor. Notice, Satan carefully hid the corruption of these kingdoms and showed only the external splendor--the art, the architecture, the armies, the wealth, the power, the thrones, the banquets, the beautiful women.

What was the price? "All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me," Satan told Jesus. The price was Satan worship, in other words. Why? Satan craves for worship. Only God is to be worshiped, but Satan, in his opposition to God, wants to be God and seeks to be worshiped. And let me tell you, billions of people in the world worship Satan on a daily basis. Most religions are teaching this one thing: to worship Satan. Now we must ask a question: Can Satan give us anything? No. Why? He owns nothing. If Satan owned anything, then God would not be sovereign. But God is sovereign and he owns all. Whatever power Satan exercises over his demons and wicked people is given to him by divine permission. We are told in the Bible that when believers walk wickedly, God even hands them over to Satan for him to deal with them. Satan is simply a tool of God.

But now you must get rid of all such things -- anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!
Colossians 3:8-11

Even in "civilized" societies like the Roman Empire, Nazi Germany or perhaps even in today's United States, we are inclined to act out in anger, wrath, malice among other things. We shouldn't assume that our technologies and modern ways of living insulate us from the consequences of sin.

National Geographic aptly described the legacy of the Roman Empire in The World According to Rome:

The enduring Roman influence is reflected pervasively in contemporary language, literature, legal codes, government, architecture, engineering, medicine, sports, arts, etc. Much of it is so deeply inbedded that we barely notice our debt to ancient Rome. Consider language, for example. Fewer and fewer people today claim to know Latin - and yet, go back to the first sentence in this paragraph. If we removed all the words drawn directly from Latin, that sentence would read; "The."
The World According to Rome" National Geographic Vol. 2 No. 2 1997 p. 54.

(Note)The final statement is not entirely accurate (in terms of the linguistic etymology): many words with Latin roots, such as engineering and sports, were borrowed from French and were thus derived indirectly, while the main verb and the preposition in the first sentence are native English forms.

Our modern military certainly takes much of its doctrine and tactics from the Nazis. German scientists discovered the definite link between smoking and lung cancer. Animals were protected in Nazi Germany with some deviations of course. Both societies were the hallmark of efficiency in their day.

I'm in favor of a well-trained military that is used for national defense, not being the world's police force. I don't smoke, but I will defend other's right to smoke if they choose to do so. I abhor cockfighting, dogfighting, and the killing of animals for sport, but I enjoy eating chicken and have had hamburgers ever cognizance that a cow had to be slaughtered for my enjoyment. I grew up a wrestling fan although I don't follow it much these days. I don't like the UFC, don't care for boxing and would not watch an execution. I do however enjoy watching female mud/oil/jello wrestling or what have you and if necessary I will kill someone in self-defense or defense of others.
Plus, like everyone else, sexual temptation is there too. I look and I dream about it, but I don't act on it.

I, like everyone else is ironic. What I have to do is recognize the temptations and minimize its influence on me so it doesn't draw me away from God.

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