Our Lord’s temptations

I really like what Selwyn has written today, especially this bit: “I must remind you of what I said earlier about Christ meeting us, not at the surface of life where there are many differences, but in the depths where we are all the same. Underneath all temptations, the basic issue is this – an enticement to act independently of God.

In today’s study, Selwyn puts these questions to us: “Was our Lord put through the same pressures that we go through when we are tempted to go another way than God’s? … Did Jesus, (as a man,) experience the temptation to take an easier road – to act independently of God?”

In Matthew 4:1-11 (NLT), the verses (set for reading and meditation), clearly demonstrate three different ways used by Satan to tempt Jesus, starting with the temptation to use His power to satisfy His own human needs, and ending with the temptation to avoid the pain and torment of the cross. That is, to act independently to God’s will!

[Matthew 4:1-11]  “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.  During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.”

I think, it’s also interesting that Satan knows Scripture; and, tried to use it to tempt Jesus: “For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. …”  Even today, we have people who misuse Scripture to support their unique, personal interpretations of God’s will – a good test, is to ask the question – ‘Does the interpretation align well with what the entire Bible says?’

Another part of Selwyn’s study, which I thought was very well expressed, is this: ” … the first Adam failed in a garden feasting, but the second Adam triumphed in a wilderness fasting … “. What did you find to be useful for you in today’s study?

In Hebrews 4:14-16 (NLT), we read these great words: “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours (Jesus) understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings (temptations) we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”

This is the confidence we have – Jesus understands our weaknesses; when we approach His throne, we will find that He will help us, when we need it most. You can count on His help – because He loves you.

The answer to temptation

I would like to think that Selwyn’s distinction between trial and temptation was that simple. For example, he uses the case of Job and says: “He lost his family, his home, his cattle, his health – everything. There was nothing immoral involved in those trials, although of course, in Job’s case we have to recognise that there were not just natural disasters but were bought about by sinister intent.”

In Job 1:9-11 (NIV), we read about the intent of these trials – to present Job with the temptation to curse God: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

My point being – that often trials do contain an element of temptation;  an element that often involves our relationship with God.

He concludes today’s study, with an answer to the question: “How do we resist temptation? The biblical answer is so simple that many stumble over it. It is found in the text before us today, and the word I want to focus on is self-control. [Galatians 5:22-26 (NLT): ” … the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”]

Selwyn continues: “The Greek word (for self-control) literally means ‘in strength’,  and that’s exactly what happens when the Holy Spirit resides in us – He comes in to strengthen us on the inside. In other words, God promises that through His Spirit, we will be able to master our turbulent feelings in the moment of temptation.”

It’s my view, that to follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives; requires communication (prayer) to discern our Holy Spirit’s leading – in the same way that we grow in spiritual maturity to better recognise the paths which lead to temptation; and then we apply His strength (through our self-control)  to avoid sin. 

What are your views on this issue?

 

Anything but temptation

The next issue which Selwyn addresses, is temptation – we will all face temptation – and, as Selwyn writes in today’s study, ‘no one has experienced such a depth or degree of temptation as our Lord’.

I think that what Selwyn has to say about temptations and trials is useful, as well as being very clear and concise – and so, I’ll reproduce a good part of his conclusion (as follows).

It is important to differentiate between a trial and a temptation. Generally speaking, a trial is an ordeal or a test of our faith, while a temptation is a deliberate enticement to do something other than God’s best for us. … Normally there is nothing immoral involved in experiencing a trial. More often than not, it is a hardship, an ordeal; temptation involves a definite enticement to immediate self-gratification. The dictionary says: ‘To temp someone is to beguile them to do wrong, by promise of pleasure, (power) or gain.’ Temptation motivates a person to be bad by promising something that appears to be ‘good’.”

In Genesis 2:1-7  (NKJV), we have a good example of temptation: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  [The attractive (false) promise presented in a way to suggest that the gain was worth the risk of disobedience.]

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. [The promise appeared to be true because it was wrapped in a covering of desire – it looked ‘good’ to the eyes.]

She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. … “ 

Temptation only works because ‘it’ promises something that we desire; and, at that moment, we think it’s worth the risk (regarding adverse consequences).  The other interesting aspect of the above verses, is this – Adam and Eve, who did not have a sinful nature (before they ate the fruit) were still vulnerable to temptation.

Well, how do we as Christians deal with temptation ? The answer always starts with prayer; with the knowledge that Jesus will never allow Satan to tempt us beyond what we can bear.

This aspect is covered in the last half, of today’s verses set for reading and meditation, 1 Corinthians 10:9-13 (NLT): ” … Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them [Israelites – those who were following Moses in the desert.] did and then died from snakebites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

One last point, a common response from those in this world – is, ‘that everyone is doing it’ – it’s natural to be tempted and to satisfy our desires. However, we know from the examples given to us (we, who  live in the end-times) in Scripture as a warning – that anyone who allows temptation to control their nature – will die. Any comments?