Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Dealing With Temptation
Then the devil took Jesus into the holy city and 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 COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"
Satan tempted Jesus in three ways—1. Using God’s given authority for one’s personal benefit—food. 2. Using God’s promise for the righteous for one’s personal benefit—exaltation. 3. Serving another god in order to attain a righteous goal—Just rule of the earth
Jesus wanted food, he wanted exaltation, he wanted kingship. But he knew that God’s will was more important than anything he might want at any particular time. God promised Jesus that he is the Son of God. Jesus knew that to obtain that promise wouldn’t come from unrighteousness or from seeking things outside God’s will. Jesus retained the one focus of his life—doing God’s will no matter what it took. But in his weakness, he had to rely on God’s word to know what God’s will was. He didn’t know it within himself, in his weakened state. And so he succeeded, because he depended on God.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
Jesus declared what God’s command was: that the son of man will suffer many things; that he would be rejected by the Jewish authorities; that he would be killed; and that he would be risen on the third day. But Peter didn’t understand what God’s command was, all he understood is what the normal method of humanity was. And this is what Jesus wanted to hear, on one level. He wanted to hear that he would not suffer, not be rejected, not be killed. Jesus wanted to be comfortable, to be accepted by everyone, and to live. But God’s will took precedence. So Jesus was harsh with Peter, speaking out the name that was speaking behind Peter. Jesus rejected anything that tried to quietly call him away from God’s will and he dealt with it harshly.
And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done."
Jesus was dealing with the same temptation—to follow God’s will was to be shamed, to suffer, to die. Jesus didn’t want that, he wanted to be comfortable, to live. In his weakness, he prayed and he asked his friends to pray as well. They didn’t do very well, for they were struggling with their own temptations, but Jesus did all he could to walk in God’s way. In the end, God’s strength won out. Jesus struggled so hard, his sweat flowed as thick as blood. He had to prepare himself inwardly for the battle to come. But he was ready, thanks to the preparation the Father gave him.
"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire."
Everyone will be tested, everyone will be tempted. There’s no getting around it. But there is no reason to wallow in it, to stand in our sin until we are so weak we give in. Jesus commands us—whatever we have that causes us to sin, get rid of it. He is not speaking of body parts, by the way, he already said that the outside of the body doesn’t make one unclean, but our desires within us (Mark 7:18-23). Rather, we need to get rid of anything that stirs in us the desires that cause us to sin. We need to reject anything that drives us into sin—friends that encourage us to do what God commands us not to; thoughts that dwell on sin; places that make it easy to sin. They are just to be rejected.
I Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
Again, we will all be tempted, we will all face situations that we cannot endure—just like Jesus. But there is a way of escape, there is a way for us not to sin. God, in every situation, offers us a way of escape. We do not have to give in, no matter how hard it seems. Yes, sometimes in order to not sin we have to face suffering, as Jesus did, but doing God’s will is greater than the pleasures and miseries of sin.
Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.
To be like Jesus, we have to take sin seriously. Sin isn’t something to be taken lightly, nor is God’s will. We need to be serious and do whatever we can to reject the one and live in the other, even as Jesus did. No, we have not yet resisted sin to such a degree that we have lost our lives; we have not done God’s will to such a degree that we bled for it. But if we endure in Christ, we might have to. In that, we need to be prepared to pay whatever cost to do God’s will.
• Paul knew that it was God’s will for him to take the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. To do that, he faced shipwrecks, stoning, shame, hatred, rejection, long hours of work, and complaining against him by his own brothers and sisters in Christ. In all this, he said, he was the imitation of Jesus.
• Anthony lived in Alexandria when all the Christians around him were compromising with the world. Rather than give into that, he lived in a graveyard for years and prayed to the Lord for deliverance. The Lord instead called him to the desert to fight demons. Although he was weak in the end he won and became the father of the monastic movement.
• Thomas Aquinas was determined to live as a Dominican monk. His wealthy family insisted that he remain with them and work the family business instead. He refused and ran away to a university. His family found him and kidnapped him, locking him in a room with a prostitute to tempt him to sin. Aquinas refused to sin again and again. Finally his family realized the futility of fighting him and they allowed him to become a monk. Aquinas became the greatest theologian of all time.
Living It Out
Be serious about God’s will
Don’t take God’s will lightly. Do everything you can to know what God’s will is for you and then do all you can to do it. Seek the Lord, listen to the Spirit and do what he says.
Be alert and steel yourself up
Look around for Satan’s traps and devises. Don’t let him catch you by surprise. And prepare yourself daily to suffer whatever necessary to follow God’s will. You won’t suffer every day—most days you won’t. But that is all the more reason why we need to be ready for the struggle when it comes.
Memorize and quote passages from Scripture
Jesus leaned on the word in his weakness, and so must we. Even if we can’t read, we can still listen to the Scriptures and memorize as much of it as possible. Especially memorize the words of Jesus and quote them in times of weakness.
Get rid of the temptation
If someone is tempting you, tell them to knock it off. If you see something that tempts you, walk away. If your thoughts are tempting you with desire, purpose to think about something else—anything holy and good.
Don’t expose yourself unnecessarily to temptation
If you know that someone or some place is going to tempt you to sin, avoid them. No matter what else you were going to do there, whatever benefit you were going to gain, it is not worth risking sin and death.
Pray for deliverance and strength
Always seek God. Pray to him daily for deliverance from the things that cause you to sin. Ask him daily for strength to resist temptation. Ask him to show you the ways of escape he prepared for you. Ask, ask, ask, ask—don’t ever stop.
Lord, have mercy on we who are in darkness, blind. Dissuade us from the way of evil; Give us a longing for righteousness; Convict us by your Holy Spirit; Show us the true light of your Son. May we make a step toward you so that you may provide the increase in single-mindedness we need to gain entrance in your kingdom. Father, open our eyes.