Friday, February 15, 2013

Temptation


Anyone who claims to never have been tempted is a liar. And anyone who claims to never have given in to temptation, is also a liar. We are all tempted, many times and in many ways. Even Jesus was tempted by the devil. Luke 4:1-13 tells the story of Jesus in the desert.

After his baptism, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and led into the desert where he wandered for 40 days. During this time, he fasted. The devil came to him and pointed out that if Jesus were the Son of God, he could easily turn a stone into a loaf of bread. But Jesus did not. Instead... "Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"" (Luke 4:4).

Then the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and offered them to Jesus in return for Jesus worshipping him. Again, Jesus did not. "Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"" (Luke 4:8).

Finally, the devil brought him to the top of the temple and told him to throw himself off and that if he is the Son of God, the angels would protect him. And once again, Jesus did not. "Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"" (Luke 4:12).

These three temptations are indicative of the temptations we all face.

The temptation to depend on oneself and one's own strength; and to put our physical needs above our spiritual needs.
The temptation of power, money, stuff, often at the expense of abandoning God.
The temptation of putting God to the test; of believing we can do what we wish and that God will step in to protect us.

What are you tempted by? What weaknesses does Satan try to tempt you with? Perhaps you have a weakness for alcohol or drugs. Perhaps it's money. Or sex. Perhaps it's doing whatever it takes to get promoted in your job. Perhaps it's doing whatever it takes for people to notice and appreciate you.

There is nothing wrong with wanting money. Or with desiring food. Or hoping for a promotion at work. Where the sin comes into play is when we bypass God's wishes for us - when we ignore God's will - to achieve these things. When we stop praying to God and worshipping him, and instead take matters into our own hands, this is when we sin.

When we have an addiction, such an intense craving or need for anything - alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc. - and we believe we have the power to overcome these on our own, and that we do not need God - this can be considered a sin as well. Granted, yes, most addictions are diseases. However, there is a link additionally to a realization that we cannot do it on our own. We must give ourselves to God. We must pray. We must not allow ourselves to 'worship' these temptations Satan puts before us.

How many of you have ever done something dangerous? How many of you have simply shrugged your shoulders and said that if it is your time to go, it's your time to go. You may call it living life to its fullest. But what it is more often is testing God.

Or perhaps you're dealing with an illness and you decided to "try" God's plan. You haven't fully committed yourself to God and his plan. You've basically given God a time-frame in which to heal you - and if he doesn't meet that deadline, you'll try something else. You've given God an ulitmatum. Or, maybe you're one of those who says "I'll put it in God's hands" and that's as far as it goes. You've basically just told God "here, you do it, I have better things to do." Don't misunderstand this - it is important to give your problems to God. It is important to trust in him to be there and to help you. But doing so does not relieve you of responsibility. It's like a child in the classroom... the teacher gives him an assignment, which the student doesn't understand and doesn't fully try to understand. He goes to the teacher and hands the worksheet to her, stating "here, you do it for me" and then goes to recess.

We will always be tempted. Satan will always be waiting for us to be at our weakest - just as he did with Jesus, after Jesus had been wandering and fasting for 40 days. We can't change this. But we can change how we react to those temptations.

When faced with temptation, we must turn to the Lord for strength. Pray. Ask him for the strength and courage to resist that temptation. Absorb ourselves in reading his word. Meditate. Go out and provide service for someone else in his name in order to replace the temptation with something good. Repent when you fail to resist temptation.

Trust in the Lord to help you through times of temptation.

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