Saturday, January 21, 2012

Necessary temptation

"The Temptation" by Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 1:12-20

TO CHEW ON: "Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days tempted by Satan and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him." Mark 1:12,13

How interesting that Mark says the Spirit "drove" Jesus into the wilderness for the express purpose of experiencing full-on temptation. One gets the sense that this was a necessary and inevitable part of Jesus' ministry. Let's do a brief study of passages that link Jesus with temptation to see if they have something to teach us about the role of temptation in our own lives.

1. Temptation can be a positive thing
Matthew 4:1 (Matthew 4:1-11 is a more detailed account of Jesus' wilderness temptation) reiterates that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. My Bible's footnote on this verse makes an interesting distinction between temptation from God's point of view and Satan's:

"To be tempted from the divine standpoint means a positive test; from the devil's standpoint it implies enticement to sin; from Jesus' standpoint it is a challenge from Satan to test God's sovereignty and plan" - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1294
Perhaps we too should view temptations that come to us as positive tests—opportunities to resist Satan and prove to him and ourselves where we stand.

2. Temptation can come from unlikely places
In Matthew 16:23 Jesus rebukes Peter when he says, "This shall not happen to You" (referring to the suffering and death that Jesus has just predicted for Himself - Matthew 16:21). Jesus actually calls His friend "Satan"!

Similarly, we need to be aware that those close to us—family members, friends, colleagues—may inadvertently be the mouthpiece of temptation.

3. Resisting temptation can make us teflon
I think of teflon—that non-tick coating put on cooking pots and pans—when I read Jesus' words about Himself in John 14:30: "I will no longer talk much with you for the ruler of this world is coming and he has nothing in me." In other words, Jesus' consistent resisting of temptation made it so the devil had no condemnation he could throw at Jesus that would stick. There was no territory in Jesus' life to which he could lay claim. He could find no purchase (handhold or foothold) or chink by which to gain entrance

In the same way our resistance to temptation, or quick repentance and confession when we do sin, means that Satan will find no basis of accusation in us, no way to shut us up because he has something to throw back in our faces (as in 'You hypocrite—what makes you think you can speak against this sin when you do it yourself?').

4. Finally, Jesus' temptation reassures us that He understands
His temptation along all the lines we are tempted (Hebrews 4:15) means that He, through His Spirit, can come to our aid (Hebrews 2;18) even suggesting the way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Jesus' use of Scripture during His temptation in the wilderness is one tactic that readily comes to mind.

How wonderful that God had temptation in the plan for Jesus' life. Let's regard it as a necessary and strengthening aspect of our life on earth as God prepares us for our destiny with Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to understand that temptation is not sin. Help me to avail myself of Your Spirit's help when I am tempted, so Satan will have nothing in me. Amen.

MORE: Temptation support
"Temptation is not something we may escape, it is essential to the full-orbed life of a man. Beware lest you think you are tempted as no one else is tempted; what you go through is the common inheritance of the race, not something no one ever went through before. God does not save us from temptations; He succours us in the midst of them (Hebrews 2:18)" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, September 17th reading (emphasis added).

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