Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Temptations of Sustenance, Security & Significance

Matt 4:1-11 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." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. 

Note that it is the Spirit that led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil, which means that temptation is allowed by God to try our character--whether we have what it takes to resist evil. Temptation is not sin yet, but it can lead to sin. However, temptation is allowed to reveal any weakness within us and to confirm our strength in the Lord. While the Lord has taught us to pray, "Lead us not into temptation", it is not so much a prayer of avoidance but of deliverance - not to yield to temptation. However, in our daily interactions, we may face many situations where our character is tested. We need to pray for deliverance from such  temptations.

The first temptation of Jesus is directed at his physical need for SUSTENANCE. Note that temptation does not come in obviously sinful form. It's often deceptive and dressed up with good intentions. Eating when you are hungry is not sin--it is a legitimate need. The issue here is not food but authority--would Jesus listen to the devil's or God's voice? Even if the devil's voice is suggesting something legitimate (like eating), it becomes sin when it is not of God. So Paul exhorts us in 1 Cor 10:31 "whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Many times, the devil's temptation appeals to legitimate needs of ours and when we fail to discern the source, we fall into sin. Jesus' reply reveals the heart of this temptation - obedience to God's word or the devil's word: "Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."

The second temptation of Jesus is directed at his psychological need for SECURITY. The devil wanted Jesus to prove that God would rescue him when he faced dangers, quoting Scripture to support his temptation! So, the devil suggested that Jesus should put God's word to the test by jumping off the top of the temple. But Jesus' reply is: "Do not put the Lord your God to a test." Notice that Jesus submitted to God's word rather than the devil's suggestion. Again the devil appealed to Jesus' legitimate need for security in God and suggested Jesus tested God's promise in His word. Jesus rejected this suggestion. Unfortunately, many believers put God to a test daily when they eat recklessly while claiming God's healing promises. We cannot put ourselves in life-threatening situations and expect God to deliver us. Scripture is quite clear about this: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Gal 6:7).

The final temptation of Jesus is directed at his spiritual need for SIGNIFICANCE. The devil offered Jesus the short-cut to self-actualization of becoming King of kings--minus the Cross. The temptation is to have the Crown without the Cross. It is an offer of significance without the need to carry the self-denying cross. Many Christians have yielded to this temptation of significance in the workplaces by compromising their moral principles and ethical values because it's too painful to take the integrity stand - to go against the grain of profit-at-any-cost ethics in the marketplace. The need for significance is a legitimate one because God has promised to exalt those who humble themselves--but only through the self-denying way of the Cross. There can be no Crown without the Cross. The short-cut to prosperity and success is a deadly temptation. Jesus' reply to the devil is: "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" -  that is the true path to significance, not only in this world but also in the world to come. The power to resist the temptation of worldly significance is to worship God and serve Him only.

Father, help us discern Your voice in the midst of seductive voices coming from the devil and the world to get our sustenance, security and significance apart from obedience to You. May You deliver us from temptations to take short-cuts to achieve these legitimate goals. Fill us with Your presence and the vision of Your Kingdom. May we always seek first Your Kingdom and righteousness.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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