The temptations of us
March 9, 2014 First St Johns
There is no doubt Father that we are weak vessels, we are constantly being tempted, we know that our strength is only in You, but there are times when that Old man/the Old Jim will prevail, where we will fail and give in to temptation. We also know that when we bring our failure to You, You forgive us, that You always welcome back Your prodigal child. We ask for your protection every time we pray what Jesus taught us, to remind us that it is through Your strength and power that we resist temptations, but when the Old man overtakes us, it is in Your strength that we are forgiven. Help us to remember Jesus’ example and every time we are tempted we resist by remembering Scripture, remembering our baptism into new life in our Lord Jesus. We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who will remember their baptism and the promises of Jesus in the face of temptations said … AMEN
I know, that’s kind of a tall order, to remember Scripture, to remember our baptism in the face of temptations but it is what the Father gives us to resist temptations. That is why we take time to be at worship, to be with brothers and sister in Jesus, to study Scripture, to take time to journal about our experience in confronting and over coming temptations.
Arlo Pullmann takes an illustration from C.S. Lewis: “Turkish delight is a tasty confection used by the White Witch, the self-proclaimed Queen of Narnia, to deceive poor Edmund, the son of Adam. The queen offered the Turkish delight to sate Edmund’s hunger, but the more he ate, the more he desired it. The fact is, she didn’t have what was necessary to satisfy Edmund’s most basic needs. Since she didn’t have it, she could not give it. Instead, through her deception, she caused Edmund’s downfall. He became enslaved to the wicked White Witch and brought trouble on many others, including his own brother and sisters. The deed that brought about the end of trouble and the freedom of Edmund was the self-sacrifice of the ever-good, mysterious lion, Aslan. Aslan had life and was therefore able to give it for Edmund’s sake.
Edmund, by talking to an evil one and eating what the evil one offers, mimics not only Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3: 6-7), but he’s like all of us in that we, too, [give in] to evil temptations that ultimately are not able to satisfy but leave us wanting life. Like Aslan, the Lord of life comes to our rescue. What he has, he gives. He does have life and by giving up his life on the cross, he gives us life and heavenly delight.”1
So we have bookend readings today having to do with Satan and each have to do with temptation, Satan trying to, and succeeding in, tempting the first Adam/Eve. The next, Satan trying to, and failing, to tempt Jesus, the second Adam. Satan is attempting to get Jesus to put His immediate needs, probably: hunger, thirst, fatigue, general discomfort, cold/heat, to put those needs ahead of humanity’s eternal needs, that of being in relationship with God, to be saved, to have eternal life in the resurrection.
People often say how “unfair” it is that we should all be condemned because of one man’s action. Let’s look at the facts. There they were in the Garden of Eden, does anyone doubt for a second that they had all they needed in the Garden? We all want peace, we all want to feel safe, we all have material needs. Do you think that God did not provide for all these needs in the Garden? There was nothing to be afraid of, I have no doubt that there was plenty of food and drink, that Adam and Eve lived very well, safely, peacefully, they were fully content. All they were told to do was: “See that tree over there, yea that one in the middle of all these good things, all the things that you will ever need, there is nothing I have denied you, so just leave that one little tree over there alone.” But as much as we have, there is always one temptation; to be in control, to run things, essentially, to be God. And that is exactly what Satan appealed to, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God…” And so it goes, at some point, someone, as Satan himself did, was going to decide; “I can do things better, I should run things, I should be God” and would give in to the temptation.
So let’s be honest here, we would probably all give in to the promise of ultimate power and authority. Satan succeeded in deceiving us. Deitrich Bonhoeffer notes: “It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire or ambition or vanity or desire for revenge or love of fame and power or greed for money or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, of nature. Joy in God is … extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality and only desire for the creature is real’ the only reality is the devil. Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.” Even though Adam and Eve had daily fellowship with God, Satan found a way to make Eve forget, just for a moment, God’s will and insist on her own will. We can readily see why Eve would cave, we are as human as she is, we just might cave. Jimy Akin raises a good question, “How could Jesus be tempted?”. He is God, what could Satan possibly tempt Him with. Akin goes on to say: “The Greek word used here for temptation (peirazo) does not indicate that Jesus had the disordered desire that we refer to in English as temptation. Instead, it means “to try,” “to attempt.” Here the devil tries to get Jesus to sin–and fails.”2 Yes, but, let’s never forget, Jesus is as much human as any of us, He is fully God, He is fully human. Why? We don’t know, frankly we don’t need to know. He was born of Mary, He was intended to be human and intended to experience life as much as any of us do. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) If you’ve been watching the “Bible” series on television, the way this scene was portrayed really drove this home for me. Jesus knows how this plays out, He knows that in a very short time, He is going to be unmercifully beaten, tormented and nailed into a rough cut tree, where He will be left to hang until He dies. So the scene cuts back and forth between Jesus being tortured and crucified and Jesus being crowned, I think one shot has Pilate condemning Him and in the next Pilate is crowning Him. Jesus makes the right call, but that human part of Him had to be divided: “I could be king and not have to go through all that!” But He, the Father, the Spirit are in one purpose, anything other than the sacrifice of Jesus will not free us, will not pay for our sins and that is the main purpose of the incarnation. Jesus knows full well how this has to play out and it will play out that way, but the temptation was real, as the writer of Hebrews tells us. Jesus knows, first hand, what we deal with and in the mercy of the Godhead, and in the righteousness of Christ when we give in to temptation we know we are forgiven. We will be tempted, and temptation is not a sin, Jesus was very much tempted, He showed us that temptation can be resisted, He was confronted with life and power or brutal death. But that is with the realization that we are weak and fallible vessels, we do give in to temptation, but in Him we have forgiveness.
So take some time this week, take that journal out and write out, deal with, some of the main temptations in your life. Remember Scripture, how Jesus refused to give in. If we remember our baptism and how it has made us reborn, born in the Spirit, adopted sons and daughters of the Father, how will that help us to resist the temptations, turn them over to Him and how will we feel when we have won the victory over temptations in the strength and power of Christ our Great High Priest, our Lord and our Savior?
We can act like we are a victim, we can complain that God is trying to keep us from pleasure, we can whine that we’re being cheated or we can trust the promises of Him who endured temptation and endured the humiliation of a Roman Cross, He in whose Name we are baptized and born again and defeat the temptations in our life.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.
1Arlo W Pullmann, What Truly Delights “Concordia Pulpit Vol 24, Par 2 Series A p 7