Temptation Eyes James 1: 12-18 First St Johns Feb 22, 2015

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 have remained steadfast under trial said … AMEN!

In the early 1970’s, one of the first songs that I remember as a teen, ironically, was by a group called the Grass Roots, titled “Temptation Eyes”. It was a hard driving rock song, which, really characterizes temptation. For me, temptation is sort of this hard driving, almost drilling into you this desire, you just have to have it. The lyrics, for a secular song, really do give you a sense of temptation. “She’s got something that moves my soul…”[1] A secular song talking about something that reaches right down into the soul. This temptation that is so compelling is moving this singer with a hard rock rhythm.

Have no doubt that when Jesus was being tempted by Satan, Jesus was feeling temptation that was drilling down into Him. The desert is not a welcoming place, it’s hot, it’s dry (unless of course it’s snowing and freezing rain in York, then it’s almost inviting.) temptation for shelter from the sun, for cool, refreshing water, for food, is compelling in the desert. But as the writer of Hebrews tells us: “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. This passage assures us that Jesus did suffer. He felt temptation deep down. He knows that we are tempted and He knows that temptation can steer us to things that aren’t good for us, that take our eyes off of Him who is our hope and promise. But also because of this we know that we can trust Him.

Too often we deal with things in our lives that reach down into our soul. Others will try to give us comfort and assurance, “oh it’s nothing”, we can stay strong and cope. It’s a big difference between men and women. There are things women contend with, that they are tempted by, that as men we just don’t get. We just cannot empathize with the compulsion they feel. And certainly vice versa. We can tell each other nice things, and think that we are helping, but too often we really aren’t and may be aggravating the situation. However, with Jesus, based on James’ words and of the writer of Hebrews, we are assured that Jesus understands. Too often we get an image of God as angry and vengeful, just waiting to strike us down when we are even so much as tempted. That is God to many, to those who are not saved in Jesus. But we, who are saved in Jesus, who are born again as new men and women, saved in Christ, we have a Savior who understands, who wants to help us push back against temptation before we are overwhelmed and give in. Temptation is not a sin, Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted (Mark 1:13), we certainly know that Jesus did not sin. But for us, who are weak in ourselves, it is much too easy for that temptation to push us into something that is sin. James writes: “…each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jas 1:14-15) Temptation is all around us, the Ben and Jerry’s you know is in the freezer, anger, vengeance, doing things that hurt you and someone else. Turn on the television, computer, books, magazines, its everywhere. When we give in to sin, we come up with excuses and rationalizations that push Jesus away and make that sin an idol, and then we cross the line and commit sin.

Our Savior understands that, He’s not standing over us just waiting for us to make that wrong move, that gotcha. He has been there, in this time of Lent we remember His time in the desert. From that Jesus can relate to those who are His, because, as the writer of Hebrews pens: “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,…” (Heb 4:15), but then goes on to say, “yet without sin.”

Jesus knows what confronts us, He does relate to us. Even more, if we let Him, the Holy Spirit will reach down and strengthen us. We often think of that sin as a treat, we pooh-pooh things like over indulging in food. It’s not healthy for us, it’s weakening our body, it makes us less able to serve Jesus and our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Sure in moderation, but in this day and age? We are not a moderate people. Have you seen Ben and Jerry’s concoction, formulated by Jimmy Fallon, it puts me into a diabetic coma just looking at it.

It does make you wonder, why Satan would even try with Jesus. Satan knows as well as anyone how this is going to end up. But he wants us to fail. He wants us to quit. Clearly Jesus had come into the world to mess up Satan’s plans and schemes. You can’t expect Satan to just twiddle his thumbs while Jesus undoes all the evil and sin of the world. You can’t expect him to give up, he wants to unravel the world, he’s condemned, he wants everyone condemned. So he had to push back against Jesus. But Satan isn’t normally over the top, he’s not usually in your face. He is usually subtle, continually trying to undermine us. He’s putting temptation in front of you so that you will quit and give in. You will stop caring about what Jesus wants and only focus on the object of your desire.

Writing about our vocations in life; work, family, church, community; “Wingren says that ‘Temptation in vocation is the devil’s attempt to get man out of his vocation” (121) Dr Gene Veith goes on to write: The devil wants you to quit. He wants you to quit your job. He wants you to get a divorce. He wants you to stop doing things for that ungrateful bunch at church. He wants you to tell your kids to ‘Do whatever you want to do. I give up.’ He wants you to leave that congregation because it’s nothing but trouble.”[2] Is that not the world we see today? Left and right we see this giving into temptation. Not just the obvious temptations, lust, gluttony, greed, anger etc. The more subtle temptation of giving up. Why try? The government will provide for you, some relative will provide for you, the church, should, provide for you. Why try at work? People are just mean to you there. Why try in your marriage? If someone doesn’t make you happy, dump ‘em. Why try with your kids, they’re just going to do what they want. Why try with your church? The pastor is hopeless, nothing good is happening and of course, we know that the church is just full of hypocrites anyway.

Yea, the quitter mentality we see in the world today. You can give into the world, you can let Satan lead you away and give into the temptation that he waves in front of you to quit, to give up. Jesus could have quit out in the desert, just packed it in, “hey, not my problem, they’re going to have to deal with this temptation stuff themselves.” He didn’t! He was faithful to you, to make sure you had that hope and promise that you have a Savior who will not quit on you. He gives us the faith to continue to trust in Him, but we just go ahead and chuck it? Then what? Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus is telling the readers that they will face terrible tribulation. Jesus promises the one who overcomes: “The one who conquers and keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations… He will be clothed in white garments and I will never blot out his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels…Hold fast so that no one will seize your crown… I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God…” Read chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Revelation. He warns us, but the promises He makes to those who are faithful, are eternal and overwhelming.

The great thing is, Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own strength to overcome temptation and sin. We know we have His promise to defend us, to protect us, to give us the faith we need. But how sad is it, when He is standing there protecting us and we just run away, concerned only about ourself? Mandisa is a great Christian rock singer, these lyrics are from a recent song:

“Everybody’s been down Hit the bottom, hit the ground, Ooh, you’re not alone
Just take a breath, don’t forget, Hang on to His promises, He wants You to know

You’re an overcomer, Stay in the fight ‘til the final round, You’re not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now[3]

Be an overcomer, don’t give into temptation. The lyrics of the Grass Roots song are instructive: “But she lets me down everytime, can’t make her mind she’s no one’s lover…” Temptation will always let you down, will fail you. But Christ will always strengthen you and save you. You can continue to deal with temptation or be an overcomer.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

[1] Grass Roots  “Temptation Eyes”

[2] Gene Veith “God at Work” quoting Wingren “Luther on Vocation”

[3] Mandisa “Overcomer”

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