Sunday, June 07, 2009

SOME TEMPTING REFLECTIONS


May I make a few observations about the temptation of Christ as it is recorded in Luke 4? When I read this passage a couple of evenings ago I saw some things I hadn’t thought about before and was reminded of other things I noticed in the past. I think Christians would benefit from considering the experience of Jesus in the wilderness. Some have said that this wasn’t really a temptation because Jesus was God and he was incapable of sinning. Others say that he had to be able to sin or it wouldn’t be real temptation. I don’t know how to split these hairs but I do know that Jesus knew real temptation because the scriptures assure me that he has experienced every struggle that I have experienced.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1, 2) Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. There seems to be a false idea out there that if we walk as closely to the Lord as possible and remain filled with the Holy Spirit we will not experience temptation; that temptation waits until we are weak and vulnerable spiritually. Apparently that is not the case. Jesus was full of the Spirit when he was approached by the Enemy.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Holy Spirit leads us away from temptation. It is very clear that in this case the Spirit led Jesus in the desert as he was tempted. Some versions translate the text as saying that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert in order to be tempted by the devil. Temptation is part of God’s will for our lives. He wants us to learn to be completely dependent on the Spirit when we are tempted. I don’t mean to say that we should seek out temptation; rather, God draws us closer to himself through temptation. And in no way does this contradict the prayer we were taught to pray saying, Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil!

Did you notice that Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days? The temptations that are recorded in the gospels are only a sampling of the temptations Jesus encountered during the forty days in the wilderness. It makes me wonder where Satan may have taken Jesus and what he might have shown him in an effort to make him sin.

Do you think there is a connection between Jesus’ fasting and temptation? I mean, did his fasting increase his communion with the Spirit and strengthen his resistance to the Enemy? Did the devil think Jesus was weakened in his ability to withstand temptation because he was hungry? Does this say anything about whether or not we should engage in a regular schedule of fasting? This is something 21st century American Christians know very little about and I’m not sure I have all the answers. But if Jesus fasted, shouldn’t we? Jesus said that when the bridegroom was taken from his attendants then his attendants would fast.

Why is it important for us to memorize scripture or at least know it very well so we can recall portions of it? Jesus answered the temptations of the devil with scripture. The word of God is living and powerful and able to rightly discern spiritual truth. I fully believe that the more time we spend in the Bible, the better we know the word of God, the better we will be able to take a firm stand when we face temptation.

Finally, verse 13 says, When the devil had finished all this tempting he left him until an opportune time. We should make no mistake about the fact that the temptation of Jesus was not limited to these forty days in the desert. Satan fully planned to return and tempt Jesus again when the time was right. Jesus’ life was most likely filled with visits from the Enemy who tempted him many times hoping to destroy God’s plan for the redemption of his people!

5 Comments:

At 3:38 AM, Blogger Brenda said...

Is temptation continual in our lives or does Satan attack for a season and the rest of the time it is our own human nature that leads us astray?

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Hi Brenda,

We know that Satan is a tempter. He is not omnipresent so demonic temptation cannot all be done by Satan himself. One might wonder if he or she is actually important enough to merit the personal temptation of the devil himself. If and when personal demonic temptation takes place it is almost always a demon involved.

However, we also know that not all temptation can be blamed on Satan and his demons. James says, "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (1:14,15).

It is hard to say when one is tempted personally by a demonic being and when is simply being carried away by his own sinful heart. It probably doesn't actually make a difference. We oppose temptation the same either way...with scripture and prayer and maybe fasting.

My point about Satan leaving Jesus until an opportune time was simply that we should not be mistaken by thinking that this was the only time in his life that Jesus was tempted.

Good question. Great to hear from you!

 
At 4:06 AM, Blogger Brenda said...

Thanks Dave. I've always wondered about Frank Peritti's picture of the activity of Satan and his demons-that the prayers of believers that empowers angels to defeat demons and there is constant spiritual warfare in the air. I think I recall you talking about Peretti's theology being wrong but why?

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Shiloh Guy said...

Brenda,

Peretti is not a theologian and he was writing fiction. My complaint is that too many people failed to recognize his writing as fiction, much as people fail to recognize Dan Brown's novels as fiction.

Many of his ideas on spiritual warfare are merely extrapolations of his own imagination. The idea that angels need the prayer support of Christians in order to accomplish their God-given missions is completely non-biblical. Peretti's novels promote an ancient pagan style of dualism, the battle of good versus evil. The god in Peretti's stories never really knows how things are going to turn out because so much is dependent on whether or not Christians are providing the necessary "prayer cover" for his plans to work! That isn't the God of the Bible.

 
At 3:18 PM, OpenID jrklint said...

Dave, i am reading a good book on this that I find very interesting- Spectacular Sins (and it has a long subtitle but I don't know the exact wording)- by John Piper. It has a lot on that whole how can God control everything yet the devil tempts us but sometimes the Bible calls it God's action, or at least passive action (see Job). you should check it out

 

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