September 25, 2014

Temptations exposed

A child who wants what they cannot have, like candy before supper or a toy with a $500 price tag, might throw a temper tantrum or wail in protest. What do adults do when they want what they cannot have?

I have done that on occasion. No tantrums, maybe some wailing, but the worst of it is not recognizing this as one of Satan’s temptations. Consider what the devil offered Jesus in the wilderness: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” (Matthew 4:8–9)

For Jesus, it seems that these kingdoms would eventually be His anyway, but I don’t think this is the kind of rule over the world in the temptations Satan offers me. The Bible talks about an attitude toward the world that is sinful. It says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15–17)

The devil offered Jesus authority and glory, but he offers me a world which is about of self-indulgent power and satisfaction, a world of possessing what I want for myself. This world is characterized by greed, and sinful desire, not the love of God — which is sacrificial and gives so others can have life.

Jesus didn’t listen for one moment. He said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Unlike Jesus, I’ve not been so quick to realize what was being presented to me when I get those “I want what I want” notions. While the temptation might look like something that will satisfy me in some way, it really is the devil trying to get me away from loving and worshiping God so I will fall down and worship him instead.

That is entirely loathsome — now that it is exposed. And I even have a visual reminder. I’m making a “Hobbit” quilt based on scenes from the Lord of the Rings, and just finished a block representing Gollum, the disgusting character whose appearance is entirely repulsive. That image is now associated with any temptation that offers me what I want in opposition to what God wants. I can say, “Not my will but Thine be done” and turn from that ugly character.

This is part of the power of God to rescue His silly children. Our ability to save ourselves remains zilch. Even after realizing all that Jesus Christ has done to secure salvation for me, Satan still keeps trying to tip me away from God and still am prone to be oblivious to his tactics. I must rely on Jesus Christ, abide in Him, trust in His grace — all the time.

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” (Luke 1:68–75)

This is the Lord’s answer to my childish, selfish and sinful ‘I wants.’ He exposes them for what they are and exposes the enemy for what he tries to do. As for legitimate wants and needs, God takes care of those too. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

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