Tag Archives: Temptation

God’s People, part 151: Temptation

Read Matthew 4:1-11

“That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  (2 Corinthians 12:10, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

image 1-24-19 at 8.09 pmPart 151: Temptation. As I begin to write this devotion on the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, I must confess that I sit on the edge of the wilderness facing the unknown of what lies ahead when I cross over that border. On April 12, 2018, I published a podcast in which I discussed my personal struggle with my weight and healthy living. I have been very transparent about that, and at the time I had just started another juice fast because of my giving into the temptation of convenience foods. I have plenty of good excuses to do so, “I’m too busy”, “I’m too tired to cook”, “If I cook at this time I will be eating at 10 p.m.”, etc. Regardless, I know that I should eat whole foods and not succumb to those temptations, yet I do.

Well, by July of 2018 I had gotten back to a healthy weight. I was down to 203 lbs. Then I went on vacation and gave into the temptation to just “live a little”. Following vacation and the end of Summer things got hectic and stressful, nothing negative, but just a lot of things needing my attention all at the same time. As I gave into those same temptations again, my weight began to increase and my health, naturally, declined.

The truth be told, since July I have gained about 80 lbs. and, yes, it does bother me. I know people notice and probably talk about it when I am not present. Some people have even commented on it directly to me. I also know that a lot of that has to do with concern, but my self-consciousness kicks in all the more as a result. So here I am, writing once again about my struggles, as I sit here the night before I start another juice fast to kick-start me back into healthy living.

Like any fast, it is a wilderness period where I will come face-to-face with my demons and will be tempted over and over again to just give up. When Jesus went into the wilderness he fasted too. During that time, Satan came to him and tempted him to eat and, overall, to just give up what he was doing. In a roundabout way, the devil was telling Jesus to just give up and make life easier on himself. Yet, Jesus rebuked Satan and continued through the wilderness.

That time of intense struggle prepared Jesus for doing ministry in the world. As tough as the wilderness experience was, it was nothing compared to what he was going to face out in the world. Jesus knew that would be the case and kept his focus on God and God’s promises as found in Scripture.

So often we try to avoid the wilderness, to skip over it entirely; however, what we fail to realize is that it is in the wilderness where we not only come face-to-face with our demons, but we also come face-to-face with our GOD. It is in the wilderness where we are humbled and profoundly learn about our weaknesses; however, it is also in that time that we learn how God’s strength shines brightly through them.

Today I am challenging you, even as I challenge myself, to enter into the wilderness. For each of us that place is different, but it is a place that exists for us all. Enter into it and face the things you need to face so that Christ can attend to you with angels and strengthen you for carrying out his mission in the world. Sure, it will be a painful experience, but as the old adage goes, “No pain, no gain.”

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” – Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT)

Lord, lead me into the wilderness and help me to face my weaknesses so that, in them, I may be strengthened through your sanctifying grace. Amen.

Be Gone!

Read Matthew 4:1-11

“If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.” (Psalms 91:9-10 NLT)

melaToday is Ash Wednesday, which kicks off the Lenten journey. Lent is, so to speak, a time in the wilderness. It is a time to fast, to pray, and to reflect on the sin we find ourselves enslaved to. What’s more, it is also a time for us to be take the journey with Jesus from the wilderness to the cross. Yet, we cannot make that journey without being prepared for it.

That is what the wilderness is all about. It is about time away from the trappings of the world. It is about time away from those things that make us comfortable. It is about time away from those things we long for in order that we might draw closer to God and be prepared for the transformation God is continually working within our hearts. Lent is a time for changing one’s heart and doing a U-Turn in order to head back in the direction God is calling us.

In the Scripture, we see Jesus enter into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, the exact length of time of the Lenten season. During his stay in the wilderness, it is written that Jesus underwent a series of temptations from the devil. To be exact, we read of three specific things that Satan was tempting him and the exact ways in which he responds back to the devil.

First, Satan tempts Jesus with his physical needs. He suggests to him that he simply command the stones on the ground into loaves of bread. This does not seem to be an unreasonable suggestion. After all, why would God wish for Jesus to die of starvation in the wilderness? Surely, God did not send Jesus out there to die. Jesus, of course, does not fall for this temptation but responds by quoting Scripture, Deuteronomy 8:3 to be exact. Jesus rebukes Satan by reciting and upholding God’s Law!

This does not deter Satan, however, and so Satan takes the game up a notch. As we find out, Jesus is not the only one who knows Scripture. “Throw yourself from this high place”, Satan challenges Jesus. “For as the Scriptures say, ‘God will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up in their hands so that you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” Here Satan is quoting Psalm 91:11, but Jesus is not fooled for Satan is taking the verse out of context.

If one reads the Psalm, it is clear that those who make GOD their refuge have nothing to fear for God will protect them. Putting God to the test is NOT making God one’s refuge. Thus, Jesus rebukes Satan a second time, once again quoting God’s Law that is is not cool to put the Lord God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). Finally, Satan promises Jesus to give him all of the power and possessions of the world if Jesus will only bow down and worship him. Fat chance. It is at this point that Jesus gives Satan the strongest rebuke yet: “Be gone! The Scripture says, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

In Jesus’ wilderness temptations, we can see how temptation works in our lives. We can allow our physical needs to become temptations to stray from God. We can allow our own interpretations of Scripture to allow us to stray from God. We can also allow our desires, our hopes, our fears, and our ambition to steer us away from God. Like the snake in the garden, tempation slithers into our lives in the most subtle, but deceitful of ways. On the surface things seem fine until we find ourselves being constricted by the sins coiled around us.

With that said, Jesus’ wilderness experience we can see how to respond to the temptations that ensnare us. The truth is that Satan and/or the tempations we suffer only have the power that we give to them. If we are in a relationship with God, if we know what God commands of us through Scripture and through being a part of the community of God (aka the church), then we know the difference between God’s Word and our temptations.

This Lent, instead of giving up trivial things, take up Studying Scripture. Take up worshiping in a faith community that reflects the love and grace of God. Join in on small covenant groups with people who will nurture you in your faith and hold you accountable to growing in it. Begin to take your Spiritual needs seriously, and seek first the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. It is then that you will realize that you have been given power over your temptations and that, through Jesus Christ, you can command the devil to “be gone” from your life! I pray that this Lent you spend your time preparing to move from the wilderness of temptation to the cross of eternal love, grace and redemption!

“If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” – Jesus the Christ in Matthew 16:24 NLT

Lord, help me cast away my temptations to live my life fully in you who are my refuge! Amen.