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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Has God Led You to Your Temptation?

I cannot avoid temptation. No one can. They are inevitable even though people are not tempted by the same things. God does not protect us from temptations. In fact, sometimes He leads us to them.

Jesus has been baptized. God is very please with Him. It is then that the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. I don't know why I noticed this so clearly this morning. I suppose it is because I always saw temptations as bad things which could have no good purpose. God sees them as ways of declaring our direction.

Jesus gets ready for His temptation by fasting for forty days. Fasting helps are person concentrate his prayers. Jesus would have been strong in prayer though weak in His body. He would have been very hungry.

The devil only wanted Jesus to do one thing against His Father's will. Any one thing would have been an abandonment of His purpose. He wanted Jesus to forget His purpose for the sake of gaining the world. Therefore, the devil tempts Jesus to question God's provision and take matters into His own hands. Jesus will have none of it even though He is very hungry and could use some bread. He could have reasoned that His Father expected Him to have something to eat.

So, the devil tempted Jesus to question God's protection. He tells Jesus to throw Himself down so that God will simply have to catch Him. There is no need to do this. Jesus already knows His Father's love and protection. God had sent Jesus to Egypt when His life was in danger. God would protect Jesus without question.

Then, finally, abandoning the use of Scripture, the devil offers Jesus fame and fortune in exchange for worshiping him. Jesus tells him that He will only worship God. Jesus rejects fame and fortune.

These three temptations are common to all of us. We are tempted to question God's provision and take matters into our own hands when things get tough. We will do things that are not of God to attain what we believe we need if we are not careful to understand that the devil's purpose is to get us to leave our faith behind.

We are tempted to question God's protection and love when we look at the circumstances in our lives. The loss of a job or an illness or a divorce or any number of personal tragedies can make us question whether God is good. We can forget that He loves us and watches over us so closely that He knows the number of hairs on our heads.

Fame and fortune can tempt the most devout of Christians. Many preachers have lost their ministry because they began to trust in fame and fortune. Many are no longer in the ministry because of it.

So, why would the Spirit lead Jesus or us to these things? Each of us declares his allegiance each time he succumbs or rejects temptation. Each rejection makes us stronger. Rejecting temptation must be quick. You can't linger in your temptation and expect to have victory over it.

God never tempts us into evil. He allows the temptation to come because we can access Him and His strength at any moment to reject the evil. This builds our faith and makes us more resolute to follow Him closer than before.

There was another reason that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil. God was preparing Jesus for the Garden when the struggle to avoid His will would be more tempting than ever. Jesus had, however, declared His intention to follow His Father. That is why He prayed "not my will but Yours be done."

But, then again, doesn't the rejection of every temptation also declare the intention of following God no matter what.

What are your trials that you are facing today? The Spirit may just have led you here so that you too may be tempted by the devil. Will you reject those temptations and declare your allegiance to the Lord?

You will only by the grace and power of God.

 Matthew 4:1 (NIV)
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.


Anthony Chia said...

Does God tempt people? No, this is what is clear from James 1:13-15:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:13-15)

As to that pointed in the entry, “Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the Devil” (Matt 4:1), there are a few interpretations, and you have to decide which is appropriate:

a) God (or the Holy Spirit) tempted Jesus, and so we can expect God to tempt us as well.

Prentis is careful to say the Holy Spirit “LED” Jesus to be tempted “BY” the Devil. I intentionally emphasize this, in case, readers read it as the Holy Spirit tempted Jesus, directly. If you insist that, the Holy Spirit’s leading of Jesus to be tempted by the Devil is still amounting to the Holy Spirit tempting Him, and so, we can expect God to tempt us as well, you have to contend that James 1:13-15 is in direct contradiction to Matt 4:1.

b) God (or the Holy Spirit) tempted Jesus, BUT we may NOT expect God to tempt us.

In this interpretation, God is being held responsible for the temptation; yet we may NOT expect God to tempt us. The argument is that, what God did to His Son, Jesus, does NOT necessarily mean God would do it to us, men. Considering this may help: Are we to defeat Satan or was Satan already defeated (NOT killed, but defeated)? When we now overcome, it is NOT really we defeat Satan, Satan was already defeated, and he was defeated by Jesus; we only enforce that victory. Satan’s defeat meant he no longer has any more actual authority over men, but he still has powers. In the plan of God, wrestling back of the authority and victory over Satan necessitated Jesus started to defeat Satan at the Temptation (In fact, there are those who said Satan was already defeated at the Temptation and NOT at the Cross. I personally would only consider the defeat of Satan started there {at the Temptation}, NOT that, complete victory was had, there; Jesus’ death as a sinless man was necessary to “uncount” men from Satan {who is destined to go to Hell}). So, for one thing we do NOT need to defeat Satan, he was already defeated. We are also NOT required to be the sacrificial lamb, like Jesus, to save another man. The tempting of Jesus by God indirectly, at the hand of Satan was necessary to fulfill the requirement of the demand of holiness, which in the first place, gave rise to Satan’s punishment, of having to go to Hell, when he (Satan) fell. So, God tempting us is NOT necessary.

c) God (or the Holy Spirit) did NOT tempt Jesus, rather, prepared Him and availed Him (or allowed Him) for inevitable temptations

Having said that Ps Prentis was careful to use “led”, he did say that “God never tempts us into evil”. Tempting has to be concerning sin, and sin is evil. Tempting as used in Scripture, I believe, is only in that context: tempted to do a wrong (sin); NOT ever tempted to do a right thing (although, we, in our casual conversation, at times, do say such thing as, “I was tempted to do this instead of that”, where “this” or “that” were mere alternatives, both being right in themselves). For example, in 1 Cor 10:13, we read this:

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”(1 Cor 10:13)

Definitely, in the above, the connotation is that if you failed in a temptation, it means you fell or you sinned; and sinning is evil. (Abraham was tested by God in Gen 22:1 {NIV}, KJV used “tempted” which I disagree).

Continue on next comment ....

Anthony Chia said...

Continue from previous comment:

To me, interpretation (a) is out, because James 1:13-15 is clear and unambiguous. Interpretation (b) is possible, James 1:13-15 still stands. Interpretation (c) is the one I subscribed to, and consistent with that, I believe God allows temptations to come our way, but He does NOT tempt us.

Let me explain a little further: 1. That it was time for Jesus to go offensive against Satan, it was inevitable Jesus would be tempted by Satan (I would NOT, here, go into Jesus must have already faced temptations prior to His baptism). 2. God had to allow it, for Jesus had to be in actual, sinless, and continued to be sinless and to die sinless to achieve complete victory that could redeem men. 3. The baptism of Jesus with the Holy Spirit coming upon Him without measure, and the leading of Him into the desert to fast and pray, are all part of the preparation for Jesus to go offensive against Satan. So, my reading of Matt 4:1 – “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”, would be, in substance, the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to prepare Him to be tempted by the Devil. In other words, whether or NOT the Spirit was going to do that, led Jesus into the desert for Him to fast and pray, the Devil would catch up with Jesus sooner or later, to tempt Him.

As I have pointed it out, God had to allow it – Satan to tempt Jesus, and Satan acknowledged defeat, as least, temporary, by leaving; for us all, although God does NOT need us to be tempted to defeat Satan, for Satan was already defeated by Jesus, He still allows temptations to come our way. Satan is at work, and the fallen world is full of temptations; God does NOT tempt us; He may allow them, the temptations, and when He allows a temptation to come your way, he provides a way out so that you can stand up under it, as stated in 1 Cor 10:13. What about testing? Isn’t testing the same as temptation; if I fail, I fall or sin, isn’t it? In substance, the perspective is similar, in the sense that, it is God allowing the testing to come into your life, NOT so much as He is testing you. It is possible (Gen 22:1, Deu 4:34 {testings, NOT temptations}) and more possible that God will test a person than tempt a person. The more excellent perspective is this: A lot of the time, it is simply whether or NOT you are going to obey His Word, or do as He tells you! Of course, when you disobey His Word, you sin, and when you do NOT want to do as He tells you, you sin. Don’t think testing or tempting by God unnecessarily; think more along the line, “God has a job for me to do, shouldn’t I do it?” or “God’s Word stated that this is wrong, a sin, shouldn’t I avoid it?” I believe most of the time, God is NOT thinking of testing us or tempting us, He was just having a job for us to do, or already told us, it is a sin. We are simply to obey; instead of accusing God of testing us or tempting us; Satan presented it, the fallen world presented it, God just allowed it or He just wanted something done! (There is no space here to talk about Matt 6:13, where in the Lord’s Prayer, there is this bit of “lead us NOT into temptations”; and about James 1:13-15 stated that God cannot be tempted by evil when Jesus was tempted by Satan).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions