Saturday, February 18, 2012

Why Temptation?

Romans 7:24-25 24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

Romans 7 is an incredible chapter that helps Christians to come to terms with the daily reality of the battle that wages between the new nature in Christ and the left over remnants of indwelling sin.  We dealt yesterday with why it is that God willed to permit the Christian life to have to deal with sin (and for that matter spiritual warfare)  We concluded that God wants the Christian to learn what it means to desire Him.  Victory will never be desired unless it  goes from a concept of the mind to an experience of life. 

Today's blog deals with an issue that is closely related to but distinct from the Christian's battle with indwelling sin, namely the daily experience of external temptation. 

When you are tempted, remember Christ was tempted
Temptation is not sin.  Many times when Christians are in situations where they are enticed to thing, say or do something contrary to God's will, they immediately feel like they have sinned.  If that were the case, then Christ Himself would had been guilty of sin.  Hebrews 4:15 notes - "15For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."  To be tempted by sin is one thing, to give into it is quite another matter.  Christ never once sinned in thought, word nor deed (1 Peter 2:22), yet He was tempted relentlessly by the world, the physical limitations of human nature and the Devil Himself. (Please note Matthew 4).

When tempted, remember that Satan tempts, but God tests
1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." Temptation's direct agent is the Kingdom of darkness working against the believer through the world system and the flesh.   James 1:13 plainly states - "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone."

Now we know from scripture's testimony that Satan is the tempter.  Genesis 3 for example has him tempting the man and the woman in the garden of Eden.  To tempt in the original Hebrew and Greek carries with it the idea of: "persuading someone to pursue a course of action for the sake of their destruction."  Whereas the concept of Divine testing in the original languages communicates: "purifying someone in a course of action for the sake of their strengthening".

Christians experience temptation to learn how to be overcomers, just like Jesus
The Holy Spirit by Peter states in 1 Peter 2:21 - "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps."  What was the pattern of Christ's life?  He was tempted just as we were, and He overcame such temptations by means of prayerful dependence upon His Father and the scriptures.  Now we know that Christ was sinless, which distinguishes him from all true Christians.  However, in common with all true Christians, Christ demonstrated what chosing not to sin nor giving into temptations looked like.  

As God, Jesus Christ could not sin.  As man, Jesus Christ would not sin.  In the temptation record of Matthew 4, Christ overcame the Devil by means of prayerful dependance upon God the Father and the scriptures.  In the Garden of Gethsemane, when He was praying "not My will, but Your's be done", Christ was agreeing with the Father in His humanity what He had already agreed to do in Eternity with God that Father - go to the cross.  As God, Jesus Christ could not thwart the Divine will of the cross.  As man, Jesus Christ would not run away from the cross.  He went willingly. 

In these examples, Christ laid the cornerstones for Christian victory.   As Christians have victory moment by moment, over one sin at a time, they progressively experience what Jesus did consistently and without fail - victory.  Even if we do fail (which thankfully Jesus never did fail), we know that when we confess our sins, He is just and faithful to forgive us all our sins, and cleanse is from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:9)  In Christ, God sees me as a winner!