“The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it,” wrote Oscar Wilde in “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, “Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself.”
This philosophy is held by many today, whether they think about it consciously or not. We live in an age of emphasis on self-gratification instead of self-denial. But while the world says denying yourself of pleasures is bad for you, the inspired writer James says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (Jas. 1:12)
Interestingly my morning Bible reading corresponded with yesterday’s class at the Wellandport VBS, the Temptation of Jesus (Matt 4:1-11).
Jesus’ temptation reminds us that no one is exempt from Satan’s attempts to lure us into sinful behavior. Not even the son of God. It’s worth noting that Jesus’ temptation followed the account of His baptism. Sound familiar? Our obedience to the gospel does not eliminate temptation. In fact, Satan may increase his assaults to attempt to win us back.
The text tells us that Jesus was alone in the wilderness. There were no adoring crowds. No disciples eager to hear his message. No friends. Just Jesus. And the devil. I’ve noticed a similar pattern. I don’t have too many temptations at church. Or enjoying fellowship with other Christians. But when alone, just with your private thoughts, Satan will look for a way to tempt you.
Jesus’ was tempted in three different ways. (1) To turn the stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. (2) To worship Satan to receive the kingdom of the world; (3) To prove He was the Son of God by jumping from the pinnacle of the temple. Each of these appealed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
The devil employed the same tactics when he tempted Eve in the garden of Eden. The fruit appealed to her. It was pleasant to the eyes. And it promised to make her wise like God.
The devil’s devices haven’t changed. So, the beloved John warns us with these ever appropriate words.
“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 lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” ( I Jn. 2:15-17)
Times have changed. Technology has advanced. Modern means of displaying and conveying sin have become more sophisticated, but Satan still appeals to our basic lusts and pride to lead us astray.
Readers Digest publishes some short, humorous, true-life quips and stories that often hit close to home. A fellow by the name of Drew Anderson from Tucson, AZ sent in a piece telling about him and his wife shopping at the mall. They stopped at a kiosk, when a shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress strolled by. He said, “My eyes followed her down the mall.” Then without even looking up from what she was examining, his wife asked, “Was it worth the trouble you’re in?”
Now that’s a pretty good question. And the answer ought to be obvious. Surrendering to our carnal desires is never worth it. We’re not only in trouble with other people, we’re in trouble with the Lord.
Temptation in our world today presents itself in different forms, shapes, and sizes. It may indeed appear through a person, or something we see, or read, or hear. It may be an advertisement. An internet pop up. A facebook ad. A cell phone text. It may involve a fleeting feeling or a random thought that seemingly comes “out of the blue.”
Yesterday at the end of the VBS, children assembled in the auditorium and Mike Stephens lead us in the familiar song, “O be careful little eyes what you see.” It is followed by the reminder “There’s a Father up above, And He’s looking down in love. So, be careful little eyes what you see.”
The following verses advise, “Be careful little ears what you hear.” “Be careful little hands what you do.” “Be careful little feet where you go.” “Be careful little tongue say you say.”
That’s not just a cute song for kids. It offers a solemn and serious warning for parents, preachers, pastors and all adults.
You can triumph over temptation. Jesus did. You can too.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman.