Summary: A talk at the start of lent that considers the temptation of Christ and the temptations that come our way. God always offers a way out for us to take, but we don’t always take it.
A native-American elder once described his own inner struggles like this: “Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.” After being asked which dog wins he thought for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.” (From a Bundle of laughs by J John and Mark Stibbe)
I hope that the pancake lovers in our midst were able to get well fed-up with pancakes on Tuesday; but much more than that I pray that in this season of Lent we will each be fed and nurtured by God’s word; and will each be transformed more into the likeness of Jesus; feeding our souls with good things!
Where Adam and Eve failed Jesus succeeded. In the Garden of Eden where God walked and talked with them (Genesis 3:8-9) they were free to eat from every tree except one.
The crafty serpent (Genesis 3:1) - a whispering liar also known as the Devil, the evil one or Satan – convinced them it would be OK to eat fruit from that one tree; and eating or toying with forbidden fruit has been at the heart of the human condition ever since; but where Adam and Eve failed Jesus did not.
Where Israel failed in the wilderness Jesus succeeded. The sin of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit is often referred to as Original Sin – the tendency within every human heart to reject God and to reject God’s commandments and boundaries for good and holy living; but God did not abandon humankind on account of Original Sin. He chose a small nation of people – the Israelites – to demonstrate his love, his rescue, his provision for our needs, and his provision of a way for us to know sins forgiven and a relationship with our creator; but after rescuing the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and taking them into the wilderness they rebelled (Dt. 9:7).
But where Israel failed Jesus succeeded – and where we fail and fall into sin Jesus succeeded. The writer to the Hebrews – comparing Jesus to a High Priest - puts it like this: “We do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Do you ever feel weighed down by an inability to live life in the way of Jesus, unable to keep the 10 commandments both outwardly and inwardly, struggling to forgive as Christ forgives us, perhaps feeling miserable because of a sin that repeats itself over and over again? If you feel burdened by your sins then we have Jesus – the Great High Priest who sympathises with us in our weaknesses.
Or do you feel no burden at all? Some people resign themselves to sin because we’re human and say, “It’s OK for Jesus. He didn’t sin because he was God.”
The problem with such a thought process is that it usually leads to complacency. It leads us to say, “I can’t do it. I can’t stop myself. It’s just the way I am. I’m too old to change now; and in any case my sins aren’t that bad compared to him, or her, or him.”
It’s a state of mind I experience from time to time; but Jesus is not just our Saviour, he’s also the model human being; and if we dare and decide to trust in the victory of Jesus there is always a way out, always a door through which we can pass to overcome the temptation. Hence Paul writes this: ‘If you think you’re standing firm be careful you don’t fall. 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 Corinthians 10: 12-13). Have I always taken the way out offered to me by God? No, I haven’t; but I have no excuse. I can’t say I couldn’t help it.
It’s not OK to say, “It was different for Jesus because he was God.” Although he was fully human and fully God he willingly left behind all of his godly privileges when he chose to take on our flesh. He was tempted – severely – in every way.
A man went to see the Doctor and complained that he had broken his arm in two places. The Doctor replied, “In that case I suggest you stay away from those places.” So if a certain TV channel is a cause of sin and temptation, let’s stay away from it.