Summary: A single brush with temptation may lead to an act or decision that ruins families, devastates churches and incapacitates our fellowship with God. Prove yourself faithful in the midst of temptation.
One sagging electrical line near Cleveland, Ohio, connected with a tree branch at 3:32 p.m. on August 14, 2003, beginning a chain of events that led to the largest blackout in American history.
According to a comprehensive study, the failure of this single transmission line caused a utility company in southern Ohio to overload and seal itself off from the now infamous power grid.
To the north, this created a huge need for power, and Cleveland began pulling an unsustainable amount of electricity from Michigan and Ontario…knocking out more transmission lines and generating plants.
When the demand for power reached New York, power plants there sealed themselves from the grid in order to protect their own systems. This, however, created a new problem: New York City (ironically) had too much electricity and overloaded its own system. The result: history's largest shutdown.
Isn’t it amazing? One sagging power line touches a tree branch, and blacks out a coastline over 460 miles away – how is that for a ripple effect? The truth is, seemingly small actions can lead to devastating consequences.
The same is true of sin—a brush with temptation leads to an act or decision that can eventually ruin families, devastate churches and incapacitate our fellowship with God. OYB to Matthew 4.
1. We tend to think of temptation as the influence of evil in our lives, and perhaps in some way it is. One must ask, however, how we explain Adam and Eve’s temptation and subsequent sin; after all, they had no evil in their lives when they faced temptation. What about Job? He was tempted beyond imagination—what evil existed in his life?
2. Most importantly, how do we explain the temptation of Jesus? Today we consider his temptation in order to develop a deeper understanding of temptation itself: its source, purpose, and role in our spiritual formation.
3. Lent recalls the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry. Our goal during Lent is to prepare ourselves for the ministry to which God calls us.
II. TEMPTATION DEFINED
1. The OT word for temptation (??????? refers to the testing or proving of armor in 1 Sa. 17:39, and in Gen. 22:2 characterizes God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.
A. A similar use of the term refers to God’s testing of people (Ex. 16:4, 20:20; Dt. 8:2,16; Ps. 26:2) as he did in Egypt, performing terrible and wonderful acts to test the will of the Pharaoh. We must note however, that the OT rarely (if ever) applies this word to Satan’s act of enticing people into sin.
B. Interestingly, the OT makes it clear that man can tempt God, though scripture expressly forbids the practice. In this understanding, man is not enticing God to sin, but rather testing him in order to challenge his will.
2. The NT word for temptation also applies to man’s testing of God. Peter uses it to describe the sin of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:9; yet, in our gospel lesson of the morning, Satan leads Jesus into the wilderness in order to tempt him. With all these possibilities, what should we understand about temptation? Does man tempt God, God tempt man, or does Satan tempt both? Is temptation the work of Satan, or the work of God? Who is in charge here?
III. THE SOURCE OF TEMPTATION
1. To understand the source of temptation, we must understand it (in the context of scripture) as a test. There is ample evidence to support that definition. Once accepted, we can answer the source question: Paul gives us valuable insight into temptation in 2 Co. 12:7-9 (read):
A. He recognizes that his “thorn in the flesh” is under God’s sovereign control (vv. 8-9); but the “thorn” itself is a “messenger of Satan” (7). Therefore,
B. God may allow his people to be tested; in some sense, he may even bring the test to them (cf. Job); but Satan alone entices believers to sin, to divert Christians from God’s ways and will. Because he allows and controls this, we may see God as the source of temptation.
[A single brush with temptation may lead to an act or decision that may ruin families, devastate churches and incapacitate our fellowship with God. Prove yourself faithful in the midst of temptation.]
IV. THE PURPOSE OF TEMPTATION
1. We may ask then, why would God allow Satan to tempt (test) us?
2. God calls us to holy lives; conforming to the image of Christ and living as he taught us to live. We call the process of learning to live the Christian life our spiritual formation. As we seek God’s will, we submit to his authority, and carry out the work he desires us to engage in.
3. Occasionally during this formation, he tests us to determine our progress. If we are faithful, we press on; if not, he corrects (sometimes disciplines) us and brings us into submission so he may continue to prepare us for ministry. Temptation allows God to evaluate our spiritual progress.