Summary: To learn from Jesus how we may deal with temptations in our lives: Be Scriptural, Be Straightfoward, Be Submissive.
Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church
Sunday Worship Service
13th February 2005
Title : Temptations Along the Way
There was a poor village pastor who was mad at his wife for being a spendthrift. He angrily confronted his wife with the receipt for a $250/- dress she had bought. “How could you do this to me!” he exclaimed. “I don’t know,” she wailed, “I was standing in the departmental store looking for a dress. Then I found myself trying it on. It was like the Devil was whispering to me, “Gee, you look great in this dress. You should buy it.”
“Well,” the pastor persisted, “You should know how to deal with the Devil! Just tell him, ‘Get behind me, Satan!”
“I did,” the wife retorted, “but then he said, ‘It looks great from back here, too.’”
In the state of Oregon, US, a middle school was facing a unique problem. A number of girls had been putting on lipstick in the bathroom and pressed their lips onto the mirrors, leaving behind dozens of little lip prints.
Finally, the headmistress decided to do something about the problem. She summoned the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the janitor. She explained that the lip prints left on the mirrors caused a major problem for the janitor who had to clean the mirrors every day. To demonstrate how difficult it was, shed instructed the janitor to clean one of the mirrors. He took out a long-handled brush, dipped it into the toilet bowl, and scrubbed the mirror. Since that day, there had been no more lip prints on the mirrors.
When tempted to sin, if we could only see the real filth we would be kissing, we would not be attracted to it.
Lent is the special time of preparation for that moment on Easter Sunday when we will publicly declare our intentions to put away all evil from our lives. That is why today we are asked to reflect on the temptations of Christ, and on the role of temptation in our own lives. If we don’t deal with temptations in the right way, then we are on the road to becoming unfaithful friends of Jesus Christ. When Easter arrives we will be totally unprepared to say, “I do”.
What are temptations and what are testing and trials? We seem to use these words and terminologies interchangeably, confusing their source and nature. Look at the table given in the sermon outline:
Temptation Testing / Trials
Origin Satan, flesh and world God
Object To succumb To sanctify / strengthen
Opportunity Trust / Obedience Trust / Obedience
Overall Outworking of God’s sovereign will
James 1:13 makes it very clear to us about the difference between the sources of temptations and trials: “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone”. While the New Testament writers use the same Greek verb peirazō for both actions to test and to tempt. The distinction must be made in each of the context of the motivation and expectation of the tester, be it God or Satan. God’s tests are motivated by His love for us while Satan’s temptations are motivated by His hatred for us. God tests us with the expectation that we triumph and thereby being sanctified and strengthened in the process. Satan tempts us with the intention to seduce us to succumb and thereby being defeated and defiled in the process.
Nevertheless, despite the distinctions we make about testing and temptation in terms of their origins and objects, we must be clear that we have a supreme God who even overrules Satan’s power and ploys. Thus, we may say that both temptation and testing offer Christians the opportunity to exercise trust in God and obedience to Him, And when we do so, God’s holy and perfect will is worked out in those whom He has chosen and called, i.e. you and me.
Putting together the accounts of Christ’s temptations in the wilderness, I see the Fourfold Purposes of this episode:
• To reclaim the victory over temptation lost in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12–21). The apostle John seems to have the Fall in the Garden of Eden in mind when he writes: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” With these three primary areas of temptations, we see the parallels between the temptations in the Garden of Eden and that of Christ in the wilderness in the Gospels − “the tree was good for food” vis-à-vis “command this stone to become bread”; “it was pleasant to the eyes” vis-à-vis “the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world”; and “a tree desirable to make one wise” vis-à-vis “throw yourself down from here”.