Summary: God’s ways, words, and wisdom, are questioned in tempting us to sin.
So, three men walk into a museum, one British, one French, one Russian. They stand together admiring a painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The Brit says, “Look at their reserve, their calm. They must be British.”
“Nonsense,” the Frenchman interjects. “They are naked, and so beautiful. Clearly, they are French.”
The third man says, “Look! No clothes, no shelter, they have only an apple to eat, and they are being told this is paradise. They are Russian.”
Well, it is paradise, but not for long. For three months we have thought much about the wonders of creation. Now we must see why mankind was cast from our glorious garden, in the “Beginning of… Temptation.”
[Read Genesis 2.25-3.3. Pray.]
Sister Gwen sent me a story this week about an old Cherokee Indian telling his grandson of the struggle within: “My son, the battle is between ‘two wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then asked: “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather replied: “The one you feed.”
That story does not tell us everything about our struggle with sin, but it illustrates the problem which the Apostle Paul described in Romans 7.21: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” There is a battle within; but, there is more, is there not?
At Gettysburg, a general reported to Longstreet (the commanding officer) that he could not bring his men up again. Longstreet answered sarcastically, “Very well, never mind, then; just let them stay where they are. The enemy is going to advance, and that will spare you the trouble.” In addition to the sinful desires we own, the enemy without attacks.
That is why Charles Spurgeon, Daily Help: “We are never out of the reach of temptation. Both at home and abroad, we are liable to meet with allurements to evil. The morning opens with peril, and the shades of evening find us still in jeopardy. They whom God keeps are well-kept, but woe unto those who go forth into the world or even dare to walk around their own houses unarmed. Those who think themselves secure are more exposed to danger than any others.”
In the middle of paradise stood one prohibition. Surrounded by beauty unimaginable to our jaded eyes, and tastes so delicious that Kobe Beef and white truffles would be embarrassed to be plated with these foods, the hearts of Adam and Eve are drawn out to covet the one test of their trust. We call the process of rejecting God’s good wisdom in favor of false and destructive lies, “temptation.”
Adam and Eve did not resist. They gave in, and gave over their posterity to a bent toward rebellion.
’twas but a little drop of sin
We saw this morning enter in,
And lo, at eventide a world is drowned!” (John Keble).
“Drowned,” because once the soul tastes sin, it self-propagates. The centuries of misery and hatred and crime and war show what many seeds of evil resided inside that single fruit. This is ever the danger when we turn from God—we imagine a small dalliance will bring peace from temptation and pleasure sufficient to justify the price. But once we give in, the way out proves harder than we thought, the humility required greater, the consequences more terrifying. No wonder Paul warns: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1Corinthians 10.12). And the author of Hebrews reminds us: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3.12). As the hymn sings, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the one I love.” We are prone to wander, just not so prone to find our way back.
How do we “take heed” and “take care”? How do we resist the Devil’s temptations? How do we feed faith and starve the demon who would drive us to hell? Where do we find over temptation? I see four principles here:
1. We Resist Temptation When We Believe That Sin Brings Misery (Genesis 2.25)
Our first parents lived in perfect bliss: nothing to hide and no fear. The weather is ideal; they need no clothing to stay warm. The animals are friendly; they need no protection from attack. The ground is soft and pleasant, so nothing is necessary to ensure that their feet are not damaged. But these externals are minor compared to the significance of exposure without shame. They feel no humiliation, no guilt, no grief, no regrets. They have no secrets to hide, and no past to shame them. But soon “Satan gives an apple, and takes away this Paradise.”