You Don’t Have Heed Those Impulses

We don’t have to do it. When our flesh demands that we vent all our frustrations like a foghorn, we don’t have to give in. When we feel the impulse to fulfill our sexual urges, we don’t have to give in. And, when we feel like hope resides at the bottom of that ice cream tub, we don’t have to eat through it. The Christian does not have to surrender to the flesh when it makes demands upon his or her soul.

Such a resistance comes not from asceticism, wearing simple clothes, or minimalistic living. As one of the first monks, St. Antony, discovered, temptation and Satan can hound the soul who resides in a desert cave just as easily as they can torment the man living on the fourth floor of an apartment building in Paris. We cannot resist temptation in our own strength. Rather, we gain the ability to resist temptation when we repent of our sins and trust in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus for salvation.

Why Jesus Was Tempted Part 1

In Matthew 4:1-11, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert so that Satan can tempt the Messiah to sin. This temptation has two purposes. First, it reveals that Jesus fully understands what it is to be human. Like you and me, he got tired and hungry. He faced real temptation. He gets us. Hebrews 4:15 declares, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has in every respect been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Because Jesus is one of us, he can empathize with us and save us. Thus, when we mess up and surrender to temptation, we do not have to fear that God will strip us of our salvation. Jesus who is the guarantee of our salvation has already fulfilled all righteousness. The moment we come back to our senses, we can ask for forgiveness, knowing He will grant it. Jesus gets that we are weak. That is why he came. But that is not all.

Why Jesus Was Tempted Part 2

Jesus’s temptation also reveals that Jesus has defeated the devil. Satan called Jesus to turn the stones into bread. Though his stomach had growled more than a million times during his 40 day fast, Jesus does not surrender to the lust of the flesh as Adam and the nation of Israel had done before him. Jesus resists the Devil. He declares, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).” In other words, spiritual life does not come through listening to one’s-self, through giving expression to what we feel, or through living out the Nike motto which calls us to “Just do it.” Life comes through the Word of God. Psalm 19:7-9 reminds us:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

Because Jesus delights in the Word and not in his physical needs, his children can do the same. This is not some ideal beyond our reach reserved for those in a perfect world. Jesus felt urges that did not align with the commands of God. Despite the intensity of the temptations, Jesus still successfully resisted sin in a fallen world. His children can do the same. In Ephesians 3:17, Paul says, Christ dwells “in your hearts through faith.” The God who resisted Satan resides in us. Through faith, we can resist the Devil. We no longer must fall to temptation.

Temptation vs. Sin

Temptation itself is not evil. To encounter the thought, “I desire sex” does not make one sexually immoral. But to act on idea by cultivating private fantasies or by swinging over to your girlfriend’s house to give to that desire is sin. Like us, Jesus was tempted, but he did not turn the stones to bread. He obeyed God. Though our temptations may be intense, we too can obey God.

What If I Always Fall?

The failure to find victory over temptation reveals that we do not know Christ. Admittedly, Christians always remain vulnerable to sin for they are not Christ and do stumble at times. Noah got drunk, Abraham lied, and Peter showed favoritism, refusing to eat with Gentiles. Perfection will allude us. But if we lean into Christ through faith, making use of the Word, prayer, and the church, we will stand far more than we fall. Through Christ, we will resist the Devil and watch him flee from us.

However, if we only fall, regroup, and then fall again when hit by the impulses of the body, we reveal that we do not know God. Thankfully, God remains forever compassionate and forgiving. If we will but repent and believe, Jesus will forgive us, breaking the chains of sin and death.

Conclusion

Friend, I don’t know what temptations have surrounded you today. But this I do know; you do not have to surrender to Satan’s demands. We are children of the new Adam and the new Israel. By the power of Christ we can resists the lusts of the flesh. Expect Victory

We Don’t Have to Surrender

On December 22, 1944, the 101st airborne division which had distinguished itself when it dropped behind German lines to help secure the beaches of Normandy found itself once again surrounded by its foes. Five days earlier, the battle worn soldiers had rushed to the front lines to support their fellow Americans. But as they secured the town of Bastogne, the Americans on their left and right flank stumbled backwards under the weight of the German panzer tanks. The 101st airborne was now an island located in sea of Nazi grey.

Wanting to avoid a drawn-out siege that would claim the lives of countless soldiers, the German commander in the area requested a ceasefire. He handed the Americans a letter that asked for their surrender. The note declared, “The fortune of war is changing…The battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne.” When the American commander, general McAuliffe, saw the note, he laughed, exclaiming “Aw nuts.” For the next several minutes, McAuliffe and his staff discussed the possibility of surrender. But the commanders could not reconcile themselves to the idea. They knew the mighty American War machine lay only miles away. Patton’s 9th army had already begun to mobilize. Though their situation remained dire, victory also seemed sure. The question for McAuliffe and his staff was this: “What do we tell the Germans?” They discussed their options. McAuliffe then scribbled his message down on a piece of paper and sent it back to the Germans. When they opened the envelope, they found only one word: “Nuts.”

When Christians awake to find their souls surrounded by temptations, they too can resist the call to surrender to sin and death for they serve a God far mightier than Patton’s 9th army. Because Jesus has triumphed over Satan in Matthew 4:1-11, all who follow Jesus should expect to gain victory over their temptations.

Why Matthew’s Not a How-To-Guide

At times, Christians have treated Matthew 4:1-11 as a how-to-guide for overcoming temptation. This advice turns the quotation of Scripture and the declaration, “Be Gone Satan” into a one size fits all solution for all temptations. However, a quick scan of the Bible reveals this understanding of temptation to be incomplete. Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife when she propositioned him. In Ephesians 4, Paul instructs those who are tempted to steal to work with their hands. We should reference and quote Scripture when Satan comes knocking. But we do not have to stop here. We should go beyond these steps and make use of all of Scripture when battling temptation.

Matthew is not providing us with the exclusive guide to overcoming temptation. He is showing us that Jesus is the new Adam and the new Israel who will finally defeat sin and death. Because Jesus resisted the devil in the wilderness and then died and rose again, his people can resist the Devil as well by through Jesus. Our savior gloriously declared, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Those who have been made righteous by the blood of Christ no longer have to surrender when Satan calls them to lust after the flesh, to test God, and to worship that which is not God.

Jesus’s and Our Victory Over Temptations

After living forty days without food, Jesus had become well acquainted with hunger pains. Seizing upon this moment of human frailty, Satan strikes, calling Jesus to “command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Satan implores Jesus to find fulfillment in doing that which comes naturally and easily. He had already snagged Adam and Eve with appeals to their fleshly lusts. Genesis 6:6 reports that Eve ate the fruit in part because it was “a delight to the eyes.” The nation of Israel repeatedly surrendered to Satan’s demands and rebelled against God when they lacked food and water.

But Jesus does not fall. He reminds Satan that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).” Jesus resists the urge to just do it, to be himself, and to surrender to the needs of the moment because he knows that life comes not through self-fulfillment but through obedience to the Word of God. Because Jesus resisted Satan, those who follow the Christ no longer must surrender to the flesh. Jesus will provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).

But Satan is not easily put off. He regroups and challenges Jesus to prove his divinity by throwing himself off the temple mount. Jesus should be able to survive the five plus story fall because God had promised to protect him. Historians believe Satan is tapping into the culture of Jesus’s day. Supposedly, Simeon the Magician and others who had claimed to be the Messiah had thrown themselves off the temple to prove their divinity. Suffice it to say, their movements ended the moment these men hit the ground.

But Jesus does not test God. He rebukes Satan declaring: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test (Matt. 4:7).” Because Jesus refuses to put test God, his children also do not have to test their Father. We do not have to buy a house that we cannot afford and then challenge God to increase our paycheck. We do not have to quit our job to pursue the mission field apart from the blessing of our church and wise counsel, challenging God to get us to Africa. We do not have to divorce our spouse to follow our true love, demanding that God shepherd our kids and bank accounts through the process. Jesus refused to test God. We too can resist this temptation.

Lastly, Satan asks Jesus to worship him. Satan knows something of what the cross will cost Jesus. He offers another way, a plan B. In Matthew 26:42, Jesus prays, “My father, if it is possible let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will but as you will.” In exchange for worship, Satan will give Jesus his kingdom. Jesus once again defeats Satan. He declares, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (Matt 4:10).” Though his adherence to the Father will cost Jesus everything, he still worships the Father for he is God.

Though Jesus resisted the Devil, he still repeatedly calls the people of God to worship that which is not God. He calls them to the occult and to witchcraft. But more importantly, he calls them to worship that which is not God: good grades, wealth, popularity, sex, children, work, and a host of other things which are not inherently bad. He encourages us to set aside God and to worship that which will really make us happy. And at times, the offer does come with benefits. The greatest threat to the church member’s faith is not that he or she will worship sports or their career and find financial. The great danger is that false worship will lead to earthly success. Satan can hand out gifts to those who turn their back on God. But such presents always lead to death. As Jesus notes in Matthew 16:26:

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Life exists not in things or experiences. It exists in Jesus. Resist the temptation to worship that which is not God.

Jesus vanquished the Devil. If we stand with our savior, we too can resist the devil and will watch him flee. We do not have to surrender.

Conclusion

We should not despair when we awake to find ourselves surrounded by temptation. Jesus will rescue his people like the 9th Army came to the 82nd Airborne’s aid. Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 10:13,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When Satan calls us to surrender to temptation, we should take our cue from the 101st Airborne and respond, “Nuts.”

The victory is ours!

The Deadly Effects of Beautiful Sin

Deadly-sinSin looks good. If it was not so appealing, we wouldn’t find ourselves waking up with troubled consciences, seeking greater thrills, and contemplating the meaning of life through the lens of depression. As Adam and Eve discovered, sin appears to be “a delight to the eyes (Gen 3:6).” But, it always ends in divine judgment, broken relationships, and earthly hardships. And though thousands of years have passed since our forebears ate the fruit, sin still dresses in false beauty and rewards its friends with death.

Fast forward from Genesis to 1 Samuel 8. The people of God have once again depended upon their senses instead of divine revelation. And the fruit of delight for the nation of Israel is a “king to judge us like all the nations (1 Sam 8:6).” As the context of 1 Samuel makes clear, the people are not primarily making a political statement. They are making a theological claim. They are choosing an earthly king to replace the King of Kings. 1 Samuel 10:19 concludes with this divine assessment, “You have rejected your God who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’”

But unlike our first parents the nation of Israel gets a brief reprieve. God does not immediately turn his back on his idolatrous people. God sends Samuel to “solemnly warn them (1 Sam. 8:9).” In verses 10-18, Samuel tells the people that their love of the world will negatively effect their families, their personal well-being, and their relationship with God.

Those who pursue the world above Christ will ultimately sacrifice their children’s wellbeing for their sinful passions. Both the Israelites’ sons and their daughters would be taken from their homes and conscripted into kingly service. Christians do not have to look far to see this reality play out in the modern world. Some children are aborted because their parents fear that they do not have the money and the time to both raise a child and finish school, to keep traveling, or to keep up with the drunken partying. They sacrifice the child for their sin. Other children go without clothes, food, and deodorant because mom and dad spend all their money on drugs, gambling, and ponzi schemes. Others wind up in fights at school, struggle to interact with the opposite sex, and fail at school because their parents are locked in a constant battle of words that occasionally escalates to a thrown glass at or to a violent slap. Others have no friends because they are afraid to invite Sally over for the night for then she will see what an angry, scary, drunk their Dad is.

We like to think that we are autonomous human beings and that our sin hurts no one but ourselves. But this is not the case as experience reveals and as the Scriptures make clear. The deadly effects of sin will always touch our families.

And the effects of sin will ravage our own lives as well. As 1 Samuel 8:14-17 makes clear, the passions of the world will consume our very livelihood. We know this to be true. We have seen young men and women trash promising careers because they believed relationships, sex, and money could satisfy. We have encountered men who bounced from job to job because they repeatedly violated sexual conduct guidelines, fight angerly with their bosses, and fail to show up to work on time. We know of women who approach their golden years with no money because they spent their livelihood chasing experiences, shoes, or beauty. Though sin promises peace, relaxation, and joy, it robs us of wealth and our ability to work.

And lastly sin draws us away from God. 1 Samuel 8:18 says, “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” Seemingly since the fall of Adam and Eve, men and women have operated under the notion that they can live-it-up and then stop on a dime and repent a few moments prior to death. But God does not offer such hope. If we repeatedly and frequently spit upon God, he will ultimately spit upon us. Friends we know this reality to be true. God may require our lives without any warning. Car crashes, strokes, and a whole host of other circumstances can spring upon us without warning and take our lives without offering us that needed moment for spiritual reflection. Moreover, the hardened sinner becomes only more harden by his exposure to sin. The more one embraces sin, the more one has no thoughts or inclinations toward the things of God. Many given the opportunity to repent at the end of their lives do not. They hated good as youths, as middle-aged adults, and as sickly senior adults.  As James 4:4 warns us, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Thankfully, we do not have to choose the Kong’s of this world. And we do not have to keep choosing the kings of this world. Christ has died on the cross. He has died to save us from our sins. If we submit to him, he will save us.

But make no mistake, sin destroys our families, our lives, and separates us from God. Let’s not indulge in sin. Let’s not create a secret room for our sin. Let’s not rationalizes away our sin, valuing our world’s salacious promise of happiness over holiness. Sin destroys. Let’s heed the warning o 1 Samuel 8.

We have been warned. We will listen?