“Children, what do you know about temptations?”
No sooner had I asked this question in the Sunday School class than I saw shy looks and naughty grins. Some even put their heads down as if to completely avoid the question. The reason is obvious. There is a general conception that temptation is a sin. But is temptation a sin?
Certainly not! Rather, it is a gateway to sin. Temptation is a desire to do something. When a wrong desire is introduced, our conscience senses danger because a moral law has been written in the heart of every human being. If we do not give heed to it, it will definitely lead to sin. Romans 2:15 says “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right. “
“Temptations are an appeal to meet righteous needs in an unrighteous way.” – William Thrasher
As a matter of fact, everyone faces temptations on a day to day basis but very few admit it. We are all happy to talk about temptation in general, but it takes courage to talk about the ones we face personally. Temptations come in different packages. It could be a thought for of self-glorification, or a disturbing addiction or a self- gratifying experience. Each one of us have to deal with one or the other kind.
I’m sure many of you (like me) have wondered if Jesus also experienced temptation the same way that we do? Sometimes, we even go to the extent of putting Jesus in our worst situations and asking ‘Did Jesus face this too?’.
We read in Hebrews 4:15 that “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
What does “in all points tempted” mean? While the forms of temptation vary, the root nature remains the same from the beginning of the age. From the garden of Eden to Jesus’ wilderness temptation, to the ones we face today, the nature of temptation can be summed up in these three statements – The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. 1 John 2:16-17 says “Every temptation that comes from the evil is to lure people deeper into the world by satisfying these three areas of a person”.
“So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (something that satisfies the lust of flesh), that it was pleasant to the eyes (something that satisfies the lust of eyes), and a tree desirable to make one wise (something that feeds the pride of life), she took of its fruit and ate.” – Genesis 3:6
The temptations faced by Jesus also was identical in essence. You can read the story in detail in Matthew 4:3-10. Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted for 40 days and nights. At the end of forty days, the tempter came to him with three offers. The first temptation was to turn the stones to bread (to satisfy the hungry flesh). Through the second temptation, the devil tried to tempt to ignite pride by challenging Him with the Word of God itself. Thirdly, the devil took Jesus on to the top of the mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and its glory, trying to tempt him by giving all that his eyes sets on.
“Jesus was not tempted to see if He would fall. He was tempted to show that He could not fall.” – J. Vernon McGee
There is a very thin line between deception and the truth. The difference is the underlying intention. Understanding the intention behind what we do and why we do certain things gives us a clear picture if its truly an evil temptation or not. We should gauge our intentions with the Word of God.
Psalm 119:11 – “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
1 John 2:16-17 – “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
In the world we live in, we can certainly not isolate ourselves from the culture around us but we can insulate ourselves with the Word of God so we know how to truly face temptation.