Posts tagged ‘Temptation’

Grace in the Wilderness

crooked-tree-in-desert.jpg

Credit: Angelique Downing from Burst

There are some incredible words the Lord speaks through the prophet Jeremiah:

The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness. (Jeremiah 31:2)

These words are written for Israel while Israel is in crisis – when she is being defeated and decimated by the Babylonians who will carry her people into exile.  While Israel is at her worst, then, God says to her, “In a place you might least expect it – the wilderness that is your exile – you will find My grace.”

God’s people have a history of finding grace in wilderness. When the Lord led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, He led them into the wilderness, where they received grace upon grace. A miracle at the Red Sea. Manna and quail from the heavens. Water to drink from a rock. There was grace there in that wilderness.

When God decided it was time to send a Savior, His coming was announced in where else, but the wilderness:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3)

The grace of God’s kingdom was being announced in the wilderness.

And when the Savior did arrive, where did He go to begin His public ministry? Into the wilderness, of course:

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)

While Jesus may have been tempted by the devil, He did not succumb to the devil. He defeated the devil and his temptations so that there may be grace for everyone who does not fare so well under temptation.

I think sometimes we might prefer to find grace in places other than the wilderness. In the lushness of an awesome spiritual experience, perhaps, where we feel the warmth of God’s love surrounding us. Or in the comforts of an abundance of material possessions, perhaps, where we can breezily and easily praise God for the amazing things He has given to us.

God can show us grace through these things, but this does not mean He only shows us grace through these things.

Sometimes, grace comes to us in the wilderness. Like when we feel spiritually cold inside and all we can do is cling to God’s Word. Or when our pocketbooks feel strapped and our savings accounts are depleted all we have is God’s promise of daily bread.

Sometimes, grace comes to us in the wilderness.

This should not surprise us. For God’s grace was most fully expressed on some rough-hewn timbers, cut down from the wilderness of ancient Israel. Grace did not feel good to Jesus. But the grace of the cross is the greatest grace there is.

So, don’t let a time in the wilderness crush you. There is grace there because Jesus is there. If there’s one place He knows, it’s there. And if there’s one person He wants, it’s you.

September 2, 2019 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Why Pray, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”?

Credit: Wikipedia

It seems as though the wording of the Lord’s Prayer will soon be changing in the liturgies of the Roman Catholic Church.  Charlotte Allen reports for First Things:

On November 15 the Italian Bishops’ Conference announced that it plans to change the wording of the Lord’s Prayer in the Mass liturgy. The bishops want the current Italian equivalent of “lead us not into temptation” to become “do not abandon us to temptation.”

The bishops have now petitioned the pope to approve this proposed alteration – a petition he is almost certain to grant. In a 2017 interview with an Italian Catholic television channel, the pontiff expressed his distress with the current Italian wording – non c’indurre in tentazione, a literal translation of the Latin ne nos inducas in tentationem that is part of the Lord’s Prayer in the Vulgate versions of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

I would hasten to add that the traditional translation of “lead us not into temptation” comports not only nicely with the old Latin Vulgate, but with the Greek of Matthew and Luke.  So, why is Pope Francis so concerned with this translation?  Ms. Allen continues:

Francis opined that “lead us not” might confuse the Catholic faithful, because “it is not God who throws me into temptation and then sees how I fell.”

On the one hand, the pope is right in claiming that God does not lead us into temptation.  No less than Jesus’ brother declares:

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. (James 1:13-14)

James is clear that it is not God who tempts us to do evil; it is we who tempt us to do evil.  We, as the saying goes, are our own worst enemies.  God, on the other hand, does not and will not tempt us.

So, this begs the question:  why would Jesus teach us to pray to God that He would not lead us into temptation if the Bible says that God doesn’t tempt anyone?

Martin Luther, in his explanation to this line in the Lord’s Prayer, writes:

God, indeed, tempts no one; but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us, nor seduce us into misbelief, despair, and other great shame and vice; and though we be assailed by them, that still we may finally overcome and gain the victory.

Notice that Luther begins his explanation of Jesus’ words with the promise of James 1:13.  This is the crux of Luther’s explanation of this line in the Lord’s Prayer because when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” we are praying a promise of God.  In other words, we are simply praying back to God what God has already sworn to do for us.

One of the wonderful things about the Lord’s Prayer is that the whole prayer is composed of God’s promises.  When we pray, for instance, “Thy kingdom come,” we know that God’s kingdom has certainly come in Christ, even without our prayer.  As Jesus Himself says, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9).  This is why Luther writes, in his explanation of this phrase, “The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself.”  Or, when we pray, “Thy will be done,” we know that God’s will is always done, even without our prayer.  As Job says to God, “I know that You can do all things; no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).  This is why Luther writes, in his explanation of this phrase, “The good and gracious will of God is done indeed without our prayer.”  God always says “yes” to the Lord’s Prayer because before the prayer was a prayer, it was a series of promises made by God.  And God always keeps His promises.

What is true of God’s kingdom and sovereign will is also true when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”  God most certainly will not lead us into temptation because of His promise.  Praying this petition, then, can remind us of God’s promise.

What the pope suggests we pray about temptation – that God would not abandon us to temptation – is certainly a fine and needed prayer, but it is not the Lord’s Prayer.  It is good to pray Francis’ line, then, in addition to what Jesus says.  We should be careful, however, praying Francis’ line in place of what Jesus says.

For centuries now, Christians have prayed the Lord’s Prayer as they have received the Lord’s Prayer.  Perhaps, instead of trying to revise it, we should be content with just receiving it as well.

January 14, 2019 at 5:15 am 1 comment

You Didn’t Win Powerball…So Now What?

Powerball Tickets

Credit: New York Daily News

The conversation across from me last Wednesday morning as I was sitting at Starbucks reading and sipping my coffee startled me.  Next to me was a table of folks who, from the sound of their conversation, all worked in the same office.  As coworkers, they were doing what coworkers should regularly be doing – they were strategizing, they were planning, they were setting goals, and they were developing financial models…for what they would do when they won the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot.

With Powerball fever sweeping the nation last week with history’s largest ever jackpot up for grabs, these folks sounded like they needed some Tylenol to bring down their temperature.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a more heated, even if not particularly informed, financial conversation in my life – much less a financial conversation that imagines a 1 in 292,201,338 scenario.  Should we take the lump sum or should we take the annuity payments?  How do we set up a trust fund since we’re splitting the pot when we win?  Should we allow this or that coworker to join our pot?

Oh, if only.  But as Daniel Victor of The New York Times points out:

If you printed out the name of every United States resident on individual pieces of paper, put them in a giant bowl and selected one at random, the odds of picking President Obama are not far from the odds of winning the Powerball.[1]

In other words, you are not going to win Powerball.

The way this office pool talked about Powerball, it sounded like all but a sure bet that they were going to be the big winners.  But unless they happened to have just come back from Chino Hills, CA, Munford, TN, or Melbourne Beach, FL with just the right ticket in hand, they were not.  Last Wednesday was not their day.  And today is just another manic Monday at the office for them.

Powerball is an interesting enterprise.  On the one hand, I appreciate that it helps fund education, although I can’t help but wonder if there are other, more efficient ways to fund educational programs.  On the other hand, I am concerned that, from a systemic perspective, it acts as a regressive tax because it has a disproportionate appeal to lower income households who have big dreams of digging out of financial desperation.  Even if it does act as a regressive tax, however, it is important to note that it is a voluntary regressive tax.  No one has to buy a ticket.  Indeed, the fundamental problem with Powerball is not really with Powerball at all.  It’s with us. Far too many of us are quick to disregard the fundamentals of math for a quixotic wish.

“Someone has to win,” I’ve heard time and time again. “And it could be me!”  Actually, someone does not have to win.  This is precisely why the Powerball jackpot rose as much as it did – because someone did not have to win the jackpot and no one did win the jackpot for ten weeks straight because the odds of winning are so abysmal, they are, for all intents and purposes, at zero.  Technically, they’re at .00000034223%.  But it still takes a lot of zeroes in that percentage to get to any sort of a number that represents something rather than nothing.

Why in the world would we get so excited over odds like these?  What are we thinking?

In one way, we’re not.  We’re dreaming.  And, if your dreams are anything like mine, dreams do not have to make sense or be rooted in reality.  They can be sheer fantasy.

But something more is going on here. For not only are we dreaming, we’re hoping.  We’re hoping lightning will strike and we will win.  Or, to use the appropriate odds, we’re hoping lightning will strike 246 times and we will win one time.  We’re hoping our financial troubles will be over.  We’re hoping we’ll be able to quit our jobs and take life easy.  We’re hoping to get rich.

The apostle Paul writes quite extensively to Timothy about the dangers associated with riches.  Two of his statements are especially striking to me as the fervor over Powerball settles:

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (1 Timothy 6:9)

And:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (1 Timothy 6:17)

In the first verse, Paul prohibits hoping for riches.  We should not obsess over accumulating treasures on earth because such an obsession is a recipe for depression and, ultimately, for destruction.  In the second verse, Paul prohibits hoping in riches.  Wealth cannot do what many people think it can do.  It certainly cannot solve all your problems, as past lottery winners will tell you.

The problem with the Powerball phenomenon is that its huge jackpots tempt us toward false hope – both for riches and in riches.  And even if Powerball itself is nothing more than a silly game, the false hope it tempts us toward is a dangerous disease.

If you want to spend $2 on a ticket for fun, that’s one thing.  But you should place about as much hope in that ticket as you do in winning your office fantasy football league where the grand prize is a Nerf football that someone spray painted gold to make it look like a trophy.  If your hopes go much further than that, be careful.  Your hope is not in a $2 ticket with long odds.  Your hope is in Christ.

After all, He’s a sure bet.

_________________________

[1] Daniel Victor, “You Will Not Win the Powerball Jackpot,” The New York Times (1.12.2016).

January 18, 2016 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Facebook Follies

“Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?”  So asked the provocative title of Quentin Fottrell’s blog for the Wall Street Journal.[1]  Of course, we know that Facebook in and of itself is not responsible for the breakdown of wedded bliss; rather, it is the way people use Facebook that damages marriages.  Still, the statistics cited in Fottrell’s article are staggering:

  • More than a third of divorce filings last year contained the word “Facebook.”
  • Over 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking.
  • Of the fifteen cases Gary Traystman, a divorce attorney in New London, Connecticut, handles per year where computer history, texts, and emails are admitted as evidence, 60% involve Facebook exclusively.

Why does Facebook play such a key role in so many connubial collapses?  Fottrell brings in an expert for keen insights:

“Affairs happen with a lightning speed on Facebook,” says K. Jason Krafsky, who authored the book Facebook and Your Marriage with his wife Kelli. In the real world, he says, office romances and out-of-town trysts can take months or even years to develop. “On Facebook,” he says, “they happen in just a few clicks.” The social network is different from most social networks or dating sites in that it both re-connects old flames and allows people to “friend” someone they may only met once in passing. “It puts temptation in the path of people who would never in a million years risk having an affair,” he says.

Krafsky’s last line is key:  “It puts temptation in the path of people.”

Jesus knew how readily people can fall to temptation when it is placed even peripherally in their path.  This is why He warns His disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).  Jesus’ caution against temptation and His diagnosis of the flesh’s relative spiritual strength, or rather, its lack thereof, ought to be taken seriously.

When a marriage is in disarray, Facebook can provide an all too easily accessible foray into the arena of temptation.  Its appeal lies at two opposing poles.  On the one side, Facebook provides a public forum for a scorned spouse to spout off about how he or she has been wronged and receive eager and many times blind support from friends who are, at best, only partially informed about the situation.  On the other side, though Facebook is public, it deceptively feels private.  After all, it’s only “friends” who can see what you are posting – that is, until a divorce attorney subpoenas records from your Facebook account and presents them in court as incriminating evidence.

Both the public and private faculties of Facebook make its appeal to those in rocky relationships almost irresistible.  But when Facebook is used to arbitrate an unsettled union, it inevitably leads to ruin.  For it allows couples to steep themselves in the sometimes rotten advice from friends or the sometimes illicit advances of lovers while avoiding conversation with the person they need to be talking with the most – the other spouse.

So, how can a couple use Facebook to connect with friends – old and new alike – while steering clear of its more seedy enticements?  A few practical, common sense safeguards can go a long way to protecting your integrity – and your marriage.

  • First, make sure your spouse has access to your Facebook account.  There is no reason why your spouse should not know what you’re posting online.  If you’re trying to surprise him or her using a little help from your Facebook friends, find another way.  Sustained trust trumps an occasional need for the secrecy of a surprise.
  • Second, if your marriage is troubled, personal details are not Facebook appropriate.  You don’t need uneven advice from partial pals, you need professional guidance from a licensed therapist.  Facebook is a great place to post thought-provoking quotes, interesting articles, and even pictures of your Memorial Day backyard barbeque or your newborn bouncing baby boy.  It is not an appropriate place, however, to air your, or someone else’s, dirty laundry.  Falstaff, though he was a shameful coward in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth, proved to be wise beyond his actions when he said, “The better part of valor is discretion, in the which better part I have sav’d my life.”[2]  Discretion on Facebook may just save your marriage.
  • Third, be discerning.  Believe it or not, regardless of a person’s Facebook classification as your “friend,” not everyone you communicate with on social networking sites has your best interest at heart.  And not everyone who proffers advice via the internet knows what he or she talking about, or, as the case may be, “posting” about.  This means that you should not set yourself up to get bad advice from your Facebook friends by posting sordid details of your life gone awry, nor should you insert yourself via public posts into someone else’s messy Facebook spectacle.  If you’re truly concerned about someone, a face-to-face conversation, or, if that is impossible, a private conversation by some other means, works much better than a public posting.

Finally, a sober estimation of your own sinful desires and weaknesses may be the best safeguard against the wily relational entrapments that internet social networking can bring.  No matter how strong you may think your marriage is, all it takes is one click or keystroke to lead it down the road to ruin.  And so we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13).


[1] Quentin Fottrell, “Does Facebook Wreck Marriages?The Wall Street Journal (5.21.12).

[2] William Shakespeare, Henry the Fourth (Part 1, Act 5, Scene 4).

June 4, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Tackling Temptation

"The Temptation of Christ" by Ary Scheffer (1854)

Whether or not you or a loved one has struggled with alcoholism, the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous have become nearly ubiquitously helpful to millions who struggle with an addiction, habit, or hurt.  What I find so interesting about the Twelve Steps is that Step One is essentially an explication of the Christian doctrine of human depravity: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Of course, one could insert a whole array of different sins in place of the word “alcohol.”  “We admitted we were powerless over lust – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  “We admitted we were powerless over greed – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  “We admitted we were powerless over self-righteousness – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we talked about the trials of temptation.  Satan is a “tempter,” the Bible reminds us (Matthew 4:3), and wants nothing more than to drag us into sin.  And, just as with any other banal allurement or enticement, under our own power, we are helpless to resist Satan’s taunting temptations.  As AA would remind us, “We admitted we were powerless over temptation – that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Sadly, human depravity in the face of sinful temptation is born out again and again in the Scriptures.  When Cain is tempted to murder his brother Abel, God warns Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).  But Cain does not master his sin.  He falls to temptation and kills his brother, Abel.  When Israel is led out of their slavery in Egypt and God ushers them into a place of prosperity, God warns the people:  “When your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 8:13-14).  God’s warning against forgetting Him proves to be eerily prophetic: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God” (Judges 3:7).  The allurements and enticements of this world are too overwhelming and overburdening for any human to face and defeat.

Augustine described powerlessness of humans against temptation and transgression using the Latin phrase, non posse non pecarre, meaning, we are “not able not to sin.”  Blessedly, however, Jesus has the remedy for the dourness of our depravity.  For He stands up under temptation on our behalf.  In our text for this past weekend from Matthew 4:1-11, we read how Jesus takes His stand against the devil’s temptations not once, not twice, but three times.  Jesus then takes this victory over temptation and gives it to us by means of His death on the cross.  The preacher of Hebrews explains: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).  Because Jesus stood up under temptation, we have the mercy and grace that we need to help us in our time of temptation.  For without God’s mercy and grace, we are powerless to resist the allurements and enticements of this world.

So when you are tempted, look not to your own strength, will, or fortitude, but to the cross.  For on the cross Christ encounters a final temptation from a crowd of jeerers: “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God” (Matthew 27:40)!  Interestingly, this phrase – “If you are the Son of God – is the same phrase Satan uses to tempt Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4 (cf. Matthew 4:3, 6).  But as with Satan, Christ resists this temptation too.  He does not come down from the cross.  Instead, He dies to achieve victory over sin.  And so on that cross, our victory over temptation is secured.  Praise be to God!

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

January 23, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Sermon Extra – God’s Call On Men

In 1994, some Swiss researchers conducted a survey on how the worship habits of parents influence their children.  The results were striking.  These researchers found that if both a father and mother attend church regularly, 33% of their children will grow up to attend church regularly, while 41% will grow up to attend irregularly.  Sadly, a quarter of their children will grow up not practicing their Christian faith at all.  These researchers further found that if a father does not attend church while a mother regularly attends church, only 2% of their children will subsequently become regular attenders themselves, while 37% will become irregular attenders.  Over 60% of these children will grow up and not attend church at all.

Now, here comes the shocking statistic.  If a father is a regular churchgoer, but a mother does not attend church, 44% of these children will grow up to attend church regularly.  That’s eleven percentage points higher than if a father and mother attend church regularly together!  All told, between two-thirds and three-fourths of children with faithful fathers will attend church, be that regularly or irregularly.[1]

Clearly, a father’s role as a spiritual leader is vital to the spiritual health of his family.  It is important to note that this does not in any way disparage or diminish the role ladies play in their families.  I know many ladies who, in spite of their husbands’ lack of commitment to things spiritual, labor extensively and faithfully to teach their children about Jesus and His Gospel.  I praise God for such women and trust that the Holy Spirit will use these ladies’ efforts to instill strong and lasting faith in the hearts of their children.  These statistics do, however, reinforce the call and commission of Scripture that a father is called to be a strong, spiritual leader of his family (cf. Ephesians 5:22-6:4).  Sadly, far too many men are derelict in this duty.  And if these statistics are any indication, the results of such dereliction are disastrous.  This blog, then, is meant to be a reminder to men of their God-given role!

As I discussed in my message on Sunday, there are many sirens of sin which entice men away from their role as the spiritual leader of their families.  The apostle Paul discusses some of the temptations that men – and all people, for that matter – struggle against:  “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Galatians 5:19-21).  How many men have fallen and failed as leaders because they have given in to temptations like sexual immorality or drunkenness or selfish ambition?  Far too many.

So how does Paul tell men to war against such sinful temptations so they can lead their families faithfully?  Does he tell them to try harder?  Or work longer?  Or fight fiercer?  No.  Instead, fully aware that no man, no matter how macho, is strong enough to resist the allures of the sinful nature, Paul continues:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Ephesians 5:22-23).  Paul calls upon God’s Spirit to produce the fruit of righteousness in and through men.  For men cannot produce this fruit themselves.  Instead, they will fall into sin every time.  It is interesting to note that while Paul speaks of the “acts of the sinful nature” in verse 19, he speaks of the “fruit of the Spirit” in verse 22.  Sinful is how we act.  Righteousness is the fruit the Spirit produces in us and through us.

So to the gentlemen, I would say this:  Remember the call God has given you to be the spiritual leaders of your household.  But do not try to carry out God’s call on you through your own efforts and with your own strength.  You will fall and fail every time.  Instead, implore the Spirit to produce in you and through you His fruit of righteousness.  For this fruit will be a blessing to you…and to your family.  And why would you want anything less for those you love most?

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Zach’s
message or Pastor Krueger’s ABC!


[1] Robbie Low, “The Truth About Men and Church,” Touchstone Magazine (June 2003).

June 13, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Temptation of Christ – Matthew 4:1-11

Yesterday at Concordia, we kicked off our Lenten season with a two and a half day fast.  If you want more information on fasting, its theological significance, as well as some of the mechanics of fasting, you can download a pdf of our fasting booklet here.

My guess is, if you are participating in our fast from solid foods, even as you are reading this, your stomach is growling.  Mine is.  And yet, as I mentioned in my message last night, we fast so that we can feast.  For as our stomachs are emptied, our souls are filled as we remember, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

As I was thinking further about the temptations Satan leveled at Jesus while he was fasting in the desert, a few things struck me.  First, I found it striking that Satan didn’t stop at one temptation.  He circled back to tempt Jesus a second and a third time.  When it comes to luring people into sin, Satan’s motto seems to be, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!”  Thus, this is a temptation truth that we do well to remember:  Fighting temptation is not a battle, it’s a war.  If we resist temptation once, we can be pretty much guaranteed that Satan will come back for another round.  But, then again, lest we throw up our hands in despair, believing it is futile to even try to resist temptation because Satan will simply continue to assault us, I also found Matthew 4:11 to be especially heartening: “Then the devil left Jesus.”  Satan will eventually check out, even if he comes at you for a few rounds.  Jesus’ brother James puts it well:  “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  If you, like Jesus, are fighting a battle with Satan, I would simply offer you this exhortation:  Resist the devil.  And keep on resisting.  Even if it takes forty days.  For Satan will eventually check out.

The second thing I found striking about Satan’s encounter with Christ is what one scholar terms as the “descending Christology” of these temptations.  In his first temptation, Satan addresses Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3).  Notice that Satan acknowledges Jesus could be the Son of God, but he does not acknowledge he is the Son of God.  But Satan does not stop here.  He dives deeper into heresy until he crassly declares in his third temptation: “All [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9).  Satan begins his temptations by saying, “If you are the Son of God…” He ends his temptations by essentially saying, “If I am god…”  He ends his temptations demanding Jesus worship him as a god.  A subtler error turns into a huge and hoary one.

Satan uses the same tactic with us that he used with Jesus.  He begins by tempting us with smaller errors but then tries to drag us into larger errors until he finally destroys our faith altogether.   This is why, whether it be a temptation to tell a little white lie or a temptation to commit murder, we must resist Satan’s every temptation at every turn and on every front.

The final thing I found striking – and really, touching – about Christ’s battle with Satan is the final line of Matthew’s temptation account:  “And angels came and attended Jesus” (Matthew 4:11).  The Greek word for “attended” is diakaneo, a word which describes someone who waits on tables.  This has led many scholars to believe that following Satan’s temptations, angels came and waited on Jesus with food.  And so Jesus finally breaks his fast.  Oh what a relief that must have been for our Lord.  And oh what a joy it must have been to see all of heaven concerned with his hunger and temptations.  And here is comfort for us too:  When we feel hungry or weak or tempted, all of heaven is concerned with our concerns.  And heaven attends to us.  God’s angels and best of all, God’s Son, offer us strength when we are weak and perseverance when we are tired.  And so, as you fast, rejoice that all of heaven watches.  And rejoice that all of heaven cares.  But most of all, rejoice that the God of heaven loves you.

February 18, 2010 at 4:45 am 1 comment


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