by Richard Pelfrey
In one of the best Christian books I’ve read (and I’ve only read a few), Phillip Yancey devotes a chapter to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. He says some things in here that have greatly influenced my salvation. In it he concludes that Jesus had every opportunity to destroy the devil that day – once and for all; no more evil in the world. But He didn’t. Christ chose to rebuke Satan and to keep him around as well. God knows that we actually need the devil. After all, the almighty doesn’t do anything without a purpose. And the purpose of old Beelzebub, I believe, is to make us realize how much we really need God.
So sin is never eradicated. Yes I’m forgiven, but that is not a free pass through this earthly life. In this life, we never become exempt from temptation. And temptation in itself is not sin, but the acting out or entertaining of these temptations is. Temptation is a reminder that I need to have Jesus in my life. If we act out on temptation and turn to sin for long enough, we experience our little pieces of hell here on Earth, and ideally it brings us back to the cross. To quote C.S Lewis, “God whispers to us in our pleasure and shouts in our pain”.
God – according to James 1:13-15 – does not tempt anyone. Instead we are tempted by the evil that lives in our flesh (see Romans 7, we should never act as though we are innocent, because there is something in our fallen nature which makes us unrighteous by default). Temptation comes when that nature pulls our gaze from the face of God and entices us. This temptation is still just a seed, and when we choose to water that seed instead of cultivating the light inside of us, we get sin. Then, as James says, “sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”
It’s a test. To see if we are willing to do what it takes to stay on the straight and narrow. In this world we will have trouble – take that one to the bank, it’ll pay. Satan will come at us with temptations every single chance he gets. Lord knows I am tempted in certain ways every single day, and I don’t always pass the test, lifters. But see, my shortcomings bring me back to the cross. My sin brings me to my knees and keeps me humbled in repentance, and this is where He can use me the most. All things work together for the good of those who love Him!
When I’ve got Jesus in my heart it’s just a little thorn, no big deal. Just a reminder that I still have flesh. But the minute I start entertaining the spiky temptations which Satan continually slides my way, I begin shutting the door on Christ and opening my soul to the outer darkness.
Let us pray what Christ taught us to: “Our father who art in Heaven…lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil”. Otherwise, we will get picked off. It’s like Peter says: “Be sober, be vigilant, for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” I didn’t have to look that one up, it’s committed to my memory and I walk with it in my heart today. When we recognize this fact and pray the word of God just as Jesus did in the desert, we get the same power that He had on that day. With this, even though we may lose little sin battles, we emerge victorious – covered in blood and victorious.