Two Sundays ago was the First Sunday in Lent, and I preached on the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.
St. Matthew and St. Luke tell it this way, as I paraphrase it here. Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for the expressed purpose of being tempted by the devil. The devil has three enticing temptations for Jesus, all of which Jesus attacks with Holy Scripture, and all of which Jesus withstands. The further details are worth looking up, but this is sufficient for our concerns here.
What I want to explore with you here are Seven Truths about Temptation, all brought forth from this dramatic Bible story.
#1. The devil, Satan, is real and therefore spiritual warfare is real. We Christians have all kinds of questions about why God allows the devil to exist and exert his venomous temptations, but we know that this is a reality. We also know that Jesus gave the devil ultimate defeat when He died and rose again. But we know through Scripture that the devil is real and spiritual warfare is real. Jesus was in it. We are in it. Martin Luther often affirmed that as Christians we must “fight” against the devil. As soon as anyone denies spiritual warfare, the devil has already won that person over. Ouch! Don’t let that happen.
#2. The devil’s purpose is to temp us into doubting God’s love for us and His adoption of us as His children. That was the main sordid reasoning the devil tried with Jesus in the wilderness. “If you are the Son of God…” The devil thought that if he could make Jesus doubt His true place as God’s One and Only Son for the salvation of the world, he could break Jesus down. The devil was sly and cunning, but Jesus withstood (see #7). The devil wants us to doubt God’s love for us. The devil wants to separate us from God both now and for all eternity by making us doubt “whose” we really are. So what do we do? Again, see #7.
#3. The devil’s method of attack against us is using temptation. The devil’s temptation is a continuous appeal to us spouting lies, twisting the truth, and all in a manner so slick it can far too often seem quite appealing. In the devil’s rationale, right is wrong, and wrong is right. What he proposes can look so innocent, so simple, so harmless, so much in line with what we want. Any of us not on acute watch and guard can so easily be convinced that what he presents to us “can’t be all that bad.” It’s dangerous.
#4. The devil will come at us when we are at our strongest. It is when we are close to God, listening to Him, following His ways and His will for our lives, that the devil comes at us with his full attack and arsenal of temptations. The devil wants to tear us down, weaken our faith, destroy our relationship with Christ, and he will be relentless in his attack with his vile temptations. This is true for individual Christians and churches alike. In these great times of strength, we best be on the lookout for that “little thing” that can be so damaging.
#5. The devil will come at us when we are at our weakest and most vulnerable. How satanic! It is when we might be at the lowest lows of our lives, the times of physical failings, the times of financial ruin, the times of broken relationships, the times of unfulfilled dreams and plans, that the devil sneaks in with his lies about our worthlessness and the worthlessness of our faith in God. Oh, be careful in these vulnerable seasons.
#6. This might be the scariest truth about the devil’s temptation of all. It is this. The devil does not come at us dressed in a red suit, pitch fork, horns, and scary face. If he did, it would be easy for us to resist, even with a laugh and sarcastic remark about how pitiful he is. However, the truth is he comes at us as everything we’ve ever wished for. He comes at us as every reward we’ve ever thought we deserved. He comes at us with reasoning and rationale that what he has to offer is just what we have been wanting all our lives finally to satisfy us. He doesn’t look scary. He looks pretty, and handsome, and exciting, and green with lots of zero’s. How dangerous!
#7. So what do we do? The short but strongest and best answer is to do what Jesus did. Be grounded in God’s Word, the truth of The Bible. Get in it. Wrestle with it. Be open to it’s truth. Submit yourself to it. Then the Holy Spirit will take you over, and His Power will be your power to join Jesus in the ultimate defeat of the devil. That’s what I’m asking God to help me do every day. I hope you do too.
Find Kollmeyer at princeofpeacefayette.org