It’s not God’s fault!

In Lent 24 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation… And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

James 1:12-13

It’s not unusual to hear people say, “God doesn’t give you more than you can endure.” When I hear that, I think about an automobile test facility, that closes and shuts a door repeatedly or twists a knob over and over to see how much they can take. But does God really do that to us? It’s not logical that a God who would go to the extreme of taking on sin through the agency of His son would then try to trip us up.

James tells us that God would never do that. “He never tempts anyone….”

Jesus’ temptation, as described in Luke 4, is really not a model for our own temptations. Jesus went to the wilderness to do battle with the forces of sin and evil. Yes, being a human he had all the human appetites we do, but he went to the wilderness as an unbroken and sinless person whose aim was to break the back of sin and death.

However, we can learn something from how Jesus dealt with temptation. Three times the Tempter tried to get Jesus to give in to Jesus’ human appetites: Lust, Pleasure, and Ego. These were the same three temptations that faced the first humans before they succumbed and doomed the earth. Both John (who wrote 1 John) and the first humans had similar encounters with temptation.

For the first humans in the garden, the forbidden fruit was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desired to make them wise. In 1 John, we are told that temptation comes in the form of a craving for what we see, a desire for sinful pleasure, and pride in our achievements. Universal appetites.

Jesus response was to face temptation with what he knew to be his Father’s desire for him. The temptation ball was in Jesus’ court to deal with, and he did so by saying, “It is written…” In other words, “That is not what my father wants for me.”

We have the same temptations today. Everything faced is just a version of one of these three things: appetites of every sort, excitement of vision like the newest phone on the market, or self-aggrandizement like lust for position, power over others, or praise. What is your strongest temptation?

Something to think about: Of the three temptations – satisfaction of the senses, lustful imagination, or quest for power – which is the one that attracts you the most? What are your defenses against it?

Something to pray about: Father in heaven, You created us to worship and love you. But we are often knocked off course by our own pleasures which draw us more deeply into ourselves, leading to sin. Please help us through the agency of your Spirit, through our knowledge of your will, and through a deep desire to be like you, to be people who follow your lead. In Jesus’ name we pray this. Amen.

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