Are you ever tempted?
Of course…if you have a pulse.
For a few, the word is inviting; for most, it elicits a picture of rugged isolation, dripping with loneliness.
I take you back to the wilderness of Judea where John the Baptist has just baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. Being a visually driven person, I wonder ‘did Jesus have a towel? Was someone holding it for him? Did anyone on shore clap when he came up out of the water?’ Hmmm. Some scholars believe Jesus was baptized in what we call the month of January. Having just been in the Jordan River in February, it was very cold—something about thinking of Jesus being cold moves my heart. While Jesus was fully God, he was also fully man. And that is why the next thing Jesus did was so important.
The Scripture: The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Mark 1.12-13
Getting our bearings here, we are studying Mark’s perspective of Jesus – this gospel is fast moving and action oriented. Most believe that Mark’s gospel is the earliest written account of the life of Jesus. Now of course the New Testament contains four accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry--Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--but why four? Four separate perspectives of the One Man, written by four different vantage points. Roughly, it would be like four people watching the same football game who note unique things about what they see—same game, same outcome, different takes, sometimes aiming for a particular readership.
Jesus leaves Nazareth, travels out to the Jordan River to be baptized, and almost immediately, the Holy Spirit drives him into the wilderness where he will fast for 40 days and be tempted by Satan. Matthew and Luke go into greater detail about what took place during that time.1 Jesus. Willingly. Goes. Into. The. Wilderness. To. Be. Tempted. He goes from the water to the wasteland. [pictured below]
Why? To identify with us in our humanity. Scripture says Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin!2 Throughout his life, Jesus identifies with what we face as human beings, and models for us how to respond.
I confess that I have carried in my mind a short-sighted view of temptation in the life of Jesus, kinda leaving temptation in the desert, as though he defeated it once and for all. If so He would not have been fully man during his all-important years of ministry; for every man is tempted to sin.
Do you face temptation? Of course you do. And in case you haven’t noticed, temptation looks different for each of us. What tempts you may not tempt me in the least, and what I am tempted by might sail right by you without notice.
Temptation comes in the form of—
-prideful thoughts, which we oft translate as insecurity
-people we should avoid
-unforgiveness, hard heartedness
-apathy toward God, willing unbelief
-selfishness or jealousy
-addiction—to alcohol, weed, shopping, food
Or fill in the blank: _____________
One of the refreshing things about being close to high school students is that they are just real. I remember a text exchange with a young basketball player in which I asked how I could pray for him; his response, ‘could you pray that I will be strong, because I am facing a lot of temptation?’ Hmmm...first step in not succumbing to temptation: awareness. Yes, I prayed for him.
Not long ago, I sat down with three young women (18-ish) all home-schooled in Christian families. When we spoke of how I could support them, the matter of their biggest temptation came up. What was it? Pornography. Dangerous, addictive, brain altering, isolating, shame-causing porn. Consider getting free from this sin.
Does God send temptation our way? Hmmmm … consider this from James:
“No one, when tempted, should say, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.”3
James is clear: God does not tempt anyone; it is impossible for God to violate his own character. Thomas a Kempis in his work, "The Temptation of Christ", written in 1441, has some valuable insight on this critical topic.
It is our own (individual) desires that entice. It is for this reason that what tempts you, may not tempt me, and visa versa. It is valuable to see that temptation is part of a process-
>First, the thought is allowed to enter our minds; second, the imagination is sparked by the thought; third, we feel a sense of pleasure at the fantasy, and we entertain it~ fourth, and finally, we engage in the evil action, assenting to its urges. Kempis admonishes us about thoughts of temptation, "Meet them at the door as soon as they knock, and do not let them in."
A scriptural promise for you: No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.4
How did Jesus defeat temptation? He prayed, looked to the Father for help and employed Scripture. What temptation are you trying to leave at the door? Paul’s mantra: I can do all things through him who strengthens me5 surely helps me. All things, Paul? Yes. Like not opening the door when temptation knocks.
It is true - he gets us,
1 – Do you want to know or refresh your memory on what was involved during Jesus' 40 days? You could ‘google’ “Jesus temptation in the wilderness” and the gospel references to this would populate: Matthew 4.1-11; Mark 1.12-13; Luke 4.1-13.
2 – Hebrews 4.15
3 – James 1.13-15
4 - 1 Corinthians 10.13
5 – Philippians 4.13