How many of you have heard the sermon about what to do when tempted? <raises hand>
I bet the teacher used either the temptation of Jesus or the armor of God as text, right?
- What did Jesus do when faced with temptation? He quoted God’s Word, of course!
- We must weild the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God!
But does quoting the Words of God alone work in our battle against sin? Nope. Words are not a talisman of protection against strong desire or deceit. In fact, referencing God’s Word is Satan’s best tactic in tempting Christians to act like heathens. As the first woman learned to her shame.
The Bible describes two famous temptation scenes: The First Humans and Jesus.
These two stories have much in common. Both Jesus and the First Humans were perfect. Neither knew what life was like unconnected to God. Unlike us, they were not enticed by the evil desires of their flesh, because their flesh did not desire sinful things. (James 1:14-15) Could that be why a literal Being presented itself as the tempting force?
Both the First Humans and Jesus were tempted by the evil one, who took visible form and talked with them. Not only did Satan appear, he initiated.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman…
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him…
The devil used food as his opener.
…“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” It asked the woman.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Both Eve and Jesus battled with God’s Word.
[The woman said] … God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
Satan responded by using God’s Word. To the woman he said God said something He never did, and to Jesus he twisted the context.
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Eve used God’s Word, but it wasn’t enough.
These two situations had more in common than not. But the distinction is what made the difference between success and failure. Eve was deceived. She probably didn’t even know she was being tempted! She believed something that wasn’t. She acted on information that was false. Believing she was doing the right thing, she ate. But she understood God all wrong. And she was ashamed that she was duped by lies.
Oh dear. How often have I done the exact same thing? Believing my actions were what was required from God’s Word, I’ve sown discord, pain and destruction. Looking back, I realize I was tempted with pride, self-righteousness and the fear of man. I succumbed to the deceit of those desires. And, I too am ashamed I fell for the lies I believed about God.
3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11
Paul, who wrote those warning verses, understood deceit. He was a zealous Jew. He loved God’s Word. He believed killing Christians was the right way to serve God. His sincere desire was to live -or die – for the Lord. But he got it all wrong.
Deceit blinds us to the temptation.
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 1 Timothy 1
I wonder at this. Can I even tell I’m being tempted if there is deceit sugaring the bait? How can I battle this ignorance? Paul was blindly sinning away, all the while believing he was acting righteously…based on his understanding of the Word of God. Only an encounter with the true Word, the incarnate and resurrected Christ, set him straight. And this is what he taught as the antidote to deceit. Holding our beliefs up to the light of Jesus, with the help of His Spirit. Paul knew how easy it is to be deceived, and so he warns Christians to be aware to the possibility that teachers are twisting God’s Word to bind us to a gospel that is not Jesus’. Just like Satan. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Heed the warning.
There really isn’t a formula of Words. Sure, knowing God’s truth helps us discern error, but what if we ignorantly follow an interpretation that is in itself an error? It is Satan’s best tactic. He twists God’s Word to tempt us.