Getting Realistic about the Weight of Temptation
Since the dawn of time, humans have underestimated a great many things. And will we continue to underestimate, I suspect, until time has reached its demise.
The one underestimation that I think is most grievous is when we underestimate temptation. This human vulnerability is hardly given the consideration it’s due. Maybe, in part, because of the lack of seriousness we have regarding sin. And the lack of sobriety we possess toward our own assailable hearts.
Temptation comes in all sizes, and it targets all of us without exception. Not a soul has lived that has not been tempted. And only one has ever successfully resisted—Jesus. So, what should that tell us?
In some ways, I liken it to the green mist in the movie The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, based on the book by C.S. Lewis. This diabolical fog tempted and preyed upon the vulnerabilities of everyone in its midst. It knew no boundaries. It even seeped into the invisible mansion of Coriakin, the magician.
“This diabolical fog tempted and preyed upon the vulnerabilities of everyone in its midst.”
There isn’t a single place in this fallen world the “green mist” cannot invade. Nor the evil which can potentially follow. Temptation was so bold as to enter the Holy of Holies and lure the high priest’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, to offer unholy fire before the Lord (Lev. 10). Temptation even pervaded the Lord’s final Passover table with betrayal (Matt. 26). The Temple in Jerusalem was visited by the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15). Even worship has its temptations—from idolatry to apostasy.
To temptation, nothing is sacred. Nothing off limits. Christians, these temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells, are corruptible and assailable. Churches are too, as recently revealed in the SBC’s coverups of sexual abuse among its pastors. In fact, churches can even be used as cover by the evildoer. Yet another great abomination that caused desolation! Holy things are temptation’s most alluring playground. The holy is evil’s target for attack.
“Holy things are temptation’s most alluring playground. The holy is evil’s target for attack.”
This, of course, does not excuse or justify the horrendous acts of evil—especially those cloaked as shepherds of the flock. But it should serve as warning to Christians everywhere to wake up to the very real and present danger of which we are all susceptible.
What is the great danger of temptation? By it we are enticed to sin. And sin seeks to devour and destroy. It wreaks evil. And breaches the relationship between creature and Holy Creator.
Whenever we underestimate the power of temptation, we’re exhibiting a flagrant disregard for the destructive nature of sin. Let’s consider the landscape laid waste by masses of its victims—and let’s pray we are able to pay greater cognizance and give solemn heed. For the stakes are high, and the victims are real.
“The stakes are high, and the victims are real.”
Temptations come from without and within. One tempter named in Proverbs is Folly. Folly calls out, “Turn in here” to those “going straight on their way” (Prov. 9:13-16). She shouts to those minding their own business, trying to go about doing the right thing. However, often no external agents are necessary. For there are internal temptations battling within as well—like selfish desires and prideful wills.
But there is good news! Temptation is conquerable. We need not host when temptation comes knocking. We can overcome. For God has provided a way of escape when temptation strikes: choice. Moreover, in Christ, He has provided the power to act upon that choice: the fruit of the Spirit known as self-control. Now, don’t let me give the wrong impression by either oversimplifying the issue or implying that we can attain personal perfection. Taking the way of escape God offers can be quite difficult. Hence the need to submit to the power of the Spirit.
“In Christ, He has provided the power to act upon that choice: the fruit of the Spirit known as self-control.”
In the movie I mentioned earlier, the Narnian voyagers had to lay the seven swords of the lords on Aslan’s table to defeat the green mist. For disciples of Jesus, the sword is the Word of God. And Jesus demonstrated the way to wield this sword. For it was by the Word and the Spirit that He overcame the temptations that assaulted Him (Matt. 4:1-11). In order to rightly view God, temptation, and sin with proper weight, we must do so through the lens of that Word. Even then we are vulnerable to attack. But we are best prepared to recognize and prevail over the wiles of temptation when we regularly, and prayerfully, feast upon that unassailable Word.
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