Sunday, February 27, 2011

Slaying Giants: Temptation



Genesis 3:1-13 “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'"
The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! "For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate;
and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

Giants take all kinds of forms around us. In David’s case, Goliath was a very literal, flesh and blood giant. Joseph’s giants were more about life, the loss and waste of time. Job had to face giants of loss, loss of family and wealth and position. Today I want to talk about the giant of temptation. The Greek word temptation does not just refer to the desire to do something sinful, it also relates to very stressful times. Spiritual warfare…

Sometimes the Bible is very clear on things. In the case of temptation, the Biblical authors were inspired to focus on 3 different kinds. We see them very clearly delineated in 3 different passages. Let’s start by looking at the passage that clearly lists these categories.



1John 2:15-16 “Do not love the world nor the things in the world If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life. In today’s terms it would be money, sex, and power. Temptation falls into acquiring stuff, selfish want, and self importance.

The Garden: Sometimes life is good. You have everything you need in abundance. You have a great relationship with God, your spouse – everything seems to be in harmony. It is this context that Adam and Eve are faced with a choice. The command of God is clear and simple. Do whatever you want except don’t eat the fruit of these two trees. How often do we focus not on what we have, but what we don’t have? This is one reason why Paul challenges us to “in everything give thanks”. It seems when our eyes wander from what we have to what someone else has, the door is open for temptation. Listen to genesis 3 again: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.” It was good for food. It added to what she already had. It was connected to that other tree which granted eternal life. Satan claimed she would not die! If you have ever collected anything, you know the search is for the piece you do not have. The focus of the collection is not what you have, but what you don’t have – lust of the flesh it is a very powerful thing. She had everything but that tree, well, that and the other one. It was a delight to the eyes. She had never ate it before – no one did! It would perhaps be a taste that she had never experienced before. Eve’s mind began to consider the possibilities, she began to listen to Satan’s claim – “your eyes will be opened”. The possibilities began to formulate of what new things she would see and be and experience. She began to yearn for that thing that was not physical, but was still able to be grasped. The promise was strong, a lust of the eyes. Then the pride – “you will be like God”. You will have power, you will control your own destiny outside of God. You are not just a steward, but an owner. You… you… you! And so in spite of tall that Adam and Eve had, they ate, and life would never be the same.

The Wilderness: Sometimes life is hard. You have very little, and whether it be health or food or finances, you seek the easy way to what you think will be freedom. If I can just take a little here and there, I will have  what  I need. It no longer matters how I get it, because I desperately need it. If I had that I could do God’s work so much better, so much easier. We begin to rationalize away the standards so that the end justifies the means. In so doing we circumvent what God may be trying to teach us in the midst of that trial or temptation. It is in the wilderness where there is more often than not a refining work that God is doing in us, a purifying, a shedding of the garbage so that the good stuff remains and shows. Pretty much every major character in the Bible had a wilderness experience: Joseph was in the wilderness of slavery. Moses and Israel were in the Wilderness outside the Promised Land. David spent years on the run from King Saul. Paul spent some 3-5 years in the wilderness after his conversion.

Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and then faced three temptations: turn these rocks to bread and satisfy your hunger - lust of the flesh; bow to Satan and receive the kingdoms of the earth – lust of the eyes; and cast yourself off the temple, demanding God to save you – pride of life. It is more than coincidence – it is a type we need to examine our lives with, whether we are talking about the temptation to sin, or dealing with a trial in our lives. The teaching applies to both, as in both situations we are bent to turn to our own strength to solve the issue.

We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there are ways to get through temptations. We are told in James that temptation works on our desires, trying to pull them out of balance, out of proportion to life until they become sin. If we are to traverse successfully through the minefield of temptation in life, there are these three things we need to have a proper understanding of.

Possessions: Everything you have – who owns who? God has promised to provide

Desires: Everything you don’t have – adding to your worth? Happiness isn’t in stuff

Center: The unseen focus of life – what is the one thing life is about for you? Filter life through Jesus

The only way to face the giants of temptation is to give your life to Jesus, completely without reservation.

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