17 August 2015

Satan is a Cunning Tempter

At the outset of his ministry, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting (Matthew 4). At the end of that time, Satan showed up on the scene to tempt Jesus to abandon his mission. Satan is cunning. He used three different approaches to appeal to Jesus.

The first thing the tempter did was appeal to Jesus' biology. Jesus had not eaten for 40 days and he was hungry (v. 2). Verse 3 reads, "And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loves of bread.'" He appealed to Jesus' physical desires, in this case the desire to eat. 

The appeal to biology is still a primary way we justify sin. Particularly regarding sexuality, people talk about how they have certain biological drives which impel them to engage in sexual sin. The feelings of arousal or attraction are seen as permission. Although sexuality is the most obvious area people appeal to biology, they could talk about biological underpinnings of anger, gluttony, laziness, you name it.

The second thing the devil did was to appeal to the Word of God. In verse 6, he quoted two passages of Scripture to Jesus, taken grossly out of context to encourage Jesus to abandon his messianic mission, yet Jesus did not lose sight of what God had called him to do.

Taking the Word of God out of context remains all too common. People preemptively decide what they want to believe and then look for Scriptures that can be used to support that perspective, which is called proof texting. One of the best examples I heard of this came from Greg Koukl who tells of a woman who left her husband for another man when she read a verse that said "put off the old man." Clearly, this is an extreme example, but if we leave out the grand story of the Bible, it becomes too easy to twist Scripture to justify whatever we want. Rather, we should let the whole counsel of God, all of Scripture, shape who we are becoming, rather than vice versa.

Finally, Satan appeals to worldly desire. In verse 8, he basically says to Jesus "I will give you everything you see. These are the things the world says are good, and right, and important." Jesus responds, "be gone!"

This appeal to what the world says is good remains pervasive. We hear messages that it is okay to be dishonest so long as it gives you riches. It's okay to sleep with whoever you want because that is what the world says is good and right. It's okay to abort your child because the world says it is fine to do so. 

Satan tempted Jesus by appealing to biology, Scripture, and worldly desire. He continues to do so today. He will do or say anything to tempt us away from following God. We must remain attentive to these temptations and run to Christ who not only recognized them, but overcame them on our behalf.

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