Temptation – The Error-Likely Situation
When I worked for the power company, I was told to be on guard against “error-likely situations.” When crews were called to deal with power outages, often it was late at night, in bad weather and unfamiliar locations, with everyone tired and under stress. Any of these conditions made it more likely for someone to slip up and make a costly – or even fatal – mistake. We were trained to recognize those situations and watch our step!
When Jesus was in the wilderness and tempted by the devil, He dealt with situations that we face as well. The Bible tells us that He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) We can learn a lot by noticing how He was tempted, and how He responded and avoided sin Himself.
Temptation often comes in the middle of spiritual progress. Jesus was just setting out on His public ministry when He was confronted by the prince of darkness himself! (Matthew 4:1) Sometimes when we are on a spiritual or emotional high, temptation sneaks into the party. It may be when we or our child first comes to faith, or we celebrate a family member’s wedding, or welcome a new baby into the household. Our adversary is always on the prowl, and we should always be watchful against him (1 Peter 5:8) – even in the joy of the moment.
Our physical condition may open us to temptation. Jesus was fasting in the desert when the tempter came to Him; no surprise, “He was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2) No doubt He was fatigued and weakened by His fast, too, when Satan came after Him. When we are tired, hungry, uncomfortable, or ill, we can easily become irritable, short-tempered, and selfish.
Our personal pride is a weak spot in our armor. The devil taunted Jesus to try and provoke Him. “If You are the Son of God,” he says twice, as if to say, “then prove it!” (Matthew 4:3-7) We teach our little boys not to give in to dares like this, but we parents can face the same thing – it’s just more subtle when we see it. If we start worrying about social approval, we need to be wary – reputation is important, but not if it leads us to sin.
Sin may be presented as a reasonable, rational decision. Satan tempted Jesus to use His divine power to create bread for Himself; after all, He was hungry – what could be more reasonable? (Matthew 4:3) We might have the temptation to steal a little something from our employer “just to even the score” – “they’re a big company, they’ll never miss it” – or lie to a family member to avoid embarrassment – it will avoid hurt feelings. A “reasonable excuse” quickly becomes a rationalization. But sin is still sin, even if well intended; “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2)
We can be tempted to grab for something now which God promises for later. The Bible tells us that “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15) When Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” Jesus knew the devil was only offering what the Father had already promised; the devil’s price was for the Savior to sin. (Luke 4:5-7) God promises many blessings to us, but on His terms and His timetable. If we are tempted to take shortcuts and grasp for the gift before God gives it, we may jump straight into the tempter’s trap!
Jesus has experienced temptation just like we face, and He understands! “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
Are you looking for resources to help you teach your teenage son to recognize and fight sexual temptation? Check out our book for guys, Love, Honor, and Virtue – it’s a great reference for parents and an encouragement for teens!
For more on the temptation of Christ, click here to listen to Hal’s message at our church …