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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Matthew 4:1 (NRSV)

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “and lead us not into temptation.”  Wait a minute – the verse above tells us that Jesus was led up by the Spirit to be tempted!  Um – hmmm.

Maybe God wanted to test Jesus, so led him up to the mountain in the wilderness.  Or maybe Jesus just felt that he needed to get away following his baptism to absorb everything.  The devil might have just seen this as a great opportunity to try to get Jesus to renounce his identity as God’s Son.  Or perhaps Jesus just needed to prove to himself that he was up to the task.

Because I can’t get into the mind of Jesus, I would only be guessing at what Jesus’ intentions were at this point.  However, according to this scripture, Jesus withstood all those temptations of self-aggrandizement, putting God to the test, and the offer of earthly power.

When we think about it, those who tend to think of themselves as magnificent and indispensable, we might realize that most of them topple of the pedestal they had build for themselves.  (Read the story of Mordecai in the Book of Ruth.)  And those who test God by trying to bargain are almost always disappointed because they couldn’t outsmart God.  Power corrupts, and when someone is in a powerful position, they become the target for being brought down.

Jesus’ ministry and purpose on earth were not of earthly things.  He knew that the things of this earth aren’t permanent.  Ultimately, it is relationship with God that lasts, and because of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, it is a “forever” relationship.

Jesus mission and ministry were to bring people closer to God, to bring forgiveness of sins, and to bring life everlasting.  I’m thankful for forgiveness of sins because it means that we can receive a second chance.  For some of us, we need those second chances regularly.  Of course, the key is that when we ask for forgiveness, we are expected to learn from our mistakes, our sins, our turning away from God so that we can keep trying and moving forward.

I’m fully aware of what it’s like to be tempted and to give in.  My biggest issue is eating foods that aren’t the best choices for me, but there are many other temptations.  I really don’t believe that God LEADS us into temptation but that God allows us to experience them and learn how to not give in.  That takes practice and persistence.

Matthew 4:11 tells us that after Jesus was tempted, “. . . the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.”  When we resist temptation or when we repent from giving in to it, I suspect that the “angels” are there to wait on us.  In fact, they were probably there all along, watching over us.  Who knows.  What we do know is that God wants what is best for us, and that is why we have been given a conscience.  Let’s learn to listen more and follow our gut feelings when we are faced with temptation.

How have you been tempted?

In what ways have you been able to overcome them?

How have you found forgiveness when you have given in to them?

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Tempted – again!

“. . . [Jesus] was tempted for forty days by the devil.”  Luke 4:2a (CEB)

I’m actually relieved that Jesus was tempted.  Being tempted is part of life, and I give in to temptation WAY more than I should.  Reading the story of Jesus’ temptation from the gospel of Luke reminds me that he was also human.  He could be and WAS tempted.  Of course the BIG difference is that he was able to stand firmly in his identity as the Son of God and not let the devil goad him into giving in.

Yes, I DO wish I could do the same thing, and there are times when I can resist temptation, but there are many other times I give in.  Of course, the majority of those days when I give in to temptation have to do with eating.  Underneath the desire to eat a large bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and walnuts is something else that is crying for attention.

That’s the big difference between Jesus and us.  Jesus knew himself, knew who he was, knew Whose he was, and was confident in his identity.  We may be confident in a lot of things, but there are still things that draw us away from being baptized children of God.

Baptism is the start of our identity.  This is where we are named and claimed by God as God’s Beloved child.  It is the beginning of our journey with Christ.  Baptism is a way of life, not just a ritual from a church worship service.  This is where we are enfolded into God’s family and loved with a love beyond all understanding.

So, as God’s baptized people, our calling is to grow in faith and share that faith with others in the way we live our lives.  Jesus had just been baptized, and he was led into the wilderness by the Spirit where he encountered the devil.  He was there for a long time; the Bible says forty days and nights – a long time.  He didn’t eat, and he was subjected to the devil’s tantalizing offers of food, power, and safety.  Yet, Jesus didn’t give in.

How I wish we could do that!  I have learned over the years that we can’t even deal with what causes us to overeat, have addictions, misbehave, or whatever we do until we can name what it is inside that is bugging us.  After years and years of attending Weight Watchers meetings, some of what I have learned sinks in sometimes, and I ignore it other times.

Maybe it’s because I just don’t want to deal with it.  Yet, once I have eaten the ice cream (a huge bowl!), I don’t really feel better!  Instead, I feel guilty.  Temptation is a lie.  It offer the idea that something else is far better than what God has to offer us.  Maybe we can learn a little from Jesus about sticking close to God and trusting that the Spirit won’t abandon us when the times get tough.  Maybe we just need to name our issues and turn them over to God, trusting that we will be shown the way to deal with them other than giving into temptation.  Maybe.

In what ways are you able to resist temptation?

How do you trust that God is with you during those times?

 

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