Monthly Archives: September 2016

Learning to Love the O.T. IIb — The Tempter and the Temptation

Last week I had what I’ll call an emotional uprising.  I was talking with a couple of friends and we were all sharing about our lives, when something in the conversation began to make me uncomfortable.  Big emotions started rearing up inside of me, things like insecurity and shame.  I tried to ignore them. I tried to talk myself out of them.  I tried to manipulate the conversation away from what was making me uncomfortable.  But the emotions just grew, like rebellious beasts.

The interaction ended and I went home feeling shell shocked, incapable of doing anything. I couldn’t talk about it.  I just cloistered myself in the house until I felt better.

The good news is that I am learning how to deal with my emotional triggers, reading a really super book called “Spiritual Discovery” by Virginia Lefler (and two other authors).  But my experience reminds me of how Adam and Eve hid in the Garden. Did they feel any of the things I was feeling?

Today my blog is about the nature of temptation, and the nature of Satan.  Looking at these themes in Genesis 2 and 3, and elsewhere, gives us much insight into the way Satan works, and how we can fight him.

The nature of temptation. Let’s uncover one of Satan’s biggest pages in his evil playbook.  He tries to get us to doubt the goodness of God, that God is sufficient.

grass-is-greener

The grass is always greener on the other side.

The serpent conned Eve into believing that that God was holding out on her.  She had all this delectable fruit right at her fingertips. She could walk with God.  She could eat from the tree of life. But she became insecure and decided she needed something else.

So many other stories of the Bible have the same theme. The Israelites whine in the desert because they don’t believe God will provide.  They don’t conquer the Promise Land because they don’t think God’s assistance will be enough. David goes after Bathsheba, even though he could basically have any unmarried woman he wants.  He counts his men, in spite of knowing that it has been God who has always been his winning edge.

And then look at how Jesus was tempted in the wilderness.  Satan tries to get him to think he needs more — he needs the stones to become bread.  I love how Jesus replies that the Word of God is what is really fulfilling!  I am so convinced that the way Jesus remained free of sin throughout his life was by believing strongly in the goodness of God.  Remembering this helps me to be the same way.

The nature of Satan.  He is “crafty.”

sneaky

That nasty tempter is soooo clever!  So sneaky and diabolical! As a serpent, he came up with this fine sensible sounding argument to convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  He didn’t make sin look obvious.  He made it look like a reasonable choice.

Thus, we are warned in the New Testament to guard ourselves against Satan’s treacherous plots. Jesus tells us to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Paul says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” (Ephesians 6:11.  See also II Cor 2:11 and I Peter 5:8)

 He is a liar.  Satan lied to Eve in the Garden, and lies have been his modus operandi ever since. One of the most blatant examples of this is in I Kings 22 where God confers with the heavenly host on how to bring about the downfall of Ahab.  One of the host (almost certainly the Devil) steps forward and says, “I will go out and be a spirit that tells lies through the mouths of all of Ahab’s prophets.”  God approves of this plan and authorizes its execution.

Jesus said in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, because he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

He is an accuser.  Why were Adam and Eve so afraid that they hid from God? Why did they think they couldn’t come before God in their weakness?  I might be stretching it a bit, but I think they heard that whisper of censure, the voice of Satan, that says, “You scum!  God is so going to blast you.  He’s going to hate you now.”

Satan thinks the worst of us.  He told God about Job, “Now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”  Job 1:11.  He was even critical of Jesus, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” Zech 3:10

The good news of the New Testament is that Satan can no longer accuse those who are saved!  “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. . .” ( Col 1:22)

And the end of the story is that accuser is going down!  “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he who accuses them day and night before our God.’”  (Rev 12:1)

Let’s pray —

Father, help me to see the schemes and the lies of Satan.  Help me not to let Satan accuse me. I am especially struggling with this temptation/situation: ___________________.   Help me not to hide, but to bring it into the light before you so you can give me wisdom and power.  Help me not to feel ashamed, but to talk to a friend about it, so they can pray for me and help me unravel the tangles of deception. 

Father, I am rejoicing, I am dancing in my heart, that I can be holy, without blemish and free from accusation.  I am utterly grateful before you.  Help me to carry this with me throughout my day.

God, I know you are GOOD!!!   You are the light, in you is no darkness at all. Help me to believe in your goodness especially in this area where I am so tempted to doubt: __________________.  Help me to know that you are ENOUGH!  I so often don’t feel like I am enough.  I want to come to you and KNOW that you are the source of all sufficiency.  

Father, thank you that you believe the best in us.  Help me believe in the best in you.

In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Learning to Love the O.T. IIa — The Choice

I love the third point about the story of the Garden so much that I’ve made a whole blog about it. (See my previous blog for points one and two.)  Great stuff!  Here is the third thing that I think is totally cool:

That God gives us a choice.

choose-your-path

It is so amazing that God gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey or disobey.  Skeptics through the ages have ranted against a God who would allow people to make destructive choices.  “How could a loving God not prevent people from hurting themselves and others?” they ask.

But there is such grace in having the ability to make a choice.  It feels so wonderful to do the right thing willingly and joyfully, because we choose to do so.

And God always makes sure to  tell man the consequences of making the wrong choice. He doesn’t let man just walk blindly into harm’s way.  He told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would die.

His message to the Israelites expressed this consistent theme:  “Choose today whom you will serve.  This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”  Deut 30:19

The prophets echoed this:

Seek the LORD and live, or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire; it will devour them . . . . Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you. . . “ Amos 5:6, 14

Incline your ear and come to Me.  Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you  Isa 55:3

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.”  Jer 4:4

Continuing to the New Testament, we see that God gave Jesus a choice. This is crazy amazing.  I mean, just think about it.  God left the salvation of the whole world up to choice.  Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross, but he wrestled in prayer to make the decision to do so.

And when Jesus made this choice, God set in motion his age old plan to make it easier for us to make good choices.  He said through Jeremiah, “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them.” (Jer 32:39)  With the motivation of Jesus’ sacrifice, and with the indwelling of the Spirit, we do have more of a singleness of heart.  We want to do the right thing.

THIS is the goal for God, that we want to serve him, that we want to make the right choices, “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  (2 Cor 9:7.)  In giving man choice, it gave God the opportunity to have the sweetest delights.  He loves for man to choose good, to choose HIM!   “There is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

And at the end, when we make it through the finish line, God will rejoice with us as the parable in Matthew 25 expresses, “”Well done, good and faithful servant. . . Come and share your master’s happiness.

heaven

The narrative of the Bible concludes by taking us full circle.   Our good choices (and God’s good grace) will bring us back into the Garden.  “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’”  Rev. 2:7

Pray with me.

Father, thank you that you’ve given us a choice.  I do love you so much, and I want to serve you with my whole heart, and give my life to you, and make you happy.  Thank you that you gave us Jesus and the Spirit, and set us up to win.  Help me to make good choices today.  I really need your help today in choosing ____________________.

Help me remember that there are consequences for my decisions.  Help me not to be lackadaisical.   I so much want to make it through the finish line and run into your loving arms.  I’m only going to be able to make it through dependance on you.  Help me to look to you throughout the day, as I make the little choices that set the direction of my future.  Have mercy on me when I make the wrong choices, and may I not become bogged down in them, but have the energy to pick myself up and move forward.

I praise you for your plan to redeem us and give us an opportunity to joyfully do the right thing, and give ourselves to you.  You are so awesome, and I love you.

In Jesus’ name, amen

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