Our society in this day and age has powerfully skewed us in the way of our thinking, and in the things that we strive for and that we notice as important. The true things I importance and motivation have fallen away from what should be long ago. God's design from the beginning was for us to live an abundant life, to appreciate and desire beauty, to feel closeness and fellowship with others, to crave fulfillment physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We were not meant to simply live this life, we were meant to live it joyfully and abundantly. In saying this, I have noticed how many individuals (and even churches) seem to twist Biblical principles to either reinforce an argument they have, or to make God's laws, commandments, and words for into the needs and desires of their own life, so that what they feel and want would then be okay. The way I noticed this most is in people's use of certain terms God used in the Bible. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at each of these terms individually and dissecting the difference between human nature and God's nature. Let's take them one by one...spend these few days with me as we study the world's view of these terms versus Our Creator's:
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7)
Temptation: The worldly definition is "to perform an action that one may enjoy immediately or in the short-term but will probably later regret for various reasons." It is also noted as meaning "the state of being attracted and enticed without anything to do with moral, ethical, or ideological valuation." Sounds pretty good right? And much of that is true. However, the way the world views the word "temptation" is almost always meant in a physical or sexual instance. Temptation of a man wanting a woman, temptation of a woman wanting a man, temptation to be intimately involved with someone outside of their relationship. Temptation to look at something that you believe brings you pleasure, temptation to have something or someone that you currently don't have, temptation to think about someone or something that you shouldn't be thinking about. All of these are sexual in nature, and all of these are what the world is focused on. The world urges us to indulge, and tells us that we can get away with it, and it's not that bad.
"So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin." (James 4:17)
Now, let's take a look at this through Christ's eyes. With the guiding of the Holy Spirit, we can see the true intention in which God meant this word to resonate with us. Through God's meaning of the word temptation, we learned that it can mean many things. It can mean a test, proof, a trial, or an enticement. It is a way in which God tests us to reveal to ourselves and to the world our true character. Now, it is not God that dangles temptation in front of us, but God does allow it to take place and watches it play out sometimes. If temptation is dangled in front of us in the way we spoke about in the above paragraph, we can be sure it is from the enemy. If it includes wrong and impure thoughts physically or mentally or weakens us spiritually, that is of the enemy. But if temptation comes in the way of walking through a hard problem instead of trying to get around it, pushing through a rocky relationship instead of running from it, or striving to walk the narrow path when everyone else is walking the wider one...those are sometimes temptations we have created on our own that God will allow so that we can learn from them. Those temptations are still of our own doing, by allowing those thoughts in, but sometimes The Lord allows us to experience them in an effort to help us gain His strength, trust in Him, and to grow within ourselves and in our relationship with Christ.
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you're tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Temptations come in the way of our uncertainties with ourselves, our insecurities, our fears, our worries. We are tempted to think wrongly of ourselves or others, we are tempted to envy the success or achievements someone else has, we are tempted to procrastinate or be lazy in our day when we are given bold opportunities to use our capabilities to be the best we can be. So much of what God was talking about when he talks about temptation has to do with emotional, spiritual, and mental…not the physical. We will have physical temptations at times, and hopefully when we do, if we are focused on and have our hearts in the Lord, even those temptations will be in themselves kept pure and faithful within our relationships and will be grounded in our respect for God and others. There are also physical temptations that are pure in nature that God did speak about. The temptation of food when you are hungry (such as Jesus' temptation to make bread out of stones to relieve his own hunger), the temptation to take the easy route in a situation to save yourself pain or strife (such as when Jesus had the opportunity to free himself from a pinnacle by jumping and relying on angels to break his fall), or the temptation to make yourself into an idol (such as when the devil told Jesus he could have all the kingdoms in the world, if he would worship him). The temptation to go right when everybody else in this world is going left. The temptation to say, "Okay, just this time. I will let the enemy in just a little bit, and I'll repent and do better next time."
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire." (James 1:14)
But God uses these moments. He uses every single one, whether as a way for us to have closer relationship with Him, as a way for Him to take care of us, as a way for Him to help us live a good, pure life and walk in Christ's image. The choices are ultimately ours, but if we are grounded in The Almighty Father, we already know the right path to take and the true answers. When we want to honor God, respect others, and love ourselves…we will make sure to stay far away from temptation, and at the onset of any sign of weakness, we are to immediately turn to God and lean on His strength. For what He provides is more than sufficient, if only we will choose to seek Him above all else!
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)