Friday, June 12, 2009

Tempted or Tested. . .

In an earlier writing I explored the difference between a trial and a test. . .The differences between the two are in the attitude and thereby the perception of the one undergoing the experience.

There is indeed a difference between being tempted and being tested. A test is a measuring device, like a ruler or weight scales. You can be tested by someone else or you can and should test yourself. A test births an increase in knowledge. Tests can be constructed from virtually any raw material. They are not limited to any set form. Any life event can be viewed as a test, if you learn something about your self from it. Every test is valuable in that there is always value in gaining knowledge about yourself.

While a test is most often independent of you, think of a hurricane or the present economic crisis, millions of people are being tested at once by single causative events. A temptation on the other hand is intimately bound to you, for indeed temptation is internal. It arises from within you. You are the source of your own temptation. If the hunger, if the desire were not within you it would be impossible to be tempted. Temptations are uniquely individualistic. While people certainly may share the same desires, that which will tempt you and another will likely be very different. What is temptation to one, is nothing to another. A test is finite. It has an end. Temptation is endless as long as there is hunger. As long as that hunger is carried, temptation will never end. For victory comes not at the end of temptation, but at the end of hunger. . .

Much apparent confusion in the Bible over the concept of temptation comes from problems with translation. The words 'tempt' or 'temptation' are found some in some 69 verses in the Old and New Testaments. In many of those verses, the underlying Hebrew or Greek words could possibly have better been translated as 'tested'. There is one definitive passage that speaks of temptation:

James 1:12-15
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (13) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

This speaks directly to what I am saying. It is our own hunger that is the source of our weakness. It is only through that hunger that we can be enticed and drawn away from God. God put that which was forbidden in the garden. He did not create that hunger. . . the enticement was not from within the fruit, but originated in Eve . . it was that dissatisfaction within Eve that led her into the eating of the forbidden fruit. The fruit was an inanimate object, blameless in the absence of Eve's hunger and subsequent disobedience based upon that hunger.

Proverbs 27:7
The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.

When we are full. . . when we are sated in the Lord, we cannot be enticed, but when we are empty and hollow inside even that which is not good for us is appealing and we crave it. . .

Isaiah 55:1-2
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (2) Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

Avoid that which feeds hunger. . .Seek that which truly satisfies. . .

In Matthew 4, where Jesus is led into the wilderness and enticed by the devil, the devil fails with his temptation, for Jesus has no hunger for those things offered. The devil had no foothold in Jesus. We learn much about the devil and what he finds enticing by that which he offers Jesus. If the devil is offering it, you can be assured that it is filled with sin.

Matthew 4:3
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

After 40 days of fasting, the devil first enticed Jesus with the satisfying of His physical hunger through His divine power. . . for Jesus to satisfy His physical hunger with His Spiritual power. . .to be lacking in the physical, means little when filled in the Spiritual. One of the primary purposes of a fast is to demonstrate the predominance of the Spirit over the physical. The way to end a fast is not in an orgy of eating. If so, then the fast becomes a mere tool giving excuse for continued excesses of appetite. . . the lust of the flesh. . .

Matthew 4:5-6
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down. . .

The entire scenario is important for this enticement. Now at the highest point of the temple, in front of all those gathered there, imagine in your minds eye everyone seeing angels rescuing you, proving your invincibility. . .showing them all. . . proving yourself to them all. . .letting them see in their eyes first hand, how God honors and protects you. . . the lust of the eyes. . .

Matthew 4:8-9
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; (9) And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Now the devil takes Jesus, not to a public place, but to a place with a wide view. Isolated and alone on top of a mountain, not seen, but being able to see everything Himself. Enticing Him not with the admiration of others, but with actual possession, control, in short, tempting Him with absolute power over the lives of others. . .the pride of life. . .

Good parallels between the enticements of the devil and the admonitions of John:

1 John 2:15-17 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Avoid that which increases and feeds the appetites of the flesh. . .whatever that might be. . .what ever form that might take. Success over temptation lies not in the impossible avoidance of temptation, but in being filled with other sustenance. The elimination of fleshly appetites and the fostering of the Spiritual:

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

In closing, look upon those whom the Bible holds up to be mighty men. . . Noah, Moses, Joseph, David, John the Baptist. . .notice the common thread in each of them. None of these men were ambitious men. Each shied from the spotlight. Each spent time alone in their unique wilderness. . .doing right. . . devoting themselves to God. . .anonymous and apparently forgotten. Each had problems and occasionally stumbled, but each also had control over the enticements of power and public recognition. Each deferred or tried to defer themselves out of the spotlight. . .the hand of God. . . through the events of their lives propelled them, not their own machinations. . .they managed temptation through filling their hunger in God. . .

Thank you my Lord. . .
I love you my God. . .


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