Friday, December 16, 2011

Tempted and Tried

Our family recently finished going through the book Tempted and Tried, by Russell Moore, in a small group Bible study at church.  It was both insightful and applicable as it looked at the reality of our own temptations through the lens of Jesus' temptations.  Below are some quotes and highlights.

"Temptation is so strong in our lives precisely because it’s not about us. Temptation is an assault by the demonic powers on the rival empire of the Messiah. That’s why conversion to Christ doesn’t diminish the power of temptation—as we often assume—but actually, counterintuitively, ratchets it up. If you bear the Spirit of the One the powers rage against, they will seek to tear down the icon of the Crucified they see embedded in you (1 Pet. 4:14; Rev. 12:17). Ultimately, the agony of temptation is not about you or me. We’re targeted because we resemble Jesus, our firstborn brother. We all, whether believers or not, bear some resemblance to Jesus because we share with him a human nature in the image of God. As we come to find peace with God through Jesus, though, we begin a journey of being conformed more and more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). The demons shriek in the increasing glory of that light, and they’ll seek even more frenetically to put it out of their sight."  (Page 21)

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Temptation begins with three questions.  God gives us the true answers to these questions, but in temptation Satan seeks to substitute answers of his own.

Who am I?

We are creatures.  This means that we are finite, dependent, and duty-bound to obey our Creator.  We are human.  This means that we are created in the image of God and that, among other things, we are hard-wired for a relationship with God.  For believers, we are redeemed sinners, elect saints chosen by God for righteousness, children of the Most High, and universe-rulers in training.

Satan seeks to undermine these truths in one of two ways:  either he tells us that we are gods and not accountable to anyone, or he tells us that we are animals and can't help the urges we have.

What do I want?

Happiness.  Peace.  God tells us in His word what true happiness and peace are and He tells us how to obtain them.  Ultimately, these--and all else that we crave-- are to be found only in Christ.

Satan does not try to talk us out of wanting those things that only Christ can offer.  Instead he offers us counterfeits which cannot satisfy.

Where am I going?

Sin leads to misery.  Righteousness leads to blessing.  Satan does his best to keep us from seeing this.  He holds out to us the promise of a trouble-free future, all the while hiding from us any and all potential consequences.

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Temptation always strikes at the fatherhood of God.  It does so in three main areas, as seen in Jesus' wilderness temptations:  provision, protection, and inheritance.

It is a father's duty to provide for his children, protect his children, and to give his children an inheritance.  God promises to do all these things for His children.

These were precisely the points that Satan attacked in Jesus' temptations.  First he questioned God's fatherhood in the area of provision.  In Jesus' second temptation, Satan sought to persuade Jesus to force His Father's protection in order to vindicate his identity.  In the third temptation, Satan offered to give Jesus the inheritance that God had already promised to His Son-- and Satan was offering it to Him without the cross.

Of course, Jesus withstood all three tests.  He knew who He was, and He knew who His Father was.  He knew that God would provide for Him and protect Him in His own good time, and He knew that His inheritance was secure.  He rejected self-provision, self-protection, and self-exultation.  He rejected selfish pride and submitted to obedient trust.

Every temptation we will ever face was faced and conquered by Jesus.  Only in His life, death, and resurrection is our victory-- and that victory is sure.

"...You cannot triumph over temptation.  Only Jesus can."  (Page 195)

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