Tag Archives: Temptation

Testing, Testing

When Jeff Bezos said Amazon was testing drones for package delivery, I’m sure he meant that they were putting the drones to the test in various kinds of bad circumstances, to make sure they would respond faithfully to the commands sent to them by Amazon.  No doubt, there are bad guys out there who will also try to influence and control those drones but in a different way.  They are going to try to override the delivery instructions, to tempt them off course, so to speak, in order to steal the goods.  Presumably, there will be two kinds of testing going on for the drones – perhaps even simultaneously.  Amazon’s testing will be designed to make them succeed; the other type of testing will be designed to make them fail.

There are two kinds of trials, two kinds of tests that happen to us humans, too.  God allows us to encounter trials, in order to help us learn to operate responsively to His instructions.  But we also encounter temptations (in Greek – both “trial” and “temptation” are the same word) designed to cause us to go astray or be destroyed.  This kind of test, temptations, come from Satan.  Remember the distinction between those two kinds of testing as you read these words from Jesus’ brother, James:

“When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)

Temptations that drag us down toward evil and destruction never come from God.  His tests are designed to help us “fly right.”  Satan’s temptations usually are experienced as “evil desires.”

“Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:15)

If we respond to the commands from the One Who made us, the end result is life, not death:

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” (James 1:16-18)

Quote: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


Drastic Measures

Aron Ralston cut his arm off.  Breaking the bones of his forearm and then cutting through the muscle with a dull knife made sense but only because, if he did not do so, he would die.  His arm was pinned under a rock, he was alone in the wilderness, and rapidly running out of time.  It was worth it.

Jesus was exaggerating when He said:

“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9)

He was exaggerating about what to do, but not about the consequences.  It took five days for Aron to realize he had to take drastic action.  But if you understand what Jesus said, you don’t need five days; you know it now.

Jesus didn’t really mean to cut your hand off or pluck your eye out.  The fact is, those two organs do not cause sin; the brain does. If you pulled out one eye, your other eye would simply take up the slack.   Jesus wanted to startle us and convince us that it is worth it to do whatever it takes to pull ourselves away from habitual sin.  Drastic measures are appropriate.

It’s important to understand that these warnings were given to us because Jesus loves us.  He is passionate that we not hurt one another or destroy ourselves.  Jesus had been explaining how precious it is whenever anyone places receives Him with childlike faith (See: Hand in Hand).  He takes it personally when someone causes such a person to sin (See: It’s Personal).  And then He looked each of us in the eye, so to speak, and said, “Also, make sure you don’t hurt yourself, because you are precious to Me, too!  Do whatever it takes!  Trust Me on this: the consequences are horrific and final.”  Jesus was talking with the urgency and seriousness that you would use if you saw toddlers playing with hand grenades.

But, if cutting off body parts is not intended, then what kind of drastic measures?  A friend of mine signed up for a service that would notify a trusted friend if he looked at internet pornography.  I canceled the free premium cable channels that showed sleaze at night.  Another friend attends AA every week and meets regularly with his sponsor.  Some set themselves strict, modest limits in casinos.  Others don’t go anywhere near a casino.  Of course, sex, drinking and gambling are not the only areas that cause people to fall. Maybe you struggle with gossip, overeating, or lack of compassion.  No matter what it is that drags you down, do whatever it takes; it’s worth it.

To illustrate God’s personal love and concern, Jesus continued on with a parable about a lost sheep.  Stay tuned…

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

It’s Personal

Waterboarding, they say, induces uncontrollable panic.  I was curious and put a wet wash cloth on my face while standing under the shower.  Even knowing I was in control, it was not fun.  What do you suppose it feels like to drown?  A quick Google search reveals that drowning is absolutely horrible, much worse than waterboarding.  Those who have experienced it, talk of frantically gulping in a last breath and then being pulled down, down… Fighting, thrashing…  Pressure… Giving up and inhaling water…  Panic…  Blackness…

Are you enjoying the blog this time?  What could be worse than drowning?  Jesus says this is:

““And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6)

When anyone receives Jesus with childlike trust (See: Hand in Hand), from that time forward, Jesus takes whatever happens to him or her personally.  You welcome that believer, no matter who he or she may be, Jesus treats your hospitality as though you were doing it for Him.  And the converse:  If you entice a believer to sin, Jesus takes that personally and seriously, too.  His words refer, not to a momentary lapse, but to a consistent pattern of life.  They foretell the horrors of eternal judgment, a fate worse than drowning.

We are awash with such enticements.  Many popular forms of entertainment, from movies to rap music, openly entice and encourage people to watch or do things that they previously considered wrong.  If that sentence sounded uptight or prudish to you, it is likely that your attitude has been shaped by this assault of our culture.  Jesus made it very clear: you don’t want to be a party to causing people to sin.

““Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:7)

Don’t be that guy!  For Jesus, it’s personal.

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.