What’s the big idea?

Peter Griffin

Oh, how often we fall for this trap.

I occasionally find myself in periods of thought about certain things, where my resolution is, “What is the point of this?”

This thought process has recently been applied to the topic of temptation. My question, then, is simply this: What is the purpose of temptation?

Of course, in order to answer a question like this one, it is wise to turn to a book that is full of answers—the Bible, which is God’s very own word.

Foundationally, the Bible conveys that God does not tempt us. James 1:13 reads, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.”

God does not entice us with opportunities to sin. On the contrary, he is a holy God and commands that those he calls be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Though God does test the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7, Hebrews 11:17), he will not place us in a situation where we will compromise morally.

How, then, do we find ourselves in those situations?

Well, James’ epistle gives further commentary on the subject: “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (1:14).

Our own desires, or lusts, are the avenue by which temptation comes our way. It begins when we veer off the path of righteousness and we find ourselves giving more and more leeway to the object of our desire.

As people who are by nature prone to fulfilling our evil desires (Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 7:18), are we helpless against temptation? By no means!

First Corinthians 10:13 offers, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it.”

Being those who have been lavished with God’s love (1 John 3:1) and given a heart that desires to please God (Hebrews 8:10), I am struggling to believe, though, that we have a steady inclination towards doing what is contrary to his commands.

Paul articulates this conflict in Romans 7:21-23:

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

What the apostle describes in the preceding passage is, in fact, a conflict. In any conflict, you have to have at least two competing forces. Paul distinguishes between the “inner being” and the “members of the body” and identifies the struggle between the two.

It should be noted that the delight that the inner being has in God’s law is solely the product of God’s generosity. Ezekiel 36:26-27 informs, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

Seeing as it is “God who works in [us] to will and to do according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13), there must be an external force that tries to aid the flesh against the Spirit in this perpetual wrestling match.

Enter Satan.

The Bible identifies Satan as the tempter. Matthew 4:1 reads, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Verse three gives us a little more assurance of this truth, saying, “the tempter came.”

If you are anything like me, there may be a few questions swirling through your head right about now.

For starters, if Satan is the one who tempts, no doubt using my own desires against me, why does God allow him to tempt me at all? Why in the world would God ever say yes to one of the devil’s inquiries?

Well, let us first answer a question that should shed some light on those previously asked: What is Satan’s motivation for tempting?

At the root of the work of the devil is his ambition, and ultimate failure, to be worshipped as God. Matthew 4:9-10 details an excerpt of the conversation between the devil and Jesus:

“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Satan’s ambition led to rebellion, and this resulted in him being cast down from heaven (Revelation 12:7-9, Luke 10:18). Now that he is roaming the earth, the devil’s fury has been turned towards the apple of God’s eye—humankind.

He uses temptation as a tactic because it leads us away from God, and it has as its end death. James gives his final commentary on the matter, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (1:15).

The Bible is clear when it says “the soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:3). This was clearly Satan’s intention with the original temptation of man in the Garden of Eden, where death became a human reality.

Unfortunately, for Satan, God already had a predetermined plan to send his son Jesus to make atonement for sin and provide eternal life (John 3:16). Those who accept God’s call, effectually, have passed from death unto life (Romans 6:13).

So, why does he still tempt us? Can Satan make a Christian loose their salvation and forfeit eternal life?

The quick answer is…NO!

Most convincing of the reasons salvation cannot be lost is because it is not ours to loose. Salvation is God’s work, which has been a plan in motion since before time. Ephesians 1:11-14 details:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance, until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Not only were we chosen (before we could make a mistake) but predestined (God fore-ordained our destination despite our mistakes). After coming to faith by belief in the gospel, we were marked with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit guarantees that we will inherit what God has laid in store, which is eternal life!

If that is not enough, the last line of this passage says that we are “God’s possession.” News flash, God does not lose that which belongs to him (John 10:27-30)!

This is great news, but may be increasingly frustrating as far as answering the original question: What is the purpose of temptation?

For Satan, as his defeat is eminent and fate determined, his aim is to bring dishonor to God and shame to us by deviating from God’s commands—very petty, I know. This is displayed in 1 Chronicles 21:1,7-8:

Satan rose up against Israel and incited (tempted) David to take a census of Israel . . . This command was also evil in the sight of (dishonored) God; so he punished Israel. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt (shame) of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”

For God, temptation also serves a purpose. When a believer is faced with, or falls to, temptation, it reveals God’s qualities: his righteousness (Romans 3:5), justice (3:6, 25-26), glory (3:23), grace (3:24; Ephesians 1:7) and faithfulness (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 John 1:9).

Last but not least, temptation’s purpose in our lives is to reveal our need for God. Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No one is perfect or capable of keeping him or herself from falling. On the contrary, “though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:24).


~ by christianballenger on July 12, 2012.

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