Saturday, 20 November 2010

Three kinds of temptation

Jesus returned from forty days in the wilderness, empowered by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist had this to say, ‘For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.’ (John 3:34)

As a result of His limitless restorative powers of divine insight and healing, Jesus’ public lecture circuit drew crowds from far and wide.

Look at the map below and then consider Matthew’s description of His ministry:

‘Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.’ (Matt. 4:3)


I would suspect that the attendance at His public speeches matched the scale of an open-air rock festival. Everyone wanted to see the healer from Nazareth.

The crucial factor in the success of His ministry was overcoming the wilderness temptations. The Christian path is always challenge and then blessing. So we would do well to study and understand how Christ overcame the challenge and thereby enjoyed the consequent blessing in His personal and public life.

The tenth commandment states: ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’ (Ex. 20:17)

In the New Testament, Paul expands on this idea of greed overstepping the rights of others: ‘I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.’ (Rom. 7:7).

Lust is a form of covetousness. While we are encouraged to work hard and then rest to enjoy the fruit of our labours, we can easily think more about what we don’t have. Ambition should not prevent us from being thankful and contented with what we have at present. The thinking behind lust says, ‘Well, God willing (or even if He isn’t), I still want this for me’

In this regard, let’s compare the fall of Adam to the victory of Christ. This is important, since Paul says, ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.’ (1 Cor. 15:22)

The basis of Eve’s desire to taste from the tree of knowledge was threefold: ‘good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom’ (Gen. 3:6)

John identifies the threefold temptation in this way: ‘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.’ (1John 2:16)

Comparing the texts, we see that:

Good for food = lust of the flesh;

Pleasing to the eye = lust of the eyes;

Desirable for gaining wisdom = pride of life;

So the ‘tree of knowledge’ relates to the three kinds of worldly temptations that we have to overcome in order to remain in the will of God.

In future posts, we will discuss the means by which Jesus tackled the three kinds of temptations and how His approach can help us to overcome sin and enjoy the rewards of faithfulness.

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