(This devotional failed to post on Tuesday as scheduled.)
Many years ago while making some remarks prior to a communion observance, I spoke something about the temptation of Christ and about the nature of Jesus as the divine Son. I phrased the question, “Was Jesus able to not sin, or was he not able to sin?” One of the leading men of the church told me afterward that it caused his brain to go into academic ponderings to the extent that he actually lost focus on the communion time.
Yes, this passage about the temptations of Jesus has been one of the richer passages in terms of stimulating theological debate. If Jesus was perfect, though human, and not capable of sinning, what does that say about the genuine nature of the temptation? I read where one writer said it this way, “Is it possible to attempt the impossible? Well, yes. A rowboat can attack a battleship.”
Though there is merit in theological debate that causes us to refine and delineate our thinking and depth of understanding, I often lose interest in such … even more as the years go by. And for the purposes of a devotional, let us move to the most salient point of them all, and that is to affirm that Jesus DID NOT sin. The purposes of the temptations were not to see if Jesus would fail, but to demonstrate that he did not sin and was thus qualified to be the Savior.
A strong point that is always made in consideration of this account is that Jesus responds to Satan by quoting Scripture and the timeless truths of God’s word and promises. The attacks of Satan are categorically predictable – both in this account of the life of Jesus, and as the Evil One would seek to cause our downfall.
Satan will attack at times of weakness, offering us simple satisfaction and easy pleasures that gratify quickly rather than by trusting the bigger, long-term plan of God for our lives. Our Heavenly Father wants us to trust him and to trust his promises given to us. It is interesting that the 40 days of temptation surely mirrored (even in the mind of Christ) the 40 years of wilderness wanderings for the nation of Israel. And the Scriptures that Jesus quote come from that very time of the nation’s history – about the manna God would give, about not putting God to the test by worshipping other objects, and by persevering to trust God to complete his word within his timeframe and in his way.
In application, let me recall one category of contemporary illustration where I have seen this principle at work over and over – positively for those who trusted and waited, but negatively for those who took matters into their own hands. It is the category of trusting God for his best and for his timing for a spouse. On so many occasions, I have watched as Christian young adults find themselves in a position of wanting to be married and moving on into family life, yet seeing time passing away without the revelation of that “other” person. In the pain, emptiness, loneliness and confusion, I have sadly seen more than a few succumb to methods or opportunities wherein they chose to handle things on their own and “settle” for a relationship that did not include a oneness of faith values. Much pain ensues. Yet also, I have joyfully witnessed more than a few who trusted God even over a period of years of murkiness and confusion, only to see God provide for them above and beyond their most ardent hopes and dreams.
God can be trusted – over long periods of seemingly vacuous time and through deep waters. His plans for us are all good, and those who wait for him will never be ultimately dissatisfied.
Luke 4:1 – Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[Deut. 8:3]”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[Deut. 6:13]”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[Psalm 91:11,12]”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[Deut. 6:16]”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Regarding your comment about avoiding theological debate:
23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
(2 Tim. 2:23-26 NIV)
8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.
11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. (Tit. 3:8-11 NIV)
So sometimes opponents must be “gently instructed” other times a divisive person needs to be warned and possibly avoided. In any case Titus 3:8 above sets the attitude of careful devotion to “doing what is good” in contrast or opposition to the divisive mindset.
Some people build ministries around such controversy … much more could be said.
However you’ve got a good balance with all this … I think. Yet i think there is much room to gently challenge those caught up in such ministries and bring them out of error and into truth. Since I live on a busy street I run into these people sometimes. They sometimes knock on my door.