No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is … You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later … Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist. ~ C. S. Lewis
The alarm jars me awake in the morning and the snooze button is just too handy. I hardly have to do anything, just tap the screen and I get nearly 10 more minutes to myself before it’s time to open the curtains and get out of bed. What harm would it be to hit snooze just one more time after that too? The temptation is just too much … I don’t think this sort of temptation is what C. S. Lewis was talking about and yet it is easier to talk about and admit than temptations that affect how I interact with God and the people around me.
Looking at Jesus doesn’t always help because he can make us a little insecure with all his perfection. And yet, he lived here as God with us, showing us what heaven looks like, what a world with him would be instead of this pain-filled existence we see all around us. Jesus didn’t enter the wilderness to be tempted by little luxuries in life – “No Facebook for 40 days, Jesus.” He was tempted to the core of who he was. He was tempted to cheat, to take short cuts, to be entitled, to be comfortable, to give up his position.
The tempter came to him (Jesus) and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” ~ Matthew 4:3-4
It’s not like Jesus couldn’t have done this. I mean, really, wouldn’t it have been just as easy to say: “Yes, devil, I am pretty sure I am the Son of God and to prove it I will show you that I can do the same miracle that he did. I will make food out of nothing in the wilderness like my Father did for the Israelites all those years ago.” He could have eased his hunger while making a point. But right before Jesus went into the wilderness God declared, “This (Jesus) is my Son.” Jesus knew his existence and identity didn’t hinge on what he could do but on what his Father said about him.
To follow Jesus into the wilderness is to stand against temptation. One of those temptations is to not believe what God says about us, starting with the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his Son. God loved us.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We don’t have to earn it by working for it. We don’t have to do anything to prove it to anyone. We are loved. What would life look like if you really believed that he sees everything … and I mean everything and still loves you. No choice you’ve made or trauma you’ve experienced could change that. He created you in his image. He knit you together in your mother’s womb. He doesn’t just love you, he wants you.
This week of Lent we will be looking at temptation and repentance. Temptation isn’t wrong, acting on it is. We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. While we follow Jesus through the wilderness we have an opportunity to acknowledge how our responses to temptation are different than his and begin to change them with his help. We already know he walks with us and makes a way.
Today, tell God about the times that you have tried to work for his love. Ask his forgiveness for when you have acted as if he didn’t create you, know you and love you. Take a minute to be silent when you are done.