So, You Are Telling Me there is a Chance?
A while back I felt compelled to study the Sermon on the Mount again. I thought I should start in chapter 4 of Matthew to get a run up to the sermon, to have some context.
I was immediately struck by the words “Jesus was led up…to be tempted by the devil.” Who thinks it is a good idea to tempt God? Just exactly what does one tempt God with? The One who has spoken all things into existence and holds them together by the word of His power? The Great “I Am”, the All-Sufficient One? What would I offer Him to tempt Him to turn away from the Father?
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. (2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. (3) And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. Matthew 4:1-3 KJV
God seemed to have His plan, set in motion before the foundations of the earth were laid, pretty well mapped out. The Son’s failure to do the Father’s bidding does not seem likely. And yet, the Tempter tempts. That is his name, that is what he does. Satan knows God’s immutability better than any of us, and yet the Tempter feels it fair game to tempt God.
And who knows? There is always a chance, right? That the strongest pastor or the weakest member may fail. To tempt and fail is no loss for Satan. To tempt and win is a great victory for him.
Those who send spam emails understand that they are going to send thousands, or maybe millions of offers for wealth or healing and 99% of those emails will be blocked by a spam filter or a wise person on the receiving end. But the spammers make their money on the 1% who fall into the trap. Satan sets snares for us with the ultimate spam (1 John 2:16).
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. 1 John 2:16 KJV
There is an old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is”. Yet the Nigerian Prince and Satan do not stop trying to tempt us. And too often they both find success.
Why does it tempt me when Satan offers “stuff” when God has given me “all things in Christ Jesus”? Satan offers me happiness for the moment, Jesus promises me joy forever. Satan promises temporal, Jesus guarantees eternal. Why do I, given riches in Him, turn away to the Tempter’s baubles? Why do I gravitate to my friends who are caught up in this world and leave my brothers and sisters who are on their way to the next world? Why do I joy more in the fallen creation than in the Perfect Creator?
So, we settle for Satan’s way. God says to forgive as He forgives. Satan says that if I forgive them, they will be let off the hook, and that I will enable them. God says I am to forgive “seventy times seven times.” Satan says that does not mean 490 times, it means 77 times…and when he says it that way it seems as though I am let off the hook for having to forgive at all.
Satan offers an easier way than serving the Creator God. He offers “little g” gods that I can look to for peace, and joy, and safety. I chose to find my security in my finances, my happiness in sports, my fulfillment in my job, my purpose in church jobs, my enjoyment in my family, and other “gods” that met each of my needs. But they offered only counterfeit security, happiness, fulfillment, purpose and enjoyment. When the dark times came there was no satisfaction in them; they failed me miserably.
We look for excuses to choose the counterfeit from the Chief Purveyor of Spam rather than the truth that comes from yielding to the Holy Spirit. The Spammer offers a fast track to riches.
This was in my email in-box just recently: “Dear Customer, My name is John Chamber of Citi Bank Texas,How are you doing today? I wish to inform you that your total fund of $4.5 Million was deposited here by the United Nation compensation board and we have made all the good arrangement on how to ensure that your fund hits your account. You are advised to provide the information below to us to enable us enhance the transfer.
I do not know John, I have never done any business with Citi Bank of Texas, I am not sure why the United Nation compensation board owes me money, nor am I sure why John did not run his email through a grammar checker, but I do like the idea of having an extra $4.5 million in my checking account. So why not just click the link and answer the questions, what harm can it do? There is always a chance…right?
Satan cannot offer me true peace, true joy, true hope, true love, true grace, true mercy, or true truth. He can only offer me cheap imitations. And yet he tempts me with his baubles…and sometimes, even though I know better, I click the link in whatever form that comes…because there just might be a chance…
Why would the Tempter tempt Jesus Christ, God’s Son? There must have been, in his mind, a chance. Why would he tempt great Christian leaders whom we all respect? Because there is a chance. Why does he tempt you and me? Because he knows there is a chance…and he is right.
How do we avoid falling for the spam? By being doers of the Word instead of hearers only. By prayer for our own strength. By praying for others just as Jesus prayed for Peter. By being active, functioning, parts of the Body of Christ where we draw strength from each other. By the weak learning from the strong. By finding our center in Him and in Him alone.