Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What happens when we fail the test/temptation?

The temptation/test of Christ by Satan in the wilderness gives us great insight into how to overcome the enemy. Countless lessons can be learned by his example. Indeed, especially according to Luke's version, Jesus (the second Adam) succeeded where the first Adam failed every test: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Many times I have tried to learn from the Master, refusing to give in to my fleshly desires (life is more than eating!), to the delight of my eyes ("can't buy me love, no"), and to the pride of life (God plays no favorites).

But, here's the strange part: when I say "not my will but thine" and refuse to give into temptation, nothing sensational happens. I don't have a sense of accomplishment, I don't feel proud of myself. There's no euphoria, "Wow. I showed the enemy!" In fact, oftentimes these "victories" are accompanied by a sense of loss, of emptiness, indeed, as if God is not present at all--like I've missed out on something.

And yet, what happens when I fail the test, give into temptation, let God down, is an altogether different experience.

First, I beat myself up. "Come on, Rodney, you know better than this. How many times are you going to go down the same path?"

Next, I turn to God in frustration, "What's wrong with me, God?"

Sometimes I make the futile promise, "I'll never sin again!"

Then, I confess (one more time; really? One more time?) that I have sinned, that I need God's forgiveness, that I need the Spirit's power, that I'm tired of this, that I need healing.

Sometimes I remember that Jesus overcame Satan--not only in the desert, but also in the Garden. And, because he overcame the test/temptation, we have the cleansing, the forgiveness, the hope, the power, the salvation of our Lord.

Then, I sense the presence of the Lord, what I've gained through Christ (He's saved me!), that God won't give up on me, or any one of us.

In other words, I'm beginning to see more and more that God loves to "show up" in the midst of our failures. The cross of Jesus Christ proves it. So, how can Satan win, when the cross was supposed to be his final blow against humanity, the ultimate test, the last temptation of Christ?

4 comments:

Darryl Schafer said...

Then let us fail so that God may "show up!"

Oh, wait...somebody said something about that once...

Tom 1st said...

Thanks for this. I have been having this same experience lately - realizing the presence of God even in the midst of failure. It's a lot more relieving than beating myself up for weeks.

Thomas Kelly said that when we sin, instead of spending so much wasted time grovelling, we should instead immediately acknowledge the sin and say, "God, this is what I would be if it wasn't for your grace." And then immediately move on.

Aaron Allison said...

RR-

What a great, sincere post in which many can readily identify. I wonder sometimes if Jesus felt some sense of pomp when angels began ministering to him after the devil left him in the wilderness. It's not too far fetched for me to think that some great sense of accomplishment came over him in that moment. If there was ever a time in scripture (other than the resurrection morning) for Jesus to say, "Wow, I showed the enemy," that would have been it. When I don't feel so victorious, my mind seeks out that sort of outcome so I can at least feel like if I didn't feel victorious, at least Jesus did.

I have not sensed any ministering angels around me during the few times I have fought off temptation with scripture. However, through other believers and common accountability amongst ourselves, I have often encountered encouragement, and there is great comfort in that. My wife Emily is my greatest encourager, especially when I'm mired in temptation that the rest of the people in my life will never see. I believe that is one of the greatest things about being equally yoked in a marriage; God brings you together in a relationship whose transparency will foster holiness in your lives.

The world laughs at us for our belief system, particularly when we refuse temptation. It wants us to believe that if we don't go down the highway, we will be in a state of loss, or emptiness. It wants us to believe we're missing out on all the fun. In the midst of refusing the world's offer, we need to understand fully what it is we believe. What is the fundamental purpose of the gospel?

I believe it is that we should die to ourselves, follow Christ's example, find a new and abundant life with him and tell everyone we know about it.

Now let me juxtapose that statement with another:

"Wow, I showed the enemy."

Dr. Reeves, I have no power on my own against the devil. I have never shown him anything without calling on my Lord and reading his word to back me up in the process. The reason why is rooted in the purpose of the good news: it's not about me, it's about Jesus Christ.

I want to be that new man, the one renewed in knowledge according to the image of my creator, but to do that I have to be willing to die to my self and my pride, even (if not especially) when it comes to fighting off temptation.

See, I didn't reverse the curse on my life, Jesus did. I have never exorcised in victory of the powers, Jesus did. I have not conquered death and the grave, but Jesus has and still lives, to show up in my darkest moment, to remind me he's still there, he still loves me, he'll still forgive me, and that he is the source of victory. It's not about me, it's about Him.

Satan is defeated. He cannot win any more against God. However, if we put our focus on ourselves instead of God, he can still defeat us. That's why God shows up; he loves us and knows that we need him to defeat the enemy. We can't do it on our own.

Shannon M said...

We all fail but thank God for his grace. As Christians we don't willfully sin, however i sin everyday in words, thoughts, or deed. I need the Lords grace in my life. I need him to show up in my failures. I need his power and His strength to help me to overcome.