Written by Fr. Dale Minor - The Reclaim Ministry
As we enter into this first week of the Lenten season in the church, we may find that many Christians, indeed many churches, are tempted to ignore this most important season within the ecclesiastical year. There are many reasons why this may be true but I suspect that one major cause is that we just don’t want to be reminded of the ways in which we have given in to temptation and of our need to repent.
Temptation is a fact of life. It has been from the beginning. Genesis 3 tells the story of how Satan, having entered a serpent, tempted Adam and Eve to the point of establishing sin as a fact of human nature. Yet being tempted, in itself, is not the sin. The sin comes when we entertain the temptation. It comes as we
cooperate with our enemy by grasping ahold of the tempting item or situation.
In truth, we not only grasp for things tempting but we seek them out. The entertainment world survives on our desire to pursue the temptations in our lives. In fact, the economy of the world runs on the knowledge that we can and will be tempted to buy and possess anything which can be presented to us as “must have”, must do, must see, and must try.
Yet, God’s word fully explains the nature of the temptation; that its overriding purpose is to destroy us. The Apostle John explains sin as existing in three basic forms. “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. – is not of the Father, but of the world.” (1 John 2:16)
Two direct and major encounters God’s people have had with Satan in the Bible involve these three temptations. In Genesis 3:6, Satan presented a counterfeit description of that which God had said was forbidden fruit, persuading our first parents that the fruit was “good for food, (lust of the flesh) pleasant to the eyes, (lust of the eyes) and able to make one wise.” (the pride of life.) Then, in Luke 4:1-13, there is the story of how Satan chose a time, when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, a time when he thought the Son of God would be most vulnerable and promised him three things. “Food, “turn the stone into bread, (lust of the flesh) promised him authority over all the kingdoms of the world, (lust of the eyes) and tried to persuade Him to demonstrate His power by throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the temple.” (pride of life.)
While these temptations worked on Adam and Eve, they did not work on Jesus. Satan has not given up; he daily works on God’s people using the same three methods as John had stated and he has found ready participants in all people, even in God’s people!
Part of the problem seems to be that we like to see how close to the temptation we can get without, we think, actually succumbing to it. This is a dangerous game. All a person has to do is to hang around with those consistently tasting of the
forbidden and, chances are, they will one day stick their finger into the pie. And it can be a very addicting pie indeed.
Each year we are given this season of Lent to call our attention to the sin in our lives and to remind us of the remedy for it. We should not ignore it. Rather, we should do all we can to live the discipline it demands. It can pull us back from the brink of temptation’s chasm.