The Will Power And Won’t Power Of Temptation
It may be helpful to think of the church season of Lent as a kind of Christian spring training. It’s similar to the professional baseball teams who prepare for their regular season with their early spring training. Lent leads Christians to the monumental events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. One emphasis of the forty days of Lent is the call for us to recognize our sinfulness and our need for God’s Savior, Jesus Christ, anew.
A temptation is an invitation to do what is sinful. It is not always easy to recognize temptations as harmful or sinful. Most folks have their favorite sins. We see how others get stuck repeating a sin like gossip, but we may not know we are repeating sinners ourselves without God’s word. Evil seen in others reflects our own sin.
In Luke chapter 4, we have the account of the tempting of Jesus by the devil in the wilderness. There the devil invited Jesus to sin when Jesus was alone fasting and praying for forty days. The devil wanted his propositions and inducements to cause Jesus to sin.
When tempted by Satan, Jesus showed both personal willpower and won’t power. Temptation in itself is not sinning, but if you accept the invitation to sin, you must face the consequence of your action. We talk of giving in to temptation, but choosing to sin rests with ourselves. If I invite you to dinner, you do not have to come, but if you do come, you will eat my cooking which could be a treat or a trauma leading to indigestion.
Can you trust the one inviting you to do something? The motives behind an invite to dinner could be one of friendship or one of poison. Jesus could see beyond the proposals of the devil to the devil himself. Jesus knew the devil was using his hunger, his hidden power as God’s Son, and the promise of world domination to invite Jesus to sin and destroy his mission on earth to be sinless for sinners.
Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, but He did not sin. (Hebrews 4: 15) He understands how powerful and deceitful temptations can be; that is why He came to rescue us from ourselves. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8,9)
God knew we could not do the impossible, which is never sin. So he sent Jesus to do the impossible, remain sinless for us. As Christians, we rejoice that “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” ( 1 John 2:1,2)
Jesus faced temptations yet remained sinless for our blessing. God asks us to struggle against temptations guided by His word and prayer. We cannot remain sinless facing our temptations, but God can guide and help us when we try to avoid sin. The devil gladly helps us to sin boldly to destroy us.