These thoughts burst unexpectedly into my mind this morning. I think it shows why we ought to read the Bible again and again–so that eventually its lessons get through to us.
Temptation is a big deal for us. Everybody’s tempted, and we worry about it. The thought is father to the deed. It’s what comes out of the man, not what goes in, that defiles him, Our Lord Jesus Christ taught (Matthew 15: 18-19). We know temptation can lead to active sin; but is temptation itself a sin? Are we in trouble as soon as we’re tempted to any kind of sin?
Jesus Himself was tempted. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4, Christ is fasting in the wilderness and the devil comes along to tempt Him with three temptations. 1) Food. The devil challenges Jesus, who by now must be pretty hungry, to prove He is the Son of God–and assuage His hunger–by turning stones into bread. “Dude, let’s see what you’ve got! Show us that you really are the Son of God!”
The first gambit having been declined, the devil dares Christ to demonstrate His special status by jumping off the high pinnacle of the Temple (2). If He really is the Son of God, God won’t let him be injured in the fall. It’s another temptation aimed at pride, and again the Lord declines it.
Satan plays his top card with 3), power, wealth, and fame. Takes Him up atop a mountain and offers Him all the glories of this world (“for they are mine to give”) if only Jesus worships Him instead of God. This is the most powerful temptation of all, but Christ, because He really is the Christ, rejects it. The devil gives up and goes away for a while.
Did Jesus sin, just because he was subjected to those temptations? And don’t forget, they wouldn’t be temptations if they weren’t powerfully attractive to their target. Jesus, who has a right to be the King of kings, was tempted with the prospect of becoming a great king before God’s time. You wouldn’t get Him with an offer of a book of green stamps. So did Jesus sin because He was tempted?
The Bible says no! “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4: 15) He couldn’t be without sin if temptation itself is sin.
You and I don’t get tempted with the kingdoms of this world. Everyone is vulnerable in different ways.
But we can come “boldly” to Christ’s throne in prayer, when we are tempted, and find forgiveness there, and powerful assistance to fight off our own temptations. And who doesn’t need help with that from time to time?