Genesis 2:15-17 and Matthew 4:1-11
Avoiding the Unavoidable

Lead us not into temptation, how many times have you heard that, had it recited to you when you’ve been misbehaving or heard it in your own conscience as you’ve been tempted?  Temptations come, they are quite simply unavoidable, so what do we do about them, do we ignore them, follow through with them, get angry about them?

We have two examples of temptation today, the first is the account of the man and the woman, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  They had everything anyone should ever want, they were made in the image of God, he gave them dominion over all the earth, there was only one rule given to them, don’t eat from that one tree in the middle of the garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, eat from it and you shall surely die God said.  Along came the tempter, the serpent, questioning the word of God, “is that really what he said?”  Eve had just told the serpent again that it is exactly what God had said, but he casts doubt, he tricks and confuses, the fruit looks great and they gave in to the temptation.

Immediately their eyes were opened and it was indeed true, this tree did give them the knowledge of good and evil, all was revealed to them, including their nakedness and shame, they heard God calling for them in the garden and ran away and hid.

We have a graphic account here of what happens when human beings give in to temptation, we become aware of the consequences, especially when we are caught out.  I could hazard a guess that every one of you here today has at some stage given into a temptation, maybe even got away with the evil or dishonest or sinful thing that you had done, at least for a while, and then when someone else gets wind of what you’ve done, the guilt, the shame and the embarrassment starts to set in, if it wasn’t already there before.  It’s not a great feeling is it, you feel alone, abandoned even.  Being alone is the perfect time for temptation to strike.

Did you notice that Adam and Eve were left alone in the garden, God gave them room to be themselves, to explore, to live and make decisions for themselves.  The tree was there to give them choice, they could give in to its temptation or they could follow God’s will to leave it alone. 

Their sin was that they gave in to temptation and disobeyed God, this was the original sin and we bear the consequences of that today, that is where our sin comes from, it’s not something we can do anything about, only God could set things straight.

So what did God do?  He sent his one and only son to become a human being and live a life in our shoes, he too was born, grew up and was tempted.  He was even led up into the desert by the Spirit, seemingly for the express purpose of being led into temptation in the same manner that Adam and Eve were.

Like Adam and Eve, Jesus was left alone, but in the desert rather than a beautiful and lush garden.  Along comes the tempter, this time described as the devil rather than a serpent, but the temptation is there.  Jesus was hungry, he’d been in the desert forty days, so the first logical temptation was to try to convince him to turn stones into bread, Jesus answered, “It is written, Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

The next temptation was to put the Lord God to the test, by throwing himself from the highest point around.  But Jesus again answered that God’s word said he shouldn’t.  The final temptation in this scenario was that the devil would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would bow down and worship him, Jesus again replied, with the word of his Father, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” 

The irony of this one is that the devil couldn’t give to Jesus what was already his anyway?  This was the craftiness of the devil, he used the same with Adam and Eve, they already had everything they could ever need, yet he tempted them with it.

The devil uses that same craftiness on us today, he tempts us with things that we don’t need or that we already possess, he wants us to strive to be our own God, or try to be better than God or outsmart God, he tries to convince us that we need more food or better food or flashier and more expensive things to please us and make us more comfortable.  The truth is we have more than we need.

He uses glossy advertising to lure us into thinking that we can possess the whole world if we give in and worship those earthly treasures like houses and boats and holidays, when really serving others and showing them God’s love is the best use of our time and talents.  And of course he wants us to put God to the test, we challenge God to act in a way that would suit us, we give God ultimatums, like if you will answer my prayer I will never swear again, or something equally as ridiculous.

The truth is those temptations will just keep on coming, the evil one will work out what it is that floats your boat and he will constantly niggle at you, are you sure that’s what God said, are you sure that’s what God wants, are you sure that God wants you to do?

He might even use some of God’s own words to try and trip you up, by misusing or misrepresenting scripture, he did that with Jesus and if you look at church history and even present times you can see him in action.

What is our defence to all this temptation?  For Jesus it was the word of God, and it is for us too.  Adam and Eve failed to use it well, they knew it, but allowed it to be questioned.

Jesus used it well, and followed through with it because he knew it well and lived it.  That’s the challenge for us too, God’s word is like a double edged sword and can be used to ward off the temptations of the evil one, but to do so we must know it and have it embedded in us.

We need to spend time with God’s word, learning it, committing it to memory so that when the hour of temptation comes we are prepared, armed with God’s word, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, ready to stand firm in the face of whatever is thrown at us.

Lord, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom, now and forever.  Amen