As I’m reading through Deuteronomy per the ReBiChron Initiative, I’m struck by the clear and horrific warnings that God gives to the people of Israel should they fail to obey the law and walk by faith in their Redeemer from Egyptian slavery.
Deuteronomy 28:15ff makes it pretty clear, in no uncertain terms, that it would be really, really stupid to choose death over life, curses over blessing, disobedience over obedience to Yahweh. And yet, the history of Israel, as with any other nation since the beginning of the world, is a record of people making really, really stupid choices. Whether those choices rebel against God and his great love in Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, or whether those choices are the simple rejection of common grace where no special revelation was given, Romans 1-3 makes it clear that only fools would make those choices. Really, really stupid people.
But there we go. And there I go. So often. For no good reason. I wake up with the best of intentions, even start my day off with the Word and prayer, then find myself quickly making the wrong choice in a given situation. Not all the time, but too much. You too, huh? Temper. Lust. Fear. Worry. Sloth. Judgmentalism. Substance abuse. Procrastination. Their seduction is powerful.
This is due to the nature of temptation and it’s collision with sinful people. James says that each man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. Not every temptation works this way in my life, but some do. Each of us has his or her “own” lusts. They are resilient and enslaving. The more history one has with giving in to a lust when tempted, the easier it seems to give in again the next time. For me, even when I feel like I’m making my escape from temptation, the lure can be so strong that it seems nearly irresistible. Before you know, I’m sliding right back into the same old sin. It’s like Jabba’s the Hutt’s favorite pet monster, the sarlacc, in The Return of the Jedi. Even if you could climb out of the sandy grade of his pit to safety, his tentacles will reach out and pull you all the way in where you are swallowed alive and digested over a very slow and miserable thousand years. Temptation is strong, and sometimes it feels like you are trapped, doomed to a despondent and hopeless future. You just keep giving in, even against your best intentions. Those doggone tentacles!
I’m convinced the key to successfully resisting temptation is in the blessings mentioned in the first part of Deuteronomy 28. Not because the blessings are so great, even though they are, but because God is so great to give unworthy people such amazing blessings. The only way you will get rid of the incessant giving-in-to-your-temptations is when you are more desirous of and satisfied with such an amazing and gracious God who gives blessings to his people and when you enjoy those blessings as his gifts of loving grace to you. As Moses eventually said, “For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut.32:3-4).
So, as always, keep your eyes on Jesus, who is God’s great gift to us, and in whom are all the blessings you could even want or need. It sounds overly pious at times, even silly maybe, but being satisfied with wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor.1:30) is really the only eternal cure to the strong temptations that the world, the flesh, and the devil have to offer. And the more you learn to walk by faith in him, the more you experience relief from the horrors of your own personal salacc. It’s even as if God provides the necessary weapon to shoot those tentacles as they reach out to grab you.
Thank you, Jesus!