The Devil Tempts Me To Do It!

By: Rev. Gerry Weesner, Maples United Methodist Church ‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him… Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matthew 4:1-3a, 8-11 (NIV). In this scripture temptation isn’t everywhere it happens in a special place called “the wilderness,” the place where God is not, and it is the property of the “devil”: the one who has set himself utterly against God and God’s will. In Matthew’s treatment of this “Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness,” Jesus is led by the Spirit into the place where God is not, to be tempted by the one who has set himself utterly against God and God’s will. Jesus represents us, or what we would be, were we perfectly at one with God. This story is ultimately about us. This story tells us what temptation is, and who we are in relation to it, how it comes to us, and where, and why. This story tells us first and foremost that to live fully in and with and of God, to be carried utterly by God’s will as Jesus was, does not amount to being completely free of temptation. If you feel that you’ve been led to temptation it isn’t the devil trying to make you do something. It is the Spirit that has permitted you to be there. God is not tempting you. Jesus is not tempting you. Jesus is with you, right by your side, when you are struggling against temptation; Jesus has shown us how to fight it. The Spirit is not tempting you; what the Spirit is doing is grabbing hold of a lapel or an earlobe or whatever else might be handy and saying, Look! Here is something you need to confront! Here is something that’s competing in your heart with the sovereignty of God! Have we been tempted? Actually, who among us has not been? Have we succumbed to temptation? Who among us can say, “I have not!”? Can we truthfully say, “The devil made me do it?” If we are truly serious about offering Jesus to the world, we, all of us, must do this: Turn! Repent! Return! Return, to the true religion, the religion of Christ, the religion of unconditional love, the religion of grace and mercy. Let us return to offering the peace of Christ, which is the offering of God’s love and salvation to all, far and near, inside and outside of the church.