A DOSE OF FAITH
Richard G. Mendoza, MPH, PHD
Pr. Richard Mendoza works at the Central Luzon Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. An educator and promoter of health, he complements his advocacies with spiritual and values-oriented insights.
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Let’s talk about the temptation of Jesus as written in the Bible; “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:1-4 ESV)
Now, suppose Satan comes to you and tempt you in similar manner. You are hungry and you want to eat, but instead of tempting you to steal bread, he asks you to turn stones into breads. How would you respond? Well, if it is me, I’m going to tell Satan to go away and tempt someone else who has power, for how can I make bread out of stones?
Obviously, the temptation won’t apply to us, mortal beings, but we can learn from Jesus about dealing with temptations. The temptation was for him, being the Son of God, to use his power, but knowing his mission to save sinners, Jesus Christ, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8 ESV). Jesus depended on God, his Father.
If we are depending upon ourselves, we will succumb to temptations, but when we depend on God’s power and grace, we will overcome.
Temptations come in the following sequence as expounded by Morris Venden, in his book, Faith That Works: First, the temptation is presented. There is no sin in being tempted. Then we recognize the temptation, and may realize we’re being tempted. This still is not sin, for Jesus in the wilderness recognized that He was being tempted, and knew what the issues were. The third step in temptation comes only for those who are not depending upon God’s power at the time of the temptation. That is, they consent to it in their minds, an inward response of “Yes, that sounds like fun!” But for the one who is in dependence upon Christ, this inner response, this finding of the temptation as desirable and appealing, does not take place.
Real victory over temptation begins from the inside, at any time we give inward consent to a temptation we have already sinned. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt.5:27-28) ESV).
It starts from the mind, the intention of the heart, the Bible declared, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” (1John 3:15 ESV) Someone might say, “If it is true that the thoughts are as much brought into account as the actions and that we have already sinned when we have inwardly consented to a sin, why not just go ahead with impure actions?” Well there are good reasons not to follow through with the sinful actions. If we have enough willpower to keep from killing someone we are angry at, like, we will be able to stay out of jail. There are many more benefits to be reaped from positive behavior.
While growing as Christians, there may be times when we will find ourselves depending upon our own strength and giving in inwardly to temptation. Because of the moral benefits to be reaped, we may be forced to grit our teeth and use our self-control to keep from following internal defeat with external sinning. But this is not victory, but mere palliatives to a deeper disease that God wanted to cure… the sinful nature—a deceitful heart.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self- indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt.23:25-28 ESV)
Most of us have tried to clean the outside than the inside, that was the trouble of the Pharisees in the day of Jesus, but that’s not what God wants to do with us. He promised, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”(Eze.36; 26-28 ESV)