The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert. There the devil tempted him.Temptation is real. Temptation is strong. Temptation is a daily battle.
... Jesus said to him, "Get away from me, Satan!
... Then the devil left Jesus. (New International Reader's Version)
Am I a realist? In this passage we see Jesus as the perfect realist. A realist is a person who sees things as they truly are. They are not living in the land of make believe. A temptation is something that attracts or lures us with the promise of pleasure or reward but ultimately is bad for us. Temptation plays on our emotions, feelings, and weaknesses and can distort reality.
At Valley View Community Church we are in a great teaching series right now called The End of Evil. In one of the messages Bruce Carter said "We are meant to be a blessing to this world. And part of being a blessing is pushing hard against evil." In another he said "the line of good evil runs right down the center of each one of us and because of that our hearts are often divided as well. We want to serve God. We want to be light in the darkness, but all too often we find ourselves overcome by the darkness and our light flickers at best."
I have been thinking about all of this and trying to really understand what this may look like in my life? Something clicked when I read this passage about Jesus face to face with Satan, pushing back hard against evil.
Temptation is our very own personal battle with evil. Sometimes these battles are so private and personal that they are not even visible to those around us. Temptation teaches us the reality of evil on a very personal level. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis no one knows how bad they are until they have tried very hard to be good. Lewis writes "Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is." Through temptation and the resistance of it we learn more about the reality of evil in this world than by reading the newspaper or watching the local NEWS broadcast. Yes we see evil all around, but what about us? To a limited extent we have the ability to put up a wall between the evil out there in the world and our own world, but if we don't resist the tempting of the Evil One in our own personal lives then we risk not understanding its true and very real power. If we don't fight temptation then we are not "a realist". C.S. Lewis puts it much better than I can. He writes about all of this in a chapter titled Faith in his book Mere Christianity.
...you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means -the only complete realist."
In looking at this passage in the Gospel of Matthew I clearly see who is tempting Jesus. It is not God the Father, it is the Devil. The Evil one is the source of our temptations. When we resist temptation we are pushing back against the Evil One himself.
Every moment of resistance to temptation is a victory." (Frederick W. Faber)