Day 35: Facing Temptation: Part 2
THE DESERT - ROUND 2
In the Bible, Matthew gives us a great explanation for why Satan is referred to as a liar. In the verse below we see the devil even quoting scripture. Our enemy likely knows scripture better than us, and he will attempt to use it against us. Scary thought, right?
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ -Matthew 4:5-7 (NIV)
If the devil is quoting scripture, I’m a bit interested in exactly what he is quoting and how he is quoting it. In this instance Satan was quoting a portion of Psalm 91:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
-Psalm 91:1-15 (emphasis added) (NIV)
You’ll notice that not only are parts of this verse left out, but it is taken completely out of context. The purpose of this verse, in its proper context, should never give us reason to jump off of buildings or recklessly endanger our lives for the sake of proving a point. As a matter of fact, the theme of this passage is glorifying God. It is a prayer of thanks to God for the privilege of protection, not a challenge toward God to uphold that promise. This is why Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.
Especially after a period of freedom, it is easy to become arrogant. In my pride I brazenly went into situations that I knew would lead me down a path of temptation. It is vital that we refuse to allow ourselves to become this foolish. Remember that pride will always lead to our fall:
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. -Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)
Why do I bring this up? Simply because there are times in my struggle where I interpreted scripture in such a way that I'd feel it was okay for me to continue in sin. Or I'd build myself up to the point where I thought I was indestructible. The problem was I was reading the Bible out of context in many ways. The message of this lesson is intended to help us do one thing: discern the truth. We want to emphasize the consequences of misusing scripture, and how pride relates to those consequences.
For example, if we were to follow Exodus 12:1-7 without knowing its context, all the believers would gather together on the 14th day of the first month of the year to slaughter one-year-old lambs and goats together, then we'd all go home to smear the blood all over our houses. Not exactly what you'd expect from a bunch of Christians. Misguided believers are frequently deceived by their lack of knowledge about scripture. In our example, this line of thinking ignores the work of Christ as outlined in Romans 3:25-26. Without knowing where we stand, we can be easily led astray by those who pick apart scripture.
When we pick and choose parts of scripture that we like to believe (versus those that we either don't believe or choose to ignore) are we not putting God to the test? We are destroyed by thoughts that whisper that we're strong enough, that we're above temptation, or that we'll see if we have what it takes on our own. We're falling into the very trap that Jesus refused to enter. To avoid the trap of abusing or misusing scripture, try the following:
- Know the context when reading the Word
The word of God is alive and has the power to change lives. It is not a book of individual insights but a rich story filled with context. Quoting individual verses by themselves is a good thing when merited, but it is important to understand the context of these verses. The enemy tried to bring Christ down by distorting the word of God. We need to be prepared for this, rebuking lies and deceit when they creep into our minds.
With the internet at our fingertips, there are many resources that can be used to find out the root meaning behind specific verses and passages. The more you study and understand the grand theme of the Bible, the easier it is to comprehend more difficult verses. Before you ask questions like, "Why did the thief on the cross mock Jesus in one gospel book, but surrender to him in another?", be sure to understand the story of grace God is telling. Then the answer to that question becomes obvious. It's no longer a contradiction (as many have claimed), but a conversion. The man on the cross was converted right there on the spot and it was documented in one of the gospel accounts. Context matters.
- Test your heart
Our hearts, apart from The Holy Spirit, rarely lead us in the right direction. We need to be watchful of manipulation in times of temptation. He will even use scripture against us if given the opportunity:
The thing about pride is we almost always recognize it when it's happening... we just refuse to change. Just the other day I was feeling offended and prideful by the actions of a co-worker. I knew that my blood was boiling and that I was lashing out in my mind out of pride. The thing was, I didn't want to change because I was so sure that my way was the right one. Test your heart and start to rework areas where you feel pride is kicking in.
- Pray on the spot
If we’re mis-aligned through temptation, then we ought to get re-aligned. One certain way to do this is through prayer. When tempted, it is vital that we’re praying. The enemy has limited power and when we pray we are taking all of that power away from him.
Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. -1 Chronicles 16:11 (NIV)
You can do it. It won't be easy sometimes, but God is with you to give you wisdom and strength to defeat temptation. Stay strong. See you next lesson.
Day 35 Application
Have you ever misinterpreted scripture?
How can a misinterpretation of scripture lead to a prideful approach regarding sin and temptation?
How does a strong relationship with God help with facing temptation? Have you experienced that? Why is daily accountability important?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?