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." - Matthew 4: 1-3 (ESV)
The devil hit him where He was hurting. He knew He was hungry so his temptation was to feed that hunger. When that did not work he tried lying to him about pride and power but Jesus always responded with the Word of God. That is the weapon God has given us beloved. For every lie the devil can whisper to us we have something in the Word that assures us he is lying! But we have to know the Word. This is why the modern church is so riddled with sin. This is why we see so many prominent preachers falling from sin or suddenly abandoning the true Gospel. They do not know the Word so when the devil tempts them they know not how to respond. Consider the words of the Psalmist:
I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. - Psalm 119: 11 (ESV)
This is why we are to test everything. This is why false teaching is so important to rebuke. The Bible is not some collection of stories beloved. It is a weapon in the hand of a believer. A weapon of great power for spiritual warfare. We hide the Word in our heart so that when the devil starts whispering about that pretty co-worker, we can respond with what God has already told us. That there is no such thing as harmless flirtation:
"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. - Matthew 5: 27-28 (ESV)
If the opening schemes of the devil do not get us to bite at the fruit he will step up his game. The first comment mixed some truth with some lie in order to engage Eve in the conversation she should have had no part in. Now the devil goes for the throat, calls God a liar and offers godhood to Eve:
But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
Remember, Eve should not be in this conversation to begin with. We are instructed to resist the devil, not chat with him. There are two parts here to the craftiness of the devil. The first is in dismissing what God has said altogether. "You will not surely die" may not sound familiar but what about; "what's the big deal" or "everybody does it." These are the same arguments beloved. Arguments designed to get us to dismiss what God has said. Even still, the choice remains ours. The devil may have enticed us. The devil may have lied to us. But at the end of the day, David could have walked away from Bathsheba. He could have walked away multiple times! God kept giving him a chance to remember what the Word says. When he first finds out she is married. When he first finds out her husband is fighting for him. When he discovers how righteous her husband is. Even after he has him killed, David could have repented. This is how deep the lie of the enemy goes to our hearts. Preserving the lie is all that matters. It takes God sending the Prophet Nathan to him and telling him this story about the little ewe lamb that is so painfully obvious to be regarding him. Yet David cannot see it until the Prophet lays it at his feet.
Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the Lord, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'" David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. - 2Samuel 12: 7-13 (ESV)
We need to get to the place where we realize we are not the victim but the perpetrator. I am that man! Without that I never get to "I have sinned against the Lord." Repentance requires first that you recognize what you did. Not what the devil made you do because he didn't make you do anything. He played a role. He asked you a question but you answered. He told you a lie but you considered it. He showed you what you wanted but you took it. The second part of the craftiness here is in offering Eve god-status. You will be like God. This is the same sin from which Lucifer fell. Trying to ascend to the throne of the Most High. Many might look at this and think themselves absolved. I never wanted to be God! Oh but we have beloved. Realize when we were in the world in complete rebellion towards God we essentially were our own god. That is why so few find the narrow path. It requires you to die to self and realize there is only one God. When we see Christians who are really salad bar theologians, taking what they like from Scripture and leaving what they dislike, they are in fact their own god. The Lord made man in His own image but we have been reinventing Him in our own image ever since. Do not lose sight that behind every offer to sin and lie of the devil is this inherent lure. You can be your own god! Your eyes will be opened! As we conclude the story in Eden we see that while the temptation may have come from the devil, the choice was all Eve's:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
The devil did not make Eve come to these conclusions beloved. She came up with three reasons to believe the lie. First it was good for sustenance. There was a logical reason. How often do we actually try and rationalize our sin in this manner? Perhaps Peter denied Christ out of fear alone but there was probably some logic mixed in about not being caught. The second reason Eve fell for the craftiness of the devil is found entirely in her flesh. The fruit was a delight to her eyes! It was attractive! So is that co-worker! That short cut business deal is very appealing! Never lose sight of the fact that we are sinners by nature. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Our flesh wants what it wants and the devil may make his appeal to our intellect and logic but the big score is always in our flesh. The final reason was her pride. Her desire to be like God.
Let us step back and see this cosmic conversation play out. God has told them to not eat of the fruit. He has even gone as far as to tell them why, as it will bring about their death. We too have been given a Word from the Lord. It is called the Bible. The devil presents lies and half-truths to Eve as he does to us every single day. These lies and half-truths are designed to attack what God has already said. To get us to go against what God has already said. He will appeal to our intellect, our flesh, and our pride. Anything to get us to doubt what God has said, ignore what God has said, and eventually do the opposite of what God has said. Then when it is all said and done, the devil wants the credit. He wants the credit for two reasons. One to feed his insatiable pride and two, so that you never repent of it. The Bible says He is faithful to forgive us if we confess and repent but you cannot repent if you think you were somehow the victim. The victim of your ex boyfriend. The victim of a deceptive business partner. The victim of an attractive co-worker. The snake made me. When God turned to Adam he said it was the woman. We have been passing the buck ever since. Now it seems almost a badge of spirituality to claim the devil made me do something; especially if it is followed by some bravado and boasting about how we are going to put an end to it now. Right.
Beloved, we ought not fear the devil because greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world. But the Bible says we should be aware of his schemes. We ought to know how to respond. When confronted with our own sin we need to own our sin. The devil played a role and in all likelihood, played me. Confess, repent, and pick up your sword so that you can hide His Word in your heart that you might not sin against Him again. The devil is a liar but be careful to lay the blame for our own sin at his feet. The lie is presented for us to consider but the considering and what follows is all us.
Reverend Anthony Wade - January 11, 2016