Monday, July 11, 2016

There's always an escape from temptation

Here is a plain truth and a main truth from Scripture that we would do well to understand, believe and appropriate in our own lives. God does not tempt us; every temptation to sin can be traced back to our own desires.

Not to God. And not to the devil. Tom Sawyer told his Aunt Polly that the devil made him do the bad things he did. Flip Wilson made that a punch line in the 1970s. "The devil made me do it!" But there is nothing funny about the devil. He comes to steal, kill and destroy. However, though he may suggest a lie to us, as he did to Eve in the garden, he cannot make us sin. J.A. Bengel said, "Even the suggestions of the devil do not occasion danger before they are made our own."

He can bait the hook, but we have to take the bait, and when we do, it is always because of our own evil hearts. This often surprises us in ourselves or others. A young priest was listening to confessions for the first time, accompanied by an older priest. At the end of the day, the older priest pulled him aside and said, "My son, when a person finishes his confession, you have got to learn to say something other than, 'Wow.'"

The Bible uses a fishing metaphor to describe how temptations can pull us away from a safe place. We are tempted when we are "lured and enticed by our own desires." I was watching my sons fish a few days ago, and I noticed that no one was throwing out an empty hook, thinking that a fish would be stupid enough to throw himself on it and be reeled in, you know, just for fun. No, the lures they were using looked just like food to the fish, which is a God-given desire. Fish like food. God made them, and us, that way. But when a fish takes the bait, it is hooked and dragged out of safety and to a place that is decidedly not safe. It is the same for you and me.

When we are hooked and dragged away, caught in a trap that works because of our own desires, it often carries a very high price. And it is true that our desires are not always evil, but the ways we fulfill those desires can be dangerous and destructive. A desire to be loved leads many young girls in dangerous places. A desire for sexual gratification leads many young men astray. A desire to eat and enjoy food or drink can lead us to gluttony or drunkenness. We have a golden retriever who loses her mind when a thunderstorm comes. We have a perfectly safe place she can hide in our garage, but her desire to escape the storm completely has convinced her she needs to be inside the house, which has led to the near destruction of our storm door.

What to do about temptations? Here is another plain truth and main truth in the Bible: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." That is a verse to believe, memorize, and live. We can never say, "I couldn't help it."

There will always be a way of escape. It’s our choice whether to take it or not.

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