Temptations What is at stake? Read Michael Olivier, M.D.

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Temptations

What's at Stake?

Michael Olivier, M.D.
Sermon 9-26-09

Hermosa, South Dakota

 

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.

 

As a child I remember daring my friends, and my friends daring me, to do something risky.

The only object of the dare was to see if anyone had the courage to take a risk.

But the temptations referred to in the Bible are seeking to discover more than just courage.

There is something far more important at stake which the responses of those under temptation determine.

 

There are many ways in which the word temptation is used in the Bible. Using the Strong's Concordance, Englishman's Concordance, Brown-Driver-Brigg's Hebrew Lexicon, and Thayer Greek Lexicon and studying all the derivations of the word (tempt, tempted, tempter, tempteth,etc.), wherever the same Hebrew or Greek word may be found in the Bible, and however it is used in context has led to the summary definition that follows:

 

Definition: A test or trial which evokes a reaction or exposes a feature that either confirms or disproves the assumed character of the one tested. (OT:974 (29 matches),4531 (5 matches),5254 (36 matches); NT:551 (2 matches),1598 (4 matches),3985 (38 matches),3986(21 matches))

 

There are several points that need to be made before explaining what's at stake

 

  1. By implication the words "confirms or disproves the assumed character" suggest someone is administering the test. In fact that is the way it is. The administrator may be another human being, but ultimately either God or Satan, one or the other, inspires all tests. And the sons of God are doing the grading. Job 1:6,9,11 and 2:1,4,5

In the context of the Bible the kind of character that temptations are employed to discover is a moral character, i.e deliberate right or wrong behavior. It isn't skill but ethics that are being evaluated.

OT:974

bachan (baw-khan'); a primitive root; to test (especially metals); generally and figuratively, to investigate:

 

KJV - examine, prove, tempt, try (trial).

 

Job 23:10

10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

KJV

 

 

  1. Generally the test itself consists of a challenge or circumstance that requires a conflict to be waged to trust God and keep His commandments. Job 2:3

If an individual fights the good fight of faith to keep his thoughts, words, and actions directed toward trusting God and keeping God's commandments when he is tested, then he is deemed moral by the examiner, and the graders. Job 2:9,10

 

Why all the fuss over morality?

Why is there such intense interest in evaluating how moral we are determined to be?

What's at stake if God loses the argument with Satan over the assumed character of a person as the results of a test unfold?

 

To answer these questions we must understand the great controversy between Christ and Satan

We've already gotten a hint of it in the book of Job.

We see a contest between God and Satan that we may be oblivious to, but not the sons of God.

Job 1:6; 2:1

Who are the sons of God? The same book makes reference to them. In Job 38:7 they're represented as heavenly spectators at the laying of the foundations of this earth. Morning stars? Aren't stars referred to as angels in Rev.1:20? Sure. So at least angels qualify as the sons of God. Let's just call them heavenly intelligences.

In the book of Job these heavenly intelligences witnessed a contest between God and Satan.

If there's anything in a name sons of God sounds like an endearing relational term, which appears to identify these heavenly intelligences as welcome members of God's family. In fact the term son in Job 38 is translated from the Hebrew word Ben which means builder of the family name. So obviously the sons of God are supporters of God.

To the contrary Satan, meaning opponent or arch-enemy of good or adversary, is not.

As the sons of God pay respect to God, Satan joins them, but probably not to worship God.

In fact Satan boldly discredits the high appraisal God verbalizes for his servant Job. (Don't miss that Satan is challenging God in the audience of the sons of God. Why? What is he after anyway?)

He insinuates that Job's apparent nobility is nothing more than a pathetic demonstration of doing whatever's necessary to continue to receive God's blessing. Like Rover sitting, because sitting always gets Rover a biscuit.

In other words he claims that Job's actions are vacant of any true love for Godly principles. Satan claims that Job just likes to receive the goodies that God lavishes upon him, and God likes the good behavior His goodies encourage in return.

Essentially Satan portays the blessings extended to Job asmanipulation for the behavior God wants.

The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition defines the word manipulate as: to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage. So I don't think I'm out of line to use that term to describe Satan's assassination of God's good character.

Not that Satan really believes that God is a manipulator, but he wants everyone else to believe that. (Private interpretation? No. No. Keep following). This is just an extension of the deception he invented in heaven to instill dissatisfaction in the hearts of angels. We first see the explicit evidence for this deception in Gen.3:1-5 which is also implied in Rev.12:7-9. Eve was enticed with something supposedly better than God was offering. I wonder what the third of the stars or angelic host were enticed with before they fell? Even in the book of Job, contrary to God's own testimony of his servant Job, Satan explicitly accuses God of reserving to Himself the distinct privilege to be regarded as righteous while treating everyone else, including angels, as inferior in character. Job 4:13-18. Did God mean what He said about His servant Job? (See Job 1:8)You know what this accusation does? It goes further to discredit the government of God by calling Him a liar, so that He isn't trusted. What do you call someone who holds the reins of control, has a low opinion of you, and uses you to make himself look good? A self-centered manipulator.

What would inspire such bold defiance and disrespect of God? How could anyone talk to and about God like that?

We see in Ezekiel 28 that Satan was a beautiful angel who once belonged to the celestial hierarchy, which is what it means to be ananointed cherub that covereth (Ez.28:13-17). That means he was nearest to God and a witness to His glory! (Notice the description of covering cherubs on the ark of God. Ex.25:20-22, Lev.16:2. Who was between the cherubims?) But he got caught up with his magnificence that he claimed equal right to be God. Ez.28:17, 2 Th.2:4, Is.14:14. When it became clear that that privilege would not be extended to him his pride was hurt, and he became oppositional to God and was cast out of heaven Is.45:5, Rev.12:7-9, Is.14:12,13. In bitterness he devised a plan that is still in effect to this very day. (Imagine the intensity of a grudge that has lasted more than 6,000 years!)

By discrediting God's government in a variety of ways he has effectively convinced multitudes that his ways are just as good or even better than God's, and he has managed to win their allegiance! Though few people I'm sure would admit they have avowed themselves as Satan's servants, in philosophy they've already given him their hearts.

 

Actually the law of the Lord is perfect. Psalm 19:7 God will not change the laws that He created because there is nothing wrong with them. They cannot be improved. There can be no greater wisdom exhibited in the way things are ordered.

 

Deuteronomy 4:5-6

5 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.

 

6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. KJV; Jude 25.

 

Blessings will continue to attend those who cooperate with His laws, no matter how maligned His laws and His law-abiders may be.

And among all of life's pursuits there can be no greater satisfaction than following God. Ps.16:11

God's laws don't need to change. We need to change! Satan knows that. He was a covering Cherub!

But as long as he manages to cause some to entertain doubt as to whether there is something better, he has God over a barrel.

For those who wonder whether God is withholding from them hidden innocent pleasures by the order of things or laws He imposes (and does not intend to change) there will be a perpetual dissatisfaction and even a sense of justification to accuse God of interference and manipulation. Satan knows this and has used it to his advantage throughout the ages. He's really the manipulator ascribing his own sinister character traits upon God.

 

God's only hope of disproving the accusation that He is a self-centered manipulator is to reveal that everything He does is out of His l-o-v-e. It would seem that Calvary already proved this. It did.

Rom.8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Jn 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Rom.5:6-8 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

How can anyone not see that God loves us!

 

Yet one thing remains to convince the heavenly intelligences. Know what that is?: the sinner's commendation.

What greater proof of God's trustworthy love can be attested to than the unshakable and absolute devotion of those whose lives were before inclined to follow Satan. (Jesus never sampled the things Satan had to offer. But we have. We know by experience what we would be missing if we turned away from the service of Satan to follow God. Whose service to God then would be more impressive? One who never sinned, or one who has sinned? Luke 15:10 ... there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. )

The evidence for this is found in 2 Cor.3:1-3 (see also 1 Ki 10:7-9, and Jn.21:15-17).

2 Cor.3:1-3 reveal that the love you show can only go so far to prove your love.

The confidence others show in you, by dedicated service and the complete surrender of their lives to your will and your way, is a powerful argument in favor of your love!

 

Maybe some of you are thinking "Wait a minute, there is a weak point in your argument. The reason why I don't sin is because God makes me feel bad when I do. If He didn't oppose me in my conscience when I decide to go Satan's way would I be so dedicated to Him? Dedicated service to God doesn't prove how good God's way is. That isn't really confidence, that's choosing the path of greater ease or least resistance."

 

That kind of thinking is playing right into Satan's deception. In a way that's just what his accusation was regarding Job's situation.

 

The reality is whether you follow God or Satan you'll encounter opposition. (see Lk.11:23). As we have seen God will allow Satan opportunity to oppose you when you choose to follow God. Both God and Satan will give you reason not to want to follow the opposing side.

So it isn't opposition or negative reinforcement that ultimately determines the way we choose to go.

In fact I can recount many instances where God even made it unpleasant for His people to follow Him. See Deu.8. Being humbled, suffering hunger isn't comfortable! He did this to prove whether it is good feelings His people were after or a good principles and a good relationship with Him. If it were good feelings how secure do you think our relationship would be with Him?

 

God wants a relationship with us. Notice the twin psalms, Ps.14, and 53. What is He communicating in these psalms. If I may paraphrase I believe He is saying "Does anyone understand the good thing they have going in their relationship with me.

I don't just want to feed you, or house you, I want to give you a clean heart!"

 

When a habitual sinner purposes in his heart to choose God's way though he's had experience with Satan's way, it helps resolve in the minds of the heavenly intelligences that there is nothing more satisfying, more loving than what God allows.

 

Here's what at stake in the temptations we're under. In these last days (Heb.1:2) those touched by the love of God who willingly cooperate with Him, regardless of the apparent consequences, are both developing and vindicating God's beautiful character. In essence the tests to which we are subjected reveal more about the character of God and Satan than they do about us. They answer the question Who really can be trusted to bring true completeness and satisfaction to a life?

This beautiful theme explains why often temptations are strangely referred or intimated to be blessings throughout the scriptures.

You know the texts:

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing [this], that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have [her] perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

 

1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

 

Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great [is] your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 

The apostle Paul relates a temptation that he pled would be taken from him. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (Gal.4:14)

But he learned that the very temptation he asked to be removed from him was his assurance of God's grace in the sense of divine mercy and strength attending him.

 

I have an assignment for you. Look up texts they have to do with testing, tempting, trials.

Use a Strong's Concordance.

Try Gen 22, Judges 3. Find others yourself

Ask yourself the question, "What is God showing me about my heart?" "What is He leading me to develop in my character?" "How much better would my life be if I developed those attributes in my character?" And then thank Him for His loving interest in your life, for revealing your defects, and permitting you by His grace to be the complete person He's grooming you to be. When you do this you'll be hastening the Lord's return and we can truly be kingdom bound.(2 Peter 3:10-12)

 

Jesus said in Luke 22:28-30

"Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

 

Closing song

 

"We may well have anxiety and anticipate danger and loss, for it is certain to befall us. But when we really believe that God loves us and means to do us good we shall cease to worry about the future. We shall trust God as a child trusts a loving parent. Then our troubles and torments will disappear, for our will is swallowed up in the will of God." {MB 100.2}