Saturday, August 7, 2010

"Confessing the Commands"

Our Lord's way of overcoming temptation by Satan in the wilderness is fascinating.

"It is written... It is written... It is written... It is written" (Matthew 4:4; 6; 7; 10).

Four times the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the written Biblical commands of God, properly applied and interpreted, in response to the devil's enticements to sin (in contrast to Satan misusing Scripture as a means of temptation).

Never does the text of Scripture state that the Savior prayed in order to overcome. He may have done so, but Scripture does not directly say so. Nor does the Bible record that the Lord Jesus affirmed the promises of God, although, again, He may have done so. The only record we have of the Lord's way of overcoming is His affirmation of the Scripturally declared will of God.

In that we are to "walk, even as He walked," is there a lesson in the wilderness temptation for our own times of challenge? I think so. There is something elemental in affirming the "It is written" of the Bible's commands when we are being tempted that can greatly strengthen our capacity to overcome temptation.

For example, suppose a believer is tempted when doing his taxes to claim a questionable deduction. Or perhaps it isn't questionable at all. The believer knows that he can't honestly take the deduction, although he is sure that noone will ever know that he has skirted the rules. The temptation is strong. Perhaps it involves a significant amount of money, and countless rationalizations come to his mind. Nevertheless he knows he must overcome, regardless of how strong the fleshly desire.

If the believer literally follows his Lord's pattern revealed in the wilderness temptation, he doesn't pray for strength to overcome, or trust God to enable him to do so (although certainly such expressions of faith are deep within his heart as part of the process). No, the believer rather affirms the "It is written" of God's Biblically revealed will.

"It is written, Let him that stole steal no more" (Ephesians 4:28).
"It is written, Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake" (I Peter 2:13).
"It is written, Abstain from all appearance of evil" (I Thessalonians 5:22).
"It is written, Now I pray to God that ye do no evil... that ye should do that which is honest" (II Corinthians 13:7).

The power of such affirmation in the heart of a born again, consecrated believer is, well, it is as powerful as it was in the heart of the Lord Jesus. Indeed, let us remember that our Lord did not face temptation in His divinity because "God cannot be tempted with evil" (James 1:13). He rather faced temptation in His humanity, as a man trusting His Father. And His precisely Biblical way of overcoming was the confession of His Father's written declaration of His will. The Lord Jesus obeyed by confessing the command, and the Holy Spirit empowered His heart, mind, hands, and feet to follow in the holy wake.

I almost hesitate to say, "Try this," because I don't want to imply that faithful obedience to God is merely a method. However, it is true that we are to walk as did the Lord Jesus. May I suggest, therefore, that times of temptation offer to us the honor of obeying God through the same Spirit and Truth that empowered our Lord. As we confess the commands that our spiritual enemies tempt us to disobey, we will doubtless find the blessed Holy Spirit consistently transforming our own wilderness into scenes of triumph. Long ago, the Savior did so, and He now lives in us to enable the same.

"And this is love, that we walk after His commandments."
(I John 2:6)

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