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The Temptations of the evil one, Part 2

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Matthew 4:5-6 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, And said unto him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. 

In the previous post, we looked at the first temptation: Using the resources God has given us to turn against God. Now we're looking at the second temptation: Testing God!

Remember: When the devil tempted Jesus the first time, Jesus responded by quoting scripture. In other words Jesus said: "I put my trust in Scripture, I put my trust that everything that is written in Scripture, I trust that the Father will keep every single word that He said in Scripture!"

So now the devil takes that very trust one level further: "Alright Jesus, so you trust in everything that Scripture is saying. Let me just show you this verse. The Father promised to protect you. But how do you actually know that it's actually true? So you know what you need to do? You should really get some evidence for your Faith. You should get some proof. So Jesus, this is what you should do: Throw yourself down the temple, then you'll see whether it's really true. If the Father is who He says He is, then He will catch you. So go ahead, jump down. You trust the Father, right?"

Note that the devil took Jesus up the temple. The very symbol of the presence of God! What better place to see whether God is really trustworthy than in His very presence?

Well, again, Jesus has the perfect answer:

Matthew 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, You shall not test the Lord your God. 

Again, the devil completely disarms every aspect of the devil's temptation. This time Jesus is saying: "You are right, I don't have any solid proof or evidence for my Faith. But that's the point! Faith isn't Faith if I need proof. Faith by definition is Faith into the unseen, Faith into the future, Faith into something that cannot be proven."

The new testament wasn't written at the time, but Jesus obviously completely understood what Faith is. For us today, we have New Testament Scripture that confirm this aspect of Faith:

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Jesus again completely disarms every aspect of the devil's temptation. He is basically saying: "Yes devil, you are right. I don't have evidence in that sense for my Faith. But you know what? I don't need it. I trust my Father, without having evidence. Cause that's what Faith is all about!" Brilliant! I wish I was as wise as Jesus.

So how does this apply to us? How are we tempted to test God?

Well, it's very easy to fall in that trap.

  • God, you promised to provide for all my needs. I hate my job. I'll just quit my current job, then you'll have to keep your promise by giving me a new job. 
  • God, I need an answer from that girl whether we get married. So if you don't make her give me an answer by the end of the week, I'll end the relationship!
  •  God, you promised to provide for all my needs. I'll get a car now, buy it with money I don't have, get into debt. You'll come up with the money afterwards. 
  • ...

That's the kind of temptations that the devil will throw at us again and again. We read God's promises, believe in them. But then we use the very promises God has given us trying to force our own way on God. "God, since you promised, you gotta do this now for me!"

But what are we indirectly saying here? Well, basically we're saying: "I am God!" If we think we can tell God what He has to do, then we're putting ourselves in a position higher than God Himself. In other words: We're making ourselves God, and God becomes our subject. That's why "testing God" is so offensive to Him. Because it's the opposite of humility that God requires of us.

Now some people will ask the question: What happened to "walking in Faith"? Aren't we supposed to take steps into the unknown? Aren't we supposed to take risks, do things that don't seem to make any sense, so that God can show His power? Aren't we supposed to fight the giants in our lives like David fought Goliath? Aren't we supposed to take the land when it seems absolutely foolish, like the Israelites taking Jericho? Are you saying we are not supposed to take any risks?

Well, that's not what I am saying. But there are two things that can look very similar from the outside. But on the inside, they are completely different:

Walking in Faith: When we walk in Faith, we are guided by God. God is telling us: "I know you don't know the outcome. I know it seems foolish to you and doesn't make sense to you. But I want you to go ahead. And if you, then I'll do my miracle work and do the things you cannot do!" Walking in Faith is absolutely necessary. Great miracles can only happen when we walk into the unknown, by Faith. But the key is: "God is calling us to walk in Faith!"

Testing God: The difference is basically: "Who is telling who what he should do?" If it's God telling us to go ahead, then we are exercising Faith. If it's us telling God what he should do, then it's Testing God. 

These two things can look very similar from the outside. Maybe you see two guys sitting next to each other in the office and both quit their jobs. From the outside they might be doing exactly the same thing. In their hearts however, things might look different. One might be able to say: "I feel God is leading me to quit my job, and He said He will provide a new job for me, once I resigned here. So I'm walking in Faith!" The other person might have to admit deep down in his heart: "The reason I quit my job is because I can't wait for God to give me a new job. And by quitting, I'm giving God a deadline. Now He HAS TO give me a job, because He promised to provide for me."

From the outside, the actions of these two people might look exactly the same. But inside their hearts, their attitudes are very, very different. 

So you can't always judge by people's actions. In the end, we all have to give an account for our own lives to God, whether we walked in Faith, or whether we tested God. We can't judge others. 

However, we have to take Jesus' warning seriously. Walk in Faith! But don't test God!



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