Saturday, February 20, 2010

Temptation: Earth Is Satan's Playground

Hebrews 12: 10 and 11 state "...[God] disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

This text is at the heart of our Lenten series. Our identity is rooted in God's activity. We place spiritual disciplines within this activity of God. The disciplines in which we engage are the activity of God shaping our lives. One can then say that the spiritual disciplines prepare us for life. This week, we are looking at how spiritual disciplines, especially that of being engaged by the Word of God in scripture, prepare us to face temptation.

Luke, chapter four, verses one through thirteen, are what we call the temptation of Jesus by Satan. Before moving into the details of the text, one must ask, "How am I to read this text?" One approach would be literally. The events that unfold in the Gospel of Luke happened just as they appear. This approach provides us with difficulty when we compare the temptation account of Luke with Mark who has none of the detail, or compare with Matthew who has a different order of temptation. A second approach would be to understand the story as mere parable. This would be Luke creating a story with no historical grounding in order to teach a lesson. I think another approach is appropriate. We can understand this story to be one that Jesus told his disciples, based on his experience, to prepare them for similar events in their lives. Jesus uses a mythological setting to teach.

To claim that Jesus is using this mythological approach to speak of real life events in his life to prepare his disciples for similar events leads us to ask "What is it that Jesus is teaching?" Prior to this section of Luke, we have the claim that God makes on Jesus at his baptism, "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased." And, we have the genealogy that establishes Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus is being tempted/tested because he is the Son of God. As Jesus is confronted with hostility and rejection of his ministry, Satan tries to get him to use the power given to him as the Son of God to overcome the hostility. He is challenged to use his power to serve his own interest and serve his own self interest over God's call. He is challenged to use his power to name another as his master and serve someone other than God. He is challenged to use his power to make himself into the kind of leader that people wanted, and use this power to suit his own desires. We then move to Luke 22, where we hear that his disciples will be sifted like sand. They too will face the hostility and rejection that Jesus faced in his ministry. And here is the rub, there is seduction built into that opposition. The seduction is to use the power we have in place of obedience to God.

In their book "Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior" Ori and Rom Brafman recount the story of Captain Jacob Van Zanten, pilot of KLM flight 4805. This captain was the poster child for "attention to detail, methodical approach, and spotless record." He was the leader of the safety program for the airline. Flight 4805 left Amsterdam for the Canary Islands. Nearing the islands, the flight received word that a terrorist had exploded a bomb at the airport, which was now closed. The flight was rerouted to the island of Tenerife. Aware of necessary requirements for pilot rest, the captain was anxious for the aircraft to return to the sky and reach its intended destination. After numerous complications, word came that the Canary Islands airport was open. Just then, fog covered the airport on Tenerife. Visibility levels dropped. Captain Van Zanten knew that every second he waited, he risked losing his opportunity to take off. With passengers on board, the captain decided to take off. Out of character, he increased the power to the engines. His c-pilot challenged him, saying they had not received clearance. The captain hit the brakes, and told the other pilot to get clearance. Now the other pilot got clearance for the flight plan, but not for take off. Captain Van Zanten accelerated for take off anyway. "The jumbo jet was gaining momentum when, seemingly out of nowhere, the scariest sight Van Zanten could have imaged appeared before him. A Pan Am 747 was parked across the runway, and Van Zanten was approaching it at take off speed. There was no way to stop or swerve." Getting the nose of his plane in the air, but not the underside, both planes burst into a fiery explosion. 584 people lost their lives in that accident. A "seasoned pilot, the head of safety at the airline," in that opportunity, made a rash decision.

Temptation happens in that moment. With all of our intellect, all of our capacity, all of our ability, we turn to our power in an attempt to overcome the situation in which we find ourselves.

Fred Craddock writes, "there is in us and among us strong opposition to love, health, wholeness, and peace. Being committed to the way of God in the world does not exempt one from the struggle." Temptation is giving into the strength of the opposition. Simul justus et piccatur. Simultaneously justified and sinner. In our yearning for the way of God, inspired in us by the Holy Spirit given to us at our baptism, we claim the very things that serve as obstacles to that for which we yearn. Craddock goes on to say, "...temptation is an indication of strength, not of weakness. We are not tempted to do what we cannot do but what is within our power. The greater the strength, the greater the temptation."

Shakespeare wrote, "There is no error so gross but that some sober brow will bless it with a proper text." Scripture can be used to justify. Jesus has the opportunity to provide bread for the hungry, become a political leader to change the lives of his constituents, and convert people through miraculous acts. What person can argue that? And Scripture will back up the call to do so. But here is our challenge, and why we focus on the spiritual discipline of engagement with scripture. Listen to these passages, 1. God helps those who help themselves; 2. Good things come to those who wait, and, 3. To thine own self be true. Noble passages on which we strive to build our Christian lives. Until we realize this, none of those passages are in the Bible. If we don't know scripture, we won't recognize temptation and will fall prey to the seduction. There is an faithful and unfaithful way to engage with Scripture.

Our mission as the church is weakened until Scripture engages us, and at times, as we read in the next section of the 4th chapter of Luke, we find ourselves a odds with our own scripture. Then, the authority of Scripture has claim over our lives. With hold on our lives, the Word of God through Scripture disciplines and shapes our identities as God's people.


  1. 先告訴自己希望成為什麼樣的人,然後一步一步實踐必要的步驟。........................................

  2. 人類最大的悲劇不是死亡,而是沒有掌握有意義的人生........................................

  3. pleasure to find such a good artical! please keep update!!.................................................................                           

  4. 當一個人內心能容納兩樣相互衝突的東西,這個人便開始變得有價值了。............................................................

  5. 不論做什麼事,相信自己,別讓別人的一句話,把你擊倒。..................................................

  6. 在莫非定律中有項笨蛋定律:「一個組織中的笨蛋,恆大於等於三分之二。」. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .