Devotion: Tempted Jesus

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrews 4:15

It is essential for us as followers of Christ not to view him as some automaton, superhero deity, but as a relatable God who experienced the sorrows, joys, frustrations, disappointments and even temptations of life.

However, for many in modernity it seems ludicrous to think that Jesus was tempted in every way that you and I feel tempted. It’s not like Jesus was tempted to cut someone off in traffic or get sucked into internet pornography. No one ever lined up some fireball shots or handed him a joint. He never tried to soothe the feelings of betrayal with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or a glass of chardonnay. He did not feel the pull towards cyber-bullying or mindless Facebook scrolling. He did not covet a 4th private airplane or a 16,000sq ft house in a gated community. There is no biblical reference to him being drawn towards sex outside the covenant of marriage. He did not show us if speeding or downloading music from Napster were really sins.

So how relatable could this Jesus really be? How can Jesus empathize with our weaknesses, when he never experienced the constant pulls in our life?

This is because most of us worry about sin management, and have mistakenly focused upon the surface behaviors of sin without getting to the true root cause of our sin. We would rather have a list of do’s and don’t s than have to dig into the root causes.

For at the root of every sin behavior–lust, greed, gossip, slander, malice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, adultery–is one of three heart issues. Our sin behaviors are simply our flawed attempts to fill one of three voids left in our hearts. The temptation we feel really is more than just the behavior, it is a deep desire to want to take control and have the power to feed our heart idols on our own terms and timeline.

Heart Idols

Approval & Acceptance Security & Safety Comfort & Soothingness

So, while Jesus may not have confronted the myriad of sin options that lay before our modern lives, he certainly was tempted by the three heart issues. After having been baptized, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness in order to face these three temptations. The Devil tempted Jesus with the root causes of all our sin behaviors.

Therefore, Jesus–who was tempted on a hungry stomach with bread–can understand the allure of soothing tools like iPhone addictions and distracted drinking. Jesus–who was challenged to throw himself off of the cliff in order to be saved by the angels–can relate to our need to feel safe and secure which often manifests itself with a compulsive focus on money and an accumulation of stuff. Jesus–who was told he could have all of the kingdoms of this world–understands the pull of public approval that may cause us to manipulate others in order to win their acceptance.

What the story of Jesus’s temptations reveals is that rather than being drawn towards the Devil’s hollow heart idols, Jesus trusted God’s promise to provide comfort, security and approval.

Why is this good news? Because we worship a God who has gone down to the root causes of our sin behavior and eradicated them. We discover in Christ that he revealed how woefully lacking our sin behaviors are in fulfilling these deep needs. For we will never find the approval, security or comfort we long for in the cheap things of this world.

Instead, we are able to find in Christ alone the approval, security and comfort our hearts desire.

Approval: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were till sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8; “He chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” Ephesians 1:4

Security: “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3; “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Comfort: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” John 10:10; “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.” Psalm 119:76

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