But each man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:14)
For the mouse to be trapped, it must first leave its safe cover and then venture out after the bait that leads to death. Whether it’s fishing for crappie, hunting quail, or Madison Avenue marketing, the same thing happens. The prey must first walk away from its cover before it is highly susceptible to the trap.
If you learn to recognize these two critical levels of temptation, you’ll be well on your way to finding the “way of escape” in every temptation.
Back to the Garden
We clearly see these two levels in the first temptation in the Bible. The Serpent tempted Eve to entertain ideas about God that were not worthy of Him. That is, Satan slandered the character and motives of God, and Eve received the lie. He said that the forbidden fruit, rather than a source of death (as God had said) was actually the path to self-realization. If Adam and Eve wanted to truly experience their destiny in life, they would have to become independent from God. This was the devil’s slander of God.
As long as Adam and Eve trusted that God had their best interests in mind, when they looked at the forbidden fruit they saw death. In this safe place they were free from shame, fear, and anxiety…sin and death.
But look at how Eve’s “sight” suddenly changed after her fundamental “view” of God had changed (through believing the slanderous lie):
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Gen 3:6)
The forbidden fruit had never had such enticing power. Why was this? It was because Eve’s initial (and correct) view of God had sheltered her from sin and death. But wrong beliefs about the motives and character of God changed the way she viewed everything else as well.
The world is full of faulty views of God. Unfortunately, we often hold these views without realizing we’ve been duped. In Redemption, Mike Wilkerson suggests several common misconception about God in our society. To many people, God is:
- Little more than a missing father, never there for His children.
- A therapist we can call upon from time to time to boost our self-esteem.
- A debtor, who being responsible for all the pain in the world, has no right to judge us for sins of pleasure and escape.
- A heartless “puppet-master”, pulling the strings of the world with no compassion for those who are suffering.
- The source of a better high than other drugs of choice.
- “The god of my understanding”, who is a tool I may use in maneuvering my way out of a particular addiction.
Without addressing our idolatrous (faulty) views of God, we will make little progress in overcoming temptation. For just as the first level of temptation is to draw people away from the truth of who God is, the first step in the “way of escape” from temptation, is to return to God as He has revealed Himself to be.
Next time we’ll look at some practical examples of this.