This post is the conclusion of a series of posts by my friend Edward Fudge. There is far more to be learned from these posts than about the subject of temptation in the Christian’s life. As usual, great biblical truths are a part of everything Edward writes. This series is no exception. They are jam packed with great doctrinal truths that we all need to know and appropriate.
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Now, Edward writes:
As these mortal bodies remind us, we have a fallen nature, and “natural” for us now includes a tendency to sin. As explained in Romans 6, the only way we can beat temptation is to die. People might sin in a cemetery, but the people who do so are not the folks who belong there. Whoever dies is liberated from sin and its appeal. Expect the devil to claim otherwise, but the truth is that sin’s power ends at the grave. But how does this help us, since we are still alive?
The answer is all about Jesus who rescues us from sin. Not only from its penalty, but also from its practice, and finally from its presence as well. He rescues us by becoming our high priest, standing in for us, taking our place, acting as our formal, official representative before God. But let us be specific: Jesus died–I died. Jesus was buried–I was buried. Jesus arose from the dead–I arose from the dead. These things really happened to Jesus, and because he is our representative, they also happened to us.
Fast forward now to the present. Satan comes tempting, reminding us that we humans, when left to our own power and to no other, cannot consistently resist sin. But Romans 6 interrupts. You died with Jesus, it says, and you moved past the jurisdiction of sin’s power over you. You were raised with Jesus, and you now live in righteousness–from a new power source that also empowers Jesus himself.
We can consider or reckon, calculate and conclude, that these things are really true–they truly describe the new reality in God’s new creation. In this new creation, whenever sin comes calling, we can say “no” to sin and present ourselves to God to do through us what he wishes. Sin’s power is broken–a new creation has begun and we are God’s righteous handiwork as he gradually makes us more and more like Jesus Christ himself.
JESUS’ RESURRECTION CONQUERS TEMPTATION
The devil’s constant message and greatest lie is an attack on the very character of God. “God cannot be trusted,” Satan whispers. “You best keep an eye open if you really expect to be safe.” If we look closely, we see that all temptation to sin finally involves distrusting God. Not surprising, in the Gospels, Jesus’ saving ministry on earth begins and ends with the spotlight on this core issue. Can God be trusted to keep his promises?
“Since you are God’s son,” Satan literally begins in the wilderness (Luke 4:3). He dares not contradict the heavenly voice (Luke 3:22). Jesus would never fall for that. The issue is not Jesus’ divine sonship. The issue is the Father’s faithfulness. Can we trust God–and therefore obey him without fear or reservation–or must we look out for our own interests when dealing with the Father? Once, twice, then three times, Jesus deflects diabolical doubt. God’s word gives life, he affirms. Only God is worthy of our worship. Do not put him to the test (Luke 4:4, 8, 10). Jesus passes this test and Satan leaves him “until a more opportune time” (Luke 4:13).
The devil returns in Gethsemane, unseen and unnamed, but he brings the same haunting question as before: can Jesus really afford to trust God? The Father has said that Jesus is about to be slaughtered, then rise again on the third day. But can the Father be trusted to do that? Jesus’ prayer is not to avoid the cross, but rather to be rescued out of death. “Take this cup away from me,” Jesus prays; “yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:39-46). To drink God’s cup of wrath is to undergo divine judgment. For God to take away the cup is to be restored again to life in God’s favor (Isaiah 51:17, 21-22).
Jesus faces the same temptation to doubt the Father’s character when from the cross he cries out words from Psalm 22:1–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22 closes with the godforsaken one alive and praising God with his brothers and sisters. Can Jesus trust that to be the case? In the end, faith triumphs over distrust, and Jesus dies with the words: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” God is faithful to anyone who trusts in him. How do we know? We know because God raised Jesus from the dead.