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被试探是罪吗

作者:乔·克鲁斯 牧师日期:2012-04-23 8:20:12浏览数:12893
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一、被试探是罪吗

没有一位成长中的基督徒会对试探所带来的伤害问题漠不关心。遭遇精神层面的属灵抉择与争战是没有年龄差别的,试探会在不同情境之下发动目的不同的攻击,只要我们气息尚存,试探就绝不会停止。

当我在北卡罗莱那州还是个小孩子时,我们这帮邻家男孩儿总会准确的判断出果园里水果熟透的季节。并冲到那儿,大家都说,“又到时候了。”现在,魔鬼比十几岁的小男孩要聪明得多,我们的生命之果倘若青涩未熟,他们会对你置之不理。一旦果子成熟,所有的魔鬼都会突然现身,企图将它从我们手中偷走。

也就是说,越与上帝亲近的人、灵性越好的人,越有可能面对更严厉的试探。因为他们拥有一些撒但最想破坏和毁灭的东西。

这是否说明,被魔鬼特别地试探也是一种光荣呢?可能是吧。从某个角度上说,有贼想冲进你的房子行窃是对你的赞美,这表明至少你有个富有的名声。当魔鬼来到你身边,尽管这是一场战争,但你会体会到,在你的生命里明显有上帝在作工。

现在让我们来读整本圣经中最令人震惊的一段经文。“我的弟兄们,你们落在百般的试炼中,都要以为大喜乐。” (雅1:2)显然,圣经作者也确信试探可以是件好事。然而伴着遭遇试探时所经历的每一份痛苦,我们的思想将会陷入决绝的冲突与战争中。大多数人都会视之为不可避免的恶事,认为它的影响是全然毁灭性的。

我们当然需要弄明白试探中总有一些可取之处。首先,它证明我们拥有属灵的洞察力。除非需做出有意义的选择,否则没人会被试探。对错必须分明。属灵视野一片灰暗的人无法安全胜过任何一场思想上的争战。

每个人必须具备遭遇试探时所需的特别的善恶分辨力。许多当代的宗教狂热者,他们似乎只有那么一点点的、普通的是非之心,这也是他们属灵争战不足的原因。这与历史上那些伟大的人物形成了鲜明的对比:他们和魔鬼之间进行了激动人心的白刃战。马丁路得与撒但的对决是真真切切的,据说他曾经将墨水瓶投向折磨他的魔鬼。

那么,发现自己被试探是值得庆贺的事吗?是的,但是有个前提,那就是,只有在你能正确地看待这个试探时,它才是值得庆贺的。可是,随之会出现另一个至关重要的问题,那就是:当我们认识到摆在面前的真实情形时,怎样才能获得择善胜恶的力量呢?保罗在写给哥林多教会的第一封信时,就意识到了这个问题的紧迫性。比起那几位哥林多的基督徒,大概没有人面对过更多像他们所经历的那些极具诱惑的选择机会了。异教肉欲充斥的生活与他们新发现的信仰所提倡的自我否定的生活方式形成了清晰鲜明的对照。对这几位基督徒来说,两者的是非曲直毫无悬念,所以,保罗写道:“你们所遇见的试探,无非是人所能受的。上帝是信实的,必不叫你们受试探过于所能受的。在受试探的时候,总要给你们开一条出路,叫你们能忍受得住。” (林前10:13)

对所有正在与已被公认的某项罪恶进行斗争的人而言,这节经文蕴含了大量来自圣灵的鼓励。使徒警告我们,不要以为自己是个例外。人们都很容易这样想:没人与我有过同样的遭遇敌人攻击的经历,与其他人的阅历相比,我所承受的更重一些,我的战争更加严峻。然而,保罗说这显然不是事实,我们不能允许自己哪怕有一点儿这样的想法。事实上,我们所遭遇的一切,不过是旧事重现罢了。不管承受了什么样的痛苦,在我们出生很久以前,已经有一百万人体验过这完全一样的试探了,并且,有许多得胜的楷模如明灯照耀。

我们多么愿意相信自己的情形与众不同啊!万一打了败仗屈服于试探,这就是一个最聪明的合理化借口。如果是特例,上帝就不能像对待那些经历轻浅试探的人一样,以严厉的标准来审判我们了。商人们这样安慰自己:虽然偷税往往非君子所为,但他比别人承受了更多遭遇入店行窃的损失。除此之外,他还经受了政府官僚们更多的不公平待遇。

风流的丈夫争辩,“我的问题是个特例,我的妻子冷淡而且迟钝,没人理解我所承受的压力。”

注意:几乎所有的罪都会以这几个字开始——“我是个特例”。我们必须不断提醒自己,这已经成为撒但六千年来的心理哲学。在旷野试探耶稣时,他一直试图让耶稣相信自己与众不同。三个计谋的每一项,撒但都基于一个起点:作为上帝之子,耶稣可以做别人不能做的事情——把石头变成食物或者从山顶跳下而不会受伤。

二、试探的目的

保罗在催促我们,让我们确信“上帝是信实的,必不叫你们受试探过于所能受的。”这是又一次的保证与安慰!但是为什么祂要允许祂的子民卷入这些痛苦的争战中呢?为什么不直接把所有的试探挪开呢?答案在雅各书1章2至4节:“我的弟兄们,你们落在百般的试炼中,都要以为大喜乐。因为知道你们的信心经过试验就生忍耐。但忍耐也当成功,使你们成全完备,毫无缺欠。”

一幅崭新而确实的画面从这几节经文中浮现出来。试探为我们灵命的成长与收获提供了机会。如果没有争战,也就不会有通过坚强的决心而取得的胜利;亦不会有任何高尚的品格的显现。美德是经过验证的纯洁。未经过检验的美德也许根本就不是美德。我可以让自己隐居在某个寂寞的山洞,很简单,整整一个星期都不会犯一点儿外在的罪,因为我根本与世隔绝。那一个星期能证明我是良善的人吗?当然不能。基督徒并非仅仅在生活中不去行恶;同时还必须勇敢地实施明确的美德。山洞里的生活所证明的超过我所希望它证明的。我可以良善,但却良善得毫无意义!一个人以避免与他人接触的方式来躲避所有的试探,他可能没有行恶,但也没有行出任何良善。他患了属灵的贫血症。

现在我们来讨论一下保罗所称的上帝会“给你们开一条出路,叫你们能忍受得住。”这是否意味着每次经历试探时,总会有一条简单易行的路呢?不是!这是指在每次属灵的试探中,上帝都会为我们提供选择的机会。每次试探都会指向两条路——一条是罪恶的诱惑之路;另一条是通往良善之路。保罗说每当我们被试探时都会被引往两个方向。我们被引诱去发怒,同时圣灵引导我们要自我控制。当我们被诱惑撒谎时,圣灵指示我们应当诚实正直。

商店里一个小男孩站在苹果桶前,摩挲着诱人的水果。终于,店主走到跟前问,“小家伙,你是不是想偷我的苹果啊?”男孩飞快地回答,“不是的,先生。我正在努力不去偷。”我们都很容易理解这个诚实回答的真正意义。我们所有的人都一直在这样的争战,为了两个声音,为了两种选择。

现在,让我们看看每次试探都会引出的两种不同轨迹的结局。不经意间已使某个人更加高尚的试探,可能在另一个人的相反选择下,使其变得愈加自私卑鄙。这条人类本性的法则宣明,人面对同样的试探所持的态度绝不会相同。我们也许会获得胜利并且在前行的路上更加刚强,也许会向试探屈服,因而在遇到下一个试探时更加软弱。我们的品格或被建立或被摧毁,这完全取决于自己的选择。

三、我们该寻求试探吗

这是否为我们引发了一场激烈的辩论呢?要证明试探也可以成为好事吗?事实上,真是这样。但如果不谨慎小心,它也很可能会被错误地滥用。因为胜利于我们有益,是否我们就应该寻找机会去与敌人争战呢?如果试探可以成为完善一个人的如此荣耀的机会,为什么不去祷告“让我们遇见试探吧”而是祷告“不叫我们遇见试探”呢?有些人可能找借口说,他们需要一针强心剂并去寻找一个敏感的有利可图的试探,那样他们就可以获得胜利并建立自己的品格。

这个推理错在哪里呢?有没有一个确信的答案呢?拥有自由选择权的我们应该这样祈求:主啊,帮助我们不要滥用试探而把自己陷入超乎我们承受力所能挡当的范围的试探之中。囿于炉中的火是强大的,但若蔓延在屋顶,则不容乐观。避开诱饵总比在已经裂开的陷阱中挣扎好得多。

事实上,我们总是错误地估计自己的实力。我们根本不了解自己的强项与弱势。因此没有人有资格故意去寻求试探。我们从没得到在这种情境下(自己主动寻找并陷入的试探中)被救赎的应许。经上说,“主知道搭救敬虔的人脱离试探,把不义的人留在刑罚之下,等候审判的日子。”(彼后2:9)又一次,上帝承诺:“你既遵守我忍耐的道,我必在普天下人受试炼的时候,保守你免去你的试炼。”(启3:10)祂是唯一有资格为我们安排试炼细节的那位。祂会保证让我们只遇到那些祂看到我们需要而且有能力去承受的试探。

每个人在品格上都有特别易受攻击的位置。还有一个很遗憾的事实,那就是,往往在某些特殊的时刻,我们最容易被敌人征服。撒但熟知我们抵抗力最低的每一时刻,他也非常了解每个人的弱点。可以确定一件事——他会在我们道德力量最脆弱的时刻,在我们最无力的瞬间,发动最强势的进攻。

多么严肃的思想!与这样的敌人相对,我们永远无法在自我保护之下会感到安全。我们只是处在生命中最脆弱的时刻。我们的道德也正处于最虚弱的环节。这些事实说明:我们永远不可能故意将自己置身于旨在创造品格的试炼之中却安然无恙。

四、罪始于心

另一个应引起注意的事实就是,试探总是先攻击人心。每项罪行在通过躯体显露以前,已经在心中蓄谋良久。耶稣说,“因为从里面,就是从人心里,发出恶念,苟合,偷盗,凶杀,奸淫,贪婪,邪恶,诡诈,淫荡,嫉妒,谤讟,骄傲,狂妄。”(可7:21, 22)几乎每一类罪恶都包含在从心中所生出的这一长串罪念中。保罗将肉欲描述为“随著肉体和心中所喜好的去行。”(弗2:3)

必须要注意几处细致的差别。理解“欲望本身并不是错”很重要。上帝确实将强烈的爱好与倾向赋予人类为本性。只要能被恰当地控制与指导,这些驱动力并无不妥。包括志向、情绪、性欲及其它基本性情。只有一种情况会招致错误产生:欲望超越了界限,并且寻求上帝意愿以外的满足感,就变成了贪欲。

在每一天的生活中,我们都要面对各种刺激和吸引人心的图片、书籍、文字等等。通过这些情感刺激物,我们的思想中常常出现不洁净的欲望。诱惑和肉欲的试探是存在的,但试探本身并不是罪。只要保守自己不去实现或怀存这些欲望、不放任自流,就并不算为罪。只有在试探面前心中认可并保持这些欲望时,试探才立即转变为罪。

雅各这样描述道,“但各人被试探,乃是被自己的私欲牵引诱惑的。私欲既怀了胎,就生出罪来。罪既长成,就生出死来。”(雅1:14, 15)在这里把罪的产生与怀孕及繁殖的过程相比较。正如蜜蜂从一朵盛开的花中取蕊传递至另一朵花中使之受精,每一颗心灵都敞开着,引入一些不圣洁的思想和欲望。如果这些种子获得与肉体融合的许可,就必然产生罪的果实,最终就是死亡。我们唯一的保护乃是,在每条心路中都设置关卡,来检验所有进入的思想。在基督的恩典与圣灵的大能指引下,每一罪恶的欲望都会被识破并筛除,绝无机会成为贪图肉欲和罪恶的催化剂。

这往往会触及一个非常敏感的话题。我们能监控心灵并且铲除叫嚣尘上的罪念吗?谈何容易!世人,即使是与基督同行的人,真的能战胜试探,将那些不洁净的思想驱逐吗?经上给出的答案:是的。“我们争战的兵器,本不是属血气的,乃是在上帝面前有能力可以攻破坚固的营垒,将各样的计谋,各样拦阻人认识上帝的那些自高之事,一概攻破了,又将人所有的心意夺回,使他都顺服基督。”(林后10:4, 5)

如此完全的胜利怎样才可能实现呢?是不是通过祷告、信心,或者个人的努力就可以完成呢?本质上,我们必须承认,这种胜利只有通过上帝所授权的永在的圣灵才能达成。肉体中没有能够足以用来战胜哪怕一丁点儿邪恶欲望的力量。如果不与圣灵紧密地合作与行动,必然无法取得胜利。上帝不会行神迹去帮助那些自己不使用上帝所赐予的能力去躲避罪恶的人。

五、守卫心路

再看看自己邀请试探的问题。从自身弱点到罪之间,我们应该保守自己到什么程度呢?耶稣在山上讲道时,留下了明确的标准:“若是你的右眼叫你跌倒,就挖出来丢掉。宁可失去百体中的一体,不叫全身丢在地狱里。若是右手叫你跌倒,就砍下来丢掉。宁可失去百体中的一体,不叫全身下地狱。”(太5:29, 30)

显然耶稣并不是在谈论字面上的眼睛和手。一个人可以残害或苦待自己的身体,但心灵却仍然和从前一样邪恶。基督在谈论的乃是对手和眼睛所关注之内容的控制。如果我们发现自己在工作或者任何其它情境下为试探打开了心门,最好的忠告就是“切断一切通路”。换言之,远离一切可能招致罪的诱惑的召唤。夫子指出,应该采用一切完全、彻底、决绝的方式,避免可能卷入毁灭灵魂之罪的处境中,放弃一项工作总胜于冒险失去属灵的永生!

如果发现自己正在观看能产生罪的思想或行为的一些场景,耶稣命令我们采取任何可能的措施将其阻挡在视线之外,“挖出来”传达了必要时火速行动的思想。

今日堕落的交际媒体就是最令人信服的论据!电视节目迷人的诱惑恐怕是二十一世纪产生罪恶的最强刺激物。对于很难控制电视机的人们,耶稣的话有着最直接的适用性。如果眼睛继续去关注显像管上那些刺激的图片而犯罪,我们的主忠告说“挖出来”,当然,这里似乎可以解释为“扔出去”。耶稣说,失去学习教育材料(指极个别的好的电视节目)的机会,比看低级节目而失去灵魂好得多!如果不能完全控制,不要给它任何机会!扔出去!

耶稣是不是在要求我们,若有一点儿污染心灵的可能,我们就要拒绝一切与之相关的美好事物呢?是的。比起世俗所谓富足但却失去灵命的生活,被世人称为目光短浅的生命体——“一只眼儿”的生活更加美好!“若有人要跟从我,就当舍己,天天背起他的十字架来,跟从我。”(路9:23)基督徒身份的基本要件之一就是,如果所渴望的世俗事物可能会导致罪的试探,我们要坚决地对其说不!

我是在谈即使拥有属灵的心智,我们也要遵从战胜试探的最根本原则。如果想取得完全的胜利,就必有一些藏身之所。如果愿意成为圣洁与基督合一,就必须有一些献身的条件。如果希望打败罪的萌芽,我们所有心灵的通道都要严格设防。

每个人若都能理解每一颗纯洁的心灵所拥有的特权,那将会产生多么巨大的不同啊!撒但已经创造了一个欺骗人的、虚伪的、肉欲充斥的世界,对每个男男女女甚至孩子的心都产生了强烈的诱惑。认清这些陷阱,并且预备好所有基督之战的专门武器,我们将会成功地抵御试探。

六、肉体无信

有些人似乎能够抵抗除了试探之外的任何攻击,甚至表现出沾沾自喜的姿态。有没有可能在人的肉体中有一种被误置的自信,而这种自以为是具有与试探合作的能力呢?保罗写道:“所以自己以为站得稳的,须要谨慎,免得跌倒。”(林前10:12)

你有没有注意到,总有些最不可能的人被最不可能的罪所掠食?这经常发生在某人正在自以为是的强项领域征战时。那怎样发生的呢?我们是不是常常在自己的强势领域中疏忽大意了呢?看来是这样的。对摩西怎么会屈服于急躁和怒火这一事件,没有属灵的解释。圣经展现出他在所有有生命的人中是最温和的。我们可能认为,这样的人有可能会屈服于任何试探,但绝不会是发怒。然而,正是发怒这项罪将摩西最终挡在应许之地以外。他在怒火中重击岩石,而不是听从上帝的指引。(民数记20章)

以利亚最大的力量就是勇气。他独自一人在迦密山上抵挡所有巴力的顽固势力。他以常人难以置信的勇气挑战每一个从完全遵从上帝之路上偏离的人。然而就在成功地击败巴力的众先知后, 因王后耶洗别的恐吓,他立刻像个胆小鬼一样逃跑了。这样的懦弱完全不是他的性格。提斯比人以利亚!他在神化般的能力区远离了自己的保护神——上帝。

亚伯拉罕以对上帝完全的信著称。他被称为信心之父。但由于恐惧,他向埃及王撒了谎,而导致妻子被人从自己的身边带走。这些伟大的圣经人物,不正是生动地示范了撒但怎样在他们缺少警觉时进行攻击的吗?不能因为显著的英勇美善,就以为他们对撒但的进攻具有免疫力。

还有一个很有趣的发现:没有人能真正预料到屈从于试探的结果,因为极少有可以预知的方法。基哈西只会看到亚兰服装的绚丽色彩——他看到的不会是伴随他终至坟墓的大麻风之伤疤。[王下5:20]亚干希图令人艳羡的罪恶的楔形金条——他看到的不会是一个会起来用石头痛击他的愤怒的民族。[约书亚记7章]犹大也看不到在闪闪发光的银币之后,是自己可怕的痛悔与自杀。

另外一个鼓舞人心的关于试探的重要事实就是:以正确的选择为习惯,许多的试探就会停止困扰我们。正如因持续屈从于妥协和失败,大脑因此被设定了错误的程序一样,我们也可以通过坚定的决心和正确的选择而设定成功的程序。当我们将自然本性调整为习惯性成功的指令,最可怕的争战亦会随之消失。

有人写了一篇题目为“不要决定去教堂”的文章,引起了轩然大波。其实这篇文章的前述事实很简单,就是我们不应该为去教堂的决定而争战。正如我们不需要为每日三餐而做思想斗争一样,我们不该在每个安息日早晨为去不去教堂而艰难抉择。重复一种习惯可以最终转化为自然反应,诱惑我们远离教堂的试探便将不复存在。用自己的意志去建立成功的思想与行为方式,也可以应用到许多其它种类的试探中。

你可曾遭到过不去祷告或读经的试探呢?恐怕每位基督徒都经历过至少一次吧。有没有可能获取力量帮助我们远离这种特别的试探呢?当然有!千千万万的人已经养成了每日祷告和读经的习惯,他们根本不需考虑有没有时间的问题。这种试探对他们早已不复存在。他们遵循了保罗的劝告,“你不可为恶所胜,反要以善胜恶。”(罗12:21)

至此,我们已经揭示了一些撒但诱人犯罪的心理诡计。我们也总结了罪始于人心,也就是说,需要特别注意保护易被敌人攻击的目标。我们已建议要在心灵的路口设置特别的警戒,阻止一切可疑的思想或欲望。我们也强烈提议,利用意志力对肉体的本能说不。所有这些忠告都是正确的,但如果没有认识到一个真理,这些都无法生效。现在让我们走进试探与罪的问题的核心吧!

七、积极说“不”的力量

所有选择、自由意愿和决定的过程,都被置于神秘的大脑皮质层的中心。在这儿,撒但发动了对夏娃的第一次进攻。为了让她犯罪,撒但必须影响她去向上帝之外的其他人打开心门。唯一进入她心灵的方式就是,通过感官的情绪途径。因此,经上说她“见那棵树的果子好作食物,也悦人的眼目,且是可喜爱的,能使人有智慧。”(创3:6)

请注意,毒蛇只能通过夏娃耳闻目睹之物来腐蚀她的心。果子诱人的美丽加上恭维话语的催眠余音最终导致了夏娃的堕落。

记住:撒但只有利用我们有意识选择的路线,才能败坏人心。换言之,罪的行为发生之前,必须得到我们的许可。没人强迫夏娃离开她的丈夫、走到那棵树下,去听毒蛇的谎言或去吃那枚果子。每一步都是基于回应某些感观的吸引、由自由意志的决定而做出的行为。上帝已经为夏娃预备了圣洁的意志和完美且无罪的心灵。她可以利用这些神圣的力量永远与罪完全隔离。但她选择了去违背上帝。

但我们的情形没有这么简单明了。我们不具有夏娃那种纯洁未受污染的本性。我们已经从亚当和夏娃那里遗传了不顺从上帝的软弱的、退后的本性。屈从于撒但选择顺服他而取代上帝之后,夏娃立刻失去了抵抗试探的力量。她的意志开始软弱,罪的律法开始在她身上生效并产生死亡。一次故意的行为,她以及其后裔的生命注定陷入不断的争战与失败之中。

所有人都将跟随夏娃有意的犯罪而陷入没有希望的死亡,难道上帝没有为此立刻在创世记3章15节提出救赎之计划吗?对女人后裔的应许为堕落的人们提供了希望,去改变亚当夏娃犯罪的后果。通过基督的死刑,罪人可以得到豁免,仇敌的心可以被换成基督的心。“你们当以基督耶稣的心为心。”(腓2:5)

如果没有意识到解决试探问题的最终答案是心灵顺服基督,那么一切都将毫无意义。如果人心没有降服于基督,世上一切的忠告与所有关于认清罪之诡计的知识都无法生效。

八、第二个亚当的试探

想象一下,耶稣怎样帮助每一位愿意接受的人开创试探中的逃生之路。祂作为第二个亚当来到了这个世界,面对着和第一个亚当完全一样的敌人。第二个亚当必须遇见他(撒但)。当然并不是完全按照亚当和夏娃所遭遇的试探。耶稣并没有在一个美丽可爱的园子里。祂与撒但在旷野争战,人迹罕至的旷野。第一个亚当可以随时摘取种类繁多的甘美食物,但耶稣是虚弱的,因为祂已经四十昼夜未沾水米。

第一个亚当是藉着完全的躯体之能力、在没有任何导致软弱的遗传倾向时面对诱惑的。耶稣是让自己取了被罪削弱了人类4000年之后的人的样式。他接受了所有遗传下来的、已经欺骗了第一个亚当历代后裔的罪的危害和罪的倾向。[那是堕落了4000年的人性,在智力、体力、道德价值判断力方面,远不及第一个亚当被造时的完全。]

没人能够完全理解旷野试探的实质。这次对决撒但已经期待了很多年,更可能是几百年。三个狡猾的试探包含了撒但智慧所能企及的所有心理学技能。非常有效的,撒但利用这几种最基本的人类情感毁灭了第一个亚当——食欲、放肆的假设、还有地位。感谢上帝,骗子无法从基督里面找到丝毫破绽。第二个亚当在第一个亚当失败的每一领域都彻底地战胜了魔鬼。

我们需要拓展思维来有效地理解这个真相。为什么宇宙的伟大创造者——上帝要心甘情愿地去经历那些极度痛苦的侮辱?将魔鬼驱逐出天庭不是已经证明了祂自己的大能吗?为什么祂还要自愿沦入如此可怕的不利局面,卷入与撒但的另一场斗争呢?

答案很简单。魔鬼盗窃了上帝创造的伟大作品。上帝所爱的世人已经被敌人劫持,虽非自愿但已被囚禁。亚当被撒但击败的当天,发生了两件事情。首先,他和他的后裔立即陷入上帝颁布的违背上帝律法就必死的宣判,不可撤销。第二件事,他纯粹的道德本性已经因罪而受到重创并堕落,亚当及其子孙将永远无法避免一再地犯罪。[世人虽然没有从始祖继承了罪,也没有遗传了罪,但是遗传了犯罪的倾向,这个倾向虽然不是罪,但是如果没有圣灵的帮助,就会结出罪的果子来,这个罪的倾向具体的是指:智力、体力、道德判断力的不足。]

看到问题了吗?上帝做什么才能赦免这些被造之物呢?纵然罪有毁灭性的后果,祂仍然爱人类。人类已经注定死亡,而且已经丧失了顺从的力量。撒但得意洋洋,他推断上帝除非改变祂的律法或放松审判标准,否则无法挽回世人。撒但终于找到了方法,证明自己竭力主张的对上帝的指责。在圣洁的天使面前,他控告上帝向他们要求了一种不可能实现的顺从,那是不公平的。

如今他对将上帝陷入两难境地而心满意足,因为这些指责似乎都已经被证实了。显然人类真的无法顺服。现在上帝要么不得不让人类因罪而死,要么改变祂的律法,不然就要接受祂的国度中的背叛——撒但已经断定如此。

上帝处理这个问题时,使用了惊人的策略,没有魔鬼或人可以揣度哪怕一点点。撒但被自己的推论打倒了。简言之,上帝取了人的位置,并为人接受了罪的惩罚。律法或审判都没有被改变分毫。

然而,为了替世人的罪而牺牲,上帝必须毅然承担已被宣判死亡的世人的人性,因神性中没有死亡。耶稣接受了难以言表的情境,降生于迷失的、被宣判之亚当的家族中。化身为人,上帝不仅救赎了因罪而来的世人的死亡,也生动地驳斥了撒但关于人无法过圣洁无罪之生活的指责。为了示范给撒但,让其哑口无言,耶稣让自己完全取了亚当每个儿女都具有的弱点。祂经历了我们所经历的一切试探,然而利用我们每个人都能得到的神圣力量,祂取得了完全的胜利。祂具有完全的神性,但同时也具有完全的人性。在遇见这些试探时,祂自愿约束自己,只利用同样提供给今日世人的属灵的才智。至此,祂粉碎了撒但的谎言,证明了人类是可以顺服上帝的律法的。

九、失而复得

伴着完全顺从的一生,耶稣留下自己的生命为破坏律法付了赎价。祂的牺牲和复活赋予了祂最高的荣耀,藉此祂可以完全拯救世人,脱离撒但打败亚当后招致的所有浩劫。现在人们要恢复到上帝神圣完全的伊甸园之计划,已经完全掌握在耶稣手中。尽管为此付出了巨大的代价,但祂却愿意将礼物白白的赐给任何一位愿意接受的人。

耶稣必须赐给我们什么呢?1、通过自身承担罪与惩罚,祂赐给我们脱离死亡宣判的救赎;2、通过祂的义行,祂赐给我们完全顺从之生活的荣誉,3、以血肉之躯抵挡撒但所设计的任何试探并取得胜利的能力!

很多人充满喜乐地收下了前两份礼物,却惧怕去接受第三个。为什么我们迟疑不敢接受上帝战胜试探的能力而成为祂的见证人呢?我们要展示出上帝创造的最初宗旨的证据,也要揭露撒但亵渎真神的欺骗性自我描述。

现在撒但拥有暂时掌控这个世界的虚位。他绝望地注视着耶稣和圣灵打破了罪的囹圄并释放了诸多本已属他的囚徒。每一个心灵降服于基督时,他对世人的权柄便一次次地被粉碎了。

基督走进我们生命中,试探也就不再有权柄。现在完全有决心相信胜利是必然的。第二个亚当会救你摆脱第一个亚当那古老的罪的本性。祂想给你换一个家。如果我们不离开那已经被打败的死亡中的第一个亚当的家,我们便毫无指望去战胜试探。

耶稣将祂以肉身与撒但争战而取得的胜利赐给了我们每个人。我们可能会怀疑这份礼物。但祂难道不是以与我们同样的人性得胜了吗?现在祂想进入你的生活,并且在你身上每天取得同样的胜利。

奥古斯丁的故事是我最喜欢的故事之一。他在年轻时曾经道德堕落肆无忌惮。生活中有两个女人对年少的他影响至深。奥古斯丁就像浪尖上的一片碎屑,刚刚被正直的母亲莫尼卡感动,随即又如同被邪恶的魔咒所控一般投向另一个放荡的女人。尽管他的母亲一直为他祷告,奥古斯丁总是这样摇摆不定。有时他似乎已经完全被母亲正义的教导所感化,但很快,另一个女人的罪恶影响又把他拽了回去。争战严酷持久。

荣耀主的一天终于到了。奥古斯丁正在他的花园里,神秘的声音指引他去读罗马书13章13、14节,他由此彻底悔悟归主。当他读这两节经文时,眼睛上有鳞掉下来,(徒9:18有相似的经文,原译为:污垢脱离他的眼睛。)他的眼开了,他飞奔着将这好消息告诉母亲。母亲因儿子辉煌的转变而欣喜万分。

转变后的第二天,奥古斯丁沿着迦太基(Carthage)街道行走,他看到使自己深陷罪恶的女人径直向他走来,没有退路可以回避。奥古斯丁视而不见的从她身边无声掠过。她停下了,不敢相信,然后愤怒地转身跑到他身边,抓住他的胳膊喊道,“奥古斯丁!奥古斯丁!是我!”他停下脚步,看着她回答,“是的,但(我)不是我!”他继续沿街离去再也没有回到她的生活中。

奥古斯丁说的是实情,因为那天他真的是一个崭新的人。只有在第二个亚当的力量里,我们才能够转离试探。对于融在基督的爱里并且已经决定为祂而活,不再为自己而活的人,罪已经失去了吸引力。[译注:作者在此只是举了一个转变事例,并不是在支持奥古斯丁的神学思想。]

撒但可以轻而易举的战胜第一个亚当的儿女。他打败了父亲当然也可以控制孩子们。但另一方面,他永远也无法战胜依靠第二个亚当保护的人。??

这是应许给愿意接受者的逃生之路。耶稣在世以肉身与魔鬼争战取得了全然的胜利,祂将这种能力白白地转赐送给祂属灵的儿女们。

这正是问题的核心。在这种力量之下,基督徒利用放弃自我的意志,去选择新的生活方式,就可以躲避试探中隐藏陷阱。取得胜利的两个因素同等重要——心有基督和防止试探肆意横行。愿上帝引领我们将这些重要的属灵的原则应用到我们自身的经历中。阿们!

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Is It a Sin to be Tempted?

No growing Christian in the world can be unconcerned about the traumatic problem of temptation. There is no age level when moral choices and struggles of the spirit do not confront us. Temptation may attack at different points on different issues, but it will always be with us as long as we are in the flesh.

When I was a boy back in North Carolina, we could always tell when the fruit was ripe out in the orchards. A certain gang of neighborhood boys would head in that direction, and everyone would say, “It must be that time again.” Now, devils are smarter than teenage boys, and as long as the fruit of your life is sour and immature, they may leave you strictly alone. But when that fruit is ripe, all the demons may suddenly appear to try to steal it away from you.

This means that the most spiritual people are the most likely to face the most severe temptations. They have something that Satan would like to spoil or destroy.

Does this mean that it is an honor to be especially tempted by the devil? Perhaps so. In a way it is a compliment to have thieves try to break into your house. It shows that you at least have the reputation for having money. And when the demons come around, even though it’s a battle, you may know that the Lord is still working in your life.

Now we are prepared to look at one of the most astounding texts in the entire Bible. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). Apparently, the Bible writers were also convinced that temptation can be a good thing. Yet, the thought is in total conflict with all the painful human experiences we have suffered in meeting temptation. Most people consider it to be a necessary evil, downright destructive in its influence.

We certainly need to understand that there are some redeeming features about temptation. First of all, it proves that we have moral insight. No one can be tempted unless there are meaningful choices to be made. Issues of right and wrong must be clearly distinguished. People who see everything in the moral realm as a kind of dull gray cannot pass through any great battles of the mind.

One must have a special consciousness of good and evil in order to be tempted. Many modern religionists seem to have only small, average consciences, which may account for the lack of spiritual conflict. What a contrast to the great characters of the past who seem to have had dramatic hand-to-hand combat with the devil. Martin Luther’s confrontation with Satan was so real that he is reported to have thrown an inkwell at his tormentor.

You are to be congratulated, then, if you find yourself tempted. It certainly implies that you are seeing the issues correctly. But now comes the most crucial question: After we recognize the true situation before us, how do we find the power to choose the good over the evil? Paul sensed the urgency of this question when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church. No one could have been faced with more obvious choices than those few Christian citizens of Corinth. The pagan world of the flesh stood out in vivid contrast to the self-denying lifestyle of their newfound faith. There was no question with them about right and wrong, and Paul wrote: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

This verse contains a wealth of inspired encouragement for anyone who is struggling against a recognized evil. The apostle warned against making an exception of ourselves. It is so easy for us to feel that no one else has ever had to face the enemy in the same way that we have to. Our burden appears heavier and our battle seems more severe than any which others have experienced. Paul said that this is simply not true, and we must not allow ourselves to think it for a moment. This is old stuff. No matter what we suffer, the very same temptation has come upon a million others long before we were born.

How very much we like to consider our situation different from all others! This pro-vides a very clever rationalization just in case we lose the battle and yield to the temptation. If our case is so different, God cannot judge us as strictly as others who have a much easier test. The businessman consoles himself that cheating on taxes is not usually the right thing to do, but he has suffered more shoplifting losses than anyone else. And besides that, he has been more discriminated against by government bureaucrats.

The philandering husband argues, “My problem is unique. My wife is cold and unresponsive, and no one understands the pressures I am under.”

Mark it down: Almost every sin will be prefaced by these words—“I’m an exception.” We must constantly remind ourselves that this has been the psychology of Satan for six thousand years. All he tried to do in the wilderness of temptation was to convince Jesus that He was different. Every one of the three approaches Satan used was based on the idea that as the Son of God, He could do things that no one else could do—turn stones into bread or jump off the pinnacle without being hurt.

The Purpose of Temptation

Now Paul hastens to assure us that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” That is reassuring and comforting! But why should He allow any agonizing conflicts to engulf His people? Why not simply remove all temptation? The answer is found in James 1:2–4. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

A new, satisfying picture begins to emerge in these verses. Temptation provides opportunity for spiritual conquest and growth. It is not a disgrace to be tempted. If there are no battles, there can be no victories through strong decision. Neither can there be any nobility of character. Virtue is tried innocence. Untried goodness may be no goodness at all. I could possibly sequester myself in a solitary cave somewhere and not commit an outward sin for a whole week simply because I would have no contact with any other person. Would that week prove me to be a virtuous individual? Not at all. Christianity is not merely the absence of wrong behavior in the life; it has to do with an aggressive practice of positive virtues as well. My life in the cave might prove more than I would like it to prove. I would be good, but good for nothing! The person who avoids all temptation by avoiding contact with all people may do no harm, but neither does he do any good. He is morally anemic.

Now we are brought to Paul’s assertion that God will “make a way to escape that ye may be able to bear it.” Does this mean there will always be an easy road out of every temptation experience? No. It just means that in every moral trial God will provide us an alternative. There will always be two paths leading out of each temptation—one, the alluring path of evil; the other, an appealing path of good. Paul is saying that we are being drawn in two directions every time we are tempted. At the same time we are tempted to anger, the Holy Spirit draws us to self-control. When we are tempted to be dishonest, the Holy Spirit draws us to use integrity.

A little boy was standing in a store with his hand in the apple barrel, caressing the attractive fruit. Finally, the storekeeper approached the lad and asked, “Sonny, are you trying to steal my apples?” Quickly the boy answered, “No, sir. I’m trying not to.” We can easily understand what he meant by that honest rejoinder. All of us have struggled with those two voices and those two choices.

Now, let’s look toward the end of these dual tracks which lead out of each temptation experience. The temptation that makes one character noble by non-consent will make another character mean and ignoble by giving way to it. This law of human nature decrees that we can never be the same after facing temptation. We will either get the victory and be stronger for the next one down the road, or we will yield and be weaker for the next one we face. Our character is built up or torn down depending on the choice we make.

Should We Seek Temptation?

Doesn’t this provide a powerful argument to prove that temptation can be a good thing? Indeed, it does. But it also can be abused if we are not careful. Because victory can do so much good for us, should we go searching for an opportunity to engage the enemy? If temptation can be such a glorious opportunity to develop character, why not pray “Lead us into temptation” instead of “Lead us not into temptation”? Some might reason that they need an injection of new strength and begin looking for a nice, juicy temptation so that they can gain a victory and build their character.

What is wrong with that reasoning? Is there a convincing answer to it? Those of us who possess this freedom of choice should pray that we will not misuse it by placing ourselves in the clutch of circumstances that might test us beyond our strength. Fire controlled in the stove is great, but it is not very good out of control on the roof. It is better to shun the bait than to struggle in the trap after it has sprung.

The fact is that we misjudge our own powers. We do not understand our own strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, no one is justified in deliberately seeking for a testing situation. We have no promise of deliverance under those circumstances. The Bible says, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Peter 2:9). Again, God promises, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation” (Revelation 3:10). He is the only one who is qualified to arrange the circumstances of our test. He will permit to develop around us only that which He sees we are in need of and have the strength to endure.

Everyone of us has particularly vulnerable points of weakness in character. It is also sadly true that there are special moments of time in which we are most liable to be overcome by the enemy. Satan is well acquainted with that very moment when our resistance will be the lowest, and he also understands our individual weakness. We can be sure of one thing—his strongest attack against us will come in our weakest moment and at the weakest point in our character.

What a solemn thought! With such an enemy we can never feel secure in our own strength. We are only as strong as we are in the weakest moment of our life. Our character is only as strong as its weakest link. These facts forever preclude the possibility that we can deliberately and safely expose ourselves to tests in order to build character.

Sin Begins in the Mind

Another interesting fact about temptation is that it always assails the mind first. Every sin has its origin in the thoughts long before it appears as an act of the body. Jesus said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21, 22). Almost every category of evil is included in this long list of sins which come forth from the heart. Paul described lust as “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3). The Greek text more accurately says “desires of the thoughts.”

Right at this point we must make some careful distinctions. It is very important to understand that desire, in itself, is not wrong. God has actually placed certain powerful appetites and propensities within our human nature. There is nothing wrong with these drives as long as they are properly controlled and directed. This includes ambition, temper, sex, and every other basic disposition. Wrong comes in only one way. When desire oversteps the bounds and seeks gratification outside the will of God, it turns into lust.

Every day we are confronted with pictures, books, words, etc., which are exciting and appealing to the mind. It is through these emotional stimuli that the mind is often presented with unholy desires. The temptation to lust is present, but this is not sin. As long as those desires are not gratified or fulfilled they are not wrong. It is only when the mind responds to the desire by receiving it and holding it that the temptation turns into sin.

James describes it this way. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14, 15). Here the act of sin is compared to the process of conception and reproduction. Just as a bee carries pollen from one open blossom to another to fertilize the flower, so the heart of each individual is open to the introduction of unholy thoughts and desires. If those seeds are allowed to mingle with the carnal nature, they produce an inevitable harvest of sin, and finally, death. Our only protection is to set a guard before all the avenues of the soul to test every entering thought. By the grace and strength of Christ, every evil desire can be recognized and sifted out so that it has no opportunity to linger in the mind as a catalyst of lust and sin.

This touches an issue that often becomes exceedingly sensitive. How easy it is to say that we can monitor the mind and weed out the clamoring thoughts of sin. But can human beings, even in concert with Christ, actually conquer the temptation to harbor impure thoughts? The Bible says yes. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5).

How is such total victory possible? Is it accomplished through prayer, faith, or personal effort? Basically, we must agree that this kind of deliverance comes only through the enabling, indwelling Spirit of God. There is not enough strength in the flesh to overcome one evil desire. Nevertheless, the victory is not obtained without our strong cooperation and action. God does not work miracles to deliver those who do not use their own God-given power to avoid evil.

Guard the Avenues of the Mind

Again, we are brought back to the question of inviting temptation. How far should we go in protecting ourselves from the vulnerability to sin? Jesus laid down a very clear principle in the sermon on the mount. “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29, 30).

Obviously, Jesus was not talking about the literal eye or the literal hand. One could violently decimate his body and still be as wicked as ever. Christ was talking about the occupation of the hand and what the eye focuses on. If we find ourselves in a job or any physical situation which opens a door to temptation, the counsel is to “cut it off.” In other words, get away from any vocation which involves an enticement that is liable to lead into sin. The Master indicated that any radical means should be used to avoid situations which might overwhelm with soul-destroying sin. Even an employment position should be abandoned rather than risk the spiritual loss of eternal life.

If we find ourselves looking at some scene which is likely to introduce sinful thoughts or actions, Jesus commands us to shut that view away from our sight by any possible means. The term “pluck it out” conveys the idea of precipitous action if necessary.

What a persuasive argument against the corrupt communication media of today! The alluring appeal of television is probably the most powerful incitement to sin in the twentieth century. The words of Christ have a most explicit application to those who have difficulty controlling the television set. Our Lord’s counsel to “pluck it out” would seem to translate into “throw it out” if the eye continues to be offended by provocative pictures on the tube. Much better, Jesus said, to lose the advantage of the educational material than to lose the soul by looking at degrading programs. If it can’t be totally controlled, don’t take the chance! Pluck it out!

Would Jesus ask us to deny ourselves some good thing just because a small amount of mind pollution might be involved? Yes. It is much better to lead what the world calls a narrow-minded existence—a one-eyed life—than to lead a so-called full life and lose your soul. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Saying no to desirable, fleshly things is a basic requirement of a Christian’s discipleship if those things present temptations which are likely to lead into sin.

What I am really saying is that even with a spiritual mind, we need to follow the great basic principles of victory over temptation. There are places to be avoided if we want to have total victory. There are devotional requirements if we would be wholly in harmony with Christ. The avenues of the mind must be guarded if we would defeat sin in its inception.

What a tremendous difference it would make if all could clearly understand the priority placed upon a pure mind. Satan has created a deceptive, artificial world of the flesh which makes a powerful appeal to the mind of every man, woman, and child. Only by recognizing the snares and appropriating all the weapons of Christ’s warfare will we be successful in resisting temptation.

No Confidence in the Flesh

Although some people seem able to resist anything except temptation, others appear to be almost complacent about the problem. Is it possible to have a misplaced confidence in the flesh and its ability to cope with temptation? Paul wrote, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Have you noticed how some of the most unlikely individuals fall prey to the most unlikely sins? It is often the case that a person is overcome in the area where he feels the strongest. How does it happen? Do we become careless on the point of our supposed strength? It appears so. No inspired explanation is given as to how Moses could succumb to impatience or anger. The Bible presents him as the meekest man who ever lived. Such a person might yield to many other temptations but surely not to passion. Yet, that is exactly the sin that shut Moses out of the Promised Land. He smote the rock in anger instead of speaking to it as God commanded (Numbers 20).

Elijah’s great strength was courage. He withstood single-handedly all the entrenched forces of Baal on Mt. Carmel. With incredible boldness he challenged anyone who deviated from a path of full obedience to God. Yet, immediately after his successful contest with the prophets of Baal, he fled like a coward from the threats of Queen Jezebel. It was so out of character for the fearless Tishbite! Did he drop his guard in the area of his fabled strength?

Abraham was distinguished by his total trust in God. He is called the father of the faithful. Yet he lied to the King of Egypt out of fear that his wife would be taken from him. Do these great Bible characters not demonstrate dramatically how Satan attacks the place in our lives where there is a lack of alertness? No one should think he is immune to Satan’s attacks because of some demonstrable virtues.

It is also very interesting to note that no one really anticipates the result of yielding to temptation, since it usually approaches along the line of least resistance. Gehazi saw the flashing colors of the Syrian garments—not the leprous scars which would follow him to the grave. Achan saw the coveted wedge of Babylonian gold—not the anger of a nation which would rise up to stone him. Judas could not see past the glittering silver coins to his fearful remorse and suicide.

Another great truth about temptation, which should bring courage to all of us, is that many temptations will cease to trouble us as we make good choice a habit. Just as our brain is programmed to do wrong by constant yielding to compromise and defeat, so it may be programmed for victory through strong decision and right choices. Most of the terrible struggle will disappear from the experience as our nature adjusts to a program of habitual victory.

Someone wrote an article entitled “Don’t Decide to Go to Church,” which stirred considerable controversy. But the basic premise of the article was simply that we should not have to debate over the decision to attend church. Just as we don’t struggle three times a day with the decision to eat food, so we should not have to make some heavy decisions about going to church each Sabbath morning. Repetition of a practice finally turns it into an automatic response, and the temptation to stay away from church no longer exists. So it can be with many other forms of temptation as we use our wills to establish victorious patterns of thought and action.

Are you sometimes tempted not to pray or read your Bible in the morning? Probably every Christian has faced that temptation at least once. Is it possible to take the strength out of that particular temptation? Yes, it is. Thousands of people have established such a pattern of daily devotion that they don’t even consider not taking the time to do it. The temptation no longer really exists for them. They have followed the counsel of Paul, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Thus far we have uncovered some of the psychological tricks that Satan uses for trapping people into sin. We have also concluded that sin originates in the mind, which means that some very special attention must be given to protecting that vulnerable target of the enemy’s attack. We have suggested placing specific guards before the avenues of the mind to shut out suspicious thoughts and desires. We have strongly recommended using the will to say no to the urges of the flesh. All of this counsel is good, but it is also useless if one truth is not recognized. Now we move into the very heart of the temptation/sin problem.

The Power of a Positive No

All the processes of choice, free will, and decision are centered in the mysterious gray matter of the brain. Here is where Satan made his first attack on Eve. In order to make her sin, Satan had to influence her to open her mind to someone besides God. And the only way to reach her mind was through the emotional avenue of the senses. Thus, the Bible says that she “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6).

Please notice that the serpent was only able to corrupt her mind through the things she looked at and listened to. It was the appealing beauty of the fruit, plus the hypnotizing sound of the flattering voice, which finally led to Eve’s downfall.

Mark it down: It is only by utilizing the paths which are under our conscious control that Satan is able to defile the mind. In other words, we must give our consent before an act of sin can be committed. No one compelled Eve to leave her husband, walk to the tree, listen to the serpent, or eat the fruit. Every step was a volitional act in response to some sensory appeal. God had placed within Eve a holy will and a perfect, sinless mind. Through these sanctified powers a total separation from sin was always possible for her. Yet she chose to disobey God.

Our case is not quite so clear-cut and simple. We do not possess by nature the kind of pure and unpolluted mind that Eve had. We have all inherited the weak and compromised bodies and minds which disobedience produced in Adam and Eve. By yielding to Satan and choosing to obey him instead of God, Eve instantly lost her power to resist temptation. Her will became weakened, and the law of sin began to operate in her body to produce death. By that one deliberate act, she forever doomed herself and her offspring to a life of unremitting struggle and defeat.

Had God not immediately introduced the plan of salvation in Genesis 3:15, all the human race would have followed Eve’s course of willful sin and would have died without hope. The promised seed of the woman offered hope for degenerate men to reverse the effect of Adam’s and Eve’s sin. Through Christ the death sentence could be lifted and the mind of enmity could be replaced by the mind of Christ. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

It would be useless to deal with the subject of temptation without recognizing that the ultimate answer to this problem is a spiritual yielding to Christ. All the counsel in the world and all the knowledge of sin’s devices will be less than useless if the mind is not surrendered to Christ.

The Second Adam’s Temptation

Consider for a moment how Jesus made that way of escape from temptation for every one who will accept it. He came as the world’s second Adam, and faced the enemy exactly like the first Adam had to meet him. And yet, of course, it was not exactly as Adam and Eve were tested. Jesus did not meet the tempter in a lovely garden surrounded by beauty. He struggled with Satan in a wild, desolate wilderness. The first Adam had access to every possible variety of luscious food, but Jesus was emaciated and weak from forty days without food or drink.

The first Adam faced the tempter in the strength of a perfect body, untainted by a single hereditary flaw. Jesus took humanity upon Himself after 4,000 years of sin had weakened the human race. He accepted all the hereditary disadvantages and liabilities which sin had imposed upon the physical descendants of the first Adam.

No one will ever fully understand the nature of that wilderness contest. Satan had anticipated this confrontation for years, and perhaps for centuries. In those three subtle temptations he had combined all the psychological expertise that his mastermind could provide. In effect, Satan appealed to the same basic human emotions which had destroyed the first Adam—appetite, presumption, and position. But, thank God, the deceiver could not find one thing in Christ to respond to his enticements. The second Adam utterly disarmed and defeated the devil in the very areas which had been so effective against the first Adam.

We need to stretch our minds in an effort to comprehend this truth. Why was the great Creator-God of the universe willing to submit to the indignities of that agonizing experience? Had He not already proven His power over the evil one by casting him out of heaven? Why should He voluntarily place Himself at such terrible disadvantage in the midst of another conflict with Satan?

The answer is simple. The devil had stolen away the masterpiece of God’s creation. Mankind, whom God loved, had been kidnapped by the enemy, albeit willingly, and was held in captivity. Two things happened that day when Adam was conquered by Satan. First, he and his descendants immediately fell under the irrevocable sentence of death which God had pronounced upon transgressors of His law. Second, his entire moral nature became so traumatized and degraded by sin that it would never be possible for Adam or his posterity to refrain from sinning again and again.

Do you see the problem? What could God do to release the creatures He loved from the devastating consequence of their sin? They were doomed to die and they had forfeited the power to obey. Satan exulted. He reasoned that God Himself could not get man back without changing His law or compromising His justice. At last, Satan had found a way to prove the charges he had pressed against God. In the presence of the holy angels he had accused God of being unfair and requiring an impossible obedience.

Now he gloated over God’s dilemma, as these charges seemed to have proven true. Man apparently could not obey. Now God would either have to let man die in his sin, or change His law, or accept transgressors in His kingdom—so Satan must have reasoned.

God met the problem with such an incredible strategy that no devil or man could have faintly anticipated it. Satan was overwhelmed by its implications. Briefly, it involved God taking man’s place and accepting the punishment of death for him. Neither the law nor the sentence for breaking it was changed.

In order to die for man’s sin, though, God had to take upon Himself a nature that was subject to death. Deity could not die. Jesus accepted the unspeakable conditions of being born into the lost, condemned family of Adam. In the incarnation, God not only provided for His atoning death for sin but for a dramatic rebuttal of Satan’s charge that man could not live without sinning. In order to make the demonstration absolutely unanswerable on Satan’s part, Jesus submitted Himself to the same human limitations of every child of Adam. He was tempted in all points as we are tempted, yet He completely overcame every one of them by using the same divine power that is accessible to each one of us. He was still God totally and completely, but He was also totally man. In meeting these temp-tations, He voluntarily restricted Himself to the same spiritual resources available to man today. Thus, He shattered Satan’s lie that obedience for humanity is an impossibility.

All Lost Things Restored

With a life of perfect obedience behind Him, Jesus laid down His life to meet the penalty of the broken law. His death and resurrection gave Him the final authority by which to reverse all the human havoc wrought by Satan’s victory over Adam. Now Jesus had in His hand everything man could possibly need to be restored to God’s Edenic plan of perfection and holiness. Although it had cost Him an infinite price to obtain, He offered all of it as a free gift to anyone who would receive it.

What did He have to offer? Deliverance from the death sentence through His own assumption of the guilt and penalty, credit for a perfect life of obedience through His imputed righteousness, and victory in the flesh over every temptation Satan can devise.

Many who have joyfully received the first two gifts have been fearful to accept the third. Why should we hesitate to be an exhibit for God? By receiving His power of victory over temptation, we provide a vindication of God’s original purpose, and we expose the blasphemous lies of Satan for what they really are.

Right now Satan holds a tenuous position as a temporary ruler of this world. He watches in desperation as Jesus and the Holy Spirit break through the barriers of sin to release multitudes of his captives. The power of the flesh is broken every time self surrenders to Christ.

Temptation loses its power when He enters the life. By one decision right now, victory is assured. The second Adam was to deliver you from the old sinful nature of the first Adam. He wants you to change families. There is no hope for us to overcome temptation unless we get out of the defeated, dying family of the first Adam.

Jesus offers each one of us the victory which He won over Satan in the flesh. We might be suspicious of this gift had He not overcome in the same human nature we possess. Now He wants to enter your life and live out the same victory in you day after day.

One of my favorite stories has to do with Augustine, whose youth was marked by gross licentiousness and immorality. As a young man he was swept by mighty currents of emotion for two women in his life. Like a chip on the tide, Augustine would be drawn toward his godly mother, Monica; and then, toward a dissolute woman who seemed to hold him under an evil spell. In spite of his mother’s prayers for him, Augustine continued a course of miserable compromise. Sometimes he would be attracted to the righteous instruction of Monica, but then, the evil influence of the other woman would draw him back. The battle was long and terrible.

But then came that glorious day when in his garden Augustine was converted through a mysterious voice directing him to Romans 13:13, 14. When he read this text, the scales fell off his eyes, and he rushed to convey the good news to his mother. She was delighted at the dramatic change in her son.

While walking down the streets of Carthage the next day after his conversion, Augustine saw the woman who had been his companion in sin. She was coming directly toward him and there was no way to avoid the encounter. Without even acknowledging her presence, Augustine brushed past her without a word. She stopped, unbelieving, and then ran after him in a state of outrage. Grabbing his arm she cried, “Augustine! Augustine! It is I!” He stopped in his tracks, looked at her, and said, “Yes, but it is not I.” Then he walked on down the street and out of her life forever.

Augustine told the truth that day because he was indeed a new person. It is only in the strength of the second Adam that we will be able to turn from temptation. Sin loses its appeal for those who are in love with Christ and have made their decision to serve Him instead of self.

Satan will have no problem overcoming the children of the first Adam. He defeated the father and he can handle the children as well. On the other hand, he will find no way to conquer those who draw upon the strength of the second Adam.

This is the way of escape that is promised to those who will receive it. Jesus simply passes on to His spiritual children the total victory which He won over the devil while living here in human flesh.

This is the heart of the matter. Under this power the Christian uses his surrendered will to choose the lifestyle which avoids the hidden snares of temptation. Both factors are very important in winning the victory—having Christ in the heart and avoiding presumptuous situations of temptation. May God lead us in applying these spiritual principles to our own experience.