The many faces of temptation

by Barry Newton

From the daily commute to the task of filling out taxes, from the interaction among familial relationships to those involving our work colleagues, situational opportunities abound for a seemingly endless variety of temptations. And yet, beneath the façade of variation, temptations often are quite similar.

Consider the seeming distinctiveness yet fundamental similarity of the three temptations Jesus faced after his baptism. On the surface, they appear so different. Satan tempted Jesus to make bread out of stones, cast himself off of the Temple as well as bow down to worship him.

Yet, even the tempter’s words, “If you are the Son of God,” contained in two of these temptations hint at a common underlying challenge. If we realize that Son of God not only describes Jesus’ relationship to the Father but also proclaims him to be God’s anointed King, all three temptations at their root level were challenges to Jesus’ identity and what type of Messiah he would be.

In almost a mirror image sort of way, the manifold temptations Christians face attack our identity as Jesus’ followers and what sort of disciples we will be. Since our own evil desires stir up the temptations we encounter, where do we believe we can obtain significance and security? Who or what shapes our identity and drives our behavior?

For Jesus, being the Messiah involved rejecting the allurements and self-determination this world offers in order to serve God’s will by dying upon the cross. For Jesus’ disciples, discipleship must involve picking up our crosses to follow in his footsteps by dying to ourselves in order to live for God.

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