As part of our community’s current series (Covenant and Kingdom), I recently preached on Jesus’ temptations. Over the past few weeks we’ve been grappling as a community with what it looks like to intentionally engage in the three main areas Jesus seems to have been tempted in. Last night at our leadership Huddle we talked specifically about what God seems to be leading us to do to engage with these areas. As we enter into Lent today, I thought it fitting to meditate briefly on these temptations.
The three areas Jesus was tempted in correspond roughly with the three aspects of the fruit that Eve found appealing, and also with what old Apostle John calls “all that is in the world” (1 John 2:16). As such, I believe they are “arch-temptations,” i.e. deeply rooted idols that we will be warring with until the kingdom comes in its fullness. We’ll look at one temptation today, another on Friday, and the third next Monday.
These arch-temptations are (as alliterated by Mike Breen):
- Appetite [stones into bread / good for food / lust of the flesh]
- Affirmation [temple leap / pleasing to the eye / lust of the eyes]
- Ambition [all the kingdoms / desirable for gaining wisdom / pride of life]
Today we’ll look specifically at appetite, and get to the others later.
“If you are the Son of God… turn these stones into bread,” the devil said to Jesus. Eve noticed the fruit was “good for food.” John calls this the “lust of the flesh.” These are our normal human appetites: hunger, comfort, pleasure, etc. And most appetites aren’t sinful in and of themselves. Hunger is a signal it’s time to eat, usually.
But this is about submission. And control. Appetites can quickly turn into addictions unless we learn to say “no” to them when appropriate. And oftentimes behind our impulse to satisfy our appetites is doubt that God will really provide for us. Will he really give us the desires of our hearts? Does he really have our best interest at heart? Can we trust him?
We’re oftentimes like the orphan boy I heard about once who, for several weeks after he was adopted, would raid the fridge in the middle of the night and put all the food in his bed because he just couldn’t bring himself to believe that breakfast would really be there in the morning. We often do the same thing: taking matters into our own hands because we don’t trust God to provide for us.
But Jesus knew that God would provide for him, because he was secure in his identity as the Beloved Son. He knew that those who seek first the kingdom get everything else thrown in. He knew that he could trust his Father to give him what he needed, that ultimately God himself was enough. So Jesus refuses the temptation to satisfy his appetite flippantly, quoting Scripture, saying “People don’t live on bread alone.” God will take care of me, I won’t believe or act on the lie that it’s all up to me.
There are all kinds of different appetites that can be addictions for us. What do you struggle with?
- Food? Do you find it difficult to eat sensible portions? Do you eat compulsively? Do you eat when you’re depressed or anxious? Does the thought of giving up fast food send you into a cold sweat?
- Sex? Do you find yourself driven by the need for sexual release? Would you be able to abstain for a season?
- Comfort? Do you avoid situations in which you’d be uncomfortable, physically or emotionally?
- TV? Would it be a big deal to skip your favorite show, and not watch it on Hulu later?
- Facebook/Twitter/Internet? Could you go a week without getting on the Internet? A day?
Anything you do compulsively, that you would find extremely difficult to give up, that you make extensive excuses for whenever challenged, is probably an uncontrolled appetite, an area of your life that you are giving in to temptation. Constant giving in to those appetites weakens us spiritually, and keeps us ineffective and unfruitful in spiritual living. The streams of living water cannot flow out of our life when we give in to these temptations.
Fasting is the discipline we need in order to engage our appetites. When we fast, we strip away the crutches and support systems we’ve built and learn to rely solely on God for our provision. Fasting is a somewhat mysterious discipline as well, in that much of the benefit is difficult to explain unless you simply engage in it. We learn to use your will to give up something you do have control over so the door of your heart is “crow-barred open” so the Holy Spirit can enter and give you power over that which you don’t have control over.
How are you engaging your appetites during Lent this year?