If you watched television forty years ago, you probably tuned into "The Flip Wilson Show" a time or two. There you would have met a couple of his characters that brought America to their knees in laughter; "Reverend Leroy" and "Geraldine Jones." Reverend Leroy was from the "Church of What's Happening Now," and the Geraldine Jones character made popular the phrase, "The devil made me do it."
I was thinking about that phrase; "the devil made me do it." Certainly the Bible does speak about the devil being a tempter. His temptations are recorded as far back as the Garden of Eden. Not that it did him much good, for "God cannot be tempted" (James 1:13), but he even tempted Jesus. You and I, on the other hand, can and often are tempted by him. However, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13,
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it" (NIV).What are some of the things that tempt you? Alcohol? Tobacco? Sex or pornography? Self mutilation? Anger or violence? Or maybe some of the more socially acceptable forms of temptation: Workaholism, physical fitness, social media or television addiction? Maybe there's something else that tempts you and to which you might even be inclined to say with Flip Wilson, "The devil made me do it." Whatever your temptation, it "is common to man," so you're not alone.
But if we leave it there, we would be in danger of having little more than a "make-believe faith." Those temptations are true in part, but they're only the first part of the story - the devil's part. The most important part of the story is the part that describes what God has done. What has He done? The good news is,
"And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to the head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills everything in every way." (Ephesians 1: 22-23; NIV).The good news is that Christ has overcome the devil's temptation. The good news is that, though the devil may tempt us, those temptations are firmly "under the feet" of Christ. Jesus has made our temptations a doormat, as it were. I think that sometimes we carry on as if we believe that we have to overcome, or work at overcoming, those temptations that plague us. On my own strength, I can't do it. It's like spinning my wheels on an icy road or in a mud bog if I think that I can do it on my own. On my own, I will never arrive, but in Christ, I'm already there. I like how Watchman Nee once put it:
"Do not look at Christ in heaven as an ideal to be arrived at. See Him as God's gift to you. You feel the things of the world pulling you down, but they can no more pull you down than they can pull Him down. You are just as secure in the heavenlies as Christ is. Do you doubt this? There are some yellow flowers on my desk. I did not enter the room and repeat: 'There must be some yellow flowers here, there must be some yellow flowers here,' and by some kind of auto-suggestion bring them magically into being! No, they were there all the time. I just opened my eyes and looked!
Our faith is no make-believe. It is based on the eternal facts of what God has done in Christ. If we dare to venture our own faith upon those facts, the Holy Spirit is here to prove them true. See ourselves there in Christ, and instead of going down, we are sustained by His power."My problem is that I still often tend to look to myself for strength to overcome. My problem is that I do still sometimes seem to "look at Christ in heaven as an ideal to be arrived at." My problem is that I have sometimes inadvertently bought into the "Make-Believe Faith" of Reverend Leroy and Geraldine Jones.
Is it time to stop looking at only the devil's temptations and to start focussing more on God's gift to you and me in Christ Jesus? Is it time to give up on our make-believe faiths? Where are your eyes turned?
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Saviour,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grown strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion,
For more than conquerors we are!
His word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!
So what is the point of all of this? My point is simply to encourage and bless you if you're wrestling with temptation right now. Likewise, my hope is that you will go forth in your day seeking to encourage and bless someone else who may also be wrestling with temptation.
As for the devil, he's already lost. Though the temptations may still come, through faith you and I "are just as secure in the heavenlies as Christ is." Be encouraged.
Hymn: "The Heavenly Vision (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus)" by Helen H. Lemmel