When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time (Luke 4:13).
It’s as old as the Garden of Eden. Temptation links Jesus with Adam and Eve, and it pulls us into the mix as well. The letter to the Hebrews encouraged believers by reminding them that Jesus was tempted, that his experience and ours is not so different (Hebrews 2:18).
Every temptation is a chance for us to choose what reality we will live in. Details of temptation vary: eat this fruit, turn stones to bread, fudge the numbers on your tax return. But every stripe of temptation has this in common – the nature of reality is at stake.
This is the enemy’s strategy. The serpent in the garden and the devil in the desert were doing the same thing. He wants us to choose a reality that places God in the nose-bleed seats or removes God altogether.
Adam and Eve bought the lie. They defined reality minus God. God was out to deprive them of their rightful independence. They exerted their autonomy and ate of the tree. Jesus had a chance to do the same thing. Make food to feed the masses, draw followers by an act of great showmanship. He refused. Something else defined reality for Jesus.
Defining reality is a major task of every person who seeks to follow Jesus and live the Jesus way. And like Jesus, we define reality by God’s written word.
Not long ago I sensed a presence standing by my bed. With heavy lids half opened I saw my son standing over me. I looked at the clock. 3:55 a.m. He told me he wanted to go downstairs and eat breakfast. I told him no way and marched him back to his room. After a few minutes he was back asleep. I was wide awake.
While helping John get back to sleep I had heard the sound of a garbage truck starting and stopping at houses along the street. Hmm . . . they’re at it early. I noticed that the light coming through the window seemed a little bright. Wow, nice full moon. Finally, when I went downstairs to make coffee, I saw something that changed my reality. The oven displayed two large red letters that said “PF”. This means “Power Failure.” The digital clock next to the PF said 7:03. John had not gotten up at 4:00 am; he had gotten up at 7:00 a.m. Things suddenly got very busy around our house.
The simple act of reading re-defined reality for me. That’s what happens when we read the Bible. In fact, that’s the primary reason for reading God’s word. Reading tells us what’s real. Neglect scripture, and reality is distorted.
From time to time I’ll have the chance to talk with someone who’s living through a hard season. Their struggle is often voiced as a struggle to make sense of what is happening to them. We’re doing that all the time. We hear garbage trucks on the street and we see light coming through the window, but we’re not grasping the reality of what’s going on. Not until we read God’s story and get an entirely different picture of what’s real.
For those who struggle to make sense of what they see, there is rarely an answer. But there is a story. The Bible is the story of God’s work to make the world right, and that story defines reality. What do you see today? What reality will define how you live this day? Remember, whatever you see is a part of God’s story. For real.
Lord Jesus, help us to make sense of what we see today by seeing it within the context of your story. Help us to live with the confidence that comes from knowing that you are at work in the world, working all things together for good. We give you thanks for your written word, the story that reads us and makes sense of our lives. Amen.