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Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came…
During Lent we can expect – if we are following in the footsteps of Christ – to experience some form of temptation, especially if we have decided to give something up! As I’ve said before, I’ve given up caffeine and sugary foods – people have literally asked me what I’ve been eating! If I’m honest, it hasn’t been easy – like today at a seminar, snacks were mostly cakes and slices, with some crackers, served with coffee – guess what I ate!
The thing is though, that you can face down these temptations knowing that Jesus faced the same ones – well, a similar one to the one that I faced today. I know Jesus wasn’t tempted with cakes or sugary food, but he was tempted to satisfy a craving for something that He has given up for the past 40 days. We might be faced with the temptation to drink coffee, to have some junk food, to watch some TV, or to go on social media when we have said that these things are off limits for the duration of Lent.
What we have to remember is that being tempted is not giving up. Just because we feel like we should eat or drink or watch or experiment with the thing we said we wouldn’t, that doesn’t mean that we have failed in our quest. Scripture tells us that Jesus was without sin that He never sinned, yet He was tempted in the same ways that we are today. If Jesus was tempted, and was still able to be without sin, then if we are tempted as well, and we manage to resist, then we have done nothing wrong. It is a part of living in this world, it is a certainty, we will face temptations, we will be drawn to things that we know we shouldn’t do. The real test is how we react to those things.
Will we react like Jesus? Will we be faithful? Will we allow the Holy Spirit to build in us the character of Christ?
Or will we simply give in – it’s too hard anyway! I might as well, what’s the point in giving something up? I’m still just as faithful to God without having to do this ‘religious’ duty! We are all about grace and not works anyway, so this is not going to make God love me any more!
Those thoughts are all true, to a certain degree, and yet they seem to fail to make the distinction between salvation and the growing in being-like-Jesus-ness that comes after that – sanctification. This is where the giving up and the denying ourselves the things that bring us pleasure, for a season and as an act of worship, comes in.
Let’s think about for a moment about one of the more famous lists in Scripture – the fruit of the Spirit. If we are living according to the Holy Spirit, then what evidences should we see growing in our lives?
- Self Control
How do we form these in ourselves? Through the work of the Spirit of course!
But how do we work with the Spirit on these? Well, one answer may be to participate in a Spiritual discipline such as fasting at Lent, or at some other time of the year.
Why? Because these practices and habits build into us some of these fruit – patience, self control, faithfulness.
So, just remember that every time you are tempted this Lent, you are doing something great – you are participating in the work of the Holy Spirit to conform yourself more and more to the image of Jesus Christ, our blessed Saviour.