Today Pastor Choi talks about the nature of temptation. Taking the story of Adam and Eve, he reminds the congregation that the devil always promotes his own agenda not our interests, that he is a liar and father of lies (John 8:44), and that his strategy is deception. He urges the believers to submit themselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7) not giving him any footing to tempt them.
The following is a summary of the sermon:
Understanding Temptation Genesis 3:1-24
There are temptations galore. As long as we live in our physical bodies, we will live with a variety of temptations: physical, emotional, and spiritual. We all wish that we were mighty strong when it comes down to resisting temptations. Like Jesus was. Like Joseph or Daniel. Yet, we often find ourselves overcome by the temptations instead of overcoming them. Even our forefather Adam and his wife Eve succumbed to their first temptation.
One question arises: Why did Eve yield to the temptation so easily? Where was her fight to resist the temptation? Where was Adam when she needed him the most? He could’ve assisted her not to listen to the tempter. After all, why did he not stop her from eating the forbidden fruit?
By the way, I was always curious to know where Adam was when Eve was tempted. My research reveals that at the time of Eve’s temptation, Adam was beside her. The Bible doesn’t say how close he was to her, but it says he was with her: “She took the fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate (v. 6).” In other words, I can safely say that Eve wasn’t alone when she was approached by the serpent. In my opinion, it is highly likely that Adam was at her side and condoned his wife’s action and participated in the act of disobedience to God.
Another point to consider: the temptation was coming. In other words, it was not out-of-the-blue. It was rather a deliberate attempt carefully made by the serpent after a prolonged observation on Adam and Eve’s behavioral patterns. Let me elaborate what I mean by that. The tempter, in the shape of serpent, was cunning, the most cunning creature among all God’s creation (v. 1). So cunning that he carefully studied and contemplated the best way to carry out his scheme. He observed what Adam and Eve did in the past, made a chart, analyzed, and came to the conclusion that they were curious about this tree and very interested in the fruit. Therefore, the best way to lure them into the snare was the same “forbidden” fruit—the tree of knowledge.
In fact, hovering around the tree was what Adam and Eve must have done before the day of temptation. Here’s why I believe so. In Genesis 2:16-17 God commanded Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If he did, God said, he would surely die. Now, most of us understand what it’s like to be told not to do something. At first, we pay attention to the warning. We are careful not to do as we are told. Then, as time goes by, our self-control wears out, our curiosity grows, we get itchy to try it against the warning. E.g. A child is warned not to eat candy before dinner. Her craving for the candy grows stronger. E.g. 2. When I was a child, I was warned not to play with the fire. Then, I wanted to play with it more! E.g. 3. Remember Pandora’s box? She was warned not to open it but her curiosity overcame her self-control and she eventually opened it.
The same idea must have worked here. Adam and Eve knew which tree God forbade them eating from. However, like us, they must have been very curious and itchy to try it! So, imagine this. When they walked by the tree, at first they just glanced at it. Next time, they went a little closer to the tree and took a closer look, and so on. As long as they didn’t eat it, they thought, it was alright. They might have repeated this behavior scores of times before the temptation.
Enter now the deceiver, the serpent, in the picture. The cunning creature watched and observed the behavioral pattern of Adam and Eve. In fact, he’d been looking for a way to mess up the purpose and the order in God’s creation. What was God’s purpose? It was to have a loving relationship with Adam and Eve. What was God’s creation order? He remains the Creator and Adam and Eve remain the created. The boundaries between the Creator and the creatures were set by His command to them: you can eat all things in the garden but this one (Genesis 2:17). The serpent wanted to change that. He wanted to destroy the covenantal relationship between God and the first couple. He wanted to undermine the creation order by challenging God’s command. And, he finally figured it out! The tree! The forbidden fruit! Let it be the bait!
So, one day, the tempter in the form of serpent approached Eve first who might have shown the stronger interest and desire than Adam. Or, more likely, the serpent chose her the more vulnerable target because she didn’t receive God’s warning directly. She received it second-handedly from Adam not from God. Adam was the one who received a direct warning from God. The serpent began seducing Eve with a question, “Did God really say that you must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
I think it is appropriate here to talk about the tempter, the devil.
First, the devil always promotes his own interest never yours. In the story, his true motive was not the benefit of Eve or Adam. When he threw the question at Eve, he was not promoting the happiness of the couple. No, that was the last thing in his mind. In fact, he was the least interested in their gaining the knowledge of good and evil. Rather, he was promoting his own agenda. What was his agenda, then? To disrupt the harmony and order in God’s kingdom and His creation. He wanted Adam and Eve to do what he wanted to do. That was, to disobey God.
Next, by nature Satan is a liar and deceiver. In the garden, he brazenly contradicted what God said. God said to Adam that he would surely die when he disobeyed God’s command. Satan contradicted saying, no, you shall surely not die (v. 4)! That’s a blatant attempt to make God a liar! Who’s the liar, here? The tempter, the serpent, Satan. Jesus says Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Everything Satan says is a lie, therefore, it always contradicts everything God says which is the truth.
Thirdly, beware of Satan’s strategy: deception. When confronted by God, Eve said, it is the serpent who beguiled me (v. 13). Basically, she was saying, the serpent talked me into it and I ate! I looked up the definition of Hebrew word “beguile,” it means to deceive someone or make somebody believe what is not true in order to get what you want. Eve and Adam fell for the deception believing that the tempter was helping them when actually he was hurting them big time. Remember: whenever you are tempted, you are dealing with the deception. It may look great at first, it may even seem promising. Beware of the outcome. It’s always bitter and empty.
What lessons can we learn from today’s story?
First, beware of the tempter. Behind every temptation, there’s the tempter. He is the most cunning creature of all. He is a liar and father of all lies. Never believe that he promotes your good. It is always the other way around. He never helps you, but always hurts you in the end.
Next, don’t allow your enemy to gain a foothold in your life. Adam and Eve should’ve never hovered around the tree. Ravi Zacharias said, “It is better to shun the bait than to struggle in the snare.” Don’t go near the hook, or Satan will observe your pattern and deceive you with an irresistible temptation.
E.g. If you have a habit of watching TV, especially Saturday night, then the devil can prompt a thought in your heart at midnight to watch a late night movie. After watching it, around 2 a.m., you go to bed, and can’t get up early the next morning for church. The devil achieved his goal to keep you from worshiping the Lord.
E.g. 2. The sermon just started and Satan prompted a thought in your heart. Soon, a train of thoughts led you astray for the next five minutes and by the time you came back to the sermon, you lost the track and didn’t get much out of it and wished the pastor to end it soon. Satan achieved his goal of snatching God’s Word from being planted in your heart. When this happens again next time, shake it off right away. Don’t allow it to lead you astray, or Satan will keep using that strategy on you.
E.g. 3. Same with the way you handle your anger. When it comes down to handle your frustrations, if you often go to violence instead of obeying God’s command, Satan observes the pattern and prompts the angry thoughts which will drive you into violence.
There are many other examples. The bottom-line is: don’t give any chance to your enemy to tempt you.
We must remember why Adam and Eve couldn’t resist the temptation even after God in no uncertain terms warned them not to eat the forbidden fruit. Their fall started with their curiosity. They first allowed then contemplated the thought of trying the forbidden fruit and later their behavioral pattern gave away their interest to the enemy. That invited in the tempter. Likewise, when we are saturated with desires to do something that God forbids, God’s warning becomes powerless and we become an easy target of the tempter.
Whatever temptations you face now, don’t let Satan tempt you. Submit yourself to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7). Don’t give him any footing to tempt you. Stop visiting the area where you are tempted. Stop hovering over it. Stay away from it. Take your vulnerable areas to God and ask for His help. He will help you out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Amen.