Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tempting the Christian

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.    Genesis 3:1-7 NASB
Can one generalize from the Serpent's action in Eden the Devil's technique in tempting those who are in relationship with God now? Perhaps so, let's have a look and see.

Note that between Adam and Eve, the Serpent targeted Eve for temptation--did he see her as the weakest link? If he did, I don't think it had anything to do with her created nature, but I do think it was possible that she did not have direct instructions from God concerning that singular prohibition in the Garden. We know Adam received it straight from the source, and Eve may have too, but it isn't recorded if she did. If she did, she must have gotten slightly different instructions than did Adam, for she added the extra warning, "or touch it", to the proscription Adam had received in her response to the Serpent's question.

I can't imagine God giving them different instructions, so I'm led to the conclusion that Eve probably heard the rule second hand from Adam. Perhaps he, trying to be extra cautious or even just incautiously paraphrasing, added the "do not touch" provision when he passed it on to Eve. There are reasons we are warned not to add to nor subtract from the word God speaks to those he choses to entrust his word to (e.g. Moses, Proverbs, John). Adding to God's word, it seems to me, gave the Devil the opportunity to undermine what God actually did say.

Which brings us to the Devil's technique. He began his assault by attempting to becloud God's word. To what was clear and straightforward (even if indirect for Eve), he attempted to inject doubt into, to raise issues of subtleties and nuance about. His aim was obfuscating the word of God. When a child of God is in the position of uncertainly questioning what exactly God said, that one is off balance and susceptible to the further deceit of the evil one.

Then he went after God's character. When it comes to God, faith is everything. Faith not only believes that God is (Adam and Eve had "sight" in that area), it also believes that God is good and fair, one who reliably rewards us. When the Devil tempted Eve, he sought to cast aspersions on God's motivations, to accuse God of petty selfishness, of holding out on Adam and Eve. When a person is the least bit shaky on the trustworthiness and goodness of God, they are nothing more than a wobbling boxer, set to go down by any blow from Satan.

Then the Devil appealed to the flesh. Christians, I think, often expect the attack of the Devil to start with the flesh, but I think Christians in good stead with the Holy Spirit are generally prepared for such frontal assaults. However, fog up the word, call the character of God into question, and suddenly the flesh is much more vulnerable to attack. What looks tasty and feels good, what appeals to pride (like being in the know), what promises power are the sources of itchiness flesh unrestrained by faith can't resist scratching.

If you are a follower of Christ, one who is a companion to and child of God, you will be assaulted by the enemy of your soul. Hopefully, this examination of the Devil's techniques might help you foresee, forestall and resist his temptation.

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