Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Jesus knew temptation. The writer of Hebrews makes that point about Him in assuring us He, as our High Priest, knows just what we are going through in this life (2:18; 4:15). His suffering allows Him to sympathize. I am comforted to know that He understands, since He is like me (Heb. 2:17). Luke (4:1-13) records this significant and pivotal moment in Jesus’ life before He begins His public ministry. It gives me necessary insight into who Jesus is, and it helps me fight the common battle against the enticements of my flesh, my eyes, and my pride.

TEMPTATION STRIKES THOSE IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. To be clear, temptation strikes “every man” (Heb. 4:15). But, sometimes we conclude that it’s not so bad or so frequent for the spiritually strong. Here is the perfect Son of God, described as full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit (1), who encounters the tempter (2). Being spiritually strong can help make navigating temptation easier than it is for those who live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:5-14), but no one was closer to God and more spiritually healthy than Jesus as He walked the earth. How helpful to consider Paul’s warning here: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). 

TEMPTATION STRIKES IN PREDICTABLE AREAS. John classifies temptation into three major categories: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn.2:16). Methodical Luke lists Jesus’ temptation in that very order (cf. Mat. 4:1-11). The serpent, approaching Eve, must have appealed to these very areas at the beginning (Gen. 3:6). The devil does not have to get more complicated than that because these avenues are overwhelmingly effective for him. Though this and other passages reveal the Evil One’s intentions and efforts, we are fully accountable for how we respond to temptation (Jas. 1:13-15). We must take responsibility for how we handle temptation. 

TEMPTATION STRIKES WHEN WE ARE VULNERABLE. Jesus has gone an unfathomable 40 days without food when He encounters the devil (2ff). The devil goes straight for this susceptible area. Think back to times when you haven’t gotten proper rest, you faced stress and pressure, you were sick or felt poorly, and other trying times. These can easily become doors we open to sin. All of us will experience physical and emotional weakness. We must be aware that these lead to spiritual exposure. 

TEMPTATION CAN MAKE US CALL WHAT WE KNOW INTO QUESTION. Twice, the devil uses conditional statements to try and create doubt. First, he says, “If You are the Son of God” (3). He called Jesus’ identity into question. Then, he says, “if You worship me” (7). He seeks to get Jesus to question His loyalty. It was not a matter of what Jesus intellectually knew, but Jesus dwelled in the flesh (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). Be aware that temptation will cause us to question things we know, too. That includes our exalted identity and our true motivation.

TEMPTATION IS THWARTED BY AN OMNIPOTENT TOOL. Jesus wins His battles with the devil and temptation by leaning on truth. There are 86 quotations of Deuteronomy (the second giving of the Law of Moses) in the New Testament, and Jesus quotes this book in reference to each of the devil’s temptations (8:3; 6:13; 6:16). Proper knowledge and handling of Scripture help even when enemies of truth, even the devil, try to misuse Scripture against us (as he does with Jesus, misapplying Psalm 91:11-12). Scripture is God’s own weapon, given to us not to cut and maim others but to fight off temptation and fend off the biggest threats to our faith and soul (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). 

It is wonderful to contemplate a day in which temptation will be permanently past-tense (cf. Rev. 21:1ff; 1 Cor. 15:55-58). Until then, we benefit so much from seeing how Jesus coped with the bane of temptation. It also helps us appreciate what He endured in order to give us salvation. 

Vasily Polenov (1909), “Christ In The Desert”
How Satan Tempts

How Satan Tempts

Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
Genesis 3 records for us the fall of man. This account reveals to us the methods Satan uses to tempt us, and the choice that changed the course of the world. We can learn a lot about the devil in his first interaction with God’s creation.
 
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.””
 
We don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden. There is no timeframe between chapter 2 and 3.
It could’ve been a month, a year, a century that has gone by. Whatever the time frame, Satan comes to Eve and places doubt in her mind. This is quite possibly the worst lie ever told. “Did God really say…?” While Satan doesn’t physically appear and speak to us today, he still uses this same tactic. He has destroyed many churches’ worship to God. “Did God really ask for music with no instruments?” “Did God really say for the women to be silent?” By casting doubt Satan has corrupted the worship and faith of millions.
 
After he casts doubt, he then blatantly contradicts God, “you will not surely die.” And once again he continues to blatantly contradict God’s word today. The message Satan tells the world is completely different from what God has given to us. Satan contradicts the Father. Rather than “love you neighbour as yourself” he says “love yourself above your neighbour.” Rather than “serve God and keep his commandments, he says “serve yourself and listen to no one.” Satan contradicted God in the past and continues to do so today.
 
After he casts doubt and blatantly contradicts God, he then offers power, “you shall be like God.” Obviously in their close relationship with God, they understood who created the world. The created wanted to be like the creator, but the devil offered a lie. Satan only has one thing to offer– sin. He oftentimes portrays this lifestyle of sin as a lie.
He offers happiness and joy, but at the end of the day all he has to offer is sin and regret.
 
Eve was tempted by Satan, and he used the same methods then as he does now. Eve experienced:
  • The lust of the flesh (she wanted to eat of the fruit)
  • The lust of the eyes (literally says “it was a delight to the eyes,” v.6)
  • Pride of life (she wanted to become wise and have power)
The devil always knows what to say in order to get us to stumble. We must be vigilant and ready to refuse the tempter when he appears.
The Gripsholm Terror

The Gripsholm Terror

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The Gripsholm Castle, in Sweden, is home to the world’s oldest portrait gallery. This might be of interest to some art enthusiasts, but there’s something else in this castle you’d never forget seeing. Inside of a glass box in Gripsholm’s upper armory, there is an 18th century stuffed lion. This lion, nicknamed “Leo,” is a beast that tends to provoke a wide arrange of emotions from it’s viewers. It has a disfigured face and human like teeth with an oversized (fake) tongue hanging out of it’s mouth. The history of the lion is also somewhat of a mystery. However, there’s a particular legend about this taxidermy terror that the writer finds hilarious. In 1731 the king of Sweden was given an incredible gift. He was once the proud owner of a handsome lion and he loved this beast. Unfortunately, it died at a young age and the king’s heart was broken. He sent the lion’s pelt and bones to a taxidermist to have it stuffed so that it’s memory would be kept “alive.” There was only one problem. The taxidermist had no idea what a lion actually looked like because he had never seen one before. This being the days before the internet, he was forced to try his very best. The finished product remains part atrocity and part masterpiece to this day.

 In 1 Peter 5.8 we are warned about our adversary, the Devil, and that he is currently stalking the earth looking for his next potential prey. The sad truth is the fact that many in this world aren’t sure what this lion looks like. The Devil can disguise himself in the form of sinful pleasures and promises and as a result he has become the, “King of this world” (John 12.31). The Scriptures and the king of Sweden can both agree that things will get ugly if we aren’t sure what a lion looks like. 

The Fall Before The Fall

The Fall Before The Fall

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The Bible indicates a battle between Satan and his rebellious followers in several key passages. The reason for this spiritual spat is not given to us in great detail but we are told that it began after they abandoned their rightful habitation (Jude 1:6). While many have speculated as to what and how this happened, we simply aren’t told. Some have also made the argument that this event took place after the Creation of the world, but this is also not certain. Genesis 2:1 says, “the heavens and the earth were completed and all their hosts.” While that may seem to clearly indicate that angels must have been created alongside everything else, Job 38:7 states that angels gave “shouts of joy” after the creation of stars.

The spiritual conflict ended with Satan and his apostate followers cast from the heavenly realm (2 Peter 2:4, Rev. 12:14, Jude) just before, it seems, the creation of earth with the Archangel Michael taking a significant role in his defeat and expulsion. 

Satan seems to have been at one time a high ranking Angel who thought he somehow stood a chance against his very Creator. That is a ridiculous thought! The application of this historical (pre-historical?) event is evident. Nobody, whether Angel or man, can win against God’s will. It’s mind boggling to imagine taking on God Almighty in some kind of battle, yet Paul tells us in Romans five that we were enemies of God at one point while living in sin, and are currently waging a war with God if we are living in sin. We should let that long ago battle in the heavenly realm be a reminder to us that God always wins the war. He’s already won! Now is the time to make sure that you’re on the side of the truth and triumph and not the devil and the defeated. 

 

Get Angry!

Get Angry!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Balance is frustratingly difficult to pinpoint and maintain. More often than not we gravitate toward an extreme on either end of balance. 

With anger, most will fall into one of the extremes: either one has no spine or is prone to losing control. 

An example of balance can be found in Ephesians 4.26. It begins with a passive imperative: “be angry.” There is a time and place for this unpleasant emotion – any damage to the bride of Christ warrants this response, for example. 

There are three imperatives to balance out our use of anger: 

  1. Do not sin. 
  2. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. 
  3. Do not give the devil an opportunity. 

Anger is sometimes necessary, but it must be short-lived. 

Unchecked anger gives Satan space in our hearts. The word translated “opportunity” is τόπος (topos), which is a place to live, an inhabited structure, or a favorable circumstance for doing something (BDAG 1011). If we allow our anger to get out of control, we’ve created favorable circumstances for Satan to influence us. 

Since balance is what we’re looking for, we have to get angry to create positive change, but we have to temper (aha) that anger with restraint if we don’t want Satan to have a chance to influence the church through us. 

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Why Doesn’t God Just Kill the Devil?

Why Doesn’t God Just Kill the Devil?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

This is a question that has been asked for centuries. If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He just kill Satan? In order to adequately answer this question we will need to look at a few different aspects of the Devil himself, as well as the attributes of God.
It’s not hard to find evidence of a world filled with sin, and logically it would make sense for God to just destroy the source of the problem…or would it? Let’s notice a few things about Satan.
Where did he come from? In Genesis 1:31, God sees His creation and it says, “everything was very good.” All of God’s work was perfect. From this we can conclude that Satan started off as good and became evil. While Scripture doesn’t reveal his exact origin, it says enough for us to draw a logical conclusion. For example, 2 Peter 2:4, Matthew 12:24, and 25:41 point to Satan as the leader of a groups of angels that have abandoned heaven. So we have to ask, why was Satan cast out of Heaven?
Based on the previous verses and what we read in Jude 6, the angels were created with free choice. And Peter explains that the angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4). We read the phrase “The Devil and HIS angels” so Satan was most likely the leader and instigator of this rebellion in heaven. Satan tried to rebel against God and failed miserably and will face the consequences of his actions (Revelation 20:1-3). Since Satan cannot win against God, he now wants to get payback by taking his anger out on God’s creation.
So why doesn’t God destroy Satan? Aside from the fact that he’s an angel and killing him would be different from killing a human, we run into another issue.
Even if Satan were destroyed, man would still sin. James 1:14 tells us that as humans we are carried away by our OWN desires, and these desires lead to spiritual death. Satan doesn’t cause everyone to sin, at every location on earth, because he doesn’t have this kind of power. Even if God destroyed Satan, there would still be sin on earth.
There is one other aspect we must look at in order to answer this question; What is the definition of good? Without evil, how can good exist? If God is good, then evil must exist. Without darkness, how can we recognize light? There is balance and perfection in everything.
We are given free will, and if there were no other choice except faith in God, we would not have faith by choice. We would have faith by force. I think about when I was younger and got in a fight with my siblings. Mom would force us to hug each other. That hug was not done out of love, but by mom telling us to get it done. Do you prefer to be loved by choice or by force?
Satan will get what he deserves, but God is defined as a God of love. If God took away our free choice (either to serve Him or sin) then He would be a God of Force. God has the power to destroy Satan, but in doing so we would still be in a fallen world filled with sin. God loves us enough that He wants us to come to Him by choice. This is something each one of us should strive to do.
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How To Slay A Dragon

How To Slay A Dragon

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

There’s a part in Sleeping Beauty where the Prince slays a fire breathing dragon with his sword. This is at the climax of the movie, so this entire time the story has been building up to this one, final moment. It’s pretty epic. In our lives, we have many “Fire Breathing Dragons.” At this moment I would like to talk about three of them and how to “kill” them.

First, notice with me the “dragon” of lying. If you look at Colossians 3:9, it says, “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all it’s wicked deeds.”
Lying in Colossians is labeled under “evil nature.” If we have stripped our old ways, why do we continue to lie? Because much of the lying that we do is for personal gain. For example, someone could come up to me and ask, “How much can you bench?” and I might say “850 pounds.” That’s a classic example of lying for personal gain. From now on that person will believe that lie I told them and possibly tell others. We can slay this dragon by telling the truth. Challenge yourself to tell full truths, and not half-truths.

Second, there is the “dragon” of Hate. Luke 6:27 says, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The hardest part of this verse is the second half. Trying to love those who hate us is extremely difficult because in our minds they started it so we have the right to hate them back. If you look at Jesus, our example, He says to love those who hate us. How do we do this? It requires a change of vision. We should try to look at those who hate us as a lost soul that needs saving. Looking at them this way might help us to love them more.

Third, and finally, is the “dragon” of Gossip. This one can be very dangerous because it might tear apart a friendship, a person, and the church. If you look at Ephesians 4:29, It reads, “Let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Instead of tearing down someone or spreading rumors, let’s try to build up one another! To keep from letting something slip about someone, let’s try to practice what our parents told us from day one: “Think about what we say before we say it.”

Now there is one more thing we can use to slay “dragons.” The ultimate Two-Edged Sword is for slaying any kind of “dragon.” This Two-Edged Sword, the Bible, can slay any dragon that Satan sends our way. Today we only looked at three of the dragons that Satan uses against us. There are many more, and we must study Scripture to see what they are, and how we can slay them.

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Satan’s Schemes

Satan’s Schemes

Neal Pollard

Paul makes an interesting statement while addressing the successful effort the Corinthian church made in disciplining an erring brother along with the successful outcome of his having repented. He urges them to show him love, comfort, and forgiveness. The bottom line Paul gives for the urgency of their obedience is “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). Back in the first letter, the church’s attitude and actions regarding a brother needing discipline was horrible, and Paul commanded them to act (1 Cor. 5). Here, they have acted and their efforts worked. They were in a prime position to grow and thrive. Yet, Paul reminds them of Satan’s motivation (to take advantage of us) and means (his schemes). 

But, when does Satan like to try and employ his schemes and take advantage of us? When we aren’t being sober and vigilant (1 Pet. 5:8). When we aren’t focused on resisting him (Jas. 4:7). When we aren’t standing firm in the Lord or against his schemes (Eph. 6:10ff). When we aren’t exercising self-control (1 Cor. 7:5). If you study those contexts and others that mention Satan more closely, you will see that he would like to take advantage of us in good times and bad times. He may be at work through the willing choices, words, and actions of people who unwittingly aid his cause through their sins. 

When might he seek to employ his schemes?

  • When new elders are appointed
  • During building programs
  • As numbers swell through baptisms and families placing membership
  • When preachers come and go
  • In a flurry of exciting activities
  • In the heart of some church problem or struggle
  • At the center of some personality struggle or conflict within the congregation
  • Through some controversial doctrinal, moral, or even cultural issue
  • When brethren put politics, race, or another issue of lesser importance over Christ and His church

Obviously, there are many more examples. The point is that Satan would love to use the good times or bad times we experience as a church to undermine and harm the work of the Lord. That should not make us paranoid, so paralyzed by fear that we refuse to act, or petrified to make needed changes. It does mean that we must not be ignorant of the fact that he doesn’t want the church to grow or move forward, and he will do what he can to stop it. What is so exciting is that he stands no chance against God. James says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (4:7). Let us never be afraid to “dare and do” for God. We can do great things for Him and keep an eye out for the devil’s schemes.

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Picture from my last trip to Ngorogoro Crater, Tanzania, 12/17.

The Rasputin Rule

The Rasputin Rule

Neal Pollard

Very little good can be said of Gregory Rasputin. Robert Goldston, in The Russian Revolution, writes that he “was, like his father before him, essentially a rowdy peasant. He soon developed a reputation in his hometown as a horse thief, drunkard, seducer of young girls, and general good for nothing. He had no education and remained largely illiterate all his life. His one apparent attribute was great physical strength. He was a coarse-featured man with a heavy black beard and strangely piercing eye” (82). Because times in Russia circa 1905 were desperate and grim, a rascal like Rasputin could rise. He went to Saint Petersburg, weaseled his way up the ranks of nobility, and eventually rose to become the most intimate advisor of Czar Nicolas II and especially the superstitious Czarina Alix. Many historians believe that, in the fateful, final years of the Romanov dynasty, Rasputin was the unofficial, yet undisputed, ruler of Russia.

He was grossly immoral and unscrupulous. At his words, jobs and even lives were spared or taken. Though he had abandoned his wife and children, Rasputin made his way as a self-professed prophet and “holy beggar.” The Czarina, in all her correspondence, simply called Rasputin “the Friend.” The royal family implicitly trusted Rasputin. Rasputin, in turn, urged the royal family to rule by absolute despotism. Many thought Rasputin to possess powers of hypnotism and the ability to do magic. Giving him the control of hundreds of millions of peoples’ lives, the Czar contributed to his own murder and that of the entire royal family in the revolution of 1917. For Rasputin’s part, he was murdered in 1914 by a small group of conspiring nobles who lured him to one of their houses and shot him repeatedly after poisoned food and wine did not do the trick.

The most amazing part of this story involves the irony of it all. A ne’er-do-well essentially becomes head of the largest country in the world. A grossly immoral man is viewed as a “holy man.” The head of a dynasty that had lasted hundreds of years put all its trust and hope in such a one. What incredible folly!

However, the majority of humanity has done the same thing from time immemorial. The prince of darkness, the king of ne’er-do-well, is their spiritual advisor. As foolish as it is, people stake their eternal destiny on his wholly corrupt guidance. They risk it all, mesmerized by his wiles. Consequently, they are duped into calling “evil good and good evil…who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isa. 5:20-21). Yet, it is not a revolution but The Judgment that will undo them. They stand to lose more than physical life; they will lose their souls (Mat. 10:28). Beware of the pied piper of souls! Be careful who you make your spiritual counselor. It matters!

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Identifying The Source Of Trouble In The Congregation

Identifying The Source Of Trouble In The Congregation

Neal Pollard

One of my dad’s most memorable sermons, which he preached in more than one location, was actually a two-parter.  The first part was preached Sunday morning. Dad warned that he was going to identify the source of the problems in the congregation. He used a wipe board or chalkboard, and only put the first initial of each one up there as he preached. He said that everyone should come back that night and he would disclose the full names that went with the initials.  At one congregation, after the morning sermon, a large number of people came forward in response to the invitation.  Sure enough, that evening dad put the full names next to the initials:

  • Accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10)
  • Adversary (1 Pet. 5:8)
  • Beelzebub (Mat. 12:24)
  • Belial (2 Cor. 6:15)
  • Devil (Heb. 2:14)
  • Enemy (Mat. 13:39)
  • Father of lies (John 8:44)
  • God of this world (2 Cor. 4:4)
  • Prince… (Eph. 2:2; John 12:31)
  • Roaring Lion (1 Pet. 5:8)
  • Satan (Mat. 4:10)
  • Spirit that works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2)
  • Tempter (Mat. 4:3)

Now, in no way am I discounting the free will choices people make. James 1:13-15 very clearly places the blame of sin on the individuals choosing to act on their lusts and desires. One is not possessed or overtaken by the devil to do his will any more than a person is overtaken by God and made to do what’s right. But Jesus calls the devil the “father” of sinful behavior (John 8:44). John tells us that the one who practices sin is “of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8). Those who sin are doing his will (2 Tim. 2:26).

Satan is at the heart of national, congregation, familial, and individual sin.  We’re told to resist him (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:9). The hopeful fact is that, with God’s help, we can always successfully do so.  Let’s be aware that the devil does not want God’s children or His work to succeed. If he can thwart our efforts as a church to be united, faithful to God’s Word, evangelistic, and productive, he will do so. Knowing this, we should be more determined not to let him win!

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