KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
TO BE THE LORDíS PRAYER
LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven...lead us not into temptation" (Mat. 7:9,13).
Most of us have repeated the Lordís prayer many hundreds or thousands of times in our lives; how little has the best and wisest of us realized the fullness of its divine significance! I trust that in this series of Studies, some of us may have at least caught a glimpse of the truth that not one petition of it is needless or fantastic; neither is it a prayer to merely be repeated by baby Christians at church on Sunday. Far from being a prayer to be recited the Lordís Prayer enables us to explore the depths of God and His great purpose of the ages. It is the model or pattern prayer for sons. It reveals God as He is in our relationship to Him in sonship. It is not a prayer at all, but a teaching about prayer. It reveals the way a son should pray, not a form of prayer. As we enter into its depths and give ourselves up to its mighty power, there come to us insights and understanding far beyond our expectation ó and possibilities and potentials transcending our wildest imaginations!
As we approach this next to the last petition, I would point out that we might call the Bible the "Book of Temptations." On its first pages stands the temptation of the first man and woman, and on its last the prophetic descriptions of the great temptation which is "coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth" (Rev. 3:10). Between this beginning and this end there stretches the history of the people of God and with it the individual histories of men of God, and these histories, too, are a continuous chain of temptations that begin with Abraham and do not end until that gladsome day when Christ delivers up the Kingdom to the Father and God becomes All-in-all.
At first it is somewhat difficult for us to understand why Jesus should put these words, "Lead us not into temptation," into the mouths of His younger brethren when we address our heavenly Father. It is inferred that leading men into temptation is something God ordinarily does, but that we should resist His activity by praying Him not to lead us into temptation. There is here a seeming paradox ó a real contradiction in thought. We would think that if temptation is good for us, then it is wrong to ask to be spared from it; and if it is not good for us, then God should not be in the business of bringing men into it. If it is essential to our spiritual development that we should be placed in situations that subject us to temptation, why should we pray not to be led into them? There are times when the ways of God refuse to be confined within the bounds of manís logic. They make statements that appear to be mutually contradictory but are nonetheless true. The Lord says, "You need to be led into temptation," and He also says, "You need to pray, Lead us not into temptation." Both of these statements are true!
TEMPTATION ó TESTING
The plain truth is that this word "temptation" in our English Bible is often somewhat misleading. A better rendering would be "testing". Ed Spencer has pointed out that the Old Testament word for temptation is the Hebrew term NASAH. The literal meaning of this word is somewhat strange at first glance, for it means "to examine by smell," or "to put to the proof." There are many things that are examined and identified by smelling. There are areas of scientific research where the olfactory nerves assist in determining the ingredients of compounds. We all know what it is to sniff the air, testing to see what we shall have for supper! Sensitive woodsmen know from the odors which are wafted by the wind that certain animals are near, and even the insensitive and inexperienced can sniff the presence of a skunk! These ideas of examining by smell to prove who or what created the odor also carry over into figures of speech. There are times when antagonistic individuals get on the trail of a political enemy, like a pack of bloodhounds sniffing the scent. Their procedure intentionally works at the business of smelling out the secrets in the life of the person whom they consider to be on trial. If, when the ordeal is over, the man under examination weathers the storm successfully, we have a saying that "he came up, smelling like a rose!" In other words no real stench was uncovered in his life. Only his honor was exposed. But the process involved is that of "testing" or "putting to the proof."
This corresponds with what we know about all of life. Testing is a necessity of living. We test wood, steel, and stone in order to find out what they are capable of supporting. We test our ability to read, to run, and to think, but no one therefore calls them evil. We find out something about ourselves, even if that something is not always complimentary. Everything in life is tested in some manner. In this way "temptation" may have a good sense as well as a bad; for example, God is said to have tempted, that is, proved Abraham in the matter of offering up Isaac. So Jesus is said to have tempted, that is, proved Philip in the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. "Jesus therefore lifting up His eyes, and seeing that a great multitude cometh unto Him, saith unto Philip, Whence are we to buy bread that these may eat? And He said this to prove Philip, for He Himself knew what He would do." To prove Philip, test him, see what he would answer and what was in his mind ó but the word is our word "tempt".
Our heavenly Father in His wise love is sometimes pleased to subject us to unusual temptation or probing. This was the case with Job in the hands of the adversary, with Paul impaled by his thorn in the flesh, even the messenger of satan to buffet him. Very conspicuously was it the case with our Lord Himself; we are expressly told that Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted by the devil. And so it is with all of Godís sons. Our heavenly Father with the view of testing us, revealing us to ourselves, developing, fortifying, perfecting our characters, encouraging others by the example of our own steadfastness, may see fit to bring us into temptation, subjecting us to a test of unusual severity, taking us from the ordinary ordeal of life into the extraordinary.
There is an interesting story by Mark Twain titled THE MAN THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG. You may remember its plot. Hadleyburg was a village that took special pains to protect its citizens, beginning in infancy, from the hazards of temptation. It was known far and wide as a town of unquestioned honesty, and its citizens were known for incorruptible virtue. But one citizen of that village was guilty of doing a stranger some slight, and in revenge the stranger devised a plan by which the chief citizens of the town were all unmasked. While outwardly they were all circumspect, inwardly they were no different than other people. And all it took to prove the point was the strangerís ploy. The contention of Mark Twain is caught in one line of that story: "The weakest of all things is a virtue which has not been tested in the fire."
Someone has said that temptation is the raw material of heaven. Just as in many an ancient battle, the besieged army was not able to scale the walls of a beleaguered city till they had filled the moat with the dead bodies of their foes, so we can ascend into the triumphant heights of God only on the stepping-stones of conquered temptations and passed tests. The Greek word for temptation is PEIRASMOS, and PEIRASMOS is derived from the word PEIRA which means "experience". In order for a soldier to be experienced, he has to fight, there has to be some battle in which he is engaged. And in order for us to be experienced, for our ability and endurance to be tested, we also must be engaged in a battle, and that "battle" is "temptation". Our Elder Brother suffered, being tempted, and His perfection was a matter of attainment, of conquest, of victory over all the opposing forces of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Now the difficulty lies just here ó if temptation is one of the conditions of spiritual progress and conquest, does it not follow that it is Godís will for us to experience it, to drink deeply of it, and that He brings us into temptation for our good, and not our harm?
Few will teach you this principle, but I declare it to you today, Good without the knowledge of evil can scarcely be called good at all. Who could possibly speak of the day if night had never been known? There was no first light if there was no darkness. What could we know of life if there were no death? What would we know of health if there were no sickness? What would we know of wealth if poverty had not spread its specter upon the earth? No man can be trusted until he has been EXPOSED TO THE OPPOSITES, until he has been tempted. No man can be declared strong until he has been tested for weakness. No man can be proven honest until he has been presented with the opportunity to cheat or steal. No man can be declared virtuous until faced with opportunities with women other than his wife. No man can be an overcomer until he has faced the dreadful foe. Those who are worthy to slay their Goliaths must first have slain their lion and their bear. No man can be an overcoming son of God until he has encountered the serpent in the wilderness and come forth victorious in the power of the spirit! Everything has its right and wrong, its good and bad, its proper use and its misuse, its truth and error, and the one must overcome the other. Sweet must overcome and swallow up bitter, smooth rough, soft hard. Life swallows up death, said Paul in II Corinthians 5:4; and it gets its strength from having an opposite which it has swallowed up. You cannot say a certain "Yes" in a decision, until you have first canvassed the alternatives and said an equally certain "No" to each of them.
One of the fundamental laws of creation is that an OPPOSING FORCE is necessary for growth, and to produce strength, stamina, and endurance. Any living thing that grows up without any opposition is weak, fragile and powerless. Godís NEW CREATION must be strong and powerful, and anything or anyone that desires to be strong, must wrestle with a force that is contrary to them. Any man who wants to develop muscular power to be strong, must spend endless days, weeks, months and years in vigorous training doing strenuous exercises, lifting heavy weights, using the opposing force of gravity to develop his strength. A man who wants to be a great wrestler, doesnít just wrestle when he is in the ring. At his training center he has his wrestling partners with whom he wrestles by the hour. If he didnít do this he would be weak and powerless in the ring. A boxer has his punching bags and sparring partners, with whom he spends hours every day. Those opposing forces are indispensable to develop strength and technique. A plant that grows in a greenhouse sheltered from the winds and rains, pampered day after day, may grow large and luxurious, but it is inherently weak, and if suddenly exposed to the elements will wither and die. But a plant that is constantly exposed to the fierce winds and pounding rains, burning heat and chilling cold, is strong and not easily destroyed.
Every parent understands that the very worst thing that could happen to any child would be to escape all the pain of discipline, all the irksomeness of education, all the difficulty of work and experience, and be allowed in all things to please itself without any restraint. Such treatment would infallibly produce an ignorant, selfish, rebellious, irresponsible and wicked son or daughter. Just as feeding a child on cakes and sweets alone would ensure the ruin of its health. Now and again some father who has himself known hard sledding decides to make easy for his children the way of life. They shall not be required, as he was, to get up early in the morning. They shall not be obliged at an early age, as he was, to earn a living. They shall not be deprived, as he was, of things that young people want. They shall be placed in conditions that are wholly favorable and that make no difficult demands. And now and then some human father who has made easy for his children the way of life finds himself wondering why they have made so little of themselves! He has given them every opportunity, and it fails him to understand why they are lacking in most of the qualities he hoped to find in them. But has he given them every possible opportunity? Not at all! He has denied them the supreme opportunity such as a rough road affords for the development of strength and character.
There are evils lurking in the carnal mind and fleshly nature of us all for which there is no deliverance except through the crucible of suffering and the pain of discipline; even as the dross that is found mixed with pure gold in the ore can only be separated and eradicated through the fiery furnace. The more we are exposed to adverse circumstances, the more we have to wrestle with our environment, the more we are challenged by the world around us, the stronger we become. Saints, IF WE WOULD BE SONS OF THE MOST HIGH we must be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might! Our Father wants us to be strong. The Father of spirits did not look forward to a distant day, at the time of His begetting, expecting that a multitude of ninnies and dummies would stand before Him. How many of those who read these lines want their children to grow up one hundred percent innocent and privileged, never having experienced the slightest temptation or adversity in any form? This is precisely why God placed the serpent in Eden with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ó that man through the experience of the opposites might in the experience be led to OVERCOME all things and to stand before the Son of man in the strength of character, perception of mind, and quality of life of God Himself. It is all part of our Fatherís wise and magnificent plan!
As someone has written, "Man shrinks from tests for they call for the best that is within one. Yet tests prove to be for our good. A school teacher does not give her pupils a test so that she may have the satisfaction of failing them but rather so that she may be delighted by their display of knowledge. Automobile manufacturers do not put test cars through rugged workouts to wreck them but rather to improve their product and find how to strengthen their points of weakness. Even so it is when the Lord allows temptation to come to our spiritual lives. It is not intended to wreck us, though at times that may appear to be the result, but it is intended for our good. They are to make us strong. They are to do for us what the sculptor does for the rude block of marble. They are to do for us what the lathe does for the rough and coarse cylinder of steel. Thus it was that Job said, ĎWhen He hath tried me, I shall come forth as goldí (Job 23:10)."
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christís sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (I Pet. 4:12-13).
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (James 1:12).
"When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, donít resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots" (James 1:2-4, Phillips).
The apostle James tells us that God does not tempt anyone, yet the scriptures speak more than once of men who were tempted of God. The apparent contradiction vanishes when we remember that the word is commonly used with two meanings and covers two distinct spheres of thought. When we speak of temptation we most often think of an enticement to commit sin. We are tempted when we are attracted to that which is wrong, or is beneath our privileges, contrary to Godís will, or inconsistent with His character, and sometimes the scriptures use the term in that sense. This is precisely the case when James tells us that God does not tempt any man. "For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: but every man is tempted (with evil) when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed" (James 1:13-14). The subject here is being tempted with evil, or seduced to commit evil, and GOD DOES NOT SO TEMPT ANY MAN. God does not solicit people to do wrong. But the underlying meaning of the word is more specific than that and the Greek word in the New Testament indicates the idea of trial, testing, or proof ó that which tests or examines or proves the moral or spiritual quality, character, condition or standing of a person. In this sense it is perfectly true that OUR HEAVENLY FATHER DOES LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION!
THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
There is a remarkable analogy between the last half of the Lordís prayer and the ideas, expressions, and terminology in the record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. This can be seen from the following table of texts:
Sharing our humanity, being made in the likeness of sinful flesh, Jesus had the same sinful nature we have. Now do not mistake what I say! I do not say that Jesus had the same fallen condition of Adam ó I say that He had the same sinful nature Adam has and had from the beginning. The question is just this ó when did Adam get his sinful nature ó before he sinned, or only after he sinned? A sinful nature is simply a nature that sins or that is liable to sin. If Adam would not have been created with a nature capable of sinning, how, I ask, could he ever have been tempted? How could he have sinned? The correct answer to these questions reveals to our spiritual understanding the amazing fact that the sinful nature had to precede the first sin, not follow it. You see, my beloved, an untemptable nature cannot be tempted, and an unsinful nature cannot sin! Can we not see the simple truth that it was not the act of sinning that gave Adam the sinful nature ó rather, it was the sinful nature that caused him to sin!
It was therefore necessary for Christ Jesus to come in exactly the same state as the first Adam was in before he sinned, plunging the race into death. He could not have been tempted otherwise, but He was subject to all the temptations man is subject to. "He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin." "He suffered, being tempted." The suffering was not suffering surrounding the cross. In order to be a perfect sacrifice He had to be perfected before He went to the cross. It was through the years that He lived as a man, that He suffered through temptation. You and I havenít suffered much this way, because when the temptation gets too severe, we fold! He couldnít yield, He couldnít sin, for if He had He could never have been our perfect sin-offering required to redeem the race. So He resisted and overcame all temptation, and this must have been excruciatingly difficult for Him to do many times, for He had all the desires and inclinations of the human, sinful nature to battle with.
I would draw your reverent attention to these significant words of inspiration: "Let this same attitude and purpose and mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus ó Who, although being...one with God and in the form of God, possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God, did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained; but stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity so as to assume the guise of a servant, in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form He abased and humbled Himself still further and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! Therefore God has highly exalted Him..." (Phil. 2:5-9, Amplified).
The great truth we want to grasp here is that Christ dwelt from eternity in the form, the essence, the nature and the being of God. In that divine nature He was eternal, untemptable and incorruptible. But when He laid aside that glory, emptying Himself of it, taking upon Him the form and nature of man, He, the ETERNAL ONE, subjected Himself to the dread power of death, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. When the Christ laid aside His eternal heavenly glory, the UNTEMPTABLE ONE took upon Himself all the frailties and weaknesses of human nature so that the One who cannot be tempted was found in a nature that could be tempted and indeed He was in all points tempted like as we are. We quoted the words of the apostle James earlier wherein he says, "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin."
Was Jesus truly tempted in all points like as we are, or did He have some mystical advantage over us, some inherent quality of divinity, some unique spiritual power that enabled Him to be oblivious to the cravings and demands of the flesh? Anything, to be a temptation for us, must excite something within us that responds to the temptation. That for which we have no desire or inclination, can never tempt us. It has no seducing power over us. I used to think, as many do, that Jesus was so high and holy that He could not be affected by the base things that allure us. I was quite certain that no lewd woman ever caught His eye, that no impure thought ever entered His mind, that no unholy emotion ever stirred within His gut. Ah, He was indeed high and holy, for that is the path He chose ó but He could be touched by all the infirmities, weaknesses, and feelings that touch us. While some may still find it hard to believe, because of our superstitious religious view of Christ, He knows exactly how the person feels who is tempted to lie, cheat, curse, steal, murder, or commit adultery. There had to be the susceptibility in His flesh, the inclination to answer the temptation, but, blessed be God! HE OVERCAME IT ALL! He was tempted in every point as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN. That is the blessed truth that clusters about the person of Jesus. That is the mystery with deep and inexhaustible meaning. Therein are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. As we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so He had the indwelling of the Father and by that overcame all temptation and in the one instance of His intense desire to go His own way, He resisted even unto blood. He was the first to do this and HE ENTERED INTO IMMORTALITY AND INCORRUPTION.
There is something diabolical about temptation, something satanically bewitching and bewildering. It stirs up our senses and excites our emotions and passions. For the time being the forbidden thing seems more important than anything else in the world. It weakens our powers of judgment, both moral and spiritual. People who are otherwise very intelligent and self-controlled will in a brief season of temptation commit wholly unthinkable follies ó which they often live to regret a whole lifetime afterwards. It paralyzes our will. Our many good resolutions melt like wax in the hour of temptation. All this temptation frequently does simply by being permitted to press in upon us. It is like chloroform. If it gets too close to us, it will deprive us of the very possibility of offering resistance. Temptation comes fast enough without seeking it. It visits the maiden in her innocent dreams, and the saint in his rapture of devotion. It knocks at the door of the prophet, priest, and king. It creeps behind Christ on the very mount of transfiguration. It besets us behind and before, and lays its dreadful hand upon us.
But, praise God, God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation make a way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it (I Cor. 10:13). May God in His great mercy give us a true insight into the glory of what is offered us in this truth ó that our great High Priest, whom we have in the heavenlies, is One who is able to sympathize with us in each and every circumstance, because He knows, from personal experience, exactly what we feel and face. Yes, that God might give us courage to draw nigh unto Him, He has placed upon the throne of heaven One out of our midst, of whom we can be certain that, because He Himself lived on earth as a man, He understands us perfectly, is prepared to have patience with our weakness, and give us just the help we need to overcome and enter into His glory.
May God give us eyes to see and hearts to understand the depth of the mystery of which I now write. Had the Logos, the Word of God, remained in that bright glory world above, in that spiritual dimension detached from this realm of flesh and corruptibility, He might have been ever so desirous to help us and lift us up to godhood: but, if He had never tasted death, how could He allay our fears as we tread the verge of Jordan? If He had never been tempted, how could He succor them that are tempted? If He had never wept, how could He dry our tears? If He had never suffered, hungered, wearied on the hill of difficulty, or threaded His way through the quagmires of weakness and grief, how could He have been a merciful and faithful High Priest, having compassion on the ignorant and wayward? But, thank God, our High Priest is a perfect one! He is perfectly adapted to His task, and is able to lead each and every member of Godís elect out of this valley of the shadow of death over into the victory and glory of perfection and incorruptibility! Is not perfection and incorruptibility what we hunger for and plead for when we pray that sonship prayer, "Lead us not into temptation!" It is a reaching out to a realm beyond the trials, testings and provings, where the victory is complete and we stand in the stability of the mind of Christ and the majesty of the image of God. Only a son, in the knowledge of his divine destiny, can truly pray such a prayer. A spiritual babe may make the request in an effort to be spared the distress of temptation, but the son looks beyond the testing to the triumph of maturity and fullness in God.
When our Lord Jesus was ready to begin His great sonship ministry on earth, He was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Mk. 1:12; Mat. 4:1). What a strange statement! The Holy Spirit drives the Son of God into the wilderness to be tempted by satan, the arch enemy of all righteousness, a murderer from the beginning, and the father of lies! Ah, but it was necessary that the Son be PROVEN, made STRONG, to OVERCOME in these realms before proceeding on into His glorious ministry and the agony and death of the cross.
Do you suppose the devil came to Jesus there as a weird-looking figure, with little, evil-looking horns protruding from his temples, and a pointed tail? How often with our childish understanding and distorted perception have we pictured Jesus confronted by that legendary figure in the red suit, with a pitchfork in his hands! This is naught but foolishness for satan is spirit, even that spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). How many times have you been tempted by the devil? Can you count the times? How often has he spoken to you, enticing, suggesting, compelling? Have you ever seen him? Have you heard his audible voice? Then what makes you think that he came to Jesus in that way. Satan has come to all of us, we have sensed his presence, we have heard his voice, we have felt his power. But it was all in our mind, in our emotions. And does not our Lord, the Spirit of Truth, speak to us in the same way? Do men see an apparition of Jesus every time the voice of God comes to them? Do they hear audible words? Not at all! The still small voice, the inner urging, the inward knowing, the spiritual consciousness ó all from a dimension beyond the natural senses. Because it all happens in our mind, heart, emotions and spirit does not mean that it is imagination or hallucination! In the depths of my spirit I am absolutely certain that there was not some hideous spirit-being materializing before the eyes of Jesus in that Judean wilderness.
Remember ó Jesus was not only the Son of God, He was the Son of man. And being both He was capable not only of hearing from God, but hearing those things that be of man. So when we speak of that ancient serpent which is the devil and satan, we are not talking about a beautiful and glorious fallen angel, but that mind which savors the things of man ó the carnal mind. The carnal mind is the ground where the serpent crawls. The flesh nature is the dust that he feeds upon (Gen. 3:14). The apostle James put it this way: "Everyone is tempted when he is beguiled and allured by his own desire; the desire conceives and breeds sin, while sin matures and gives birth to death" (James 1:14-15, Moffat). Everyone has desires of one kind or another, and that really can be quite natural. When we see the word "lust" as it is stated in the King James Bible, Christians most often think exclusively in a negative, sensual, or sexual context. The word simply means desire, and a personís desires are not always evil. The Greek word EPITHUMIA is translated primarily as "lust" in the King James Bible, but the same word is also translated "desire" in Luke 22:15 where our Lord Himself told His disciples how much He longed (desired, lusted) to eat the Passover with them. A related Greek word, EPITHUMEO, is often rendered "desire" and is used in several places in a positive context, as in desiring to know the things of God (Mat. 13:17). Even in the things of the spirit one must keenly discern between his own desire and the desire of the Spirit.
The record states that after fasting for forty days, Jesus hungered. When youíre hungry, what kind of desire do you have? You want to eat! In that crucial moment the Tempter came to Him. He began to feel the physiological pangs of hunger, and then the thought occurred to Him. Jesus dropped down from the high and holy thought of God, into the reasoning of the human mind. He descended in consciousness from the Son of God to the Son of man. An idea came to Him. He said, "I know who I am; I can turn these stones into bread." And in His natural mind the voice cunningly suggested, "If you are who you think you are, if you are indeed the Son of God, go ahead and do it! There would be nothing wrong in using your sonship power to fill your belly! It can not only bless others, you can also use it to satisfy your own needs and desires!" But Jesus quickly discerned that wily devil and knew how to nip that idea in the bud before it had time to blossom. He saw that if today He used the power to make bread, tomorrow He would use it to amass wealth, and finally the vision of God would be lost in the catering to His own flesh. He got to this seed of lust before it could conceive, before it could start making a baby of sin. Jesus answered out of the depths of His spirit, "It is written ó man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Mat. 4:4). He ascended to that place in spiritual consciousness where He knew that even if He had no bread He need not die ó He could LIVE BY THE WORD OF GOD! And that ended the temptation.
The battle lay not with some mythical personage outside of Himself. The conflict was within. The voice was an inner voice. The suggestion was in His mind, its power in His emotions and will. God speaks to us in our mind and spirit. Satan also speaks in our mind and emotions. There is no monster without. There are three things in this vast world, and only three ó the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; briefly, appetite, avarice, and ambition. These are the power of satan. I do not think you will be able to avoid the conclusion that all the inventions, creations and contrivances of man are in existence to cater to these three things. It was with these three things that Eve was tempted in the garden. She saw the tree was good for food (the lust of the eyes), a tree to be desired (the lust of the flesh), a tree to make one wise (the pride of life), and the temptation was not from without but from within. How remarkably the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness parallel these three! Every temptation of the devil comes to us through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. There are no others. Not for Adam and Eve, not for Jesus, and not for us.
The second temptation of Jesus was that He throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple ó naturally, on the Sabbath when a great crowd would be present to be astonished by the feat. No harm would come to Him for God had promised to send His angels to care for Him. And the multitude, amazed, would follow Him! What better way to prove His sonship and launch His ministry. This second temptation too has a seductive grandeur about it. For what it means is that the Tempter is challenging the Son of God to indulge in the worldly methods of publicity, propaganda, and sensationalism. Sadly, many of the popular healing preachers and televangelists of our generation have been deceived by this temptation and have succumbed to its wiles. Jesus quite consciously passed up the great chances and the great moments for making propaganda in His life. When He had the chance to speak to great crowds, when He might have taken advantage of the wildest ovations of enthusiastic hearers, He made His way through the midst of them and went away to be alone with God or to minister to a sick person or a burdened conscience. This was precisely the time when He turned to the individual, who was completely lacking in influence and could not make Him king except in his heart and life.
Again, for the third temptation, the devil took Jesus up on an exceeding high mountain ó to the very heights of the dominion of men ó and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. He saw what gave them their power and made them great. He saw the fame and fortune that could be His by seizing the reins of the government of the world. And satan said to Him, "All these will I give thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me." When the Tempter came thus to Jesus he came as an angel of light, offering suggestions on how His messianic mission might be more quickly and effectively implemented and realized. He offered the kingdoms of earth to Jesus if He would bow to the shrewd worldly wisdom the adversary outlined in His mind by which He could have used His sonship power to conquer the might of the Roman empire. I do not doubt for one moment that what tempted Jesus was a MASTER PLAN outlined by the carnal mind that seemed to promise success in the rapid and effectual establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
Jesus is here confronted with the question: Shall I win the world through self-effort, by worldly methods, by military might, by force of power, conquer it, in order to bring it salvation? Does the end justify the means? Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon all faced a similar question. For they too did not merely have an eye to conquest. In the back of their minds, though naturally on a much lower plane than the divine and exalted level of Jesus, was the desire for welfare and peace. They would ruthlessly overrun the people for their good! Any means were justified by the end. But the vision of Jesus is as clear as sunlight. He realized that the plan was no inspiration from His Father, and was therefore earthly, sensual, devilish. To adopt it would be to "fall down and worship" the god of this world.
It is impossible to possess the world, or to conquer it by carnal means, even for God, without loss of purity, without using guile and force, without trampling menís lives, killing, destroying, plundering and locking up masses of men in prisons, which is equivalent to worshipping the very devil whom we intend to drive out. "If Thou wilt fall down and worship me." Accordingly the clear and lofty answer wells out from the holy soul of the Son of God: "It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve!" In other words, Godís business can only be done in Godís way and by Godís power! Here we can marvel at the loftiness of the Pattern Son. In an instant He passes through the sum total of the experiences that we encounter in innumerable succession on our spiritual pilgrimage into sonship to God. Once and for all, without hesitation or reservation, He renounces the whole world and its allurements small and great and He gives us that glorious reply to help us in our journey into the fullness of God and to the throne of universal dominion: "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve!" May God make this wonderfully real to the heart of every elect son of God.
So Jesus saw through the intoxicating visions and glittering prospects which the devil conjured up before Him. He renounced worldly power ó even the power that He might have used in a "spiritual way" for His purpose, the establishing of the Kingdom of God. Multitudes of Christians today have been deceived by this very temptation as they seek political power within the institutions of this world, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, political action, parades, demonstrations, marches, registering voters, clamoring for social and/or military action by our government in the name of justice and right, falling down and worshiping the god of THIS WORLD in their weak and futile efforts by such carnal means to establish the Kingdom of God in the land! Jesus understood the true nature of all things and He knew that the very substance of His message would be altered and falsified if the child were put under the compulsion of law or government to go back home to the Father. For then the child would become a slave and the Father a tyrant.
Righteousness cannot be legislated. You cannot turn America or any other nation back to God with laws or any kind of governmental authority. You can put prayer back in the schools, but they will be carnal prayers that will rise no higher than the ceiling. You can outlaw this and that sin, but it will not change the hearts of men one iota. What the world needs today is not laws or government or military might to establish righteousness ó men must experience regeneration, transformation, a new birth from above. This is only effected by SPIRITUAL POWER. The Kingdom of God can only be established in the earth by the spiritual power that changes men and makes them new creatures in Christ Jesus. "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God," is what Jesus taught. Once a man is born again by the Spirit of God you need no laws to enforce righteousness upon him. Once a nation turns to the Lord it will change the government ó but government cannot turn men to the Lord! The so-called "Christian Right" in America today has the cart before the horse. They have the whole thing backwards. Their mission will fail. They cannot and will not bring America back to God through the ballot box. I tell you as a prophet of God that political action and organization by the religious people in the United States or anywhere else will not return the nation to its Christian roots and heritage. They are barking up the wrong tree. Only the mighty saving, delivering, transforming power of God can accomplish the work. And another "revival" is not on the agenda. We have had our last revival. There will not be another. There will be movements called revivals, but they will be soulish, although to the carnal mind they will appear spiritual.
I am not praying for another revival. I am not a revivalist. I am a Kingdomite! I am a son of the Kingdom, an announcer of the Kingdom, a proclaimer of the Kingdom, an ambassador of the Kingdom of God. A Kingdomite is the opposite of a revivalist. Instead of advocating and praying for a move of God that is limited in scope and returns from time to time, the Kingdom Ambassador views the presence and rule of God as perpetual, constant, progressive ó never vacillating and never retrogressing. Our God is abiding and progressing from glory to glory, from realm to realm, from age to age ó not sleeping and awaking. He is in control of all that happens, good and evil, and works all things after the counsel of His own will. The Kingdom sons are builders who build a place for God to inhabit permanently ó not a resort for Him to visit occasionally. I want to be a builder! What God desires in this hour is a place to stay, a temple to dwell in, a throne to sit upon, a nature to be formed in, a Kingdom to rule from. The sons of God today are about their Fatherís business, growing in stature unto maturity, preparing for the manifestation of God that surpasses all revivals and movements of history. This is not the time to be trying to save the old, passing order. This is the hour to arise and step into the new order for Godís New Day.
It is my deep conviction that the time appointed of the Father for the manifestation of the sons of God is nigh at hand. Sons of God shout it loud and clear! Let the earth know her redemption draweth nigh! The King of love is coming! Hallelujah! The Deliverer is coming, the whole Christ-body is being prepared, and the time is at hand. While the religious systems "play church" and the Christians "dabble in politics" trying to save the nation and the world, the royal heralds are going forth blowing their trumpets, proclaiming the message of the Kingdom in the power of the Spirit, preparing the stage for the appearing of the KING in a vast company of the sons of God ó the King in the midst of the kings! What a glorious and mighty victory lies before us!
As we consider the call of God in sonship for this hour, let us look unto Jesus who is our Pattern and Forerunner. When He was tempted to merge the power of the Spirit with the methods of the world in order to bring the Kingdom of God to pass in the earth, He rose up from the place where the kingdoms of the world shimmered before Him, where crowns flashed and banners rustled, and hosts of enthusiastic people were ready to acclaim Him, and quietly walked the way of poverty and suffering to the cross. He walked the road where the great and the rich of this world will despise Him, but where He is the brother of sinners, the companion of the forsaken and lonely, the sharer of the lot of all who know not where to lay their head, the comrade of the insulted and injured, to whom He reaches out with the power of divine love. He chose to walk the way of the cross and of obedience to the ways of His Father, He who could have possessed the whole world. And that is why the story closes with the angels ministering unto Him.
Did He stake His life on the wrong card, this Jesus of Nazareth? Did He make a bad exchange when in the hour of temptation He preferred the ministration of angels and the presence of the Father to the riches and honor of this world? If He had accepted the riches of this world and their "glory" He would be forgotten today. He would have become a great king in history, recorded in the history books of our schools. He would have become a venerated museum piece ó if He had signed the pact with the devil. But because He suffered and in suffering learned obedience, He has become our Elder Brother and our King, and therefore we too know that this sonship is our destiny; with the crown and the throne and the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek.
If there is one lesson every son of God needs to learn it is this: One must not, yea, cannot, utilize the strength of the flesh or the ways of the world to promote and build the Kingdom of God! This is the third temptation, the final test for every son of God. It is confidence in the flesh that motivates men to busily and craftily work for God rather than seeking the Lord until He works. It is Self doing what the Spirit alone can do; it is the Soul taking the lead, in the hope that the Spirit will second its efforts, instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to lead and to do all, and then waiting on Him. Oh, brethren, how we need to watch this! I would rather spend my whole life doing nothing while waiting upon God, than to do everything in the strength of the flesh. All that is not of the Spirit is merely the good of man ó soulish. It has no place or reward in the Kingdom of God.
How many of our religious exercises have been soulish! I can tell you of a truth that most of the "power" in the modern "revival meeting" is nothing at all but soul power. Have you not noticed yourself that in many church services, revival meetings and crusades a kind of atmosphere is first created psychologically to make the people feel warm and excited? A chorus is repeated again and again to "warm up" the audience. The people are feverishly urged to "get in the spirit" of the meeting. Some stirring stories are told. Special music is sung. The people are instructed to stand up, sit down, say "Amen!" and "Praise the Lord!" When the atmosphere is thoroughly heated up then the "gifts" will operate after which the preacher will stand up and preach. If he does his job skillfully he can anticipate a large "altar call." These are methods and tactics, but they are not the power of the Holy Spirit!
Many preachers today think they have power (including some in this message of sonship and the Kingdom of God); but they are merely employing psychological soul power to influence people and manipulate congregations. Many have become self-made experts in manipulating people and crowds. The Bible Schools of Babylonís religious systems offer a course for ministerial students called homiletics. Homiletics is the art of writing and preaching sermons. The sad truth is that the vast majority of religious activities is just that ó an art. You can go to school and LEARN HOW TO DO IT! How to prepare sermons. How to speak persuasively. How to use gestures. How to tell jokes. How to preach. How to stir peopleís emotions. How to win friends and influence people. This all seems so desirable, so good! But I say to you that you can learn these very same psychological techniques, apply them in the business world, and sell vacuum cleaners! The fact is, most all salesmen employ these same proven procedures of presentation, sentimentalism and pressure to sell insurance, automobiles, real estate, and thousands of other items daily! They donít need any Holy Spirit to do it, either! All that is necessary is some good human personality mixed with some proven techniques and one can persuade people to buy almost anything! These are means and methods, but they are not the power nor work of the Holy Spirit. They are no more spiritual when used religiously than they are when employed commercially. In the Kingdom of God they are flesh! To "minister" in that way is to fall down and worship the god of this world!
The carnal methods and programs of the church systems appear so appealing to the carnal mind. The old Greek legends speak of the syrens ó creatures half women, half fish ó who lived upon the rocks and could sing the most ravishing songs. So entrancing was the music that who ever heard it was irresistibly drawn to the singers. But it was woe to them; for the rocks whereon the syrens lived were strewn with the bones of dead men who had listened to their song and yielded to its fascination. That syrenís song is still being sung, and every son of God on his voyage to the golden shores of the Kingdom hears it. The gaudy, swaggering, harlot religious systems which masquerade today as "the church" are the syrens of today. Who has not heard their song? Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we hear its luring, tempting strains. God grant, brethren, we may not yield ó for yielding still means destruction and death ó the beautiful hope of sonship dashed upon the shoals of tradition and flesh!
There is no life in rituals, ceremonies, programs, traditions, ordinances, methods, techniques, or formulas. How much better it would be if the Lordís servants would expend their energies, like Mary of old, at His feet, learning to know Him and to know His ways. How much better it would be were the time spent on our knees, humbled and low before God, that He might place within a deep distrust of the flesh. How I pray that God would truly reveal to all those apprehended of God that the one great hindrance to the life of sonship is the power of the flesh and the efforts of the self-life. Open our eyes, we pray Thee, to this snare of the adversary. May we all see how secret and how subtle is the temptation to have confidence in the flesh, how easily we are led to try and perfect in the flesh what has been begun in the Spirit. May we learn to trust Thee to work in us by Thy Holy Spirit, both to will and to do only those things which THOU ART DOING!
Today, after receiving the Fatherís call to sonship, after partaking of the deep and vital dealings of the Spirit of God, I have had to totally repudiate all such soulish wisdom of the carnal mind, all such fleshly tactics of Babylonís kingdom to bow low before the disciplines of the Father of sons, to travail mightily that God would bend me, break me, bind my soul power, bridle my Self, and block all that would proceed from my carnal mind. If I have learned anything of the ways of the Father I have learned this one thing: He who would be a son of God must be able to discern between what is done by his soul power and what is done by the Spirit of God; further, he must confess and utterly forsake all that pertains to his own soul power, nailing it to the cross of Christ, that ultimately his own faith, as well as that of his hearers, may be found to stand solely in the power of God and not in the wisdom of the flesh. This is the only route, my dear brother and sister, into the glorious reality of sonship to God. Only when this temptation is passed will the angels of God come and minister to you; only then will you leave your wilderness in the power of the Spirit to deliver creation. All the good works of the soulish realm can never, in a billion years, deliver the creation from its bondage to the tyranny of corruption. Only the mighty working of THE FATHER WITHIN can accomplish this. It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. May the Spirit of Truth impress these words deeply upon the minds, and write them indelibly within the hearts of all who read these lines. Amen.
"Lead us not into temptation" is not a cry to escape temptation and testing. It is the longing within every son to PASS THE TEST, to pass EVERY TEST, to pass the LAST GREAT TEST, to obtain the victory at last over every vestige of the world, the flesh and the devil. We are walking out and fulfilling our period of trials and chastisement, and are being prepared by those trials. The hope and promise of full salvation is our goal, for Father has chosen us to receive that promise. This prayer articulates the desire in the breast of every son to come at last to the full stature of Jesus Christ, to be a full overcomer, to have completely and only the mind of Christ, to stand in the power of the resurrection as the image and likeness of God. It asks to be led BEYOND TEMPTATION. It anticipates the formation of the eternal, unchangeable, untemptable nature of God as our very own reality. Almighty Father! Lead us not into temptation, lead us beyond the temptable realm, deliver us from all evil, let every lesson be fully learned, that we may stand on mount Zion with the Fatherís name written in our foreheads. This is the goal and the consummation of the life of sonship. This is the power and the glory of the Kingdom of God. Amen and amen.
To be continued...J. PRESTON EBY [HOME] [KINGDOM RESOURCES]