Temptation to a false good

The Old Testament reading for the first Sunday of Lent was about Satan’s successful temptation of Adam & Eve.  The New Testament reading was about Satan’s unsuccessful temptation of Jesus Christ.  That’s a good reminder about how Jesus not only paid the penalty for our sins; he also fulfilled the righteousness that we so painfully lack.

We had a great, great sermon about it.  Read it all–and I am going to make another post about it–but after the jump I excerpt a point that Pastor Douthwaite made about temptation, how we tend to be tempted not so much by overt evil but by evils that present themselves as being good.

From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Lent 1 Sermon:

Satan rarely tempts us directly to obvious and explicit evil, but more often to a false good. And so he dresses up sin and evil to look good, and makes it sound good, and convinces you it is good, and so leads you into sin. That’s what he did to Adam and Eve and the tree they were not to eat from. That’s how I portrayed his temptations to Jesus in the wilderness. And how does he do it in your life?

Well, there are surely many ways, but some of the most popular today are the ideas that God would want you to have this (whatever this is). God wants you to be happy (whatever happy is). God would not want you to do without. God does not want you to suffer (whatever you think your suffering is). And in the name of those so-called “truths” have come all manner of sins dressed up to look good.

But what all those so-called “truths” have in common is this: they have no word of God to back them up. And that’s why they’re all false goods. For God doesn’t want you to be happy – not necessarily. He wants you rather, and more importantly, to be His child and have eternal life. Those things may go together, but then again, they may not. And God may want you to do without something if He knows it’s not good for you, and He often uses suffering to work good in us. But satan is very good at what he does. He is not called deceiver for nothing. And he deceives us, luring us away from the Word of God to believe something else. But nothing else is good. Nothing else can give us life. Anything else may give us that false good that we think is good, but that in the end leads only to sin and death.

That’s why Jesus uses the Word of God against satan. It is true good against false good.

Tune in tomorrow for the Gospel part of this sermon!

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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