Can God Understand Our Temptations?

We are told in the Bible that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we are capable of resisting (I Corinthians 10:13). We are told that just at the moment temptation comes to us most strongly, God will "provide a way out."

   Most of us, however, find it difficult to discover the nature of this "way out." We believe that God is equal to our temptations, but how is He equal? How do we lay hold of His power to resist the things which so strongly attract us? More deeply than this, how do we arrive at the place of wanting to resist certain temptations?

   I have personally discovered something of the nature of God's "way out" of temptation, as I have continued to discover the nature of God Himself. He does not command us to resist this or that in order to hold down our deepest desires. He commands as He does in order to release them. If we submit to Jesus Christ in one area, we ultimately find release in many other areas. But even when we have once experienced this, we still need willingness at times to want to obey Him. It is here that we

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must somehow see at last that He does not command from a distance. He has been in this human life Himself. "For not at all to angels did He reach out to help, but to the offspring of Abraham; so He had to be made like His brothers in every respect...."

   God Himself knew "He had to be made like His brothers in every respect." We dare not slide over this. Knowing us as He does, He knew that He could do nothing short of becoming one of us. There would be no other way we could really believe His total understanding of our human predicament. There is something of the skeptic in us all where obedience is concerned. We long to say, "Yes, but He was God. He could do it. I am a weak human being. I cannot." In one sense this is true. We must have the indwelling life of Christ within us in order to have power to take God's "way out" of temptation (see Chapter 13). But even before we come to the place of making use of His indwelling life, we often need to find the willingness to escape temptation. Indeed, at times, we need to find the "way out" itself. It is always there. We have God's word for that. But our circumstances, our heredity, our environment, our emotional disturbances, have caused us to erect such high barriers between ourselves and God, something must knock them down before our understanding can lay hold of His. Before we are willing even to discuss our deepest needs, we must know that the other person understands.

   God does understand human temptation. He understood it before He broke into human history in the Person of Jesus. But He understood it so well that He knew we would be tempted to believe that He does not understand!

   This lack of trust in God's ability to identify with us in all of our weaknesses is consciously or unconsciously behind every human struggle. We have allowed our very reverence for Him, our very realization of His holiness, of

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His power, to come between us and God. Unless we have dared to believe that God allowed Himself to be born into the human race, we keep Him so "high and lifted up" that we lose all hope of contact with Him in certain areas where our human temptations plague us.

   Surely, He is a Holy God, "high and lifted up." This we need to know before the fact of His visit to this earth in human form takes on the dynamic it must have for us. We need the background of the majestic, powerful God of the Old Testament. We need to be startled into the realization that this same God confined Himself to a human body. This realization is what begins to crush our barriers to His understanding of the earth-pulls of a daily human life.

   Once we see that the "high and lifted up" Holy One of Israel stripped Himself of everything but His God-heart for our sakes, we can do nothing but go to Him!

   If I did not believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ, I would not be a Christian. If I still believed Jesus of Nazareth to be merely one more Great Teacher, I would still be struggling along my dead-end road, vainly trying to fit His thinking into the pattern of several other great teachers in human history and mine into theirs. I know now that although He became utterly human, He also remained God. I tried, but could not accept the theory held by some that Jesus kept in such strict obedience and close contact with the Father that He became divine. Jesus Christ was in the beginning, and "without Him was not anything made that was made."

   He was the Word "with God, and the Word was God."

   But He did become utterly human. "Ours is not a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who was in every respect tempted as we have been — but without sin." He did not yield to temptation, but Jesus Christ was tempted — "in every respect as we have been."

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   A recent religious magazine article declared that the temptations of Jesus could not have been of the same earthly nature as ours. This leaves me cold. This robs His coming of much of its meaning. This is not what the Bible declares to be true.

   In all other religions man is reaching for God. Trying to attain Him. If I believed this were possible, I should probably be following another religion. I am a Christian because I see my own helplessness to reach God. I am a Christian because I now see clearly my own need to be lifted up. I am a Christian because I know that He reached down to me in Jesus Christ. And in order to get my attention and my confidence, "He had to be made like his brothers in every respect." He knew this was the only way I would not be afraid to look at Him openly and talk to Him honestly from my heart. He knew that if He had not come down here and entered the human struggle, something in us would always be a little afraid of looking up into His face as He sits on what seems to us a dazzling and almost frighteningly distant throne.

   I once heard His coming explained this way: Jesus of Nazareth is God's transformer. Before electricity can be of any use in a cottage or a skyscraper, it must pass through a transformer. Before it does, it is too powerful. The cottage and the office building would remain dark if it were not for the transformer, which brings the electrical power down to a place where it is useful in a light bulb.

   Jesus Christ brought God down to us; to the realm of our daily lives. He did not diminish God, He merely brought Him to us. We can grasp the character and the intentions of another human being. In Jesus, we can grasp God's character and intentions. In Jesus, anyone can know what God is like. No one human being can ever grasp all that Jesus tells us of the Father, but anyone can discover for himself that for all eternity we will never find one single contradiction among the members of the

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Godhead. The heart of the Father is the same as the heart of the Son, and the same heart motivates the Holy Spirit, who is simply God with us and in us now.

   James Crichton, the Scottish scholar and adventurer, once wrote: "The death of Christ is a great mystery; but His birth is even a greater. That He should live a human life at all is stranger than that, so living, He should die a human death. I can scarce get past His cradle in my wondering, to wonder at His cross. The infant Jesus is, in some views, a greater marvel than Jesus with the purple robe and the crown of thorns."

   That "He had to be made like His brothers in every respect," is God's great gesture of love toward us.

   He created us and He understands more about the workings of our minds and our emotions than any other living person. He, being God, and having His own holiness with which to contrast it, understands more about the shackling power of sin and the downpull of temptation than any other living person. He knows that we cannot, in our own strength, rise above it.

   And knowing this, He did what He had to do. He came down to us. He has been in it, too. Through His Holy Spirit, He is still in it with us. He knows. He not only knows because He is God, He knows because He has experienced human life. We have already said that from His side He did not need to experience it in order to know it, but He knew that from our side He did. If He had not come, He knew that we would forever try to hide from Him, secretly despairing of ever knowing Him in the strictly personal way He longs for us to know Him.

   In the next four chapters I want to share some of what His humanity has come to mean to me. Those among us who call ourselves evangelical Christians tend to miss much of what seems to me to be one of the major motivations of God's visit to this earth. We do not dwell enough on His humanity. Perhaps some are afraid of being called

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"liberal." I am no longer afraid of being called anything except "unliberal" in the love department. And my capacity to love has been steadily increased as I have seen more and more of why God chose to become a human being.

   God not only understands our temptations, He can discuss them with us. And we can feel free to discuss them with Him. "For ours is not a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who was in every respect tempted as we have been.... For not at all to angels did He reach out to help, but to the offspring of Abraham; so He had to be made like His brothers in every respect...."

   Fully realizing our plight, God saw what He had to do.

Chapter Eight  ||  Table of Contents