You can’t claim obedience until you’ve had the choice to disobey

Have you ever wanted something wrong so badly you couldn’t think about anything else? You can’t sleep. You can’t get anything done. It could be anything–person, place, or thing. Food or drink or money or power or fame or toys. Has the desire for that thing ever taken over and lured you into rationalizing that it’s okay for you to have it or to do it?

Everybody goes through that. Everyone has experienced that. Even Jesus did. He let Himself be put in a situation where He was extremely vulnerable to temptation, but He had a secret weapon. Know what it was?

AppleTemptToday’s verses are Matthew 4:1-11.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” 

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’ ” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ ” 

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” 

“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus. 

Firstly, it’s not a sin to eat bread. Let’s just get that little thing out of the way.

People sometimes wonder why Jesus put Himself in this situation. Well, I think it’s because He had to have the opportunity to disobey. Adam and Eve were tempted the same three ways (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, which repeats over and over throughout Scriptures) and failed. Jesus passed.

You can claim to be an obedient servant of God all you want, but until you’ve had the opportunity to disobey, you’re making stuff up. If you haven’t had the chance to choose between doing what God says versus doing what Satan wants or what you want, you can’t say you’re obedient or disobedient. Now, in our world, there’s ample opportunity to disobey, so it’s not like we need to go out looking for situations where we can face this choice. But it’s the principle we need to remember. Just because you believe in Jesus doesn’t make you obedient.

You realize, Jesus could have disobeyed if He wanted to. But He didn’t. He pulled out His secret weapon for overcoming the temptation. He stared Satan in the face and quoted Scripture at Him. Can you imagine what that scene must have looked like?

But does that really work? Can you quote a Bible verse and make temptation flee in terror? Honestly, Bible verses are just words. They’re like any other statement until you take them to heart and start living by them. Jesus believed that we need God more than we need food. He believed that He was secure enough in God’s love that He didn’t need to test the Lord. He believed that only God deserves to be worshiped. But more than just believing it, He let those beliefs direct His life choices. That’s what made the difference.

I think of Jesus as this conquering King who’s coming back to take over the world any day now, and He’ll ride across the skies in glorious splendor and take us all home where we won’t have to put up with this crazy world anymore. So it’s easy for me to forget that Jesus was human just like me. He faced the same temptations I do, but when he had to choose, he chose to obey the Bible, to depend on God, because God is right and true.

I am subject to the same passions and desires, but I don’t have to obey them. Instant gratification, insecurity, and pride are temptations that we all experience — but that doesn’t mean we have to accept them. I can choose not to sin. Jesus gave me that ability. Thanks to God, I have the power to do what is right, which will allow God to bless me.

You can quote all the Scripture you want, and it’s good to know it by heart. But until you actually live by it, they’ll just be words on a page. Jesus followed God’s Word–what God had revealed to the people at that time. So I need to do the same. Not just saying I know it, but doing it. Just like Jesus did.