“The enemy within” is the title of a book recommended to me by my daughter in law. She and I compare notes regularly on things we’re learning in our respective journeys of faith.
As I was preparing for teaching at a Friday night Celebrate Recovery! event, I was reviewing Genesis 3:6 (Eve’s temptation in the garden), Matthew 4 :2-10 (Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness) and 1 John 2:16 (John’s summary of the nature of sin, characterized as “lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life”). One of the challenges with people in a recovery program is getting them to see that the problem that they have is not external to themselves- someone or something that they are tempted to blame-but within them. But as one reads these scriptures,it is easy to see how we can attribute our temptations to something outside of ourselves, too. Eve’s problem began with the serpent. Jesus was tempted by the devil.
John says that “everything in the world (these temptations)…. comes not from the Father but from the world. He divides all of life into two neat categories- “of the world” and “of the Father” and makes it clear that the two are incompatible. Some of us have difficulty seeing, however, that we are “of the world” by nature, not “of the Father”.
Eve’s temptation came from outside of herself in the form of the serpent who knew just how to present the temptations so that all three of these weaknesses in human nature were touched- she saw that the fruit was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasing to the eye (lust of the eyes), and desirable for gaining wisdom (pride of life). And though the temptation was presented from outside of her, disobedience came from within. She knew what God had said, but she allowed herself to be deceived by the subtle twisting of His words by satan. That disobedience to the word spoken by God was the sin.
Jesus, too, was presented temptations that came from outside of himself. They were, in fact, the same ones that satan used to appeal to Eve- lust of the flesh (feed his hunger by turning stones to bread), lust of the eyes (to possess the nations and all their glory for himself), and pride of life (to test his value to God by throwing himself down from the mountain). But his response was obedience to the Word of God.
Two lives. Same temptations. Different responses.
Paul shows us the same dichotomy in Romans 8:13 “For if you live according to the flesh (the sinful nature), you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the flesh, you will live…” We all have the same choices that Eve and Jesus faced- to respond to the same three temptations. Whether we respond like Eve or like Jesus depends on whether we are “of the world” living according to the flesh or “of the Father” living according to the Spirit.