Something happens in the wilderness, and our identity is at risk. In the wild desert times of life we are interpreters of something vital.
Peter's denial of his impending denial in Matthew 26 is a reminder to every follower of Jesus that over-confidence is the first step toward falling. The more confident we are in our own dedication, devotion, and ability to withstand temptation the further down we have let our guard.
We are like a fighter who gets so confident in our ability, we start to let down our guard to a point when our formidable foe takes the chance we gave him in our over-confidence to knock us out.
When Jesus tells his disciples [us] that we will fall away, it ought to be a sobering reminder to take this seriously and realize we are not as strong as we think we are. We ought to humbly keep our guard up.
I once heard a speaker read through Romans 8, specifically the passage asking us, “What can separate us from the love of God….NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.” He went on to speak maybe 2 minutes and posed the question, “Now dialogue with me for a couple minutes. What kinds of things separate you from the love of God? What things separate us from the love of God?” Hands went up all over the place! Everyone had an answer. “Sin!” “Temptation!” “Peers!” “Choices!” “Expectations!
I was dumbfounded! We just read the passage 2 minutes before. Had we already forgotten? Did we really understand the first time? I could not believe it. We had just stood up and read aloud as a community in one voice that said, “NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.” Why is this so hard for us to believe that we forget a pointblank reading of it 2 minutes later?
Something is terribly wrong here!
We are convinced that so many things can actually separate us from the love of God. Yet, in a rare instance, the Bible is finely black and white on this issue. We have convinced ourselves that we can separate ourselves from the love of God.
I am of the mind and heart that we can be separated from God, but we cannot be separated from his love in a million years.
Living out here in California has separated me from my family with most of America between us. We all make choices and decisions that the others do not like. So granted, I am not as close to my mom, dad, and brothers as I used to be. We have been separated by geography. We have been separated by growth and life decisions and choices. Does my mom love me less than she ever did? No! Does my dad remove his love from me? Of course not! Have my brothers disowned me? No! They all still love me, and I still love all of them even though we are separated. Nothing can separate me from the love of my family.
Yes, our sin separates us from God. Our choices will sometimes place a hole, a distance between God and us. The less time I spend with God results in lost intimacy and connection. I can become disconnected and even separated from God.
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE ME FROM THE LOVE OF GOD
I wonder why that is so hard for us to understand. I took me years to realize the difference and its so simple.
I have been taking a very slow walk through the book of James. Coming to it nearly a verse per day! Though my personal time is at James 1:4 right now, I am still thinking a lot about 1:2.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
A stronger look at the word "trials" has revealed more than ever really noticed before. It comes from the Greek word pierasmos and it means "putting proof to". It is a sense of testing...it is a sens of temptation. Some translations actually read 'temptations'.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters when you face temptations of many kinds."
Now we cannot get too far away to forget the sense we originally understood of trials being similar to the difficulties, struggles, and tensions we face and here and now. These are suffering! We are not to think the author did not mean suffering or trials.
What we need to understad is that our suffering is temptation.
When we face trials, struggles, difficulties, and suffering, we are being tempted. We are facing pierasmos. We are being put to proof.
Regardless of the circumstances, when we are tempted, we are not sinning. It is when temptation places in front of us a decision whether or not to obey God's command's and we choose not to that we sin.
Now again, remember, our suffering is temptation.
When we are suffering, we are faced with a decision. We may choose to obey God's command in response to our suffering (which is to choose joy) OR we can choose sin and disobedience (which would be bitterness, anger, pity, etc.).
Each moment we face suffering or trials, we are being tempted, and we would do well to look to God and his Word for wisdom in what reactions and decisions to make in those moments.
It is not easier a temptation to face than lust, greed, or pride.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." - 1 Corinthians 10:13 Think of the temptation you face the most. What is the temptation it feels you constantly have before you? What is that thing which seems you will never get out from under?
Paul reminds us that no temptation is unique to you. Nothing you are tempted by is new to you. Countless people for centuries have faced the same temptation; you are not the only one.
This is NOT a "you can do it" statement, because it is important to recognize WHY God knows you could do it; because HE has provided a way to escape that temptation...should you choose to take that route. Many to most of us do not take the provided escape route. Otherwise we would not be speaking now of this recurring temptation, right?
Well perhaps we would, because temptation never ends. What can come to an end is the frequency by which we act on that temptation.
Though temptation will always come, God knows you can endure (without acting) only because he has always provided a way out (should you choose to take it).