I don’t know about where you live, but here in Mississippi, we have an abundance of Bradford Pear Trees.
And while I love their snowy white blossoms in the spring and their vibrant reds in the fall . . .
I came to a grim realization last spring while standing near a row of blooming Bradford Pears. Those beautiful white blossoms stink. Until I figured out where the smell was coming from, I was searching for a sewage leak. Yeah, they smell that bad.
This year as the Bradford Pears began blooming, I couldn’t help but reflect on the stark contrast between their beauty and their less than favorable fragrance, and I thought, “There’s a sermon there somewhere, I’m sure.” Since I won’t be preaching anytime soon , I decided the idea would make a good Bible study instead.
Just as those stinky Bradford Pear blossoms are a breathtaking beauty to behold, the Bible warns the same will at times be true of Satan and the temptations he brings our way.
Interesting, isn’t it? How often do we picture Satan as this ugly little red guy with horns, holding a pitchfork, when the Bible tells us he disguises himself as an angel of light. And not only does he try to manifest himself in a favorable light, he seeks to present sin and evil as something of beauty as well; otherwise, he’d probably never get too many takers. His tricks go back as far as the Garden of Eden.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:1-6
Notice the subtle tactics the serpent used in his ploy to deceive Eve. He appealed to her flesh, making what God had called sin (disobedience) look like something good. Kind of like those beautiful Bradford Pear blossoms that smell so rank. From a distance they are appealing to the eye . . .
. . . but when you get up close and personal, they stink. Isn’t that the way sin is? From a distance, it often looks good, even looks like fun, like something that will bring us pleasure. But once we get up close, once we take the plunge and indulge ourselves, we discover the pleasing appeal wasn’t so great after all. And before we know it, we’re looking around for that sewage leak, wondering how something that looked so enchanting could smell so bad.
When Satan approached Eve in the Garden of Eden, he used the same three tactics the Apostle John spoke of in I John 2:15-16. And before we’re tempted to be too hard on ole Eve, let’s ask ourselves if the enemy has ever successfully enticed us to sin by using the very same lures.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
The lust of the flesh: When the woman saw that the tree was good for food . . .
The lust of the eyes: and that it was a delight to the eyes . . .
The boastful pride of life: and the tree was desirable to make one wise . . .
How about it? Have you ever been enticed by the lust of the flesh? Have you ever given into a fleshly craving you knew God’s word said was a sin? How about the lust of the eyes? Ever seen something you just had to have, even if it meant spending money you didn’t have, or compromising your beliefs in someway? And finally, ever been drawn into sin by the boastful pride of life? Ever thought a little too highly of yourself, your accomplishments, your position in life or work compared to someone else’s? Ever given into spiritual pride, comparing your biblical knowledge or the closeness of your relationship with God to someone else’s? Ever looked down on someone less fortunate than you?
If we’re honest, I believe we have all fallen prey at one time or another to at least one, if not all, of these lures of the enemy. Which means, we’re not different from Eve.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Satan used two of these tactics on Jesus when he appeared to Him in the wilderness, following Jesus’ baptism.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He fasted forty days and nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” (the lust of the flesh – to feed His physical hunger) But Jesus answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” (The boastful pride of life) Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only.’”
Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Matthew 4:1-11
During a time of severe testing, Jesus set an example for us to follow whenever we are facing temptation. How did He respond to the enticements Satan put before Him? He used the sword of the Spirit: and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17). He used scripture from what we know today as the Old Testament as He stood firm against the lies and temptations of the enemy. What worked for Jesus, will work just as well for us. However, we cannot use our Sword if we don’t know what God’s word says. And we’ll never know the depths of His word unless we’re spending quality time reading and studying the Bible.
One note of warning: Notice in the second temptation, Satan also used God’s word. What does that mean for us today? We need to be aware of other religious groups who use bits and pieces of God’s word and call themselves Christian, but are not. Do not be deceived. The world today abounds with false prophets and teachers; People who often use twisted versions of God’s word in order to lead others astray.
As believers we need to be examining everything under the microscope of the whole counsel of God’s word. Taken out of context, many verses and passages can be made to say something completely different from what God intended if we were to look at it in context. This too is one way Satan is tempting believers today. Don’t fall victim to his schemes, no matter how pretty it may look or how good it may sound. Remember, once you get up close and personal, it may stink.
This week at my bungalow retreat, where I depict country living, bungalow style: Fence Sitting. Hope you have a minute to drop by. www.bungalowretreat.com