Sometimes it can feel like the world is full of temptations pulling us away from God – and it seems almost impossible to resist. How do followers of Jesus deal with a world that seems to encouraging us to act on our immediate desires?
A study on Luke 4:1-3 for young adults from the Society of Salt and Light, in Christchurch.
A quick introduction to the week’s bible passages and theme, which aims to engage people in the big picture of God’s story, and the challenge of living faith in light of that.
People loved the Twilight films. (Well, teenage girls actually). In fact, Vampires have been the in thing for a while now. How could a murdering, torturing, un-human thing with giant fangs be so appealing? Vampires have become the ultimate symbol of temptation; lust, desire, uncontrollable urges, addiction.
It seems as if people are faced with more temptations in life, yet have less self control to deal with them. For example, in the 1950’s advertisements would boast about the quality of a product. In the 1980’s they would use celebrity endorsements. But today advertisements make a promise less about the quality of a product and more about an imagined lifestyle that owning the product can somehow provide. By owning this kind of car, or using this kind of potato peeler, advertisers imply with a wink that we’ll discover our identity and move closer to having a meaningful life. But it’s not just products that tempt us. We struggle to not act on our constant desires for food, sexual pleasure, violence and entertainment too. We’re used to getting what we want when we want it, and saying no to something we desire can seem virtually impossible.
But in the season of Lent we journey with Jesus into the Wilderness to face our deepest temptations. Sure, many of us will give up coffee or chocolate or Facebook as a nod to resisting temptation. But what we encounter in the Wilderness is something that hits our deepest desires – the temptation to be comfortable (bread), to be in control (devil worship), and to be safe (temple jumping). The devil attempts to sow mistrust in Jesus’ and our own faith in God, by asking “What if you go hungry? What if you don’t have enough? How do you really know you can trust God?”
St Augustine famously said about God, “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” So what things present themselves as perfectly shaped to fill our own God-shaped hole? What things are we tempted to look to in hope of eliminating that “original insecurity” that beats within us? And can we really resist the overwhelming desires of the flesh and heart that lead us away from God’s will towards a smorgasbord of tempting substitutes?
For the Scholars
Discussion questions focusing on exploring the bible passage.
1. Why is the idea of ‘temptation’ sexy?
2. Last week we read about Jesus facing temptation in the wilderness in Luke chapter 4. What did we see happen there for the first time?
READ Luke 4:1-13, taking note of the kinds of temptation Jesus faced.
3. Although Jesus’ experience was unique as the testing of the Son of God, we still face echoes of it as humans living in a fallen world. So, for each temptation:
- a. What was at the heart of the temptation for Jesus – what was the devil trying to get him to do, and how was he trying to entice him to do it?
- b. Can you see parallels to this temptation in your own life? Where is this sort of thing tempting for you?
- c. Are there any specific ways you can see that Jesus’ response here might help you in that situation?
4. After Jesus’ victory in resisting temptation, we have hope when we face temptation. Why do you think it doesn’t feel like that sometimes?
5. When we feel utterly hopeless in the face of temptation (or like we will just repeat our past failures), how might the reality of what Jesus did, which we see in Luke 4, give us hope again?
READ 1 Corinthians 10:13
FOR THE DREAMERS
Discussion questions focusing on mulling over the theme.
1. Why do you think the idea of temptation has become so sexy in contemporary culture? Be honest now – do you find the idea of vampires appealing on some level?
2. Do you think Christians put too much emphasis on resisting temptation? Or too little? Do you think we can actually resist temptation – or does it just fuel a sense of perpetual guilt in the face of the things we can’t resist?
3. Do you think marketing and consumerism has meant our generation has become less able to resist temptation? Do you think advertising takes advantage of St Augustine’s “God-shaped hole” ? (see his quote in The Story)
4. Temptations aren’t about God populating the world with tasty treats that we’re not allowed to play with as a test – but more to do with putting God’s will and intentions for us first in our lives. Why do you think so many Christians struggle with this? Do you?
5. In the wilderness Jesus was tempted by comfort (bread), control (owning the world) and safety (jumping off temple). Most of us don’t find ourselves in the Wilderness chatting with the Devil too often. So what form do these deep temptations take for us today? Which of the three do you find most confronting in your own life?
6. After Jesus’ victory in resisting temptation, we have hope when we face temptation. Why do you think it doesn’t feel like that sometimes? Can you think of an event or aspect of your life when you managed to face down a nagging temptation? What lessons did you learn that might help others with their tempting challenges?