Practicing Rational Thinking in the Face of Temptation – A Study, Part 1

One of the most challenging ways of practicing rational thinking is dealing with temptation.  To borrow a computer term, you are the administrator of your mind.  The administrator determines who, or in this case, what has access.   God has empowered you to control what goes on in your mind.  I have worked as a network administrator.  We use different tools to manage and monitor who has access to the different areas and components of a network.

Lets examine how that idea can apply to our minds.  What level of control do we have and how do we implement this control?  What can we control and to what degree?

We cannot control what thoughts come into our heads, but we can control what we do with them.  Even Jesus, while on earth did not control what thoughts sought access to his mind, but He certainly controlled what happened to them once there.  In Matthew, chapter 4 we have the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness.  In this story Jesus was tempted in three different ways; self-fulfillment of physical needs, pride, and power.  Temptation comes in the form of thoughts.  The thoughts, or temptations, come to our head uninvited.  This is what Jesus was experiencing.  This was not the only time Jesus experienced temptation.  Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.”  Jesus was tempted in every way, yet He did not sin.  How was He able to accomplish that?

For the sake of discussion, consider temptations, or tempting thoughts, as ‘negative’ thoughts.  Lets look back at the fourth chapter of Matthew.   Each time a temptation, a tempting thought came to Jesus, He actively responded with a ‘positive’ thought.   Jesus’ source of positive thoughts was the scripture, the Word of God.  He responded to the thoughts of temptation with thoughts of the scripture.

First the tempter said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”   Well, Jesus was the Son of God.  That is a true statement, a true thought.  Jesus certainly could have turned the stones into bread.  He had turned water into wine.  Why not stones into bread?   In order for something to be tempting it must be a viable option.  Or at least it must appear to be a viable option.

This thought had entered Jesus mind and was a viable option.  Now what does He do with it?  He answered with, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’.”  Jesus had quoted Deuteronomy 8:3.

The other option for Jesus, and the option we too often choose, would have been to dwell on the tempting thoughts.  When Satan said to Jesus, via a tempting thought, saying “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”, he knew Jesus was hungry.  After all, He had been fasting for 40 days and nights.  Jesus could have responded to that thought by rationalizing, “Wow, I am hungry.  And you know, I am the Son of God and I’m sure my Father wouldn’t want me to go hungry.”  I need to keep my strength up to do ministry.  I have the power to turn these stones into bread for myself.  Why not do it?”  The longer He dwelt on the thought, entertained the thought, the more opportunity He would have given it to take root in His mind, or his soul. Jesus didn’t give it that opportunity. He fought back in His mind, in His soul.

This is the model, the process that Jesus used as he was tempted in every way and yet did not sin.  This is how He overcame.  Can we do this?  Absolutely!  The same tools are available to us.  In addition we have the example and the indwelling presence of THE LIVING WORD, Jesus to help us succeed.

With what was Jesus being tempted?  Eating is not sinful.  Performing miraculous acts is not sinful.  Why not perform the miracle and turn the stones into bread?  How did Jesus identify the author of the thoughts as Satan?  Remember, the thoughts came to Jesus mind as other thoughts do. He was not simply being tempted to eat or perform a miracle. He was being tempted to be self-serving and reject the very nature of a servant of the Father that he had assumed. This likewise is at the root of our temptations. The answer to all of these is his reliance on, his trust in and his knowledge of the scripture and the Holy Spirit. His determination was rooted in his supreme dedication to the will of his father.

We cannot control what thoughts come in to our head.  We will have negative thoughts.  We will have tempting thoughts.  We can, however, control what we do with these thoughts when they come.  Will we respond to them with positive thoughts, with thoughts from the scripture?  Or will we dwell on them, allowing them to take root in our mind and creating a quagmire that we wallow in?  God, and His Word, can and will deliver us and provide victory.

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