What Does God Require of Me?
The God on the inside and the devil on the outside
Recently, I have noticed a painful habit in my spiritual life. When I feel a destructive impulse or think a destructive thought, one that would not please God, I instantly feel guilty and angry with myself. I feel that being tempted is wrong in and of itself; I think: "If I was stronger, I wouldn't have such desires". But, I was reminded today when I read Matthew 4 that Jesus was tempted by the devil just as we are. Temptation is not a sin; sin is a wrong choice made after temptation. Then I wondered, what made me think that temptation was wrong? And I think it has something to do with my perception of myself, my perception of Satan, and my perception of God.
Temptation makes me feel as if I am constantly falling short. Am I? Do I fall short of God's expectations? That led me to the biggest question: What does God require of me?
The CarrotAccording to the Bible, humans are created by God in His image (Genesis 1:7). We are different than other creatures because we are like God in the fact that we have a body, soul, and spirit. Our body allows us to physically exist, our soul allows us to eternally exist (after physical death), and our spirit allows us to commune with God.
We were created perfect, but because we chose sin, we now have a sin nature. We tend towards sin, we desire it. The sin nature--The Flesh--is a desire to do wrong, a weakness towards impure things. The Flesh is the way by which temptation enters our hearts. In the Bible there are three main temptations: The Lust of the Eyes, The Lust of the Flesh, and The Pride of Life. All three of these can be seen in Satan's initial temptation of the human race--his tempting of Eve.
"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat."--Genesis 3:6
She was tempted in all three ways.
- "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food"--Lust of the Flesh
- "And that it was pleasant to the eyes"--Lust of the Eyes
- "And a tree to be desired to make one wise,"--Pride of Life
First, Satan tempts Jesus with the Lust of the Flesh.
"And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."--Matthew 4:3Satan tempts Jesus with the Pride of Life.
"Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto Him, If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His angles charge concerning Thee; and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou shalt dash thy foot against a stone."--Matthew 4:5-6Satan tempts Jesus with the Lust of the Eyes.
"Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto Him, all these things will I give Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me."--Matthew 4:8-9If Jesus was tempted just as we are, temptation is not sin. It is our choices that define our sin. Eve chose to eat the fruit, whilst Jesus chose to resist the devil.
The StickIn John 14:30, Satan is called the "prince of this world" by Jesus. God is the creator of the world, but Satan is the polluter of this world. When Adam and Eve chose sin, the world became Satan's battlefield. We, as humans, are surrounded by a world of sin.
If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, you are not alone in this world. God has a power Satan does not have--He places Himself directly inside you in the form of His Holy Spirit.
When you were lost, Satan had your soul. Now, you are forever out of his reach, and all he wants with you is your suffering and destruction. Satan tries to mire you down with this world, but he cannot overcome you because you have Someone far more powerful on the inside. What does Satan have left to work with? The Flesh.
When Christ saves us, He breaks our chains. The Flesh is like a little piece of chain broken but still hanging on to our necks, and Satan grasps it and pulls at us, trying to drag us down. When I feel Satan tug on my chain, I feel horrific dread--I fear that he is pulling me away from God. But that's impossible. I am the only one with the power to put distance between myself and God.
What really happens is this: Satan has no power to move me. He can send the waves of this earth, but I have God as my anchor. He can try to scare me, but I have the Holy Spirit inside me as my comforter. He has no way inside me, but he has been in my heart before and he knows my weaknesses. See, I am following the leading of the Holy Spirit when Satan tries to distract me by tugging on my chain. He 'get's inside my head' because he knows what worked on me before, when I was his captive. Temptations are the shadows and the scars of past sins.
He causes guilt: "You were not stronger than this sin last time."
He causes fear: "You can't escape this sin."
He causes anger and hopelessness: "Every time you try harder, you sin harder."
He causes doubt: "Look what you have done. What makes you think God loves you still?"
I had those thoughts in my head. Satan was pulling on my chain. In my mind, I thought he was strong enough to overpower me, but he is not. Only I can give myself over to an external power. When I chose Christ's salvation, I chose Christ as my Savior both now and forever. He will win over Satan every time.
Temptation felt like sin because I had a wrong perspective of myself. I thought my temptation was my sin. The temptation felt so dreadful because I had a wrong perspective of Satan. I thought he had power over me, but he does not. My temptation felt hopeless because I had a wrong perspective of God.
God is Holy, but God is all-wise--wise enough to know we are imperfect. God does not expect perfection from the flesh-riddled man. What God wants more than anything is a relationship with us. According to 1 Corinthians 13, He will have a perfect relationship with us in heaven; there, we will know Him as fully as He knows us now. But, until then, we can only know God through the veil of our flesh. We are imperfect people loving a perfect God. It would be ludicrous then, to think God expects perfection. Instead, God asks for humility.
"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"--Micah 6:8God knows we will continue to fail, this side of heaven. Until then, he requires humility so that when we fail, we accept His grace and His care. Humility will take correction and guidance not as shameful but as hopeful.
I was afraid of temptation because I thought sin was inevitable and punishment was condemnation. But God's chastisement is not meant to crush us or humiliate us. God's chastisement is compared to a shepherd's crook. It is meant to guide us away from pain and danger, not harm us.
God does not require perfection from us. He requires humility.
That is a true perception of God.