Yes… Target. I promise, I’ll explain.
But first: Have you ever had that experience where you read something in the Bible, you think “yeah.. read that, heard it a million times… really would like to understand a new nugget but I got nothing?”
The classic story of Jesus temptation in Matthew chapter 4 has always been taught to me as Jesus being tempted with desires of the flesh (food because he was hungry), desire for power (putting God to the test), and the pride of life (quickly gaining the kingdoms of the world). Perhaps that is what Jesus would have been tempted with, given the road he was about to walk, where he had to be careful to do things God’s way, and not the way of man. Maybe those temptations ring true for some of you – but for others, maybe its hard to see a parallel in your own life. I think there are definitely times when we are tempted in much the same way – maybe not after a 40 day fast – but perhaps when, given circumstances, it might be easy to subtly give in, or agree with the tauntings of our adversary.
Tonight, I wasn’t hungry. I wasn’t looking at the city, or faced with some situation where it would have been tempting to ask God to do something for me that served my purposes. Tonight I was just shopping. For me, the verse was “as you have judged so shall you be judged”. It happened in Target of all places, as I was grabbing a few groceries after catching a movie by myself. Out of nowhere, that verse ran through my head, followed by the thought “wow… my life is a bit pointless now. All I have to fill my time is movies and grocery shopping???” (which is SO not true, I just had finished all my grad school homework and it happened to be a night where I had nothing going on).
Then just as quickly – I recalled how I have sometimes thought, ‘wow, glad I am not retired yet. That must leave a whole lot of time and all you have to fill your time is go see movies and buy groceries’. Talk about a slap in the face! Nope, it happens when you are an empty nester too.. you have to learn a whole new cadence to life!
I also will be honest that isn’t the first time I find myself in a situation that makes me reflect back on past attitudes. It is always humbling when the Holy Spirit reminds me that I had a particular opinion on things before and… well.. as we all know – once you walk in someone else’s shoes, your thought about their situation changes, doesn’t it? So, I did what I have learned to do in situations where I realize my lack of understanding is at hand: I quickly repented, asked for forgiveness for not understanding, and tried to brush it out of my head.
The problem for me came when the thoughts didn’t stop. The judgement kept coming. Over and over.
Then I remembered having read the passage in Matthew chapter 4 the other day, and how I was praying for a new understanding. It took a while.. but after going up and down a few aisles I started to piece it together: for whatever reason, the accuser was using God’s written word against me tonight.
Whisper in my head: “It is written “Judge not, lest you be judged” (and even after acknowledging and repenting, I still felt condemned”
Me: “Yes, but it is also written “He has loved [me] with an everlasting love” and “my guilt has been taken away”.
Get behind me, accuser of the sons and daughters of God.
I realize this wasn’t really a moment of temptation the way you might think about it, so perhaps my analogy fails. Obviously, there are times when verses or passages we read do and should bring conviction. Yet when that written word is bringing discouragement or condemnation and not repentance and freedom, I think we need to ask ourselves whose voice is speaking at that moment. It is the voice of our past, the voice we have created ourselves and the tape we run in our own head? Or is it the accuser trying to taunt us in an attempt to make us doubt who we are and where we’ve grown?
This is the stuff of maturing faith, folks. This is where the rubber meets the road, and where you stake your claim, not just on your identity but also to your place in the kingdom and your value. Sometimes it takes work to pay attention to what is going on in your head…. but its a necessary thing if we want to strip away the voice of the One who you belong to from the other voices in your life. I’d like to tell you this is an easy thing to master but – alas – so far, I’ve faced it at every stage of my life.
One final note: Unfortunately, I know the enemy uses the written words of God in more ways than this to fight against the purposes of God. When in doubt, remember Jesus new command – to love each other, and to forgive as He has forgiven us. Those two truths, my friend, have more power than you realize!