When Jesus traveled into the desert to be tempted by the devil, I believe it was to familiarize the Son of God with the level of spiritual warfare his ministry was about to bring to our planet. He was put in front of what the NIV, NASB, KJV, and NKJV Bibles all call the “tempter” (see Matthew 4:1-4 NIV). Satan is indeed The Tempter!
We’ve all heard the statement, “The devil made me do it.” Of course, atheists and agnostics consider such a statement to be ridiculous. But Christians should find the statement a slight exaggeration of the truth. The devil is always ready, willing, and able to tempt us. I doubt he “makes” us do anything.
As believers in Christ, we have the armor of God to battle the persuasions The Tempter sends our way (see Ephesians 6:10). Whether we are battling sexual, financial, or any other, worldly temptations, God has promised to never allow more temptation than His spiritual weapons can defeat. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
The Tempter wants you to discount God’s promise, rejecting the notion that his influence can be defeated. It is the devil’s job to convince us that the flesh can’t be overcome, that our desire to do what we want is more powerful than our yearning to do what pleases God. Then we deflect away the shame by denying that the sin we indulge in is really a sin at all. Slothfulness is really our much-deserved rest. Gambling is just a form of recreation and the phone bill can wait another week. Hating your enemies is just natural. Push the guilt away. The Tempter loves when we do that.
Time after time, mental health experts tell us about the negative effects of guilt. They rarely mention how guilt can work toward a positive outcome. There’s a reason humans feel guilt when we do wrong. What we did (excuse the redundancy) was wrong! Guilt should cause us to flee from bad behavior, not bring depression and self-pity. I personally believe guilt is now (maybe since the fruit from the tree of knowledge was tasted) embedded in human DNA, an early detection system that allows humans to, occasionally, live amongst each other without chaos taking the reigns.
So the next time someone tells you that you shouldn’t feel guilty about something, just smile and say, “Sure, that’s exactly what The Tempter wants me to think.”
And as they stare at you, wondering if you have lost your senses, remember that it is indeed the sense of guilt that can bring us back to where we need to be physically, mentally, and of course, spiritually.