Jesus is still in Capernaum in an unspecified house. He is still addressing His disciples. I’m not sure if He is also addressing other people in the home or not. This lesson is pertinent for everyone, but Jesus and His disciples may actually be having time alone currently.
Jesus’ first couple of statements really caught my attention today. “Woe to the world for temptation to sin! For it is necessary that temptation comes, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!” (verse 7). When I first read it, I wasn’t grabbed by these statements. They were just part of the passage. But as I reread it, I was reminded of the Garden of Eden.
The first temptation to sin happened in the garden. Satan came to Eve and enticed her to doubt God’s promise and to desire something she was told to leave alone. I have always wondered why God even made us. He KNEW we were going to sin before He spoke the first words of creation, but He spoke anyway. He KNEW Eve was going to lead Adam down a path separate from Himself, but He made her anyway. He KNEW the serpent was going to entice Eve to try the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, but He grew the tree anyway.
Today’s verse spoke to that “why” question I have always had. Temptation HAD to come. Without temptation, we would never truly have free will. God made us with free will so we could CHOOSE to love Him. If you are simply forced or programed to love something or someone it is a false love. Love without the possibility of loss is empty. The possibility of loss is what makes the experience so valuable. If you knew that your husband or wife’s love for you would never be affected positively or negatively by anything you did, you would have no reason to behave in any manner other than for your own pleasure. You would have no incentive to please them. You wouldn’t care how they felt. You would in essence, take them for granted, because you would have NO fear of losing them.
You might be tempted to call that kind of love, unconditional love. But you would be wrong. True, that kind of “love” doesn’t end, but it is also not real. REAL love is a choice and it feels the impact of what the other party in the relationship does. It doesn’t withdraw at the first sign of trouble, but it can grow and decline like the tides. And like the tide, real love abides forever.
Unconditional love continues forever, no matter what, but it too is impacted by the other party’s behavior. Unconditional love doesn’t cut and run at the first sign of trouble and it doesn’t store up hurts to be used at a later time. But it also won’t sit ideally by as it is trampled. It is the kind of love only God can give. He loved us so much that He refused to leave us in our sin condition. God desires our love in return, but He doesn’t base His love for us on that return. I believe He shows more affection to those who return His gift of love, but He desires to show that same amount to every one of us. He is simply restrained by our willingness to accept His love. That is unconditional love; offering love continuously, even in the face of rejection.
The “woe to the world” and the “woe to the one by whom temptation comes” are also played out in the garden. The world lost something of incalculable worth when sin entered. If only Eve had valued her intimate relationship with God for what it was truly worth, she would never have accepted Satan’s counterfeit. The world lost so much and will suffer for it for the rest of its life. Satan is who temptation came by. He will be suffering for it for eternity. He traded the presence of God for everlasting damnation. His momentary glory, from those on Earth who choose him over God, is NOTHING compared to what awaits him as his “reward.”
Now that special relationship with God is affected by our sin. Our sin is like a clog in the drain. When there is just a little debris, water can still flow around it but slows the process a bit. The more that builds up the greater the flow of water is impacted, until finally nothing gets through at all. When we sin and don’t repent of it, we place a block between us and God. His blessings and love still reach our life, but not with the degree they did before. His blessing and love haven’t changed, just like the chemical make-up of the water didn’t change. The debris of sin is simply messing up the flow rate. The more unrepentant sin that builds up the greater the blockage of the flow of God’s love and blessings.
The best solution to both problems is to remove the blockage. Neither removal process is very pleasant. What comes out is nasty and gross, but it has to be done if the flow is to be restored. Please don’t get me wrong, God is able to reach beyond the block if He chooses, but He won’t force Himself on anyone and if you choose your sin over His love, He will usually respect your decision. I have known Him to act through an alternate “pipe”, like the praying grandma, to reach someone who has filled their pipe with rocks.
When Jesus talks today about your hand, foot, or eye causing you to sin, He is talking about habitual sinning. He is also talking about comparing what you think you are gaining from that sin to what you are actually risking and losing. You are losing fellowship with God. You are risking God’s love and blessings reaching you. Woe to that hand, foot, or eye that is bringing temptation. GET RID OF IT! If it perpetually separates you from God, do you really want to hold onto it? Which is more valuable to you?
That hand, foot, or eye will eventually take the rest of your body down with it if you let it remain. Your pipe will become so clogged that nothing can flow through. Again, not because God doesn’t want it to, or because God’s love for you has changed, but because YOU won’t let it. YOU chose to reject God’s free gift of amazing love.
So if I am not seeing God’s blessing in my life, does that mean “my pipe is clogged?” If I am experiencing trouble is it because of sin in my life? Not necessarily. That is always a good place to look first, but we still live in a fallen world. Our world is still full of woe and it washes over those who love God, just as easily as it washes over anyone else. The difference is that when it washes over those who love God, He stands right beside them and keeps them from getting swept away in the current. He holds fast to our hand and gives us peace during the storm.
When, not if, you find yourself in the middle of the storm; examine your heart. If you find sin there, repent of it. After you have done this, stand firm with the Father. He will either hold you through it, or calm it. But you can bet whatever He chooses to do, He will bring forth growth in you because of it. You cannot go through a storm with God and not be changed.
Father God, I choose to love You! I don’t want to trade one moment with You for anything this world has to offer. I would never survive the storms of this life without You and Your amazing love. Thank You for allowing me to make the choice to love You. Thank You for showing me what real love is. Thank You for answering the question of “why” that I have had for so many years.
Please show me my sins quickly so I don’t let them build up and block our relationship. Please keep my hand, food and eye in line with You too, so I don’t have to “cut them off.” My sincere desire is to love You with all my spirit, soul and body.
I trust You with whatever You think best for each and every storm in my life. I know You will be with me on both sides of it, as well as in the middle of it. Open my eyes to the growth You author in me in the storms. Thank You for loving me unconditionally, even when I get in the way of receiving it. For now and for the rest of my life Father, I CHOOSE to LOVE YOU. Thank You for giving me that choice.