Formations 02.14.2021: Temptations

Genesis 3:1-8

When I was a teenager, my church youth group leaders spent a lot of time talking to us about temptation. Specifically, they warned us not to get ourselves into situations that would tempt us: unsupervised parties with free-flowing alcohol, hangouts with people who smoked or drank or cursed, and dates in dark rooms with people we were attracted to.

If we let ourselves into these situations, we might get drunk and drive or make some other terrible decision. We might become addicted to harmful cigarettes or grow into foul-mouthed smart alecks. We might cause a pregnancy, get an STD, or—what often seemed worse in the teachings of the church—lose our sexual purity.

These youth leaders were doing their best to keep us safe, and their teachings worked on some of us. There was an unhealthy side to them, though, particularly when it came to how we viewed people who engaged in these behaviors or how we viewed ourselves when we felt so tempted. When my best friend began attending parties and drinking, I felt that I couldn’t connect with her, and our relationship severed. When people cursed around me, I automatically blocked them out. And when I began testing boundaries of intimacy with my beloved boyfriend, I felt dirty and ashamed of my desires.

Temptation really does operate like a wily little snake, sneaking into our minds and holding up something exciting, implying that if we don’t take it, we are weak and ridiculous. But if we do take it, that snake winds itself around us and makes us feel worthless and stuck. It’s no wonder that people who give in to temptation often give up on avoiding it in the future. Giving in is easier, and it becomes a habit.

In Genesis 3:8, the man and woman seem to feel dirty, ashamed, worthless, and stuck. They hide from God, who has been walking with them in the garden since they took their first breath. Their shame is not unwarranted, and they have to face the consequences for their actions (we’ll study this in next week’s lesson). In a sense, the snake is wrapped around their souls, and they will struggle to believe that God still loves them and cares for them.

As Scripture bears out time and time again, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (see Rom 8:35-39). Not even drinking, smoking, cursing, or having sex! But the commandments of God and the teachings of Jesus are meant to keep us safe, healthy, and as whole as we can be in a world that is filled with temptations (Deut 5:28-33; 1 Jn 5:3-5). May we cling to the love and grace of God that is available through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection (Col 1:13-20), but may we also work hard to walk the narrow path that Christ has laid out for us (Mt 7:13-14), for it is the best path to abundant life (Jn 10:10).

Discussion

• What were some of your biggest temptations as a teenager? What are some of your biggest temptations now?
• If you gave in to temptation as a teenager, what was the result and how did you handle the consequences? What about today?
• What steps do you take to avoid temptation?
• What are the rewards for not giving in to temptation?
• How can the love and presence of Christ help you when you face these situations? How can you help others who struggle with temptation?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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