I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Maybe you tear up when you think about the words you screamed at your kids this morning. Maybe you’ve deleted the history cache of your computer this week, again, promising yourself that you’ll never access those images again. Maybe you carry that empty snack bag in your purse to throw away later, so people in your office won’t see it in the wastebasket. Maybe the prescription drugs in your desk drawer right now are the only things keeping you sane, and you fear they’re making you crazy. Maybe you just can’t stop thinking about the smell of your co-worker’s hair, or the clink of the whiskey glass at the table nearby.
Maybe what you’re tempted to do is so wild that I wouldn’t feel comfortable posting it on this page, or maybe it’s so tame that I wouldn’t even think to mention it. I don’t know. But I think I know what’s behind it all.
You’re being tempted right now, and so am I. Most of the time we don’t even know it. And, in every one of those moments, we want either to overestimate or underestimate the power of that temptation. We overestimate it by thinking something along the lines of, “I have these feelings, so therefore I’m predestined to be this kind of person.” We underestimate it by thinking something along the lines of, “I’m not tempted to do anything terrible, like adultery or murder. I’m just struggling with this small thing, say, bitterness over my infertility.”
But it’s there, and it’s wild.
Temptation is so strong in our lives because it’s not about us. Temptation is an assault by the demonic powers on the rival empire of the Messiah. That’s why conversion doesn’t diminish the power of temptation, as we often assume, but actually, counter-intuitively, ratchets it up.
If you bear the Spirit of the One the powers rage against, they will seek you out. They want to tear down the icon of the Crucified One that they see embedded in you (1 Pet. 4:14; Rev. 12:17). We’re targeted because we resemble our firstborn brother, Jesus.
We all, whether believers or not, bear some resemblance to Jesus because we share with him a human nature, the image of God. As we come to find peace with God through Jesus, though, we begin a journey of being conformed more and more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). The demons shriek in the increasing glory of that light, and they’ll seek even more frenetically to put it out of their sights.
This post is adapted from my new book, Tempted and Tried
Dr. Russell D. Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.