Don’t Say “No” to Temptation, Say “Yes” to Jesus
The title of this blog might shock you. But the message it seeks to convey is, I believe, central to the New Testament. What the Law of the Old Testament failed to do, Christ did for us. For us living under the new covenant, the issue is no longer striving against sin, but resting in Christ (see Hebrews 4). When we focus on Christ and what He has done for us, and as a result, who we are in Him, temptation loses it's appeal. What Christ offers us is so superior, to what the enemy tempts us with, it would be foolish to trade one for the other. This is the reality we must see, and not live in the deception of the tempter. Satan tempts us, like Esau, to sell out our "birthright" for "a bowl of beans" (Heb. 12:16).
Allow me to draw an illustration from Greek literature that I believe helps us see this truth. Homer's epic poem the "Odyssey" presents us with the story of Odysseus and the Sirens. In this story we see religion's approach to dealing with temptation.
Odysseus and his mighty sailors sailed the Aegean Sea. The sorceress Circe had warned Odysseus and his men to be wary of the beautiful but deadly Sirens. These half-woman, half-beast creatures would entice sailors with their beautiful music, compelling the men to sail closer to the island of the Sirens. Without warning, the Sirens would swoop down, kill and cannibalize the sailors who had sailed too close to the island of the Sirens. The sorceress told Odysseus that he and his sailors should have their ears filled with wax to block the Sirens' songs from being heard. , Odysseus did as she had been instructed he however, wanted to hear the Sirens' beautiful songs for himself. So he told his sailors to tie him up to the mast with strong ropes, and no matter what he might later say, do not let him free, so that when the Sirens began to sing, he could focus on the singing, but he could not jump ship and swim toward the enticing but deadly island. The sailors complied and bound their captain to the ship's mast. When the ship sailed near the island of the Sirens, music began to fill the air, and Odysseus focused on the beautiful songs and found himself enraptured. He began to fight the ropes and chains that bound him, longing to draw closer to the Sirens. He struggled with all his might to free himself, and begged the sailors to unloose him. He wanted to free himself, but he was trapped and held by the ropes. His battle against the temptation was bloody and ugly. Odysseus avoided death at the hands of the Sirens, but his arms and chest were scarred from the struggle.
On the other hand, we have from Greek mythology, the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Jason dealt with the Sirens in a different manner. He too sailed the Aegean, but unlike Odysseus, he refused the ear wax, the strong ropes, and all attempts to "bind" anyone to the mast of the ship. Instead, he brought the greatest musician in the land onto the ship, a Muse named Orpheus, and he ordered him to play his beautiful music. The music from Orpheus' lyre and harp was so much sweeter, so far better, so incredibly more beautiful than the songs of the Sirens that Jason and the Argonauts had no desire to listen to the Sirens' songs when their ship passed by the island of the Sirens. What kept Jason and the Argonauts on the ship was the greater pleasure and beauty of Orpheus' music.
The word "religion" derives from the Latin word "religio" which according to some Latin scholars means to "re-bind" or "to tie back." Religion is like the ropes binding Odysseus to the mast of the ship to keep him from his own destruction. Religion has given man the "don'ts" and provided a list of what is forbidden. We see this, of course, in the Law. Part of its purpose was to set boundaries to keep man from "shipwreck." This can be a good thing, like the ropes binding Odysseus. But it is not the best way. There are many who have avoided destruction, but are scarred and miserable from the struggle. I have known many of them. Not only does religion create miserable people, it creates self-righteous people, for example, the Pharisees. Neither does it deal with the "desire" for the forbidden. The ropes saved Odysseus from the Sirens, but could not dispel the attractiveness of their song.
I believe the New Testament shows us that in focusing on Jesus and His kingdom - which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17) - temptations fade in comparison. This does not mean that temptations are not real, but we must see the deceptiveness of sin. The "deal" the enemy offers is seen for what it really is - "a promise that never delivers." Sin's pleasures are momentary, and never gives us what we had hoped it would. Not only does sin fail to "deliver" it destroys and brings harm to us and others.
Jesus, on the other hand, tells us that He came that we might experience the "abundant life." That is not to be understood in a worldly, carnal way. It is to be viewed in light of His promise that that those who "lose their life shall find it" (Matt. 10:39). Jesus shows us a better way and offers us a better deal. He keeps His Word and gives what He has promised. The music of Christ far surpasses the song of Satan and his tempters.