Now the snake was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.
(Genesis 3:1, NIV)
How does temptation work? How can sensible people be persuaded to do or approve something which God has said is wrong?
Genesis 3 - the account of the primeval temptation, in the Garden of Eden - is a significant part of the Bible’s answer. Here we see how the snake (taken later in the Bible as a figure for the devil) persuaded the first man and woman to disobey God’s only commandment to them.
How does he do that? What’s remarkable - and vital for us to grasp - is that he never says “Go eat that fruit”. Instead, he is crafty. He deals in subtleties and lies. What he does is to persuade them that God is unreasonable. He spins a web of deceit in which sin seems the wise, profitable thing to do.
He starts by making them doubt God’s word and his goodness (verse 1, twisting what God had originally said), then makes them doubt God’s warning (verse 4) and next makes them question God’s motives (verse 5 - it’s as if God has something He wants to keep only for himself). The snake also (verse 5) suggests all kinds of benefits will come from the eating of this fruit.
Having persuaded the man and woman of this, it is a short step for them to eat the fruit, as they do. They are culpable - they should have known better, and they exhibit a desire to usurp God - but have also, to a degree, been conned.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because the devil still works this way. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the snake’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3, NIV). We need to note his tactics - both as individuals and as churches.
For instance, these days several church denominations in the UK are in turmoil about our teaching and practice on sexual morality in general, and same-sex relationships in particular. We are being strongly tempted to move away from the Bible’s clear teaching. How is this happening? We are slowly being conned by lies about God’s Word, God’s warnings and God’s goodness. Subtly, we are being led to believe, by all sorts of arguments, that changing our minds and going against what Scripture says on this matter is in fact the wise, fair and profitable - even loving - thing to do.
It’s time to spot who’s really behind this, and his subtle methods; to remind ourselves what God really has said, and to trust His Word, His warnings and His goodness.
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