By Jimmy Tuten
Near Kentucky Lake a few years back, a thin, elderly man was cautiously pulling his bass boat behind a well-used pickup truck. Suddenly there appeared behind him one of Detroit’s latest with a young driver eager to show its capabilities. The fishing rig was moving too slowly and holding up traffic. So in his frustration the young man zipped around in front of him and brought his car to a halt crosswise in the road. He then jerked the older driver out of the pickup, threw him to the pavement and proceeded to beat him in the face, using the old gentleman’s own wrinkled fists with which to do it. He was sued and in court pleaded self-defense. As strange as it may seem, there is a moral to this story: Satan takes man’s own natural instincts and perverts them, thus bringing his downfall.
The Bible teaches that there are two forces at work in our society: one is the devil and the other the cause of Christ (Eph. 2:1-6). Even man is a dual being made up of an outward man and an inner being (2 Cor. 4:16). Because of his flesh man is a feeding animal and has a natural appetite for bread. The inward part of man is a higher life, the true self and is more than a being dependent upon bread. Because of this man needs more than physical bread to sustain him. He needs the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:33-35). Man can feed his soul on the Bread of Life while his body is fasting (Jn. 6:35,48).
While hunger is not in itself an evil in the sense of being sinful, the satisfying of that perfectly innocent appetite in a manner unworthy of one seeking to please God can result in sin. There is a clear distinction between food which simply supplies bodily hunger and appetite, and the food which nourishes emotion, affection and cultures the conscience and the will. Satan knows full well that the nobler part of man is nourished by faith in the Word of God and that he who feeds the soul will feed the body also (Jn. 6:33). He seeks to subvert this principle with devices of his own. In his cunning craftiness he often bases his force and plants an attack in the form of temptations aimed at the weakness that lurks in the bodily appetite. Man is so gullible and easily deceived into thinking that happiness comes through indulgences of the flesh.
One can see this form of temptation in the case of Jesus (Matt. 4:14). The whole point of the temptation of Christ lay in the suggestion and the solicitation of the satisfying of a perfectly innocent appetite in a manner unworthy of the Son of God. But take note of the fact that Jesus could do what we wouldn’t do. His action reminds us that we have no right always to do the thing for which we may have the resources of abundant might. For example, man says, “I have the right to do what I please with my money,” when in reality it is not what he likes that he can lawfully do with it, but what is right. He has the right only to do what is proper with his money. The same is true in other areas. How much happier the world would be if it thought more of what is ethical and less about what they think is their right.
Satan appeals to the flesh of man, the outer man, while God appeals to the inner man, the spirit (1 Jn. 2:15-17; 2 Cor. 7: 1). While Satan uses perfectly innocent desires through which to destroy man (Eph. 4:14; 2 Cor. 4:2), God appeals to the heart. The reason for this is that when the inner man is nurtured and matured he will control and bring under subjection the outer man so that both his body and soul find acceptance with Jehovah. Look at it: “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” (2 Cor. 7:1). Therefore, we are to love God with all our heart (Matt. 22:37), we are to believe in our heart (Rom. 10:10), we are to obey from the heart (Rom. 6:17), etc. Everything begins with the heart. When the nation’s people have their hearts right with God, the nation will be at peace. Peace begins in the heart of each of us.
When will man learn the deception of thinking that happiness comes from certain indulgences? When will we ever talk less about things that make us happy and more about obedience to God? True and lasting happiness cannot be had without entertaining God in our hearts. We cheat ourselves when we think we can have it without him. Without God enthroned in our hearts the happiness we think we have found is the same as that found by lowly animals. More succinctly, the pleasures of sin “are but for a season” (Heb. 11:25). “Not on bread alone shall a man live” (Matt. 4:4). Where is the strength of man apart from that supplied by the armor of God to stand in the “evil day” (Eph. 6:11)? Not even human wisdom can bring us into a right relationship with God (1 Cor. 1:19,21). Only the gospel of Christ can do that (Rom. 1:16-17). Because the gospel alone saves and sustains us the nation cannot be holy without it (Rom. 1:16-17). “Blessed are the pure in heart” (Matt. 5:8).
Let us then feed our souls and rest in assurance that the fed soul will put into safe and wise regulation all feedings of the bodily appetite. The food of the spiritual is spiritual, “for to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). The temptations of man can only be mastered by religious principle. With an “it is written” in our hearts and on our lips we overcome the forces of Satan in whatever form they take. Temptation is possible without sin. Until the will of man consents, sin is not committed (Jas. 1:12-15). Likewise, until men consent to the principle of “not by bread alone,” will discipline exist in our society. Failure to accept this biblical fact can lead only to defeat.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 19, p. 581
October 1, 1987