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Mirages, Hooks, and Temptations

Temptation is a mirage. It is a flickering and inviting illusion of water that beckons you off of a brutal desert path and calls you to quench your torturous thirst in its pure, alluring ripples. When you chase a mirage, you never find that cool and inviting pool. Instead, you find only blistering sand and merciless sun while you waste all of your energy walking further and further away from the path that would return you to civilization. Just like a mirage, temptation is a beautiful but dangerous deception which can lead you into a death trap if you don’t recognize it for what it is. It is always that.

This is in complete contrast with the way that God works. He simply doesn’t employ deceptive mirages against those he loves. Consider how he gathers his disciples using the metaphor that they will become “fishers of men” who will use the gospel message to win humanity back to a relationship with him (Matthew 4:18-25). The God of Heaven fishes for men with a truth that frees them, but the god of this world fishes for men using a beautiful deception that ensnares them.

The genius of Satan’s deception is that it targets a man or woman’s legitimate desires or needs. But it never, ever satisfies those needs. It offers only a counterfeit that temporarily tastes like sweet satiation, but is instead a poisonous hook. C.S. Lewis captured this process superbly in his famous fictional work, the Screwtape Letters. In that work, a senior demon named Screwtape writes letters to his nephew, Wormwood, and gives him advice on how to be a more diabolical demon. He teaches the novice Wormwood to tempt men. In one of those letters, he writes, “always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for and ever diminishing pleasure is the formula... To get a man's soul and give him nothing in return - that is what really gladdens [the heart of Satan].”

In this sense, temptation is also like the hook in an addictive process. The addict continually chases a high from his drug of choice, consuming more and more drug, but getting less and less pleasure in return until he is left with no money, no family, no friends, no health, and no life. All temptations have this potential.

Do not be deceived by temptation, but sate your desires with the pleasures that God created, and do that in the way that he has prescribed. Sate your needs with what God has provided, and do it in the way that honors his provision. Do not be led into the mirage of temptation, but seek God’s path to the place where your needs will be truly met, where you will find fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).

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