Tempted? Tested? What’s the difference?

These questions came up in our Hatchet gathering last week: Is there a difference between temptation and testing (or a trial)? And if there is, should we deal with them differently?

The answer to both questions is absolutely ‘yes’!

I bet you’ve heard of the idea of ‘fight or flight’? Well, if you think about these two things in these terms, then that’s a good start.

The simple answer is:

  • If you’re facing a temptation – get outta there – ie it’s ‘flight
  • If it’s a test or a trial you’re up against – then  it’s fight 

So, how do you know the difference? Don’t be like this guy:

fight or flight


OK, so here goes…

Temptation is easiest to understand if you think about it as something from within you; something that appeals to your ‘fleshy’ nature. A quick fix or a lure towards something – like food, booze, lust, money, bullying, lying, overspending on credit cards, laziness – anything that nudges you to believe an immediate desire or need will be met. Temptations tap into your weaknesses – so they can be different for each person. For example, someone might not have any weakness at all around, say, watching porn, so that’s not going to be any kind of temptation for them. But that same person could have a major weakness to get angry with people, so something like road rage is going to be a thing they will get tempted by big time. Just some examples – but think about it – are you being tempted by anything over and over? What situations do you find your self tempted in, and what are you doing to avoid them? The best thing you can do is admit it, and ask for God’s help to turn and walk (or run!) away from that stuff. That’s ‘flight‘.

Check out this post from Rick Warren for more about this.

Trials or testing are different – they come from outside of you. Circumstances like being skint,  getting ill or having an accident,  having your stuff nicked, facing some kind of loss or your family or friends letting you down can happen to all of us at some point – and if it all comes at once, man, it can be really hard going. The funny thing is, these trials can actually test our strengths.  God allows them to happen for a reason – we may not see it at the time we’re going through it – and in fact we might be tempted within our trials. For example we could be tempted to complain or get bitter, take it out on people around us, or think we’re a really bad person that deserves what’s happened. But if we ‘stand and fight‘, some day we will find out His reasons and we will grow in our character and faith.

But what does it mean to ‘stand and fight’. It means we don’t try and deal with stuff in our own strength, but in the strength of God. Matt Slick’s article How strong are you? is well worth a read, with lots of awesome insight and advice about what it means to stand firm in the strength of God. Boom!

“There are many kinds of strength. But the most important one is the strength you need in the Lord. True Christian strength is not of the body. True Christian strength is of the spirit, measured in faithfulness, trust, and perseverance. By Grace we live by Faith.” – Matt Slick

Check out some more about the difference between temptation and testing here too.







Song of the week 14th January – ‘The Wicker Man’, by Iron Maiden

It’s about time we picked a SOTW from these epic British metallers, eh?

The song ‘The Wicker Man’ was inspired by the film of the same name (not, apparently the one starring Nicholas Cage, which has been hailed as one the most unintentionally funny films of all times – but that’s not for us to go into here; check out some YouTube clips or this Hilariosity Review.)

It’s nigh-on impossible to explain accurately all that a Wicker man ceremony was or is in a couple sentences, or to give justice to such a rich tradition as Celtic paganism. But in a nutshell, the ritual has developed over centuries and is occasionally practised today by neo-Pagans, especially around Beltane. At the heart of it, as with any ceremony, is communities of people coming together to celebrate or give thanks – and in the case of the Wicker man, the ritual traditionally seems to have been about celebrating the renewal of the earth after the hard winter.

In the film, the burning of the Wicker man is supposed to appease the Gods to bring about a fruitful and bountiful harvest. The idea of having to appease Gods is not a new one, but in Christianity, the spiritual landscape is changed. It’s unique among all other religions and spiritualities. How? Simply because we don’t need to work our way to God – through Jesus, He has come to us and we can be forgiven and the slate wiped clean. God freely offers us grace and mercy – it’s His unmerited favour towards us – we don’t need to appease Him, we just need to accept Him.

Check out Frank Turek’s brief take on this here.

So, onto our song – the lyrics say:

“… say goodbye to death, hello to eternity and live for every breath……Nothing you can contemplate will ever be the same. Every second is a new spark, sets the universe aflame.”

As the song also says, “Your time will come.” The question is are you going to ‘say hello to eternity’ and ‘say goodbye to death’? If you choose to follow Jesus, “nothing you can contemplate with ever be the same.”




The gates of Hades

At our Hatchet session on Friday 8th, we kicked off a mini-season of talking through our ‘verse’ (Matthew 16:18) and what it means for us.

“…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

The ‘rock’ is the truth that Simon Peter spoke out after Jesus asked him, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

We’ve decided to dig into that one more in a later session – this time we ended up getting a bit dark by talking about Hades. What its Hades? Is it the same as Hell? What are the ‘gates’ of Hades meant to mean?

Despite the sketchy wi-fi signal at The Hatchet, we managed to access an old bible commentary written by a Bishop of Gloucester from the 19th Century, Charles Ellicott. The language he uses is fully old school – which we kinda like – the way he explains Hades is this:

“Hades [is] the shadow-world of the dead, the unseen counterpart of the visible grave, all-absorbing, all-destructive, into whose jaws or gates all things human pass, and from which issue all forces that destroy, is half-idealised, half-personified, as a power, or polity of death.”

Hades is like a temporary ‘holding place’ for unbelieving dead. Hell, on the other hand Ellicott says, is the final place – it kicks in after the final judgement.

Heavy stuff, huh? There is loads more to this that we could unpack, but rather than go into it here, we’ve posted some links below if you want to check them out.

So what about the ‘gates’ thing?

Ancient cities, a bit like our beloved Bristol, were surrounded by a city wall. The entrance gates of these ancient cities weren’t just the places where people came and went, they were also the main places where people did business, made announcements and held courts – so the identity and ‘heart’ of the city; its values and practices were formed, revealed and promoted in and through these gates.

So, going back to our old-school Bishop, he goes on to explain the meaning of the use of ‘the gates of hades’ in this bible verse:

“And as the gates of the Eastern city were the scene at once of kingly judgement and of the council of the elders, they became the natural symbol of the polity which ruled there. And so the promise declared that all the powers of Hades, all the forces of destruction that attack and in the long run overpower other societies, should attack, but not overpower, the ecclesia (church) of which Christ was the Founder.”

Or, as Albert Barnes more simply puts it, Jesus is making a promise here – that if the church (ie the people) build their lives together on truth of who Jesus is, then:

“…all the plots, stratagems, and machinations of the enemies of the church would not be able to overcome it.”

Boom! In a world where Christians and Christianity are under so much attack – physically, philosophically and culturally – this is a promise we as Christians should grab a hold of and be encouraged by! The power of the devil and all his instruments of death will never win – Hades and the power of death could not hold Jesus down, and it will never completely kill-off true faith in anyone’s heart, or stop the good news about Jesus from spreading through the world.

But as Christians we should be challenged by this too. Are we growing in our understanding about the truth of Jesus? And following on from that, are we applying it in our daily lives, especially in the face of so many challenges from the ‘gates of hades’?

If you still have brain space left after reading all that and want to find out more about this subject, check out the following links:

Got Questions

Canon Wired

Bright Christian Fellowship 










Song of the week 23rd December – ‘Always’, by Killswitch Engage

Song of the week 10th December – “Blackbird” by Alter Bridge

This amazing song came to mind during a bible study on Isaiah 40:28-31 which talks about the awesomeness of God – his power and strength, his faithfulness and his love to us.

Check out the lyrics:

“Beyond the suffering you’ve known I hope you find your way.. Some day I too will fly and find you again. Let the wind carry you home Blackbird, fly away. May you never be broken again.”

And then the bible verses:

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”




Once we’re saved, are we perfect?

Once we’re saved are we perfect?

This is great question that came up in discussion last week, and the answer lies in understanding the difference between two terms:

  • justification‘ – this means being made right with God (we have been forgiven), and it’s a one-off event when we’re saved
  • sanctification‘ – this means being made holy (we are being purified), and it’s an ongoing process of growing in our faith and becoming more like Jesus in the way we live.

Both are works of God’s amazing grace to us.

Deep stuff, right? If you want to explore this more, CARM have a written a great article explaining the difference in a bit more detail.



Holy moly! What actually is holiness?

Our topic for discussion this week was holiness. What is it? What does it mean to ‘be holy’?

We checked out a great little video from the guys at The Bible Project – explaining God’s holiness and what it means for us:

Makes us even more grateful for what Jesus has done – giving us his purity so we can connect with God.

If you want to take things a bit deeper on the subject, John Piper sets a pretty good stall out on the subject in this talk based on 1 Peter 1 v13-21. Prepare to be challenged (in love!).

“The holiness of God is one way of talking about his ‘other’ness… His holiness is transcendent, pure, absolute uniqueness.” – John Piper





Song of the week 26th November – Alice Cooper’s “Cleansed by Fire”

Am I going to hell?

This video sparked some interesting conversations with us – Dr Frank Turek has an unexpected and engaging answer to a woman’s question, “Am I going to hell?”

FT: “If God exists, you seem to be pretty apathetic about it.”


FT: “Well, why would God force you into his presence for all eternity?”

H:”That’s not my question. My question is about hell.”

FT: “That is the difference between heaven and hell. Heaven is with God; hell is separation from God……”

The ongoing conversation they have is open, honest, challenging and manages to include some laughs – worth checking out in case you’re ever asked (or are asking) the question yourself.

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