Confronting Temptation

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. No human being could have been more vulnerable. Jesus was alone in the wilderness and on the verge of starvation after fasting for forty days. The temptation was directed at His humanity. The goal was to show us how a spiritually alive person could stand up to Satan’s temptations in a worst-case scenario. It wasn’t a show of superior power; it was an example of humble dependence.

The devil, seeking to take advantage of Jesus’ vulnerability, said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). Satan wanted Jesus to use His divine attributes independently of God the Father to save Himself. That was essentially the same as Peter’s advice to Jesus that prompted His stern rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” (16:23). All temptation is an attempt to get us to live our lives independently of God. Jesus responded by declaring His dependence on God the Father: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (4:4).

Then the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and stood Him on the highest point of the Temple. “’If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up into their hands”’” (verse 6). The devil wanted Jesus to test God’s Word, but Christ knew we don’t put God to the test. He tests us. Finally, the devil took Jesus to a high mountain to show Him the kingdoms of the world. He offered these kingdoms to Jesus if the Lord would only worship him (see verses 8-9). However, Jesus said He would only worship the Lord our God and serve Him only (see verses 7-10).

John describes three channels of temptation that we will have to face in this world: “For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16). These were exactly the same for Adam and Eve as they were for Jesus. Adam and Eve failed the test and plunged the whole world into sin, but Jesus passed the test and proved to be the Savior of the world and an example for us to follow. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

As we study these three channels, keep in mind that they are only doors of opportunity that Satan takes advantage of. In Christ we have the resources and the power to conquer every temptation that Satan throws at us. The basis for temptation is legitimate needs that we all have. When we don’t perceive that our basic needs are being met, we are much more vulnerable to temptation. God promises to meet all our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:19). If we know that our lives, identity, acceptance, security and significance are all found in Christ, we will not be so easily tempted to find them elsewhere.

Dr. Neil

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