Battling Temptation

It’s Lent right now and with that in mind, I want to take a quick look over the passage in Luke 4 where Jesus fasts in the wilderness for 40 days. I then have a few pointers on both temptation and protection that we can take away from this story.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. (Luke 4:1-15 ESV)

Aspects of Temptation

Temptation can come at high points. Jesus was tempted by satan “when the days were ended” (v2). Some of the hardest temptations to fight can come after a perfect day or at a high point of completing something. You may find this to be true in your own life if you pay attention to days such as these.

Temptation can question your calling and identity. The devil tried to trick Jesus into sinning by questioning who He was. Jesus has seen His calling and position as Son of God and Messiah many times throughout His life so far, but satan tires to question him as to if that’s really true. “IF you’re the son of God” then you can turn stone into bread. When satan beats you in a temptation, he’ll often question your identity all the much more. “You’re a Christian? Really?” “God doesn’t love you.” “God is mad at you now.” “You must not have the Holy Spirit.” He wants you to think of yourself as less than you actually are: justified in Jesus and a son or daughter of God.

Temptation can be quite logical. Jesus was hungry and apparently the time for fasting was over. It’s time to eat. The devil’s temptation to turn stone into bread has a logical argument to it. Later Jesus is offered authority and glory of all the kingdoms of the world. The logic could be that Jesus could make a big difference with such power and authority. And while it doesn’t seem logical to jump off of a temple, being caught by angels would make a spectacle of Him to everyone around. Imagine Jesus floating to the ground. “Hello my people. I am the Messiah. Come now and follow me!”

Temptation can come with satanic deals. We tend to joke about it, but there are people who sign their lives over to satan and make deals with him. They worship him and become his servants because satan promises them authority and power on earth and in Hell. And through witchcraft and other demonic means they begin to make a spectacle of satan on earth. But they don’t realize that satan is a liar and a deceiver. he is always looking to backhand you. he has no honor and will turn on you.

Temptation focuses on the moment, not the effects after. If you’ve ever struggled with temptation (or if you’ve ever been human) then you’ve realized that temptation sounds really good when it’s on your mind. You wouldn’t be tempted if it wasn’t pleasurable to you in some way. The devil never told Jesus what bad things would happen if he bought into the temptation as that would only push Him away from it. his temptations really just focused on that moment. But you can believe that satan had evil intentions behind his temptations that would come into place immediately after or at some point in the future.

Temptation can be truthful. Is satan always lying? Yeah, pretty much. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t say truthful things to try to trip you up. After all, he does masquerade as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Did you realize in Luke 4 that satan actually used Scripture in attempts to tempt Jesus? That’s right, satan knows the Bible too, and he’s great at twisting passages to get what he wants. That’s why one artist in particular draws satan as a holy man in his portrayal of this passage.

Temptation can be in all kids of areas. For Jesus, the first temptation was to break His commitment and spiritual discipline before it was time. The second was to take on false power and authority. The third was to simply be awesome. We fight these same temptations today and hundreds more.

Temptation is empowered visually. In this particular passage, satan backed up all of his temptation with visual examples to make it all the more irresistible. “Command this stone to become bread” (v3). “he showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” (v4). “he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple” (v9).

Temptation is persistent. I wouldn’t be surprised if the arguments Jesus had with satan were more than one statement from satan as temptation can be quite persistent. For example I can see the first argument being a bit longer than it was.

satan: Turn this rock into bread.
Jesus: Man shall not live by bread alone.
satan: Yes, but man does eat bread. You can eat something else later.
Jesus: I will eat when God allows me to.
satan: But your fast is over. You should be allowed to now.

Temptation will always return. “When the devil ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (v12). The devil is always looking for a weak point. He may disappear for a time, but he will return with a strategy to try to break through your castle walls by searching for a weak point.

Aspects of Protection

Fasting. This spiritual discipline may make you feel physically weak, but it’s there to grow and empower you. In fact, despite how weak Jesus may have felt after 40 days of fasting, it appeared he was ready to defeat satan when he came along and His fasting may have empowered Him all the much more to do so.

Memorize Scripture. For every statement satan made, Jesus had a Biblical rebuttal to give. “Man shall not live by bread alone” (v4). “You shall worship the Lord Your God, and him only shall you serve” (v8). “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (v12). Quoting Scripture is especially helpful when satan uses Scripture to tempt you. Some people will hear satan quote to them a Bible verse and have a moment of false revelation rather than open their Bible to find out what other passages have to say.

Be dependent on God’s voice. When Jesus quoted “Man does not live by bread alone” He was probably implying the rest of that verse as well. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “Man does not live by bread alone but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus’ instructions to eat were coming from satan’s voice in that moment, not from God’s voice. And therefore, it was easy to recognize this as temptation.

Don’t entertain temptation. N.T. Wright states in his book Luke for Everyone that “Arguing with temptation is often a way of playing with the idea until it becomes too attractive to resist.” Jesus doesn’t play with any of the ideas satan offers. He is very quick to offer rebuttals rather than give satan’s questions and thoughts any airtime in His mind. Jesus’ answers are solid and to the point. There is no hesitation whatsoever.

Recognize the Holy Spirit when temptation comes. This may sound odd, but Matthew 4:1 points out that “Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” And we see that that leading comes from the Holy Spirit in Luke 4:1. God may actually create time for temptation and allow you to be tempted by the devil. But this is to grow you and empower you. Stay faithful to God, because, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Identify satan! Here’s a rather obvious point: if it’s coming from satan, don’t do it. If you were able to see this creepy demonic character standing in front of you, it would be obvious to you that you should not do anything he says. But it seems that we will do more fighting in our minds with temptation. Learn to discern. Who’s speaking? God? Your flesh? Or is it satan?

Understand your authority in and under God. Could Jesus have turned stones into bread? Yes, He doesn’t debate that. Could Jesus have survived the jump off the temple? Yes, He doesn’t debate that either. See, that authority was there in Jesus, but he subjected His authority to God’s will. I believe Christians can be empowered with authority—whether it’s earthly authority or supernatural Heavenly authority. But with that in mind, I believe that God trusts us to respect that authority and use it correctly in many instances. For example, I’ve heard too many stories of people who get a word from God about someone and they announce it to everyone from a stage rather than go to that person in private. Or in some cases they try to interpret a vision for someone when they should have just told them the vision and let them interpret it. The authority and empowerment is there, but it’s used incorrectly in some cases such as these.

Put on the armor of God. Put on the armor that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-2o. Keep in mind, this armor is God’s and it is to help you in the battle. But if you don’t put it on and stay on your guard, you might be easily attacked. “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Study yourself. What are your weaknesses? When are your weakest moments? Where does sin have a stronghold on you? Use your answers to prepare and defend yourself. Unplug the computer. Don’t go to that store. Don’t be around those people. Go on a walk or find another way to flee from that moment. Fast every time you fail and add a day each time. Remember, temptation is persistent. You would do well to have a battle plan, especially if satan is waiting for an opportune time to attack.

Welcome to Spiritual Warfare

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