Scripture is clear that God does not tempt us: James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. But if we want to be godly people, we must learn to resist the temptations that come at us from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
It is also clear that we are tempted through the individual desires we have within us. But we must know that to be tempted is not the same as sinning. If that were true, then Jesus would not have been sinless because He definitely was tempted by Satan.
Jesus Christ is our great example and teacher when it comes to resisting temptation. He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If we want to be like Jesus, we will be eager to learn from Him how He resisted the devil.
This account of Jesus’ temptation must have come down to the disciples and to us from Jesus Himself, since it was a private encounter. Luke uses the incident both to confirm Jesus as the righteous Son of God at the outset of His public ministry and to teach us how to follow Him in obedience to the Father.
We must recognize, then, that the term “temptation” is employed in two very different senses, which can be seen from the temptation of our Lord. Temptation is, on the one hand, a solicitation to sin, to do that which is contrary to the will and the word of God.
Temptation is an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan’s efforts at temptation always fall into this category. But “temptation” when viewed from God’s point of view is a “test,” an opportunity for one to be proven righteous (example of Job).
Satan knew from the beginning of history that a man would come to destroy him. I believe that Satan had rightly concluded that Jesus had come to destroy him.
The demons knew so as well. They cried out, “What do we have to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34).
Satan’s claims cannot be taken at face value, for Satan is a liar by nature (John 8:44).
Satan’s claim is only partially true, at best, and thus his offer is exceedingly hollow. It is worth noting that throughout the Bible Satan is continually offering others things which are not his own.
He offers Adam and Eve the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but it was not his to give. Our Lord, on the other hand, offers what He possesses, and the life which He offers is that which He has obtained at the cost of His own blood.
Satan had asked for only one thing, but that one thing was the most crucial act of all. He asked to be worshipped. No doubt Satan attempted to make this act of worship seem trivial. Perhaps it would be done in private, and for just a moment in time.
Our Lord understood the importance of worship, however. It was important because worship was to be directed toward God alone. To worship Satan would have been a direct violation of God’s Word.
More than this, worship was a symbolic act, an act which implied and required further action. Worship was something like the act of signing one’s name on a piece of paper. This does not seem very important, unless that piece of paper is a bill of sale, a contract, a blank check, or enlistment papers for the army.
So it was with worship. Worship is an act which acknowledged that the person or thing bowed down to is greater than the worshipper. That which is worshipped is of greater worth, and has greater power and authority than the worshipper.
Our Lord’s words inform Satan that He knew that an act of worship would have constituted Him a servant of Satan. Thus, by getting Jesus to worship him Satan would have made Jesus a subordinate, and would have preserved his freedom and prolonged his kingdom. Jesus, knowing these things, refused Satan’s proposition and let him know that He understood the implications of what he had proposed.
Jesus’ victory over Satan shows Him to be the righteous Son of God and shows us how to overcome temptation.
1. We must be wise to the schemes of Satan.
It is clear that Jesus believed in and the Bible teaches the reality of a personal evil spirit called Satan (“adversary”) or the devil (“slanderer” or “accuser”). Evil is not just an impersonal force. The devil and the demons are angelic beings who rebelled against God and now are behind the evil in this world.
While the devil is a powerful and intelligent being, he is not omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnipresent. While his final doom is secure, for the present he is a powerful and cunning adversary of the saints. We must not be ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11). Here we learn …
SATAN HITS AT THE OPPORTUNE MOMENT.
After His baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Some say that Jesus went there deliberately to engage Satan in this conflict, but I believe that He went there to commune with the Father so that He would be clear regarding His calling as He began His ministry.
For 40 days Jesus fasted as He drew near to the Father. This reminds us of Moses who spent 40 days without food or water on Mount Sinai with the Lord before he received the Law (Exod. 24:18; 34:28). Elijah went 40 days on the strength of the food given to him by the angel to Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). Both of these fasts and Jesus’ fast were miraculous events, because no man can go 40 days without food or water, especially if he is physically active, as Elijah was.
The Greek grammar of verse 2 would indicate that Jesus was tempted over the duration of the 40 days, but the three temptations described may have occurred at the culmination of the period when His hunger became intense.
It was precisely when Jesus became hungry that the devil appeared with his temptation to turn the stone to bread. Satan hit Jesus with this temptation at the precise moment that Jesus was hungry. He always works like that—he hits you when you’re down. He bides his time until you are vulnerable, and then he moves in with his subtle suggestion of evil.
SATAN SUBTLY MIXES TRUTH AND ERROR IN AN ATTEMPT TO DECEIVE.
In Luke’s second temptation, Satan somehow shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Perhaps this was a graphic verbal description or a vision. We know that it was not a literal view from a high point, because no point is high enough to see all the world’s kingdoms.
Satan proceeds to offer all this domain and its glory to Jesus, claiming that “it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” All he asks is that Jesus bow in worship before him.
Satan’s offer, like all his offers, was a mixed bag of truth and error. Jesus later calls Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Paul calls him “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). But the Bible is also clear, and Satan cleverly alludes to it even here, that God alone sets up kings and grants authority to whomever He wills (Dan. 4:17, 25).
Satan’s authority is at best delegated and temporary. The Bible is clear, as Jesus answers, that God alone is to be worshiped and served. But Satan mixes up the truth of his powerful authority with the error of worshiping him.
SATAN PROMISES PLEASURE, BUT HE DOESN’T MENTION THE INEVITABLE PAIN.
Like a clever salesman, Satan sets out his wares without mentioning the price tag. He always shows the pleasures of sin (which are real), but he doesn’t mention the stiff consequences that inevitably follow. “Worship me and I’ll give you dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth.”
Sounds good! But he fails to mention that Jesus will then be the servant of Satan, not of the Father, that the holy union between Father and Son will be forever broken and that Jesus’ mission as Savior will be ruined.
Satan still works that way: “Give in and enjoy the pleasures of sex like all your friends are doing! Why deprive yourself? Life is short, this may be your only opportunity.”
He doesn’t mention the fact that fornication and adultery are sins, the risk of disease, or pregnancy, or the spiritual and emotional consequences of giving yourself to someone outside of God’s design of lifelong marriage….and the damage to spouses and children when it is revealed.
SATAN TRIES TO GET US TO MEET LEGITIMATE NEEDS OR GOALS IN ILLEGITIMATE WAYS.
Hunger is a legitimate need, but for Jesus to use His power independently of the Father to meet His need would have been wrong. Being Lord of all the kingdoms of this earth was a legitimate goal for Jesus as the Son of God, but bowing before Satan to achieve that goal was wrong.
Throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple and trusting God to spare Him from injury sounds like a great display of faith, which is a good thing. But actually it would have been presumption, which is sin.
Satan’s goal in all three temptations was to get Jesus to act independently of the Father rather than to submit to the will of God, which included the cross.
It would have been a tempting shortcut to gain the glory of ruling all the kingdoms of this world without the agony of the cross.
We need to be careful to follow biblical methods as well as goals. We should learn from our Lord Jesus how to be wise to Satan’s schemes.
We see Jesus living in total dependence on the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), who had descended on Him at His baptism. Jesus thus lived as the perfect man in perfect obedience to the Father as He depended totally upon the Holy Spirit.
Luke organizes his genealogy of Jesus backward, so that it ends with “Adam, the son of God” (3:38). Then, just three verses later we encounter Satan telling Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” In the Greek, there is no doubt in Satan’s challenge. He acknowledges Jesus to be the Son of God. Luke obviously wants us to see a contrast between Adam, who as man was supposed to reflect the image of God, but failed; and, Jesus, the true Son of God who was victorious over Satan’s temptations.
Where the first Adam was defeated by Satan, the second Adam triumphed. Also, there is a contrast between the settings of the two incidents. Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit in a garden where they had plenty. Jesus resisted turning the stone into bread in a barren wilderness where He was very hungry.
Could Jesus have sinned? In fact, how could the Son of God even be tempted? God cannot be tempted by evil, so in what sense was Jesus tempted? Here we plunge into a deep mystery where ultimately we must back off without total resolution. The mystery centers on how one person can be both fully God and fully man at the same time.
It is helpful to distinguish between temptation and testing. Since the fall, we can be tempted to evil by our own sinful desires from within or by Satan from without.
God never tempts anyone to evil (James 1:13). But, every temptation is also a test, where God tries us to reveal what is in our hearts (Deut. 8:2; 2 Chron. 32:31).
Also, we can sinfully put God to the test, demanding that He prove Himself (Luke 4:12, Deut. 6:16). Here Satan was tempting Jesus from without, but the temptation was also a test that proved that Jesus was the obedient Son of God who would not put God to the test.
3. We must be armed with God’s strategies for the saints.
Jesus shows us five strategies for overcoming temptation:
BE MUCH ALONE WITH GOD.
Not only during these 40 days, but also at other times, Jesus would get away from the crowds and even from the disciples to spend time alone with the Father (5:16). If Jesus needed such times, how much more do we.
Time alone with God does not prevent temptation, but it will strengthen us to overcome it.
If you are consistently in God’s Word and in prayer, you will be forewarned and forearmed for standing against the schemes of the devil.
B. BE PREPARED TO BE TEMPTED, ESPECIALLY AFTER A VICTORY.
Jesus was tempted immediately following His baptism, when the Father affirmed Him from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended on Him as a dove.
Jerome said, “Baptism does not drown the devil.” If Jesus’ baptism did not prevent His being tempted, neither will ours. We must walk with God every day and be especially on guard after a time of spiritual victory.
C. BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The filling of the Spirit will not insulate you from temptation, but if you walk in the Spirit, you will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16).
It does not say that you will not have such desires, but rather that you will not fulfill them. Each day we should yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and walk in conscious dependence on Him.
- BE ARMED WITH SCRIPTURE.
Each time Satan attacked, Jesus answered with Scripture, specifically with quotations from Deuteronomy. To use Scripture as Jesus did, we must commit it to memory.
We will not always have a Bible and concordance with us when we are tempted. But God will bring to our mind appropriate Scripture to ward off the enemy’s attacks.
But, again, be careful! Satan can also quote the Bible for his own purposes! The main rule of biblical interpretation is to compare Scripture with Scripture, letting the Bible interpret itself.
You cannot properly apply Scripture until you properly interpret it.
I recommend that if you struggle with a particular sin, write down all the verses on it you can find and commit them to memory.
E. BE READY FOR FURTHER ATTACKS.
As long as we are in this body, we cannot claim complete and final victory over the world, the flesh, or the devil. Constant vigilance is required.
By the way, the Bible commands us to flee certain sins, but to resist the devil.
Conclusion- A little girl was asked if Satan ever tempted her to do wrong. “Oh, yes,” she replied, “but when he knocks at the door of my heart, I just pray, ‘Lord Jesus, please go to the door for me!’”
“What happens then?” she was asked. “Oh, everything turns out all right. When Satan sees Jesus, he runs away every time!”
In her simple faith, that little girl realized that even the strongest Christian is no match for the devil. Only Jesus has defeated him, so we must be strong in the strength of our Lord.
Jesus’ victory over Satan proves that He is the righteous Son of God, mighty to save all who call upon Him. If we trust in Him as Savior and walk in His strength each day, we can overcome temptation when it hits, as surely it will.