Temptation. We all face it. We know what it is – the desire to do something we shouldn’t do. Satan fills our heart with lies (Acts 5:3). He is called the “tempter” (1 Thessalonians 3:5). But is that all there is to it? Can’t we go a level deeper and better understand what is happening so we can be more alert to it and be better able to overcome it? Let’s look at two classic cases of temptation in the Bible as see what we can glean from them.
1 John 2:16 says most temptations fall into one of three categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Eve’s temptation in Eden (Genesis 3) and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4) give us insight into the tactics Satan used in the past and still uses today – and quite successfully as well.
In Satan’s first temptation of Jesus, he appealed to the lust of the flesh. Jesus was very hungry, and Satan tempted Him to use His power to make bread for Himself. Jesus resisted the temptation, but the encounter shows how Satan works. He exploits our physical weaknesses and picks on them. He knows the weak places in our flesh and looks for opportunities to stir sinful passions inside our hearts. He takes a legitimate need in our life (food for Jesus) and tries to get him to meet that need in an illegitimate way (make bread out of stones). Think of the biggest temptations you struggle with. What legitimate need is behind them? How are you tempted to meet this need in a way that isn’t God’s way for you?
When Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, he suggested to her that the Lord was keeping something beneficial from her (Genesis 3:6). When he tempts us with the lust of the flesh, he points to a natural desire and suggests that we should meet it in our own selfish way. Eve’s natural desire for food was not wrong, but Satan exploited it. That desire became sin when she fulfilled it in an ungodly way. Sexual immorality begins with a natural desire for intimacy. But if we have not allowed Jesus to become a greater passion, the tempter may convince us that we must meet this need our own way. The same is true with the lust for food, or money, or possessions, or pleasure or anything else for which we lust.
The second way Satan tempts us is through the lust of the eyes. Eve’s eyes told her something about the fruit that conflicted with what God had said about it. Eve’s eyes rebelled against God’s commandment and “saw that it was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes” (Genesis 3:6).
Our eyes play a major role in our decision-making. We see something we want, and our flesh agrees that we must have it. In this age of visual overstimulation, our eyes take in millions of bits of information through the day, and, unless we filter that information through a pure heart (Matthew 5:8; Psalm 24:4), our eyes will lead us into sin. That’s exactly what happened with Samson (Judges 14:1-3).
With Jesus, Satan showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give them all to Him. That was why He came to earth, so what was wrong with the offer? Jesus wouldn’t have to go to the cross, thus there would be no redemption for anyone ever. Jesus saw the kingdoms, but again defeated Satan’s lies with the truth of God’s Word (Luke 4:8; Deuteronomy 6:13). Despite what His eyes saw, He knew God’s Word and was committed to follow it. Always quote God’s Word when tempted. It resets truth in your mind and heart. It is our sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and our only way to victory.
Satan’s third temptation, to Jesus and to Eve, was to pride. To Eve he promised more wisdom. Her ego wanted that more than she wanted to serve God, so she gave in. She wanted to make her own decisions, not always be told what to do by God! When we are more concerned with what others think of us than what God thinks, we are giving in to self-centeredness and pride.
Satan gave Jesus an opportunity to “show off” how great He was and prove before all that He was the Son of God (Luke 4:9-11). If He threw Himself off the highest part of the temple and angles came to catch Him, everyone would be impressed and see Him as Messiah God, but again without the cross (Luke 4:12; Deuteronomy 6:16).
These are the main ways Satan tempts us: the lust of our flesh, things we see and want, and through our pride and self-centeredness. We aren’t unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). We know he pretends to be an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) when he is really darkness. He tries to make evil look good, and good look unappealing. He uses false guilt to manipulate us, he knows our weaknesses and how to exploit them, and he twists Scripture like he did with Eve.
We don’t have to give in. God is greater (1 John 4:4). If we keep our faith in God and His Word we will extinguish whatever lies he sends our way (Ephesians 6:16). Satan may tempt us through the lust of the flesh, but we “do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Satan may tempt us through the lust of the eyes, but our prayer is “Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word” (Psalm 119:37). Satan may tempt us through the pride of life, but we must humble ourselves continually before the Lord (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10).
Romans 12:1–2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
When are you the most susceptible to temptation?
Which of the three categories mentioned in the blog bring the strongest temptations to you?
What must you do to have victory over them?
What are some specific verses you can use to keep the truth in your mind? Write them down now and carry them with you. Read them throughout the day.
cto Rev. Dr. JERRY SCHMOYER
Christian Training Organization
(India Outreach, Spiritual Warfare, Family Ministries, Counseling, World View)
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