By Donald K. Campbell
Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13). But Christians often ignore this fact. Dr. Charles Ryrie suggests, “To read or hear some on the spiritual life, one would think that the so-called victorious Christian never experiences temptation; or if he does, it is a slight and fleeting experience which really causes him no problem. I have just perused a half dozen books on the spiritual life. Only one of them mentioned temptation and then in only two paragraphs. Perhaps this unrealistic attitude toward the reality of temptation is the cause of discouragement among some believers who, thinking they have the secret of victory, suddenly find themselves not only confronted with temptation but actually overcome by it”
To be tempted is human. Even Jesus Christ was tempted in His humanity. Let’s examine Jesus’ temptation to see what we can learn from His experience.
The temptation of Jesus occurred in a unique setting. According to Matthew’s Gospel, John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, and a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. ” Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matt. 3:17-4:1).
It was in our Lord’s baptism that He pledged to fulfill every righteous demand of God against sinners. It was His pledge to go to the cross and die for sinners so that God could be just and the justifier of the ungodly. John could then exclaim, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). And Satan then came to tempt, to offer the crown without the cross. As G. Campbell Morgan stated, “The temptation is the story of hell’s attempt to thwart heaven’s purpose.”
Luke’s account reads, “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for
forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry” (Luke 4:1-2),
It is interesting to note that Jesus faced temptation when He was full of the Holy Spirit and submissive to the Him. Thus, led by the Spirit
into the wilderness, He faced the devil himself. For 40 days He was led of the Spirit. For 40 days He was tempted by the devil. For 40 days He ate nothing. Satan had no doubt been an invisible spectator at the baptism of Jesus, had heard the words of the Father: “This is My
beloved Son,” and now responds, “So this is God’s Son who has come to crush me and set up the Kingdom of God.” He resolved to defeat this divine champion. As he had conquered the first Adam, so would he the last.
Satan then launched what has been called “the great offensive.” “And the devil said to Him, `If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to
become bread'” (Luke 4:3). At the baptism, the voice of the Father had said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” The devil challenged that, and said, “If indeed You are the Son of God, prove it by commanding the stones to turn into bread.” The issue is, will Jesus continue to trust God, or will He obey Satan and turn those stones into something to eat?
Jesus responded in effect, “I will trust the Father who sustained the children of Israel for 40 years in the wilderness.” He quoted from
Deuteronomy 8 which describes that wilderness experience- “Man shall not live on bread alone” (v.4). The devil was subtly suggesting that man’s total needs are physical. Jesus’ basic need at this hour, according to Satan, was physical, and that need could be met by turning the stones into bread.
Today the devil is still saying that man’s primary needs are physical, and that if he satisfies the physical needs and drives, he will be totally fulfilled. But the Bible teaches that man is more than a physical being; he is body, soul, and spirit. The satisfaction of just the physical needs of man will not provide a life that is fulfilling.
D.H. Lawrence wrote, “My great religion is a belief in the blood, the flesh, as being wiser than the intellect. We can go wrong with our
minds, but what our blood feels or believes and says is always true, The real way of living is to answer one’s wants.” In other words, as
the philosophy of the day expresses it, “If it feels good, do it.” But that is a basically pagan statement. Its origin is from Satan himself.
Jesus refuted it by quoting Scripture to show the inadequacy of meeting only one’s physical needs.
The second great temptation is found in Luke 4:5. “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” As The Lord and Satan looked north, south, east, west, somehow all the kingdoms of the earth came into view. “And the devil said to Him, `I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish'” (v. 6). Man had been given dominion over the earth, but that dominion had slipped out of his hands because of Adam’s disobedience. Satan was quick to seize control and become the prince of this world.
Satan went on to say to Jesus, “Therefore if You will worship before me, it shall all be Yours” (v.7), His offer was, “I’ll make you Messiah
by a shortcut. Instead of the cross and then the crown, You can be the King now.” The temptation was for Christ to compromise with evil to achieve His goal of the crown. That too is a familiar temptation of Satan. It is heard by the businessman; it is heard by the student; it
is heard by the housewife- “compromise with evil in order to achieve your goal.”
Again Jesus answered by quoting the Word of God, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only'” (v.8). The devil tried to lure Jesus into violating the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Jesus knew that if He bowed to Satan to worship him, He would become his servant, and that was unthinkable.
The third temptation appears in verse 9. “And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, `If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.'” Now we see Satan attempting to seize the sword of the Spirit from Jesus’ hands, quoting Scripture himself, though not accurately. “For it is written, `He will give His angels charge concerning You to guard You,’ [omit-ting the words, “in all your ways,”] and, `On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone”‘ (Luke 4:10-11).
It was a sheer drop of approximately 400-500 feet in that day into the Valley of the Kidron from the pinnacle of the Temple. Satan in
effect was saying, “Yes, Jesus, You’re right-you can trust God. Now give the people some divine razzle dazzle. Jump from this pinnacle of
the Temple. The angels will swoop down from heaven, lift You up, and You will not be injured. Then the people will immediately acclaim You as Messiah.”
“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test”‘” (v. 12). Thus, three times Satan tempted
Christ, and three times the Son of God responded with a verse of Scripture.
The narrative concludes, “And when the devil had finished every temptation [or as Morgan says, ‘When hell had exhausted itself’], he
departed from Him until an opportune time” (v.13). As we know, the devil always has a follow-up problem, and he did come back later, He tempted Jesus through Peter, and Jesus had to say to him, “Get behind Me, Satan!” (Matt. 16:23). He also tempted Jesus through Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “This hour and the power of darkness are yours” (Luke 22:53).
Now, what can we as believers learn about temptation from this crucial passage?
First, we learn not to expect to be free from temptation, for not even Jesus was, nor the biblical heroes-Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and others. They experienced it, and some of them yielded. We must accept the reality of temptation.
In the second place, we must distinguish between temptation and sin. I remember when a seminary student came into my office and said, “Prof, I must be a sinful person, because I am tempted so much.” I said, “Well, now just a moment, son. The real issue is, do you yield to temptation?” Temptation is not sin; yielding to temptation is. Joseph was tempted in Potiphar’s house. He did not yield. David was tempted by the sight of Bathsheba. He did yield and sinned. Temptation and sin, while they seem to offer so very much, yield so very little.
Third, we must understand that we do not face temptation in our own power and strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, full
of the Holy Spirit, was tempted by the devil. And John declared in 1 John 4:4, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
How encouraging-the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian is greater than Satan, the prince of the power of the air, our great tempter. God does not intend for us to face the enemy in our own strength.
In the fourth place, we need to realize that the way to victory is to know and use the Word of God. Jesus defeated the devil by quoting
three verses from the Book of Deuteronomy. Someone once asked how we would fare against the temptation of the devil today if our victory depended on verses we had memorized from Deuteronomy. Perhaps that is not a fair question, but we should be hiding the Word of God in our hearts that we might not sin against the Lord. In 1 John 2:14, John wrote, “I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” Here we see the secret of victory. The way to overcome the temptations of the devil is to abide in the Word of God and allow that Word to abide in us.
Finally, we must remember that Christ prays for us. Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31-32).
What a comfort to know that in our hour of temptation, Jesus, the great ascended High Priest and intercessor, prays for us that we may not fail.
With God’s help, we can be victors and not victims in temptation.
(The above information was published by Donald K. Campbell, September 1993)
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