Shutting Temptation Down

Throughout the world treaties have been signed to limit what most humans consider inhumane activity. War criminals are in prison because they violate these human sensibilities. We avoid wars using chemical warfare because of what it does to the human body.

The belief is that no human deserves that kind of experience even in the middle of war and hatred. Some of these tactics make others feel like less of a human being. To avoid the sociopaths cannot understand why they are inhumane, treaties can be most helpful.

There’s something about already being defeated and the enemy kicking you when you’re down. We have a problem with this but the devil doesn’t. Ever notice that he doesn’t show his ugly face when you’re standing on the top of the mountain of victory with your hands raised in triumph?

He waits until you are crawling in the valley of defeat. That’s the moment he chooses to spring his trap. How in the world are we going to be victorious when temptation waits for our weakest moments?

Jesus is our example in all things. One of the best examples he gave us dealing with temptation happened at the end of 40 days of a food fast in the wilderness. This was to prepare Jesus for ministry right after he was water baptized by John the Baptist.

Imagine that you haven’t eaten any food for 40 days. For almost all of us, that’s quite a stretch. I personally love food. Just take a look at me or ask anybody who knows me. This great spiritual discipline of fasting comes in handy when you have allowed your flesh every little thing it desires.

There’s nothing wrong with the flesh unless it has more control over you than the Holy Spirit does. This is where we enter into the matter of holiness. Jesus prepared himself for ministry by making sure his flesh was in check. He had to rely on the Holy Spirit.

It’s in this moment of what the devil thought was weakness that he showed up and decided to pounce on Jesus. Matthew 4:1-11 records his threefold attack against Jesus and how Jesus responded in victory even in the moment of weakness.

Round One

The devil starts with an opener that is sure to hit its mark. He preys on Jesus’ hunger because of his 40 day fast. He is goading Jesus into exposing himself as the Son of God. But Jesus is meek, meaning that he doesn’t have to show his power in full force at command. He knows who he is.

Jesus doesn’t have to prove anything about being the Son of God. Although he will perform countless miracles throughout his ministry, so many that John tells us they could not all be recorded (John 21:25), he does them under his conditions, not the devil’s.

He wants Jesus to speak bread into existence using the stones. Stones in the Middle East were about the same size and color as a loaf of bread. Jesus is starving and Satan thinks he’s got him beat. But Jesus responds in a way no one ever has.

He tells Satan that people don’t live on bread alone but on God’s words. He quotes from the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus fights Satan’s temptation with thorough knowledge of God’s Word.

This is one of the reasons we need to know our Bibles, memorize Scripture, and study it in depth so we know what it means in the proper context. Even memorization is helpful because we can’t take a timeout to look up a verse when the devil or temptation attacks us.

Jesus reminds the devil that God is the sustainer of all things. He is the one provided manna in the wilderness when the Israelites needed food. He is the one who makes all things grow. God is the sustainer of all life and he can sustain us however he wishes.

How often do we think we have to please others or show off? We need to develop a healthy sense of identity in Christ. Do you trust God to provide for all of your needs and sustain you in supernatural ways if needed?

Round one is thoroughly in Jesus’ corner. In what might’ve been his weakest physical state and greatest desire to end his fast Satan had nothing on him. Jesus has every possible weakness fortified against the tempter.

Round Two

Since that first tactic didn’t work for Satan, he came back for more. He wanted the same result, for Jesus to prove that he was the Son of God. This time the tactic was to challenge him to test the promise of God.

Satan wanted Jesus to jump off the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem. He pointed out God’s promise to protect him from all forms of physical danger from Psalm 91:11-12. God promises that he will even send angels if needed to protect Jesus from bodily harm.

Because this is God’s promise for his chosen one, his Messiah, the devil wanted Jesus to test out his divinity and his place is God’s Son. But Jesus knew it and didn’t need to test the promise. He knew that if he ever needed it, it would be there.

Rest assured that the devil knows the Bible also. Just quoting Scripture against him does not guarantee that we will win the battle over temptation. We must know the right verse to use at the right time for the right situation. We must know the context of the Scriptures we use. The Bible isn’t a book of magical incantations but it does contain the most powerful words ever uttered because they are God’s words.

Jesus not only hears the quotation from Scripture but also knows that testing God is out of the question. He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16 and reminds the devil that no one should put God to the test. That’s exactly what he would do if he jumped. That would test God to see if the promise would come true.

But Jesus didn’t need to do that because he was secure in his identity as the Son of God and the promises that came with it. His absolute trust in God gave him no reason to test his promises. And we are the same way. We must trust that God’s promises are true and are becoming reality.

The devil has been defeated twice now in his attempts to tempt Jesus. He will give up on trying to get Jesus to prove he is the Son of God. Now he will tempt him with the only thing he has left in his bag of tricks.

Round Three

For the final time Satan approaches Jesus with another temptation. Frankly, I think the devils getting tired of being defeated. And yet he keeps on coming. Jesus is going to have to issue a total knock out.

This time, the devil takes him to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. He claims ownership of this kingdoms and will turn them over to Jesus if he would just bow down and worship the devil.

Satan is getting desperate. The thing is that he actually is in charge of these nations and kingdoms until Jesus returns. One of his names and titles is the Prince of the Power of the Air. Since he got kicked out of heaven he’s relegated to rule on earth but only for a time.

Satan may be in charge of earthly kingdoms now but they still ultimately belong to God and are part of Jesus’ inheritance when he leaves the earth after his resurrection. God placed him on the throne, to his right hand, and subjected all powers (including Satan) under his feet.

So Jesus doesn’t have to bow down to Satan to gain power over these kingdoms. They are already his. It’s already part of God’s plan for him to be King over all kings. Of course, Jesus knows this. He’s not going to be sucker punched by the devil.

This might be the weakest temptation by the devil. Jesus remains strong the whole way through the temptation process but the devil seems to be getting weaker. The more we turn down temptations it doesn’t get any easier but the enemy gets weaker in his pursuit. We must remain strong against temptation of all kinds.

Jesus responds from Deuteronomy 6:13 that we worship and serve God alone and no one else. I love his command to the devil, “Be gone.” He pretty much tells the devil to get lost. Third round goes to the Son of God. The devil is defeated and no temptation strikes a blow.

Jesus taught us several principles about temptation we can take to the bank.

  1. Use Scripture to defeat temptation in the proper context for the proper situation.
  2. The devil knows Scripture so we must study it to use it like the finely tuned weapon it is..
  3. Don’t give up what you already have. Temptations offer much more than they can deliver.
  4. Tell Satan to get behind you and flee.
  5. Trust in God for your provision, promises, and his providence.

Many scholars connect John’s three temptations in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16) to the three temptations Satan serves Jesus. It looks like this:

  1. Stones into bread – lust of the flesh
  2. Jumping off the Temple – pride of life
  3. Kingdoms of the World – lust of the eyes

What are some strategies you use to win when you face temptation? Leave a comment and let us know some of your tactics against temptations.

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