Read: Matthew 4
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God…’” (Matthew 4:1-3)
“Masters in Divinity”—that’s what Martin Luther called his temptations. No believer enjoys facing them, but within each temptation resides the very real potential of a faith-strengthening, character-refining, sin-crushing victory. Truly temptation is, or should be, the Christian’s Masters of Divinity.
Even Jesus faced temptation. It’s interesting, profound, really, when you think about it, that Satan knew who Jesus was—God the Son—yet tempted him anyway. Satan once resided as Lucifer, one of the chief angels, in the presence of the Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So when Jesus became God the incarnate Son, Satan, knowing perfectly well of his divine nature, unleashed a torrent of enticements anyway that were designed to derail God’s plan of salvation by knocking Jesus irremediably off course. Now, to be certain, if the very Son of God had to endure an onslaught of Satanic temptation, you and I will too.
It is also of interest that Satan didn’t tempt Jesus with obvious evil. Three times he attempted to entice Jesus to sin with subtle, sane, and spiritual sounding goodies. That’s because the devil is the master of subtlety. He didn’t come to Jesus dressed in a red suit and pointed tail, pitchfork in hand, luring him to commit murder or to steal a bag full of money. These temptations were to gain what seemed good by sacrificing what was best. Likewise, when Satan tempts you, the bait he sets in front of you will be subtle, sane, and seemingly spiritual.
Subtle: Expect the temptations you face today to be quite subtle. Satan’s stock-in-trade is deception, which is what makes temptation so effective. Jesus called him “the father of lies”, and he has gotten pretty good at it over the millennia. That’s why the bible calls us to constant alertness. So watch and be on guard for enticements that will be just slightly off center from God’s will.
Sane: When Satan tempted Jesus, the Lord had just come off a forty day fast. He was at the limit of what the human body could endure. He was hungry, he was physically weak and emotionally depleted. Satan was simply suggesting that Jesus ought to use his God-prerogatives to satisfy a legitimate physical necessity—and he was dangling Scripture in front of him as justification. Your temptations today will likely be quite easy to justify, which is exactly why they are so dangerous. Be careful, be prayerful, and be armed with God’s Word on the matter.
Seemingly Spiritual: Jesus was called to be the Messiah of the Jews, and what better way to jumpstart his ministry than by hang-gliding from the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem—without the hang-glider! What a great way to show off his God-powers and impress the people he was called to lead. Ultimately, Jesus was called to be the Lord and Savior of the world. Why not fast-track that plan by allowing Satan to hand deliver all the nations of the world to him in an instant? No fuss, no muss! The problem was, however, that each of these temptations would have meant depending on himself to get his needs met rather than trusting in God’s provision, timing and plan. That is perhaps the most foundational and most common temptation of all—to trust in anything or anyone other than God to get your needs and wants met.
You will be hit with temptation in the same way today—just count on it! It will be subtle, it will seem sane, and probably, it will sound incredibly spiritual. So be on guard—sin is crouching at your door. But it is not inevitable that you will succumb to it. Jesus didn’t—which means that you don’t have to either. Jesus knew the Word and will of God better than Satan, and so do you. That’s one of the blessings of reading and praying through the Gospels this year, as you are doing.
Likewise, since Jesus overcame his battle with temptation, he stands at the ready to help you in your battle. Just ask him for his help—he is more than willing to come alongside you. Hebrews 2:17-18 reminds us,
“For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
So when temptation comes knocking at your door today, just send Jesus to answer it.
“Every temptation is an opportunity of our getting nearer to God.” ~John Quincy Adams
What If God Took Over?
Memorize I Corinthians 10:13 … absorb it into your spirit … and most importantly, rely on it when temptation comes your way:
“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”