Essential 100—Read:
Matthew 3:13-17, 4:1-17

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God…’” ~Matthew 4:1-3

Isn’t it interesting—profound, really—that Satan knew who Jesus was, that he was God the Son, yet tempted him anyway?

Satan once resided as Lucifer, chief of all the angels, in the presence of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So when Jesus became the incarnate Son of God, Satan knew perfectly well of his divine nature. Rather than backing off, however, Satan unleashed a torrent of enticements designed to derail the plan of God and get Jesus off his game.  And if the very Son of God would have to endure an onslaught of Satanic temptations, so will you.

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. 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 Jesus to commit murder or to steal a bag full of money.  No, this temptation was to gain what seemed good by sacrificing what was best.

It is highly likely that the temptations you will face today will be subtle as well.  Satan’s stock-in-trade is deception, which is what makes temptation so effective.  Jesus called him “the father of lies”, and he’s gotten pretty good at it over the millennia.  So in particular, watch out for the enticements that will be just slightly off center from God’s will.  Don’t accept good at the expense of God’s best.

In one sense, the temptations that will hit you today will be perfectly sane.  Jesus had fasted for forty days and was at the limit of what a human body could endure.  He was hungry, and Satan simply suggested that Jesus use his God-prerogatives to satisfy a physical necessity.

Jesus was called to be the Messiah of the Jews.  What better way to jumpstart his ministry than by hang-gliding from the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem—without a 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, each of these temptations called for Jesus to depend 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 sin of all—to trust in anything or anyone other than God to get your needs and wants met.

It is likely that you will be hit with temptation in the same way today.  It will be subtle.  It will seem sane.  And probably, it will sound pretty spiritual as well—remember, each temptation Satan dangled before Jesus was prefaced with Scripture.

So be on guard today—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 the Scripture each day, as you are doing.

Likewise, since Jesus overcame his battle with temptation, he stands at the ready to help you in your battle.  So just ask him for his help—he is more than willing to come alongside you.  Hebrews 2:17-18 teaches 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 sin comes knocking at your door today, just send Jesus to answer it! 

“My temptations have been my Masters in Divinity.”  ~Martin Luther

Reflect and Apply: John Quincy Adams said, “Every temptation is an opportunity of our getting nearer to God.”  If you are facing a strong temptation, leverage it to draw near to God.  Here is a prayer you might consider offering: “Father in heaven, your name is holy.  May your kingdom come and your will be done in my life today, just as it is in heaven.  Provide what I need. Forgive all my sins—and strengthen me with your grace to forgive those who disappoint me. And steer me away from temptation, and from the Evil One, so that at the end of this day, through my life, all of the glory will be turned back to you.”

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