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  • Writer's pictureLynn Holzinger

The Temptations of Jesus in the Wilderness and What We Can Learn From Them

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into

the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 4:1

In my last post, "Why Jesus Was Tempted," we learned the importance of Jesus never sinning and the reason He was tested. I talked about where temptation comes from. For us as humans, it comes from either our own evil desires (Jms 1:14) or the devil, who is the tempter (1 Thess 3:5). We have evil desires because we are born with a sin nature. Since Jesus wasn't born with a sin nature, He had no evil desires and could only be tempted by the devil. When the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, it was because it was God's will for Him to be tempted by Satan. He was tempted so that "every creature in heaven, on earth, or under the earth might know that Jesus Christ is the Conquerer. He exposed Satan and his tactics, and He defeated Satan. Because of His victory, we can have victory over the tempter." (Warren J. Wiersbe: The Bible Exposition Commentary, 18) Yes! We can have victory!

Satan also tempted Eve in Genesis 3. He used the same tactics with Eve as he did with Jesus and as he does with us today. Most temptations fall into these three categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn 2:16).

TEMPTATION #1--The Lust of the Flesh: Physical appetite

SATAN: "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread."

JESUS: "No! the Scriptures say, 'People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God' " (Duet 8:3).

SATAN: "Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?"

EVE: "Of course we may eat from the trees in the garden; it's only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, 'you must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.' "

Satan tempted Jesus by appealing to his hunger. If He had given in, He would have been gratifying His human nature and rejecting God's plan. Jesus had the power to turn stones into bread. But only by His divine nature could He do this. He was being tempted as a man. If Jesus had given in, He would not be doing God's will. Satan wanted Jesus to sin and thereby disqualify Him to be our Savior.

In the garden, Satan appealed to Eve's physical appetite by asking her whether they were allowed to eat the fruit from any of the trees? Eve didn't recognize Satan's craftiness in drawing her attention to what God had forbidden. She quickly corrected him but added something God hadn't said; that they couldn't touch the tree in the middle of the garden. She didn't quote what God said accurately.

With us, as with Jesus in the wilderness and Eve in the garden, Satan does not play fair. He exploits our weaknesses and tempts us to satisfy our desires through means that are against God's will for us. One of the ways we can resist him is to use Scripture accurately. I was able to use this way when I felt I was continually tempted to gossip at work. I wrote out two Scriptures (Prov 26:20 and Prov 18:8) on cards and carried them with me at work. I got them out first thing every morning, read them, and put them in view while I worked. After a while, the temptation to gossip lost its pull or desire. God's Word was transforming me as I renewed my mind with Scripture (Rom 12:2).

TEMPTATION #2--The Pride of Life: Personal Gain

SATAN: "If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, 'He will order his angels to protect you, and they will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.' "

JESUS: "The Scriptures also say, 'You must not test the Lord your God.' "

SATAN: "You won't die!"

EVE: (continues to listen)

In this second temptation, Satan takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple and appeals to Jesus' personal gain. He tempts Jesus to prove He is the Messiah by throwing Himself down and letting angels protect Him. Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12, but he doesn't quote it accurately. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, "He left out an important phrase, 'in all your ways.' According to the psalmist, a person is only protected when they are following the Lord's will. For Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in some dramatic display to accommodate Himself to the people's thinking would not have been God's will." And Jesus knew what God's will was; that's why He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16. Wiersbe says in his commentary, "We tempt God when we try to force Him to contradict His own Word."

Got Questions Ministries on What is the Pride of Life? says, "The pride of life can be defined as anything that is 'of the world,' meaning anything that leads to arrogance, ostentation, pride in self, presumption, and boasting. John makes it clear that anything that produces the pride of life comes from a love of the world and 'if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him' (1 Jn 2:15)." Satan was tempting Jesus not only to thwart God's will but for Jesus to show off and personally gain recognition for Himself.

Satan told Eve she would not die. The thought of living forever must have appealed to her because she kept listening. Satan had her right where he wanted her.

Money is another way we are tempted. Money is not bad, but the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10) and leads to the pride of life. Early in my married life, we were not tithing. I was taught to tithe growing up, but for whatever reason, I had stopped giving in college. I heard a sermon on why Christians are told to tithe, and God used that message to open my eyes. Growing up, I had given because I was taught I was supposed to, but I didn't really know why God cared or the blessings that came from giving. After that message, I not only started tithing again, but I understood why God told us to give. And with that understanding began a journey of letting go of things. The desire for more money no longer had a hold on me. And that was the greatest blessing I could receive because, for the most part, I was satisfied with what I had. I don't necessarily think tithing is a commandment for the Church, but the Bible says to give cheerfully and not in response to pressure (2 Cor 9:7). If money has a hold on you, it will be hard to give any of it up cheerfully, which is one of the reasons we are told not to love it!

TEMPTATION #3--The Lust of the Eyes: Power or Glory

SATAN: "I will give it all to You if You will kneel down and worship me."

JESUS: "Get out of here, Satan, for the Scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.' "

SATAN: "God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil."

EVE: saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.

This time, Satan took Jesus to the peak of a very high mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world. Satan told Jesus he would give it all to Him if He would bow down and worship him. As the prince of this world, Satan had the right to make this offer to Jesus (Jn 12:31). But Jesus could not be persuaded. He turned to Scripture once again, and this time He quoted Deuteronomy 6:13. The devil was offering Jesus a shortcut to the kingdom, but there are no shortcuts to the will of God.

Unlike Jesus, Eve gave in. She wanted the wisdom Satan said it would give her, so she ate the fruit and gave some to Adam. When he also ate the fruit, their eyes were both opened. But instead of receiving the desired wisdom or the promise that they would be like God, the only thing they got was the realization that they were naked. Later, when God came to find them, Eve said the serpent had deceived her.

The very nature of being deceived means we believe a lie. We think it's the truth. That's why we must know what the Bible says, so we can recognize when we are being lied to. It's equally important for us to desire to live a godly life, as described in the Bible. When Christians are "tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching," or easily "influenced by people who try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth" (Eph 4:14 NLT), Paul says they are immature like children. When we think we can live a half-hearted Christian life or find a short-cut to godly living, we set ourselves up for not only deception but to be more easily ruled by the flesh. We may not even recognize the tempter when he comes along.

The desire for power, glory, or to be like God is a powerful temptation. God calls us to submit ourselves to Him. He says, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jms 4:7). Submitting to God and resisting the devil are two ways to overcome the temptation to be like God or our own god.

In this life, we will never stop being tempted. That doesn't mean we can't get better at saying, "NO!" Jesus is our high priest who has gone into heaven (Heb 4:14), and He lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25). When we were born-again, the Holy Spirit came to live inside us

(1 Cor 6:19), and He will help us not to carry out our fleshly desires (Gal 4:16-18). God promises to show us the way out of each temptation if we are looking (1 Cor 10:13). We have everything we need to be overcomers like Jesus. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us (Rom 8:37).

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