“You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can sure keep them from building a next in your hair!” This quote, allegedly from the pen of Martin Luther, summarizes our personal responsibility in resisting temptation.
In Luke 4, Luke portrays Jesus as being tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus had been led out into the desert, the wilderness – typical of where God’s Old Testament son (Israel) had so quickly failed. The Spirit of God was evidencing that this beloved Son, in whom the Father was well pleased would remain faithful regardless of the test. For 40 days, Satan had, I’m sure, pulled out all the weapons at his disposal in order to tempt the Son of God to misuse His unique position as the God-Man.
In the 3 temptations cited for us in the 4th chapters of Matthew and Luke, we gain some insight into the strategy the devil uses as “The TEMPTER.”
1) The appeal to natural appetites. Hunger is not evil but meeting the needs of the Son of Man by the power of the Son of God is exactly that.
2) The devil offered to Jesus what would rightfully belong to Christ after His resurrection. He offered all authority and power, something which Jesus claimed to have been given to Him fully in Matthew 28:18-20. Satan wants short cuts and urges us to ‘fast track’ or take ‘short cuts’ to something legitimate in God’s plan for our lives.
3) The devil uses and misuses Scripture. Some temptations have a “religious” ring to them and the Bible has certainly been misused on a variety of occasions. So many cults began with truth and soon began to modify their interpretation of Scripture. Consider the “Burnt Over District” of upper state New York, where so many of today’s “CULTS” were founded in ‘Bible study groups’ after a bona fide stirring of the Spirit of God.
4) The devil ended his temptation, but only for a season. He watched for “an opportune time” later on and certainly found access into the inner circle of Jesus’ closest followers (the Apostles) through greed, pride, selfish ambition, the evident “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21) manifested in outbursts by Judas, Peter, James, John and the others in the apostolic band.
What are some key lessons for our own lives?
1) Learn Scripture well. “It is written….” means you know WHERE it is written, and WHAT was written because you have memorized God’s Word.
2) Prepare for temptation. The obedience of Jesus was tested by the devil. Baptism, or specific acts of obedience, do not exempt you from the enemy’s attacks. In fact, your obedience may draw his ire as he sees your growing love for Jesus who is called the Christ.
3) Match the temptation with specific truth. Just like a good pharmacist knows the multitude of drugs available for specific conditions, we must know the Scriptures. We should be so saturated with Scripture that we may draw to mind relevant truth as an antidote for the poisonous arrow which Satan hurls in our direction.
4) Being tempted is not the issue….the issue is yielding.
“Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin….” the hymnwriter penned. God challenged Cain that “Sin was crouching at the door. It desires to have you, BUT you must master it….” Make your choice early. Resist the devil and he will free.
May God enable us to gain a growing mastery over the enemy of our souls. May First John 2:14 be written over our lives ….
“I write to you, young men, because you are STRONG, and the WORD of GOD lives in you, and you have OVERCOME the evil one!”