About a year ago, I asked God how Jesus could possibly relate to me in the areas of my life where I experience temptation. I mean, as the perfect Son of God, his temptations simply involved resisting the use of his powers during his so-called “fast,” right? In that brief conversation, God showed me that Jesus’s temptation in the desert is not just a story of overcoming human weakness; it is an exposé of the devil’s strategy, a blueprint for us to use to defeat his schemes. I pray that this post will be an encouragement and an inspiration for you as it was to me, to partner with the Holy Spirit in your personal battles against temptation.
In Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus faces three temptations. Each temptation targets a different part of our tripartite being: the body, soul, and spirit. The devil begins with the physical, then works his way down.
Stage 1: The Body
We have fleshly desires (food, water, sex) that are unavoidable. The devil comes at Jesus with this basest of temptations, urging him to break his fast and turn stones into bread. Here, Jesus emphasizes the importance of God’s Word when he says that “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word from God’s mouth.” (v. 4) God’s Word is not just helpful; it is necessary to sustain us. So what does this mean for me? I need to read the Bible more! I need to memorize Scripture and use it as a weapon – that sword of the Spirit – to cut through lies that the enemy throws at me.
Stage 2: The Soul (Mind, Will, and Emotions)
The devil tried to get Jesus to test God by jumping off the temple. He tries to plant doubt by saying “if you are the Son of God.” He did this the first time too. The devil is hell bent on destroying our identity in God. Doubting who we are in Christ can lead to cycles of shame. Jesus responds with a passage from Deuteronomy: “do not put the Lord your God to the test” (v. 7) – which refers to the story of Moses getting water from a rock. God was angry with the Israelites because they doubted whether or not His presence was with them, and therefore they put him to the test. Jesus was so aware of God’s presence even in the midst of temptation that he did not need to put Him to the test.
Jesus was so aware of God’s presence even in the midst of temptation that he did not need to put Him to the test.
Stage 3: The Spirit
In this last phase, the devil offers Jesus what is already his. In the spiritual realm, we have already been given victory and an inheritance in Christ. Jesus knew that all things had already been given him (the world is his footstool!) yet the devil tries once again to plant doubt about his identity. Satan tries to get Jesus to worship him, which would essentially remove Jesus from his rightful place as ruler all the way down to a servant of the devil. Jesus answers him with “Worship God, and serve Him only.” (v. 10) That place of oneness with the Father where our gaze is fixed on nothing but Him is also where we find rest and distance from the enemy as well as realization that we are children of the Most High King. This also ties into Jesus’s conversation in with the Samaritan woman in John 4 about worshiping “in spirit and in truth.” What do we know about truth? That it will set us free. (John 8:32) What do we know about freedom? That where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17) When the devil attacks our spirit, we can counter by making sure that our spirit remains in the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Tom Harding of Alive Wesleyan Church gives some great strategies on dealing with temptation in his sermon “Temptation” from his series Shake it Up. He teaches us to do three things:
- fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons,
- be strategic about battlefields, and
- live boldly with eyes wide open.
So don’t let your guard down. Whatever you are dealing with, Jesus HAS experienced it on a spiritual level, and he HAS defeated it! Draw near to him and he will draw near to you. He will equip you with everything you need to overcome temptation. Be blessed this week.