William J. Stewart
It is a fairly common thing for professional sports teams to carefully watch video of their opponents. They watch to learn patterns, to decipher the other team’s playbook or game plan. If you know what your opponent is going to do, it makes it much easier to defend against it. As we mentioned last week, Satan is a student of our lives. He knows what our weaknesses are, and will exploit them, tempting us to sin. The good news is, we also can know his playbook. Knowing what he’s going to do, we can be forewarned and prepared for his attacks. His game plan is rather simple. Notice what the apostle John says:
“…all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)
Every temptation the devil lays before us will fall into one of those three zones. Knowing this, we can arm and defend ourselves against his attacks. Let’s consider how Jesus overcame every temptation brought upon Him by the devil by using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
Lust of the Flesh (Matthew 4:3-4)
Verse 2 tells us that Jesus had fasted 40 days and nights, and “afterward He was hungry.” I can’t imagine how strong the craving for food would be. But the devil knew this was a temptation, something that Jesus would desire.
Hungry and faithful is better than full and in sin. Both Eve (Genesis 3:6) and Esau (Genesis 25:29-34) allowed hunger or appetite to cause them to sin. Eating is a natural desire, and people do it every day without sin; but even meeting a natural desire becomes sinful if Satan has tempted us to misuse it (consider 1 Corinthians 7:1-9).
Among the tools Satan will use to provoke us to sin is doubt. He will cast doubt on our relationship to God (he did with Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…”) and he will cast doubt on God’s care for us (to Eve, he inferred that God was holding back something good from them).
The answer is found in Scripture. The Lord’s “it is written” statement quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. We need to become very familiar with the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:13-16), so we will be able to fend off Satan’s attacks that appeal to the flesh.
The Pride of Life (Matthew 4:5-7)
It is estimated that the pinnacle of the temple stretched 700 ft above the Kedron valley. It would be like standing on the corner of a 50 story building! Satan put Jesus in a dangerous place and then attacked His trust in the LORD’s promises. We need confidence in God for the times of uncertainty in life.
Notice, Satan quoted from Psalm 91:11-12. He knows what God’s word says. But his use of the text was to create doubt, to provoke Jesus to test God’s word—will He actually do what He said He would do? It was an attack on faith in God.
In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar tried to intimidate Daniel’s friends into worshiping the image he had set up. He asked, “…who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (v 15). They responded with an answer of faith (v 16-18). Would we?
Jesus answered the devil by citing Deuteronomy 6:16. Satan’s use of Scripture was faithless; Jesus’ reply was in demonstration of faith in God.
The Lust of the Eyes (Matthew 4:8-10)
A 30 second spot in the Super Bowl this year cost $5 million. Why were companies willing to pay such an amount? Advertisers know that people are visually motivated.
Satan knows this too. He knew that Jesus anticipated a kingdom and the honour of all men (Psalm 2:6-12; Daniel 7:13-14), and so that is exactly what he offered the Lord. The price? “…fall down & worship me.”
The devil knows how to use this with us as well. He might tempt us with the dream job, but to take it we must miss church a lot! He might lay sexual pleasure before us, but frame it outside a scriptural marriage. Or he may tease us with the potential of a lotto win, but the cost is receiving dishonest gain.
Jesus answered from Deuteronomy 10:20. It would have been idolatry, but beyond that, it was a lie. The nations were not his to give (Psalm 22:28; 47:8). Jesus would receive authority (Matthew 28:18) and all will eventually bow before Him (Philippians 2:9-11), but it had to take place according to God’s plan, not Satan’s.
May we learn to never misappropriate God’s glory for some perceived gain. Serve God, and He will bless us (Proverbs 28:20, 22).
Victory (Matthew 4:11)
Away with you Satan! The temptations were an offense to the Lord. We should be offended, not enticed when Satan attempts to draw us away. Unsuccessful, the devil left (see 1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7). And then angels came to minister to Him God is aware of the troubles we endure (Deuteronomy 2:7) and He provides comfort (Daniel 3:28; Matthew 18:10; Acts 12:7; 27:23; Hebrews 1:14). And so let’s overcome temptation, following the example of Jesus.