Some Dynamics of Temptation
Matthew 4:5-11; James 3:13-17; I John 2:15-17
Temptation has been an issue for every human ever born. Satan appeared in the Garden of Eden and used it to subvert God’s relationship with His newly created human family. Satan’s strategy was (and is) to “customize” temptation to the particular individual by appealing to their particular innate desires, fears and impulses in such a way as to cause them to be in conflict with God.
Satan is characterized in scripture as “the father of lies”, the “accuser of the brethren”, the “deceiver”, “slanderer” and the “god of this world”, just to name a few.
It is imperative that we be aware of our vulnerabilities to the deceptive strategies likely to be employed against us to interrupt our relationship with our Heavenly Father!
The three arenas of temptation: (I Thessalonians 5:23)
Body…Bodily needs and desires
Soul…Desires in the realm of our nature and emotions
Spirit…Intelligence, seat of knowledge
The core needs that Satan targets:
Note: None of these things are inherently sinful. They are in fact noble and necessary aspects of life that God wants us to experience and find fulfillment in! Satan, on the other hand, seeks to draw us into some kind of perversion of them and ultimately to rob us of the fulfillment our Father had intended!
Three aspects of our fallen nature Satan exploits:
(I John 2:15-18)
The lust of the flesh (physical pleasure) This trait is defined as;
“an outlook oriented toward self. It is materialistic, egocentric, exploitative and selfish. It takes for itself what it desires irrespective of consequences and simply concerns itself with the satisfaction of physical desires.”
The arena is the BODY
In Genesis 3 Eve saw the fruit as “good for food.”
The lust of the eyes (mental pleasure) This is the desire that fills the thought life with contemplation. In Bible times this was referred to as “the love of beauty divorced from the love of goodness.” It carries a distinct sense of “seeing one’s self in certain situations or having certain things.” It can lead to a form of “covetousness.”
This occurs in the arena of the SOUL.
In Genesis 3, Eve experienced it when the fruit of the tree appeared as “pleasant to the eyes.”
The pride of life (sense of significance, self-importance) This phrase refers to the pride we take in our public image. Specifically, the sense of personal importance that displaces our desire to live for the glory of God and the well-being of others. This is reflected in whatever status symbol that is most important to us and that which most significantly defines our identities.
This plays out in our SPIRIT.
In Genesis 3 Eve saw the fruit as “desired to make one wise.”
The book of James supplies a pretty plain statement we would all be wise to remember:
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:14)
A.T. Robertson put it this way in his commentary on this verse…”snared by one’s own bait.”
The word “enticed” comes from language that is used to describe practices used in fishing and trapping. It involves the skilled use of bait to lure a fish or animal into a position to be captured. This is a prime example of the “customization” mentioned earlier. The “captor” gives the prey what they desire to lure them within reach. In effect the desires of the prey make them vulnerable!
James makes a statement in chapter 3 and verse 15 that also comes into play. He is talking about earthly verses heavenly wisdom and mentions wisdom that is “earthly, sensual and demonic.” He points out that it does not come down from above as if warning us of its “hybrid” qualities! A pastor friend put it this way:
“If you engage with the wisdom that is common, you invite demons into the mix.”
I honestly believe we are awash with that type of “wisdom” in our culture and we need to be very careful of where we get our world view!
A great preacher and commentator from the past said something we should all remember:
“The tempter’s great purpose is to divorce the will of man more and more from the will of God.”
Having given some background on the subject let ‘s look at a successful encounter with temptation from the life of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11:
Jesus had been fasting and living out in the desert for 40 days when the tempter comes.
Temptation #1… He opens with a devastating temptation…“If you are the Son of God” implying that if you really are…you shouldn’t be out here suffering… just turn these stones into bread!
This approach is dangerous on a couple of levels.
The arena was His BODY and where the Lust of the flesh craves the satisfaction of physical desires.
As a human being, He is very HUNGRY!
In addition, this could be very tempting because the Romans gave away bread to gain favor with the people they had conquered. Jesus could potentially gain notoriety and favor in launching His ministry in similar fashion, by meeting this very basic need.
Jesus responded that every word that came from His Father took precedence over mere bread! In essence, His Father had not instructed Him to do it therefore He would not!
Since the first approach had been rebuffed, the devil suggested something even more difficult to resist!
Jesus mission was to bring salvation to those who would believe in Him. The Jews were taught that a Messiah was to come and bring salvation. A good number of them believed that when the Messiah came, He would appear on the Pinnacle of the Temple.
Temptation #2 The devil now brings Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple. This probably occurred as in His mind, He envisioned Himself standing there where the people had been taught that Messiah would appear someday. Then the devil quotes a scripture about how God would rescue Him if He jumped from that high point, stating that angels would catch Him, and He would not even suffer a bruised foot. Obviously, this would have been much more appealing than being crucified as a hated criminal!
The arena is now the SOUL… where the Lust of the Eyes seduces us with mental pleasure, painting an image for us where we see ourselves in certain places or situations.
Jesus responds again with “it is written” that we are not to “tempt” or “put the Lord to the test”. This temptation offered a “shortcut” to achieve His purpose, but not one His Father had ordained.
Finally, the devil directed the assault directly to His SPIRIT. Here’s where the Pride of Life drives us to show the world evidence of our personal importance and define our identity through what is most important to us.
The devil now appeals to Jesus core issue… destroying the works of the devil and providing salvation for mankind! The temptation was to simply bow in this private moment…an “end justifies the means” kind of moment that would ostensibly accomplish his mission.
Once again, Jesus relied on the “wisdom from above” and declared that worship and service belonged to the Lord alone!
The devil left Him at that point having exhausted his array of temptations.
If all this makes you uncomfortable, seeing Jesus dealing with these three vulnerabilities (the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life) just like we do, it is critical that we never lose sight of the facts!
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16