Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
- Luke 4:8
In June 2011, a man found a bag of money with a Chase Bank logo on it at a Walgreen’s drugstore in
When he peeked inside, he discovered the bag contained $17,000 in cash and
checks. What would you have done? Well, this man gave in to temptation and took
the bag. But it was a 45-minute drive back to his suburban home, and in that
time, he became convicted that he was doing the wrong thing. The fact that he
might get caught probably also weighed into his decision. At any rate, he
turned the money in. Chicago
But when he turned it in at a Chase Bank, he was a little concerned about how he’d explain those 45 minutes. So, he lied and said he found it at the local mall. The story made the news, and he was hailed around the world as a hero. But the authorities weren’t so sure. The police and FBI investigated the incident and discovered the truth. As a result, the man was fined $500 for filing a false police report, and he went from hero to zero in one news cycle.
Well, Jesus was tempted too. And before we assume that any temptation would be a slam-dunk for the Son of God, the Book of Luke reminds us that Jesus was also the son of Adam. Luke spends the last half of chapter 3 tracing Jesus’ family tree to the first man ever created: Adam. He wanted us to know that as the Son of God, Jesus was 100 percent God. But as the son of Adam, Jesus was also 100 percent man. Jesus could get hungry like Adam got hungry. He could get tired and discouraged, just as Adam could get tired and discouraged. And Jesus could be tempted, just as Adam was tempted.
In Luke 4:1, we’re told that after his baptism Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” and that he was “led by the Holy Spirit into the desert.” He fasted in the Judean desert for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end of 40 days, Satan knew full well that Jesus was hungry—REALLY hungry. So he tried to persuade Jesus to turn one of the limestone rocks around him into a loaf of bread. But the Father had something much more important than bread for Jesus to feast on, and Jesus knew that. So in response, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3: “It is written, man does not live on bread alone.” One temptation down, two to go.
In the following verses Satan tempted Jesus two more times, and each temptation was strategically chosen by Satan to capitalize on one of Jesus’ weaknesses (as if he had any). The second temptation—offering Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world—was intended to get Jesus to compromise his integrity in order to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross. And Satan’s third temptation—for Jesus to throw himself from the temple to be rescued by angels—was designed to get Jesus to upstage God, making himself the center of attention instead of God the Father. In both cases, Jesus overcame the temptation by unleashing the sword of the Spirit: the word of God.
Over the years many Christians have wondered why Jesus was tempted. Perhaps it was because Jesus wanted a showdown or because Satan thought that he could best Jesus. Maybe. But I tend to think Jesus suffered through that temptation for you and me. He allowed himself to be tempted because he knew that you and I would be tempted. And his victory over his three temptations provides a picture-perfect “how-to” guide for how we can do the same.
The truth is, as long as you and I are still living here on earth, we’re going to be tempted. Sometimes the devil is the one tempting us. Sometimes people around us are tempting us. Sometimes our old sinful nature tempts us. We have these three great enemies that constantly fight against our souls. And we are told in God’s word to resist temptation. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s only a sin to give in to that temptation. So, how do we resist temptation? We do it the same way Jesus did. First of all, we pray. Second, we lean on the Holy Spirit.
Third—and this one is a biggy—we stand firm on God’s word. Did you notice Jesus’ response to Satan? They’re the first words quoted from Jesus in the Bible after his baptism: “It is written.” These words mark the beginning of his ministry on earth. Do you think, perhaps, there’s a message for us in there? I think so. As long as we are living here on earth, Satan will nip at our heels just as he nipped at Jesus’ heels. But just like Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can prayerfully use the word of God to crush Satan’s head.
When we lift God’s word in prayer, it is our strongest weapon against temptation. Jesus responded to every one of Satan’s temptation with the powerful, unchanging word of God. Back in 2011, if the man at Walgreen’s had followed these three steps—if he had prayed, leaned on the Holy Spirit and stood firm on God’s word—it would have saved him a lot of embarrassment and heartache. It also would have saved him 500 bucks. I can’t guarantee you that following these three steps will save you money, but following them will save you a lot of heartache, and God will be very, very pleased with you.
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com and join us for church Sundays at 10 a.m.