Triumph Over Temptation
Temptation. We don’t like to talk much about it but it’s a part of our daily lives. Without a doubt, temptation is the greatest problem that Christians battle with. And increasingly, temptation seems to be in our face everywhere we go. If you own a TV, have a computer, read magazines or even leave your house, it seems that there is an almost constant barrage of temptation. But temptation comes in many forms. It’s not just the lure to do wrong things but the impulse to rush ahead and take matters into our own hands. It’s the enticement to compromise and meet halfway with the world and the devil. It’s interesting that Satan would tempt Jesus. I mean, Jesus is the God-man; He’s Immanuel – God with us, the perfect, sinless Son of God and Satan knew all that. Yet he tempted Jesus anyway. I guess Satan wanted to see which was greater – the human or the divine. But Jesus came to be our example – in all things. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus had to go through this time of temptation so that He could show us a path to victory. We can look to Jesus’s triumph over temptation and see how we too can win. Hebrews 2:18 tells us concerning Jesus: “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [or help] them that are tempted.” As we explore this story of the Temptation of Jesus, I trust that we’ll be helped in our own battles to triumph over temptation.
Let’s begin by answering a question: Where does Temptation come from? Let me first tell you where temptation does NOT come from – and that’s from God. God tests us in many different ways, but temptation to sin is not one of His tests. Listen to James 1:13, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” We can blame anyone we like for our failure to triumph over temptation except God. God is on our side. He wants us to live victorious Christian lives and he makes every provision for this to happen. God is not the author of temptation but rather our helper in victory.
So if temptation cannot come from God, where then does it come from? Our text reveals two sources of temptation. temptation comes from our flesh. I believe that the only reason Satan even tried to tempt Jesus was because He had taken on human flesh by becoming a man. After 40 days in the wilderness fasting, Jesus was hungry and tired and because of the weakness of humanity, Satan hoped Jesus would be subject to sin. But Jesus was not a man like we are. He was the God-man and did not bear the curse of sin like we do because Adam was not His father. God is. Jesus’ flesh could not get the better of him, but the same is not true of us. My very worst enemy is the one I look at in the mirror every morning. We are wrapped in fallen, sinful flesh that has desires that demand to be fulfilled and temptation comes from within enticing us to sin.
But notice also that temptation comes from our enemy. When Jesus didn’t sin because of His humanity, Satan himself tried a direct assault on Jesus. And we too can discipline our flesh to overcome temptation. Through daily dying to self and through submission to the Holy Ghost, we can triumph over temptation from our flesh. But if we don’t self-destruct, Satan will then try his hand at defeating us. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Satan is on the attack and he is in the business of temptation. If you’re a Christian, he’s already lost the battle for your soul, but he is still fighting a battle for your holiness. Satan throws “fiery darts” temptation and he wants nothing more than to see you fall; to derail your Christian race; to make you one of his casualties in the fight for godliness and right. Satan is out to get you. There may not be a boogeyman but there is a real devil and he’s out to destroy you. His primary weapon is temptation.
But Satan doesn’t just attack randomly; he comes at us with a strategy – a strategy he’s been perfecting for 6,000 years since he first tempted Eve. And mark it down: if the devil tempted Jesus, he’ll tempt us too. When faced with a formidable opponent, a wise person will study the strategy of his enemy. Football teams spend hours watching game footage of their opponents, trying to learn their strategy. I used to be a pretty good ping-pong player and I always tried to do “warm-up” with a new opponent so I could learn his strategy. If a general can get a hold of his enemy’s battle plans, it could be the turning point in the war. Knowing your enemy and how he will attack is that important.
Thankfully we have here Satan’s strategy laid out for us. It’s right here in how he attacks Jesus for us to study so we can better position ourselves for triumph over temptation. Notice first the time when temptation comes. Temptation comes after a great spiritual victory. In verse 1, Luke makes a point of telling us that Jesus was tempted right after he “returned from Jordan,” referring to the Baptism of Jesus. Remember 2 weeks ago we said that Jesus’ ministry is marked by 5 milestones or high points? His baptism was the first of these high points. Jesus was on the mountain top, so to speak: His ministry had begun with God’s approval; He had just gathered his first 5 disciples. This was a high point. The reality is that Satan often brings temptation right after a great spiritual victory. Why is that? You’d think after seeing God do something big in our lives or something great in our church, attacking us would be the last thing on Satan’s mind, but it’s not. In fact it’s one of his favorite times to attack us.
No, very often the mountain top moments in life when things are going great are the moments we begin to let our guard down. It’s in those times we perhaps get our eyes off of God. In the dark valleys of life, we want nothing else than to see God’s face and to hold His hand, but on the mountain tops, we tend to forget that we need Him there just as much as in the valley and we let our guard down. Satan knowns this so he brings temptation. He also brings temptation on the mountain top to see if we are serious about our commitment to God. In essence, Jesus’ baptism was His statement that “I have a work from my Father to do and I’m right now beginning that work,” and Satan’s response was, “Well let’s see about that.” I’ve seen it time and again in my own life and in the lives of others that after church camp or after revival is when it seems Satan attacks the hardest. He wants to see if we are serious about our commitment to God. After a great answer to prayer, he attacks to see if we were only looking to God in the trial of if our eyes are now off of God – to see if our guard is down.
But not only does temptation come when we’ve just experienced a great spiritual victory but temptation comes when we are at our weakest. Satan and his demons study the believer and knows when and where we are the weakest and that’s where we are tempted. Jesus had fasted 40 days. His flesh was weak and so Satan’s first attack was tempting Jesus to turn stones into bread. Satan does the same to us. He knows whether you used to struggle with alcohol or cigarettes or lust and he’ll attack you when and where you are the weakest.
Satan knows if you struggle with patience or worry and when God says “wait upon the Lord,” Satan will tempt you to rush things and take matters into your own hands. Satan will bring temptation when you’re hungry just like he did with Jesus. He’ll bring temptation when you’ve worked a long shift and your body and mind are weak. He’ll bring temptation when you’ve just lost a loved one or a friend has stabbed you in the back and your emotions are frail – it’s in those times he attacks. Wherever Satan thinks you are vulnerable, that’s where he’ll attack.
But that’s just the first part of Satan’s strategy. Not only can we see when Satan attacks, we can see the ways temptation comes. Here in Luke 4 Satan attacks three different ways. Satan will tempt you to doubt God’s provision One of the ways Satan attacks is to tell you that God won’t meet your needs and that you’ve got to do it yourself. He tempts you to fulfill a physical need in a carnal way – a way that either violates God’s Word or discounts God’s provision. Look at the first attack on Jesus in Vs. 3. Jesus was hungry and Satan said “turn these stones into bread.” Now there’s nothing wrong with eating. Jesus was in a human body that needed to eat and He had just fasted 40 days. He was hungry and rightfully so. But was Satan’s way of providing for that need the way God intended for it to be met? No. If you look at the parallel account of this story in Matthew, Matthew 4:11 says that when the devil departed, “angels came and ministered unto Him.” God had a plan for meeting Jesus’ need of food but it was angels not stones. Too often we settle for stones when God has prepared angel food. God has good things prepared for us; He has a divine provision for our needs, our wants, and our desires yet Satan tempts us with stones.
Let’s get specific now. God has ordained just one place for honorable and undefiled sexual fulfillment and that’s the marriage bed. Everything else is just dry, dusty stones. Adultery, pornography, lustful gazes – they’re all just stones. Don’t settle for stones. It’s just an empty temptation from the devil. God has joy and happiness He wants to give through His Holy Spirit, but too often we settle for cheap substitutes from the devil and this world: money, a hobby, alcohol; drugs – all these are just stones. Whatever it is that your body, your soul, and your spirit need in this life, God has a portion of angel food to fulfill it. Don’t let the devil tempt you with stones.
But not only does Satan tempt you to fulfill a physical need in a carnal way, apart from God’s provision, Satan will tempt you to rush God’s timing. In Vs. 6, Satan brings his second attack on Jesus by offering Him the kingdoms of the world. Now here’s the funny thing: the kingdoms of the world were already promise to Jesus by His Father. No less than 25 different times in the Old Testament by the mouth of 11 different prophets God promised that Jesus would sit upon the throne of Jerusalem and rule all the nations. Ruling the nations was already a given. So the temptation wasn’t a kingdom – the kingdom was already promised to Him. No, the temptation was to rush God’s timing; to grow impatient with God’s plan and to get it now; to take matters into His own hands.
But here’s the catch of Satan’s temptation. Instead of receiving the kingdoms from God the Father getting them now meant receiving them from the hand of Satan. God has a time for every good thing in our lives but to receive it from God we have to wait on Him. If we get out ahead of God and take matters into our own hands, we receive it from the hands of Satan instead of the hand of God – if we receive it at all.
What was it that he lied and tempted Eve with? Knowledge. He said, “You’ll be as gods.” Did Satan deliver on his promise? Oh, Satan gave Eve knowledge – but because she received it from the hand of Satan and not the hand of God, she received the knowledge of good and evil. The kind of knowledge she received left her and her husband ashamed and afraid. Cheap substitutes. Unfulfilled promises.
Notice the third temptation Satan brought: Satan tempted Jesus to compromise on God’s plan. Jesus came to be the Savior. Jesus’ purpose was that men might believe on Him. So Satan had a proposition. He tempted Jesus to jump from the top of the temple in the sight of thousands of people and let God send angels to catch Him and keep Him from harm. The idea was that surely if someone could jump from the top of the temple and survive uninjured they must be the Son of God. Satan’s temptation was “Prove to everyone right here, right now that you’re the Son of God. Jump off the temple and everyone will believe in you.” Indeed God’s plan was and still is for every person to believe in Jesus, but not by some hair-brained scheme like Satan proposed. No God’s plan was for Jesus to shed his blood on the cross and then three days later rise again proving that He is God.
But Satan tempted Jesus to compromise – to try to accomplish the end result by a way other than God’s plan. Plain old pragmatism. To do things Satan’s way and not God’s way and hope to achieve the same result. It never works that way. When we give in to Satan’s temptations with Satan’s promise of everything working out just fine, we always get cheated. Satan tempts Christians and churches to compromise, and yet still promising to achieve God’s results. They may get some kind of results but they’ll more resemble Satan’s than God’s. The rise of seeker-sensitive churches and contemporary Christian music is a perfect example of this. Satan’s temptation is to take the world’s methods and the world’s dress and the world’s music and give it a splash of Jesus and call it Christianity. They throw out the hymns and gospel music. They do away with biblical separation. And yes, they draw crowds but in the end they have Satan’s product not God’s. Compromising with the devil has never produced God’s results. And Satan tempts us to do the same thing in our own lives; to let a little bit of the world in our homes and in our lives because we don’t want to be the weird family. And Satan whispers “You’re still a lot better than most other folks.” We compromise on convictions and bible truth and then wonder why we don’t get the kind of results God promises in His Word. So Satan tempts us to settle for less than God’s best, to receive from his hand what God has promised to supply. He tempts us to rush God’s timing and circumvent God’s plan; and he tempts us to compromise just a little – and then more – and then a lot more. This is Satan’s strategy. This is how he always attacks.
But I’m so thankful that not only do we have Satan’s strategy. We have God’s counter-attack. I have a lot of favorite Bible verses, but one of my very favorites is 1 Corinthians 10:13; “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Yes Satan’s attacks are strategized to hit us when we are the least prepared and the weakest. But the devil does not have to win. I went to a Christian school a couple years during high school. During our Bible class my teacher made the statement that if you or I were to come up against the devil himself and be tempted we wouldn’t stand a chance. She said that Satan is so powerful that we would not be able to defeat him. Now I was just a dumb teenager who hadn’t yet been to Bible college, but I remember thinking, “That doesn’t sound right.” I thought “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” I’m pretty sure, “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” The truth is that Jesus has given us a perfect counter-strategy for Satan’s attacks. Jesus triumphed over temptation and when we follow His example, we can too.
Notice just real quickly how we overcome temptation: with the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not alone when Satan attacked. Verse 1 tells us that when Jesus was tempted He was “full of the Holy Ghost.” My high school teacher would be right if we were alone in our battle against the devil’s temptation, but we’re not. If you are a believer in Jesus, you have a Helper living inside of you named The Holy Spirit. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” We can have victory in the power of the Holy Ghost. Next time Satan attacks, pray to God that He’ll keep you from sin – I promise you that’s a prayer He’ll answer.
Notice the second way that Jesus triumphed over temptation: through God’s Word. Look at what Jesus said all three times He was tempted: “It is written.” Every time Satan attacked Jesus, Jesus’ response was to quote the Bible – to counter Satan’s lies and false promises with Bible truth. All three times, Jesus had the same answer, “It is written.” “Satan, you’re a liar. Here’s what the truth is.” The primary reason, I believe, that we fall for temptation is that we believe a lie rather than the truth. Satan feeds us lie after lie: “You better do this on your own. God doesn’t really love you. He’s forgotten about you. God’s not going to meet that need. You’d better trust me instead of God to provide. It won’t hurt you. You can get away with it. Everything will still turn out ok in the end. You can do that and still have a walk with God. It’s all right to compromise a little. God’s concerned more about your intentions and the end result than He is about how you got there.” Every one of these: lies from the devil. When Satan brings temptation he wraps it in a lie and if we are going to triumph over temptation we’ve got to get to the truth of the Bible. We’ve got to counter what Satan says with what God says. Victory is ours when we pull the mask off of the lie of temptation with the truth of God’s Word.
Luke 4:13 says that after the third temptation the devil left Jesus. But notice what it says, “He departed from Him for a season” – he intended to be back; there would be more season of temptation. Someone once said, “Opportunity may only knock once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.” You can be sure that if Satan brought three attacks of temptation against Jesus, that he’ll come at you again and again. You can be sure that if Satan left Jesus intending to be back, he’ll be back again for you too. We hear it all the time: “The devil made me do it,” but there’s nowhere in the Bible that says Satan has to win. Instead once again James says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7. I think too often we don’t know the devil’s strategy and we never put up a counter resistance, but James says “Resist,” fight back; battle for victory. The only other choice you have is to surrender and be another of his victims. But God has given us here in the Bible a great example to follow – Jesus. He’s given us Satan’s plan of attack so that we can know our enemy and we’re given a strategy for winning – for triumphing over temptation. Let’s be victorious in our lives over devil.
Because we are all human, I can promise you that every one of us faces temptation on a daily basis and probably gives in far too often. But we don’t have to lose. We can triumph over temptation. Victory can be ours because Jesus has already won. Whatever it is that Satan seems to have your number about; whatever it is that the devil seems to be attacking you with, you are not alone if you are a Christian. The Holy Spirit is your Helper. Today you can find victory over temptation.