In this life, we will encounter temptation. 1 John 2:16 says, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” The good news? We have victory over these temptations through Jesus!
Jesus set the perfect example for overcoming temptation. After He was baptized by John, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and led into the desert. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and it was then that devil posed a temptation.
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3b)
At this point, Jesus was physically hungry. Turning a stone to bread in itself would not be a sin. After all, God provided food for the Israelites in the wilderness for years. This situation was different because the enemy was challenging Jesus’ identity and asking Him to prove Himself. He was also asking Jesus to give in to the lust of the flesh: his hunger. Keep in mind that Jesus was in the middle of a fast, which meant a time of prayer and abstaining from food. He was putting God before bodily hunger. The devil’s temptation tries to make Jesus (1) prove His identity and (2) put fleshly urges before God.
Jesus resists. He is confident in His identity and knows God will sustain Him. He shows this by quoting scripture: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” (Matthew 4:4b). He also says, In John 4:34, “My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
The word of God, and doing the will of God, was Jesus’ food. This doesn’t mean He never ate anything. It means that feeding his Spirit and obeying God were more important to Him than satisfying physical cravings. Fleshly bodies will pass away, but the kingdom of God is eternal.
Next, the devil takes Jesus up to a high place and shows him the kingdoms of the world: “I will give you all their authority and splendor…” (part of Luke 4:6), he says. “…if you worship me, it will all be yours,” (Luke 4:7b).
Jesus resists, quoting scripture about worshipping and serving the Lord only. Here, the temptation is about the lust of the eyes. He is shown what he could “have,” and is offered the authority that many believed a political/military-leader would have possessed. Jesus, however, knew His true purpose: He came to conqueror sin and death, defeating the enemy. God’s kingdom is not one of worldly possessions, and Jesus knew that.
The temptation for worldly riches, in this case, was also about distraction. Jesus would not be distracted. He said: “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,’” (Luke 4:8b).
Serving God only is about walking in obedience and following His plan for our lives. Living in continual service to Him is key in guarding against temptations of distraction. If we serve God, we follow Him and don’t pay attention to the billboards for sinful attractions that flash along the road to our destination. Our eyes are fixed on Jesus.
Jesus’ response is a reminder that nothing in this world—no treasure, wealth, or status—is worth compromising our relationship with God.
In the third temptation, the devil challenges Jesus’ identity again. “If you are the Son of God…throw yourself down from here,” (part of Luke 4:9). He also uses scripture to try and support his challenge: “For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone,’” (Luke 4:10-11).
Again, Jesus answers with scripture: “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test,’” (Luke 4:12b).
Jesus knows His own identity. Prior to going into the wilderness, God also had encouraged Jesus in that identity: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” He said in Luke 3:22b. Jesus wasn’t shaken when His identity was questioned. He didn’t need to prove Himself. He knew the truth.
How Do I Overcome Temptation?
ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR
The first step is accepting Jesus as your Savior. It is through Him and Him alone that we have victory in this spiritual battle. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 6:12).
REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST
Next, when facing temptation, remember who you are in Christ. Not only who you are, but whose you are. You are a son or daughter of the Most High God. You aren’t a victim, you aren’t a beggar, but you are royalty in Christ. You are more than a conqueror, you are victorious, and you are strong, because Jesus is strong and His strength is in you. Through Him, there is no temptation you cannot overcome.
READ THE BIBLE
Spend time reading the Bible. It is God’s word and it tells us what is right and wrong. This way, when temptation comes, we know what God says is the right thing to do.
MEDITATE UPON THE WORD OF GOD
In times of trial, remember what God says. Know scripture and meditate upon it in your heart so it cannot be successfully distorted against you. The word of God is about more than head knowledge of the literal words. Know the context and ask God for understanding of the meaning in your heart. If you know God, you will recognize lies about Him because you know Who He is. You know His character, and you feel His heartbeat.
REMEMBER WHAT GOD SAYS
In the midst of temptation, also remember what God has spoken to you personally. Meditate on it and keep the words alive in your heart. Don’t let them fade to a distant memory, so if the devil questions or challenges it, you know what is true.
CELEBRATE WHAT GOD HAS DONE
Remember the great things God has done in your life and give Him praise. Praise and worship invites the presence of God. Also, by celebrating the victories you’ve had in Jesus, you are reminding yourself how big God is. He is mighty to save, and nothing is impossible with Him!
STAY CLOSE TO GOD AND SPEND TIME WITH HIM
Ultimately, resisting temptation is about staying close to God and spending time with Him. He will give you the strength to overcome. Listen to His word and know what He says. Know the truth and stand firm upon it. Then, when temptation comes, speak forth what God says about that situation. No matter what the world might tell you, sin never leads to happiness. Wealth, fame, and popularity cannot satisfy the hunger in your soul. Only God can do that.
Trust in God and hold fast to His truth. The Holy Spirit will give you strength to overcome.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13