Tag: 4 Ways to Overcome Temptation

The 3 Temptations of Jesus Christ

The 3 Temptations of Jesus Christ

The account of Jesus’ temptation recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and in Luke 4:1-13 was not only God’s way of showing that Jesus was the perfect man, it also exposed the tactics of the enemy and reveals to us how we can overcome when we are tempted.

From the high and holy experience of blessing at the Jordan River, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It is important to note that it was the Spirit of God that led Jesus into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1). This is the same Spirit who descended on Jesus at His baptism and empowered Him (Matthew 3:16).

Satan Introduced in the Gospels

It is in this passage where the devil, Satan is first introduced in the Gospel. This is the same Tempter who showed up in the Garden (Genesis 3:1-5); the fallen angel, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) who came in disguise, in the form of a serpent to deceive Adam and Eve; here Satan did not come in disguise, but in a bold and direct attack on Jesus.

The temptation in the Garden parallels that of Jesus’ temptation. But while the first Adam was tempted in a beautiful garden and failed, the last Adam (Jesus Christ) was tempted in a dangerous wilderness (Mark 1:13) and won the victory.

The Meaning of Temptation

The dictionary defines temptation as an urge or desire to do something, especially something you should not, or it refers to a wrong or forbidden pleasure that is enticing.

Lessons from the Temptation of Jesus Christ

In the Bible the word temptation primarily denotes a trial in which man has a free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God; only secondarily does it signify allurement or seduction to sin.

The First Temptation

Matthew 4:3 “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Notice how Satan picks up immediately on the fact that Jesus was hungry because He had not eaten for forty days (Matthew 4:2). By the way, there is no reason to doubt that Jesus really did fast for forty days and forty nights as the text clearly says. But the number “40” is commonly used in the Bible for a period of hardship, difficulty, or suffering.

When Jesus said, “If you are the Son of God …” he was not questioning Jesus’ deity for he knew exactly who Jesus was. He was saying, “Since you are the Son of God, why starve yourself to death? C’mon, just change some stones into bread.”

Satan challenged Jesus to prove or demonstrate that He is the Son of God through miraculous works. He wanted Jesus to use His divine powers to make something to eat. After all, Jesus was done fasting and He had the power to do exactly what Satan was suggesting. Didn’t He multiply food later during His ministry to feed some 4,000 and 5,000 people?

You may ask, “What’s wrong with that? Jesus was hungry and there’s definitely nothing wrong with hunger especially in a spiritual time of fasting. So why was this a temptation?” Because hunger represents human wants, plain and simple! Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in order to focus on the spiritual and away from the physical, that is, the comforts of life. Then came Satan telling Him to use His divine powers to meet His own needs.

The 3 Temptations of Jesus Christ

Jesus’ Response to the First Temptation

Matthew 4:1 It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Jesus responded by quoting from Deuteronomy (Deut. 8:3). But Jesus was not just quoting a favorite verse. Chapter 8 of Deuteronomy talks about the Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years. After plundering the Egyptians of their gold and silver, God led the Israelites into the wilderness to teach them obedience and dependence on God.

God wanted the Israelites to know that God is all they had and all they needed. He provided them manna from heaven for food but in order to acquire it, they had to follow God’s instructions carefully. The main point is that God would provide their food but they needed to obey Him and submit to His will.

When Jesus refused to give in to Satan’s temptation, it isn’t that He did not want to eat. In fact, He was more than happy to eat what the angels brought to Him when the time of testing was over (Matthew 4:11). It wasn’t a matter of refusing supernatural help. Rather, it was a matter of obedience to the Father and submitting to His will in all things at all times.

The Second Temptation

The second temptation strikes at the very heart of Jesus’ previous victory. Jesus has overcome the first temptation by obeying God even it meant suffering from severe hunger and weakness. So Satan took Jesus into the holy city (Jerusalem), had Him stand on the highest point of the temple and said:

“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands, they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6).

What Can We Learn from the Temptation of JesusWhat exactly is the temptation here? It was for Jesus to create a crisis and then force or manipulate God to rescue Him. Satan was prompting Jesus to do something spectacular to demonstrate that He is indeed the Son of God.

The pinnacle or highest point of the temple arose some five hundred feet above the Kidron Valley. A leap from there and the appearance of the promised protection of the angels would be a spectacular event that will be in full view of all the assembled people.

Here, Satan appealed to the desire within every man to sense approval from God and to have that approval publicly displayed. Satan was saying to Jesus, “You are God’s Son and He loves you so if you jump down from here He will send His angels to rescue you. Isn’t that exactly what the Bible says?”

Notice how Satan himself uses Scripture in making the appeal. He quotes from Psalm 91:11-12 but left out the important words, “in all your ways,” thus making the text say what in truth it never promised. True to his nature of being a liar and deceiver, Satan twisted the Word of God in an attempt to make Jesus test God, which the Scriptures strictly forbid.

Jesus’ Response to the Second Temptation

Jesus responded by quoting also from Scripture and applying it correctly: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’” (Matthew 4:7). In other translations, it says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, referencing Massa and Meribah in the wilderness where the Israelites murmured against God and tested Him because they did not believe that He could or would give them water.

Chapter 6 of Deuteronomy is the chapter in the Law that is foundational to Israel’s faith for it had the creedal statement in it, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4)! In this passage, God exhorts the Israelites to keep all His commandments and warns them against disobeying and testing Him.

The Third Temptation

Matthew 4: 9 “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

The third temptation very much sounds like a desperate move on the part of Satan. He realized he was not winning and so he thought this time he would give it his best shot. After all, He had nothing to lose by asking Jesus to worship him.

Satan then took Jesus to a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world. Accordingly, there is no mountain in Israel high enough to see much of anything. Scholars say that Satan probably provided some vision of these kingdoms and promised that he would give them to Jesus if He would fall down and worship him.

For the third temptation, the devil offered Jesus a shortcut to His Kingdom. Jesus knew that He would suffer and die before He entered into His glory (Luke 24:26; 1 Peter 1:11, 20). If He bowed down and worshiped Satan just once (this is the force of the Greek verb), He could enjoy all the glory without enduring the suffering.

Satan was saying, “Look, you came as a king to inherit the nations. Here they are! I’m giving them to you in exchange for your worship. Why go through the trouble of being a suffering servant to get to the crown.” If we read the gospel of Luke, he adds that Satan claimed he had been given these kingdoms and he had the right to give them to Jesus if only He would fall down and worship him (Luke 4:6-7).

Jesus Tempted by Satan in the Wilderness

This is a revealing insight into Satan’s heart; worship and recognition from God are far more precious to him than the possession of the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Satan has always wanted worship because he has always wanted to be God (Isaiah 14:12-14).

But … coming from the father of lies, this was definitely a malicious temptation. Who would knowingly make a deal with the devil? Jesus knew that Satan was a liar and there is no truth in him (John 8:44). Did Satan actually imagine for one moment that Jesus would believe him? Even if Jesus gave in to the temptation, never would Satan have given Him the kingdoms.

Jesus’ Response to the Third Temptation

Jesus replied, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”Again, Jesus used the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:13-14) and commanded the devil to leave. The enemy left as a defeated challenger and the angels of God came to minister to Jesus in ways that we cannot quite imagine (Matthew 4:10).

To worship God and God alone is the cardinal truth of Scripture. For the redeemed believers, the thought of bowing down and worshiping the prince of darkness should never come across. Jesus would never, ever worship Satan. He would take back the kingdom in God’s time and in God’s way – by defeating Satan not only here in the temptation but later at the cross.

It’s interesting that the three temptations of our Lord parallel that in 1 John 2:16; the lust of the flesh (stones into bread), the lust of the eyes (the world’s kingdoms and glory), and the pride of life (jump from the pinnacle of the temple).

How to Overcome Temptations

1. Be watchful and prayerful (Matthew 26:41).

Notice that Matthew writes, “When the tempter came …” (Matthew 4:3). In our lives, it’s not a question of if the tempter will come, but when he will come. We will all face temptation until we go to glory. 

In order for us to overcome temptations, first, we must be able to see them for what they are – lies and deception. Jesus triumphed over Satan because He recognized his mode of attack. Primarily, Satan is a liar and a deceiver and for those have been brought into the light of the cross, deception is his only tool.

How to Overcome Temptations as a Christian

Satan has already been disarmed of his “real weapons and power” at the cross. But deception is extremely effective at leading God’s people into sin. Matthew referred to Satan as the “tempter” and his weapons are lies and deception. How do we discern Satan’s temptations? We need to keep watch and pray.

2. Do not test God; instead, trust Him completely and obey Him fully.

Going back to Psalm 91:1-16, if we read it carefully, it is a psalm of trust, telling how God protects His people. God does promise to protect His people but passages like this were never intended to be claimed apart from practical wisdom. God promises protection but He has also given us common sense. 

When Satan prompted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple, Jesus basically answered, “I trust God completely and I will not test God’s word by doing something foolish like what you’re suggesting to see if the God’s angels would come and save me.” 

Jesus knew that attempting to force or manipulate God the Father into performing some kind of supernatural demonstration would tempt God, which the Scriptures strictly forbid. Those who truly know God and experience the reality of their faith daily do not need to find something spectacular to convince themselves and others.

Of course, God still does miracles but if people seek some miraculous signs in order to believe or to convince themselves of the faith, it portrays a weak faith. We are not to demand something spectacular from God to prove His love or concern for us. He has already given the ultimate demonstration of His love for us at the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8), and He can do nothing more “spectacular” than that.

How to Overcome Temptation as a Christian

We also tempt or test God when we willfully get into trouble and then expect Him to rescue us. We tempt God when we force or dare Him to act contrary to his word. God had never promised protection in sinful and forbidden ways.

Satan said it perfectly; he had hit the nail right on the head – Jesus is the Son of God. But the essence of Sonship is obedience to the will of the Father in everything. Jesus said He came only to do the will of the Father who sent Him (John 6:38-39). He would not, therefore, act independently of the will of the Father.

It goes the same with everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. If we really love God we must strive to obey Him in everything even it means giving up the comforts of life.

3. Know the Scriptures well and use them.

Apparently, the devil also has knowledge of Scriptures and is an expert at twisting them in order to confuse and defeat those he tempts. Too often, people quote Scriptures out of context and if you do not have a good grasp of what the Word of God actually says, you will surely fall victim to the deceit of the devil and sheep in wolves’ clothing whose mission is to drive people away from God and His truth.

If you isolate verses from their texts or passages from the total revelation of Scripture or randomly pick out verses from here and there, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say. This is referred to as “proof-texting,” one of the most common errors of Hermeneutics (Bible interpretation).

Overcoming Temptation with the Word of God

Let’s take Mark 16:17-18 for instance. News has spread about people who died from snake bites because they intentionally played with them and drank poison as a result of some twisted doctrinal teachings by their cult leaders. This is the same tactic used by the devil to deceive Eve and Adam into disobeying God.

In the three temptations of our Lord, He used the Word of God. Jesus is God and had supernatural powers that He could have used against Satan. He could have stood against Satan with a supernatural display of His own glory. Instead, He used the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God as a weapon to defeat Satan and temptation, a weapon that is readily available and accessible to us.

4. Submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7).

How to overcome temptation as a Christian
Photo Credits: Jesus Calls

How did Jesus overcome Satan’s third temptation? By resisting him! Let us not forget that the devil will go where there is the least resistance.

I often hear people blame the devil for falling into sin as a result of his promptings. Truth is, the devil can never force anyone to do what they do not want to do.

Sure, the devil will do all he can to deceive people into going against the will of God but the decision to give in to the temptation is completely in our hands.

The temptations of Jesus remind us that it is no sin to be tempted, as long as the temptation is resisted.

Closing Words

God’s will has no shortcuts. If we want to share in the glory, we must also share in the temptations and suffering. After Jesus Christ had defeated Satan, He was ready to begin His ministry.

Our Lord’s experience of temptation prepared Him for His ministry as our sympathetic High Priest. We should note that Jesus faced the enemy as a human and not as God. Therefore, we can come to Him for the help we need to overcome the tempter.

The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in the ways we are (Hebrews 2:16-18; 14-16). We now have in heaven our Lord interceding for us, the Savior who has defeated the enemy completely.


*Recommended Resource:

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition / Special edition
By Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart

Product Description

Enjoy God’s Word to the fullest! This classic reader-friendly manual, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, Fourth Edition, explains the different kinds of biblical literature – such as prophecy, Gospels, poetry, and history – so you can get the most from them.

The revised fourth edition includes updated language for today’s generation of readers, a new preface, bracketed Scripture references, and redesigned diagrams.