The reading comes from Mathew 4:1-11 as follows:
Then Jesus was led by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After He had gone without food for forty days and forty nights, He became hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”5 Then the devil took Him into the holy city [Jerusalem] and placed Him on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple. 6 And he said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You [to serve, care for, protect and watch over You]’; and‘ They will lift you up on their hands So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”7 Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall not test the Lord your God.’” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory [splendor, magnificence, and excellence] of them; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘YOU shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” 11 Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him [bringing Him food and serving Him].
The scripture above gives an account of Jesus’ experience with the devil in the wilderness. The devil tempted him after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights. Jesus’ experience reveals the enemy of faith. The enemy of your faith-life is none other than temptation. All believers must guard against this enemy called ‘TEMPTATION’. This is because the temptation is the beginning point of one’s backsliding if not destruction. Our progress in our spiritual walk with the lord is largely dependent on how we deal with the enemy of temptation. If we do not deal with this enemy, we are prone to becoming victims of backsliding or falling from faith. Jesus Christ found himself in this place of temptation but he was conscious of himself and aware of the enemy. The enemy is very daring indeed. If he can tempt the son of God, the deity, how much more can he tempt you and me? We have to be conscious of this possibility and guard our position in God. Jesus knew how to confront the enemy of faith. He used the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God; “It is written and forever remains written…” Mathew 4:1-11 depicts the confrontation of Jesus Christ with the devil. It is not about a physical fight but a Spiritual one. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 states that:
3 For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. 4 The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ,
Understanding the enemy of your faith life requires knowledge of the weaponry to utilize. These are truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of GOD coupled with focused prayer according to Ephesians 6: 13-17 :
13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having [b]tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waist and having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having [c]strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift the [protective] [d]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
In this respect, Zechariah 4:6 states that:
6 Then he said to me, “This [continuous supply of oil] is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel [prince of Judah], saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit [of Whom the oil is a symbol],’ says the Lord of hosts.
We need to understand that fighting the enemy is not by might but by the Spirit of God. Otherwise our battle with the devil would be futile. God says to us in Exodus 14:14 that:
14 The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.”
Note that silence in this verse does not mean we do not speak the word of God. Silence may mean that you listen to the Spirit of God and respond with such composure and calmness. It does not refer to a state where you scream and shout haphazardly at the enemy. Remember your weapons of war.
WHAT IS TEMPTATION?
The Greek word for temptation is ‘peirasmos’. This has two meanings:
- An urge or desire that induces one to commit an act that has regrettable consequences.
- Fleshly enticement that defies God’s will for one’s spiritual life.
Temptation is portrayed in the context of Adam and Eve in the Old Testament. Genesis chapter 3 is a reflection of how the devil entices Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden middle tree. Adam and Eve develop an urge to eat the fruit one after the other despite the clear divine commandments given to them by God. They allow themselves to engage in a discourse with the devil (very dangerous for anyone who does this) which makes them susceptible to temptation. The conversation with the devil opens a window of enticement and inducement as it did for Adam and Eve. They go ahead and eat from the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the devil wins.
Genesis 2: 15-17:
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Adam and Eve do not pay attention to the stern commandment as they choose to listen to the devil. This precipitates serious and regrettable consequences of being banished from the Garden of Eden and attracting a curse from God. They fell short of God’s expectations. Through this one man, sin which led to death came into the world. But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ who came and paid the price for our redemption. In the middle of temptation, always remember there are always options. In this case, we must always remember whom we serve; God. And God always provides a way out.
See 1st Corinthians 10:13:
No temptation [regardless of its source] has overtaken or enticed you that is not common to human experience [nor is any temptation unusual or beyond human resistance], but God is faithful [to His word—He is compassionate and trustworthy], and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability [to resist], but along with the temptation He [has in the past and is now and] will [always] provide the way out as well, so that you will be able to endure it [without yielding, and will overcome temptation with joy].
Yielding to temptation is not our posture. As children of God, we have the power to overcome. Adam and Eve disappoint God when they heed the voice of the enemy instead of God’s voice. In Genesis chapter 3 the devil casts doubt in their mind with this statement: “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from [b]any tree of the garden’?” Being in doubt is a dangerous position to be in. That is the verge of temptation. We cannot afford to doubt God and trust the devil. Yet this is what we do when we doubt. Doubt results in disobedience to the commandments of God as in the case of Adam and Eve.
Temptation also refers to trials that are divinely permitted, like in the case of Jesus Christ in the wilderness. Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. It was God’s plan to permit trials in the life of Jesus so that something greater could be produced out of it. Therefore, by God’s grace and the leadership of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil as recorded in Mathew 4:1-11. The same is replicated in Luke 22:28-30 where Jesus makes a profound statement in addressing his disciples as follows:
28 “You are those who have remained and have stood by Me in My trials; 29 and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you [the privilege] 30 that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
In other words, there are trials and temptations that are divinely permitted by God in our lives to produce fruit and fulfill the purpose of God. James 1:2-3 states that:
2 Consider it nothing but joy, my [a]brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. 3 Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.
The above verse brings out the purpose of trials initiated by God. The purpose is to mature Christian and build their faith in God. Similarly, 1 Peter 1:6-8 states that:
6 In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not even see Him now, you believe and trust in Him and you greatly rejoice and delight with inexpressible and glorious joy,
The two scriptures reveal that there are two dimensions of temptations:
- That which is induced or brought about by the devil to make a believer fall from his faith life in God.
- That which God allows a believer to go through for a purpose.
The devil is the designer of temptations and trials. But any time God wants to birth something out of a believer, He allows them to go through a certain situation or a testing moment to produce something greater or to make them better vessels of God. In this case, count it joy. Because sometimes God allows troubles and distresses as shown in Psalms 71: 20-21:
20 You who have shown [a]me many troubles and distresses. Will revive and renew me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.21 May You increase my greatness (honor) and turn to comfort me.
As much as God allows distresses in our lives, just like in Job’s case, He restores His beloved people. Even though sometimes we drink the cup of suffering, just as Jesus did on the cross (Mt. 20:22), we overcome. It may sound unrealistic, but God allows trouble to come your way for a good reason. In John 15:2 God uses trials and temptations to prune us so that we may be productive in the kingdom of God.
2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].
There are many scriptures that show how God allows peirasmos to come our way. For example:
Psalms 80:5 states that:
You have fed them with the bread of tears, And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.
For I have eaten ashes like bread. And mingled my drink with weeping.
However, beware of the enemy’s schemes to entice or allure you and make you fall from your faith life. The two dimensions of peirasmos call for the Spirit of discernment in distinguishing the source of the temptation. Otherwise, as the child of God, you can end up in a backslidden state. Always pray to enquire of God, where temptations and trials are leading to. Jesus provides a perfect example of how to overcome trials and temptations. He is the second Adam while the one in the Garden of Eden is the first Adam. The first Adam (Adam & Eve) failed to resist the devil and yielded to the enticement and inducement. By doing this, the first Adam went against the will of God. The distinction between the first Adam and the second Adam is that the second Adam (Jesus Christ) resisted the devil and overcame temptation and trials.
What kind of temptation did Jesus face and how did He deal with it?
The temptation concerned the element of food, power, and control or authority. These were designed to make Jesus yield to bodily appetites, earthly power, and position so as to feel in control of the kingdoms of this world. Note that when the enemy wants to get you out of your steadfastness he will target the following:
1. Lust of the eyes- Whereas Eve saw the fruit was good and yielded; Jesus confronted the craving and resisted turning the stone into bread. The lust of the eyes is fleshly and this is where the enemy traps most believers. Believers fall because of the enticement of what they see. If one does not always pray for the will of God to be done, the fall is always great. Seeing in the Spirit will help a believer to discern the will of God. According to Galatians 5:16, we cannot carry out the desires of the flesh if we depend on the Spirit of God:
16 But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the [g]sinful nature [which respond impulsively without regard for God and His precepts].
2. Lust of the flesh-These is bodily appetites that drive us to do wrong things. The flesh speaks out and triggers a debate in one’s thoughts causing him/her to sin. The bible states in the book of Romans 12:1-2 that:
[a]Therefore I urge you, [b]brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be [c]transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].
In order to overcome the lust of the flesh our bodies should be dedicated to God (we have to die to self). Likewise, our mind or thoughts should be renewed (whereby we are not guided by worldly values) and focused on the values of God.
3. Pride of life-Temptation for power and position. This is where one would love to dominate fellow humans. Whereas God has given us power and authority to rule in the earth, He has not allowed us to subjugate humans but the earth. We are to dominate creatures of sea, air and the earth.
26 Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 And God blessed them [granting them certain authority] and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth, and subjugate it [putting it under your power]; and rule over (dominate) the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and every living thing that moves upon the earth.”
We are made in the image and likeness of God. We rule like Him. We rule with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realms according to Ephesians 1. We have the power and authority to execute God’s will on the earth but not to abuse it. Just like Jesus demonstrated in Mathew 4:1-11, we do not use our power at the devil’s command to turn stones into bread. We do not also put God to the test by jumping off high towers to prove to the devil that the angels will shield us from falling with a bang. Power and authority are executed for the right purposes. It is not meant to be paraded for our selfish ends but for God’s glory. Nebuchadnezzar had his humbling experience when he tried to abuse God-given power and authority as portrayed in Daniel 4: 22, 25, 30-35:
22 it is you, O king, who have become great and grown strong; your greatness has increased and it reaches to heaven, and your dominion [reaches] to the ends of the earth… 25 that you shall be driven from mankind and your dwelling place shall be with the beasts of the field; and that you be given grass to eat like the cattle and be wet with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know [without any doubt] that the Most High [God] rules over the kingdom of mankind and He bestows it to whomever He desires… 30 The king said thoughtfully, ‘Is not this the great Babylon which I myself have built as the royal residence and seat of government by the might of my power and for the honour and glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came [as if falling] from heaven, saying, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: “The kingdom has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the animals of the field. You will be given grass to eat like the cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you know [without any doubt] that the Most High God rules over the kingdom of mankind and He bestows it on whomever He desires.”’ 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was [b]driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. 34 “But at the end of the days [that is, at the seven periods of time], I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my understanding and reason returned to me; and I blessed the Most High [God] and I praised and honored and glorified Him who lives forever, For His dominion is an everlasting dominion; And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth; And no one can hold back His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
If we give a place to the pride of life, we will be brought down to the status of the animals and creatures we are supposed to dominate and rule over. Let us reign with Jesus. We are to avoid the suggestions of the master designer and instigator of temptation. Satan always looks for an opportunity to try and tempt us. Luke 22: 31: states that:
31 “Simon, Simon (Peter), listen! Satan has demanded permission to sift [all of] you like grain;
The above verse shows how the devil demands permission to work on us. The experience of sifting is excruciating. But it is more profitable to suffer for doing right. This is expounded in 1st Peter 4:1-2:
Therefore, since [a]Christ suffered in the flesh [and died for us], arm yourselves [like warriors] with the same purpose [being willing to suffer for doing what is right and pleasing God], because whoever has suffered in the flesh [being like-minded with Christ] is done with [intentional] sin [having stopped pleasing the world], 2 so that he can no longer spend the rest of his natural life living for human appetites and desires, but [lives] for the will and purpose of God.
We must live for the will and purpose of God and not for human appetites and desires. In this way, God will always rescue us from temptations and we will be able to endure and overcome it with joy without yielding to it (1 Corinthians 10:13). This brings us to:
How to deal with temptations
1. Avoid the pathway to temptation. Psalms 101:3:
I will set no worthless or wicked thing before my eyes. I hate the practice of those who fall away [from the right path]; It will not grasp hold of me.
2. Beware of those who can entice you. Choose friends wisely. Be careful with whom you hung out. This is in accordance with 1 Corinthians 15:33:
33 Do not be deceived: [a] “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
It does not matter how good you are. You always get influenced by what you concentrate on. And friends are a great influence positively or negatively. The negative aspect is illustrated in Proverbs 1:18-19 as follows:
But [when these people set a trap for others] they lie in wait for their own blood; They set an ambush for their own lives [and rush to their destruction].19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; Greed takes away the lives of its possessors.
3. Know the weak and vulnerable areas of your life and be on guard as reflected in Romans 13:14:
14 But clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for [nor even think about gratifying] the flesh in regard to its improper desires.
4. Be alert spiritually like Jesus. Distinguish between the devil’s voice and the leading of the Spirit. Mathew 16:23 states that:
23 But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man.”
In this case Jesus discerns the devil in Peter his disciple (and the rock upon which the church would be built). We must get rid of every derailing spirit in our vision and mission for Christ Jesus.
5. Submit yourself completely to God’s will. James 4:7 states that:
7 So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.
God is our shield and buckler. A strong tower unto which we run and we are safe. He is our hiding place. He will shield us from the fowler’s snare.
6. Equip yourselves with the whole armour of God as in Ephesians 6:11:
11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily-armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil.
Just like soldiers, we are always confronting the devil in battle. Therefore, we must be armed appropriately for war (warring in the mighty Name of Jesus). We must purpose to live a holy life by reading the word of God and praying at all times. We must not give an opportunity to the Devil.
7. Walk in the fear of God. Put on the mind of Christ Jesus who stood and resisted the devil and did not yield into temptation.
Indeed we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We have nothing to fear because God has already predetermined our victory in every circumstance. Romans chapter 8:34-39 provides a perfect conclusion for this message.
34 Who is the one who condemns us? Christ Jesus is the One who died [to pay our penalty], and more than that, who was raised [from the dead], and who is at the right hand of God interceding [with the Father] for us. 35 Who shall ever separate us from the love of [d] Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 Just as it is written and forever remains written, “For Your sake we are put to death all day long;
We are regarded as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us]. 38 For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Indeed we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus!
Bishop Kepha Omae – Senior Pastor Liberty Christian Centre