How to Resist Temptation

In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert:

“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.”

How did Christ’s ordeal play out? Was there an audience? Well, no. Not at the time. But in the sense that God has chosen to reveal it to us, then yes, you can consider that we were all there. And did having a live audience matter, at any rate, to Jesus or the devil? I don’t know. Either way, we know that both the devil and Jesus knew the stakes. Were Jesus to give in to any of these temptations, all mankind would be lost. In addition to Jesus resisting these temptations, this story and example also saves us as it gives us encouragement and a path to follow when we are faced with our own trials.

How did Jesus resist these temptations? Let us look at each one. This first is Satan tempting him to turn bread into stone. Look at the appeal: Hunger. How did Jesus resist? By quoting scripture, scripture pertaining to God’s will for Him, not to deviate from God’s plan and eat as Satan directed. Jesus, even though he could have, he did not turn the stone to bread, because he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to withstand trials to become strong and to know his adversary, not to give in and take the easy way out. It would have shown a weakness in faith to do as Satan said. His response that God’s Word was sufficient was perfect because it reflected a deep faith that God would provide. God would direct what was to happen, not Satan.

In the second temptation of the world’s kingdoms, Satan is appealing to Jesus’ humanness. If Jesus would bow down and worship Satan, He could have ownership and control over all of the kingdoms of the world, as this is Satan’s dominion. But Jesus resists again. Why? Because of strong faith again, Jesus knew that only the Lord God is to be worshipped and served. Jesus again resists, quoting scripture.

Lastly, Satan tempts Jesus atop the tabernacle, to throw himself down so that angels might bear Him up. And here Satan quotes scripture himself, perhaps attempting to validate his angle, or thinking he could trick Jesus. Satan is appealing to Jesus’ divinity, perhaps? But Jesus’ faith is far too strong to capitulate. He instructs Satan that the Lord should not be tempted. And after that, in this passage here in Luke, it says that Satan “departed from him until an opportune time.” He is a sneak; cunning and devious. Waiting in the shadows for a moment of weakness to spring upon you.

What has Jesus taught us from his ordeal in the desert?

  • He was prepared
    • He knew scripture enough to reply to each temptation in kind. This belies a devotion to God, an ever-present readiness to not only resist the devil but to do God’s will
  • He was strong
    • The account reflects no indecision on Jesus’ part; He did not have to deliberate, have an internal dialogue (which would indicate a divided heart)
    • His denials were emphatic and immediate
  • He was bold
    • He faced Satan and stood for what was right

The account of Jesus’ resistance of Satan in the desert is the gold standard for temptation resistance. In our life, we have what seems like more choices, it’s not always as black and white or yes and no on the surface as it was with Jesus and Satan in the desert. There is ambiguity. When making a choice between resisting temptation and avoiding temptation, sometimes it is better for us to choose to avoid rather than resist. This is an important distinction.

Jesus could face and resist these temptations because he needed to. And he had the strength to. Do you have the strength to resist something that part of you really wants to do? You have to know yourself. Studying God’s Word will help this. If you feel like you would not have the strength to resist, then have the wisdom to avoid.

But look at Jesus. He was strong. He knew his Bible. He resisted with fortitude and courage. So should your faith in God be as his was.

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