Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Life of Christ (2007-2009)

Temptation of Christ

Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13

Lesson audio

It is well to review both accounts:

Mat 4:1-11 NIV

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. (2) After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (3) The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." (4) Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'[1]" (5) Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. (6) "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:

" 'He will command his angels concerning you,

and they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'[2]" (7) Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'[3]" (8) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (9) "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." (10) Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'[4]" (11) Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Luk 4:1-13 NIV

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, (2) where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. (3) The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." (4) Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'[1]" (5) The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. (6) And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. (7) So if you worship me, it will all be yours." (8) Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'[2]" (9) The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. (10) For it is written:

" 'He will command his angels concerning you

to guard you carefully; (11) they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'[3]" (12) Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'[4]" (13) When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Lessons from Satan

A study of Satan and all his techniques is beyond the scope of this lesson; however, it is helpful to know some of what the enemy is doing.

Why now?

That the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for the specific purpose of allowing Satan to tempt him is beyond doubt. But why did Satan agree?

  • Surviving a forty day fast must be a spiritual “high.” It is at times like this that we grow overconfident in our abilities to resist temptation.
  • If successful, the fact that we started with a “high” means that the “low” following will be a very deep one indeed. (“I can’t believe I did that!”)
  • The spirit may be at a high, but the body is at a low – famished. Satan’s hope is that the body will ride over the spirit. This should not be; but when the body is at a low, we sometimes forget this.

Remember, it’s not how you see your spiritual state but how Satan sees his opportunity that determines his time to strike.

Why here?

Why does Satan do this in the wilderness? Wouldn’t it produce better results for him if this was in front of a crowd?

  • Temptation seems much less of a problem when you can say, “No one will ever know.” For some of us, the eye of the crowd is a sufficient deterrent to many sins. (Example: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”)
  • The failure then becomes a guilty secret – which is a favorite handle for Satan. Remember Bathsheba – and the rape of Tamar?[1] David could do nothing for fear that his children would throw Bathsheba back in his face.
  • Worse yet, it gives us plenty of time to think up some self-justification. This quickly defiles the conscience, leading to more and worse sin.
“A more opportune time…”

Satan fails. But he doesn’t give up. Like all villains, he is endowed with certain virtues, without which he would be ineffective. In this instance, it’s persistence. So do recall that the temptation has not gone away – it’s just gone away until Satan finds a more opportune time.

And what time might that be? The next instance of temptation for Christ is found at the end of his ministry, in the Garden of Gethsemane. Again, the flesh is weak. Even more opportune is the fear the moment produces. Fear? Read the accounts; you will see that Christ was overcoming his natural fear of death. That was his temptation in the garden; don’t go through death, rather call for a few billion angels and set yourself up in charge. In charge, but not the atonement we need so much.

Fear is often combined with temptation. In the early days of the church a problem arose with those who had denied the faith during the Diocletian persecution. Those who did so now wanted back into the church. Some of those in the church worshipped separately, denying these people fellowship unless they were baptized again. The Montanist controversy is no longer with us, but it does point out how one person’s succumbing to temptation can bring trouble to the church as a whole.

The Nature of Temptation

The ancient world divides temptation into three categories: the flesh, the world and the spirit (which means pride).

The flesh

An easy one to identify, at least in men, by hormone level. But in this instance it is hunger that is used to enable temptation. See how:

  • “If you are the son of God…” If? It’s an attempt to plant doubt; are you really who you think you are Jesus, or just delusional? Surely you’d want to clear that up?
  • There is this matter of stones to bread. In the natural world (created through Christ) stones do not become bread. It’s a temptation to show off; indeed, to “put Satan in his place.” It is not what the humble and obedient would do.

The ancients listed three deadly sins as sins of the flesh. They are lust, gluttony and anger. Or, a little easier to memorize perhaps, babes, bread and belligerence.

The world

The temptations of the world are envy, greed and sloth. These are easy to memorize too – all you need to do is think of politics:

  • Envy – the prime “virtue” of the liberal Democrats.
  • Greed – the prime “virtue” of the conservative Republicans.
  • Sloth – the prime “virtue” of those too lazy to vote.

The world’s temptations tend to come more slowly and stay longer than the sins of the flesh. They are therefore the more deadly. One of the reasons they are so effective is this: the world is genuinely Satan’s to give. But like anything from the prince of evil it has a soul-tearing hook in it. Because they take longer to mature we have more time to defile our consciences with self-justification. Then too, they look rather trivial at first – but give Satan the handle of secret sin.


Pride is the deadliest of sins. Those taken with the sins of the flesh were told to go and sin no more; those taken with the sins of the world were told to repay and repent. Those whose pride was paramount became the objects of Christ’s wrath. Satan is well content to cure your problem with lust or gluttony by giving you a Pharisee’s pride.

Understand the nature of pride – the word “arrogance” might be more like it today. It consists of looking down on other people. It’s a competitive sport, and it is often accompanied by what appears to be victory over lesser sins. C. S. Lewis once called it the “complete anti-God state of mind.”

Tools for the Christian

It is of no service to the Christian to point out these sins if there is no counter to them. Therefore it is our duty to list those things which are essential in defense.

Daily habits

We may examine this passage with the intent of collecting the daily habits which will prove useful in resisting temptation.

  • Note, please, that Christ is led into the wilderness not by wandering or by Satan but by the Holy Spirit. Therefore we say “do not quench the Spirit.” Make awareness of this guide your goal.
  • Christ’s defense comes from the Scriptures. In particular, we may note two things: first, Christ quotes it – which means he must have memorized it. Second, he relies upon the authority of the Scriptures. Satan loves it when we pick and choose what verses to believe.
  • Finally, we see the habit of regular prayer, valid both for prevention and repentance.
Defensive precautions

Pardon me if these seem obvious:

  • Fellowship – maintaining fellowship with your fellow Christians, asking their prayers and aid in dealing with temptation – these things are the benefits of fellowship.
  • Settle your mind on the right things, not the wrong ones. Sometimes you just have to tell Satan to shut up and go away by thinking about something else.[2]
  • Note that all three of the verses Christ quotes come from instances in which the nation of Israel sinned. In other words, they come from bad examples. Do not let your bad examples beset you; rather, learn from them.

Finally, these tips for the combat:

  • Resist Satan – if you do, he flees.[3]
  • Remember: Christ knows what you are going through, as he’s been there himself.[4] He is not cold and distant, but a fellow sufferer – and example.
  • Finally, remember that there is no alliance between God and Satan[5] - so there is no sense trying to set one up.

Choose you this day whom you will serve.

[1] 2 Samuel 13 and thereabouts.

[2] Philippians 4:8-9

[3] James 4:7

[4] Hebrews 4:15

[5] John 14:30-31

Previous     Home     Next