Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit to go out into the wilderness, where the Devil tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry. - Luke 4:1-2
The comedian Flip Wilson used to impersonate a lady called Geraldine, who explained that nothing was really her fault because, she said, “The devil made me do it!” In more sophisticated terms, the brilliant and tragic Irishman, Oscar Wilde, wrote in Lady Windermere’s Fan, “I couldn’t help it. I can resist everything except temptation.” Wilde and Wilson had little in common, but they did share one thing: an apparent belief that temptation is something that happens to people, against which they are defenseless, and for which they cannot be held accountable.
Scripture flatly disagrees. Temptation is real, but must not be casually dismissed as inevitable or helplessly yielded to as invincible. Temptation is an integral part of life, intentionally permitted by God, designed to present men with an opportunity to decide between doing what is right and choosing to go wrong. Temptation overcome is a test passed with flying colors, while being overcome by temptation is a craven capitulation to evil and a resounding defeat for good.
Jesus showed the way to triumph over temptation. Hungry, tired, and lonely after forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness, he was offered the chance to break his fast by changing a stone into a loaf of bread. It was a not-so-subtle temptation to take matters into his own hands rather than to trust the one into whose hands he was committed. His response—“People need more than bread for their life” (Luke 4:4)—showed he was not about to desert God for bread. Jesus 1, Satan 0.
Next, Jesus was offered power and status in return for believing a lie and perpetrating fraudulent worship. His response—“You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him” (4:8)—rebuffed the devil and reaffirmed his commitment to truth and his disdain for the abuse of power and prestige. Jesus 2, Satan 0.
Finally, Jesus was offered the chance to “prove” his faith by an act of sheer irresponsibility. Standing on the “highest point of the Temple” he was encouraged to “jump off” (4:9)—an act purportedly legitimized by a doubtful application of Psalm 91. He responded, “Do not test the Lord your God” (4:12). Jesus 3, Satan 0. So the Devil retreated—for a while.
It may be objected that we are not Jesus, so we cannot be expected to stand against Satan. It can legitimately be said in response that we don’t face Satan as he did, either. But more significantly, we do have the Spirit and we do have God’s Word. Jesus overcame by “the Holy Spirit’s power” (4:14) and deft use of “the Scriptures.” By God’s grace, we can do that!
For Further Study: Luke 4:1-13
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit tellingtthetruth.org.
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