Since I’m learning to follow Jesus, I’m interested in learning from His experience with temptation. Here are a few things I noticed:
1.) The word temptation in these passages means to try, examine, or assay. It’s testing to see what’s inside. Picture holding a magnet over metal filings. They jump to the magnet. Testing is like holding a magnet over our hearts to see what jumps out.
2.) Jesus’ testing revealed His complete trust in God. He believed God would keep His Word, provide for Him, protect Him, and reward Him for His faithfulness. There’s not a shred of self-interest in Jesus. This reveals His qualification to take the punishment for our sin. He has no sin of His own. No “metal filings.”
3.) When Satan tempts us (e.g., Eve, Job, Jesus), he uses deceit. He creates a false impression to drive a wedge between us and God. He portrays our circumstances as evidence that God is less good, loving, or powerful than we thought. Satan misleads and misrepresents because his goal is to steal, kill, and destroy.
4.) Satan’s tempting of Eve and Jesus had more in view than wanting them to fall. His goal was the ruin of the entire race. When we yield to temptation, it harms all who depend on us. Whenever I have yielded to temptation I’ve hurt others, likely more than I realize. Self-interest is always a wretched choice.
Looking beyond the story of Jesus’ temptation, I see two more factors worth noting. First, self-interest seems a primary target for temptation. When motivated by self-interest, we abandon guiding principles, wisdom, reputation, the wellbeing of others, God’s Word, and His glory.
Second, not all “testing” is directed at us. Much of it comes from within. James says we are carried away by our own lusts, and Ephesians tells us our natural appetites are stirred by deceit, which leads to sin. The ways of the world are designed to beguile us. No surprise given who the prince of this world is.
All of this points to one thing — it’s important to know how to deal with temptation. Here are a few insights from elsewhere in Scripture:
- Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray.
- He also taught them to ask for protection, which we can do for ourselves and for others (as Job did for his children).
- We can know that the struggle is normal and winnable — and shared by all who take Christ as Lord.
- It helps to feed the spirit rather than the flesh so there’s less “pull” toward self-interest.
- Cultivating love is also useful, as is not warming to the world.
Yesterday I went downstairs to clean my bike chain. Two minutes later I had grease on my pants. Do I know how messy it is to work on a chain? Of course. I’ve been cleaning chains since I was eight. Should I be surprised by the outcome? Mad at the grease? Throw the bike away?
Before I went downstairs to work on the chain, I thought about changing into some old pants. Nah. I’ll be careful. But that wasn’t really it. Too lazy is more to the point.
The choices I make signal the interests of my heart, and once I’m aware of my heart I can decide how to direct its affections. Ideally, I’ll have a community of believers to support me in this, Scripture to guide me, prayer to strengthen me, the well-being of others to encourage me, and faith in the One who loves me to keep it personal.