“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Let us consider how the devil tempted Jesus and how Jesus handled the temptations. This may well help us to overcome temptations which we face.
1. The lust of the flesh (fleshly appetites).
“And the devil said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread'” (Luke 4:3).
Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights. He was hungry (cf. Matthew 4:2). The devil used His natural, God-given bodily appetite to tempt Jesus.
We live in a physical world. We have physical bodies. Our physical bodies have bodily appetites, involuntary bodily appetites. This is how we were made. The devil will use such to tempt us to do things contrary to God’s will.
Jesus responded by saying, “It is written ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'” (Luke 4:4). God evidently had communicated to Jesus that He was not to feed Himself this way. Very likely, the issue was that God did not want Jesus to use miraculous powers for self benefit. Never did Jesus or the apostles use miraculous powers for self benefit.
Application for us – “Man’s craving for food is an inherent drive. Wish though he may that this drive did not exist, man cannot escape the need for food. But though the desire itself is not of man’s choosing, his response to it is. In fact, how man handles physical hunger is indicative of whether he exercises a basic Christian virtue: temperance or self-control. God places appetite within man and expects him to control it” (Kerry Duke, God at a Distance, p. 87). Doing God’s will is even more important than caring for the physical body.
2. The lust of the eyes (earthly ambitions).
“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 to You, and their glory… if You will worship before me, all will be Yours” (Luke 4:5-7).
I believe that the temptation is for Jesus to take a different path to Kingship than the cruel cross. James Snowden commented, “What does this mean but that Jesus was tempted to use the devil’s means and methods of getting the kingdom…?” (The Coming of the Lord, p. 90). If Jesus chose to abandon God’s plan including the cross, and to become an earthly king, no doubt such would have been immensely popular. After all, He could feed the multitudes. Moreover, the Jews were desiring a king (John 6:15). The devil used that which was appealing to the eyes to tempt.
However, Jesus responded – “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Luke 4:8). Jesus answered Peter similarly when Peter tried to keep Jesus from His own death (Matthew 16:21-23). Thus, many conclude that Satan, like Peter, was trying to interfere with God’s plan of the cross.
Application – If we are going to successfully deal with temptation, then we must determine whom we will worship and serve. This must be clear in our minds. Moreover, we must be bold enough to respond “Get behind me Satan!” to anyone who would stand in our way of serving our God (cf. Matthew 16:21-23). “Satan” means “adversary.” Anyone oppressing our service to God is an adversary on that point.
3. The pride of life (ego).
“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'” (Luke 4:10-11).
Satan quoted scripture. He said in effect, “Show me how God protects You,” or “Let’s test Him. Let see if God will rescue You.” This is an appeal to pride.
Jesus responded, “It has been said, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God'” (Luke 4:12). He responded by quoting Scripture. Three times Jesus was tempted. Each time He responded by quoting Scripture (Luke 4:4 cf. Deuteronomy 8:3; Luke 4:8 cf. Deuteronomy 6:13; Luke 4:12 cf. Deuteronomy 6:16).
Scripture must be taken together. “The sum” of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:60 ASV). Dave Miller has written, “Psalm 91, though intended to convey the care and concern which God manifests for the faithful, was not intended to apply to deliberately placing oneself in peril in order to force God to come to one’s rescue… Satan inferred that Psalm 91 implied divine care under every possible circumstance. But this inference was unwarranted and incorrect. Jesus, therefore, gathered additional scriptural evidence to show that Satan’s inference was incorrect. In the context of Deuteronomy 6:16, God was referring to the kind of testing/tempting which the Israelites did when they murmured, grumbled, and challenged Moses to produce water – as if God was unable or unwilling. For Jesus to have complied with Satan’s challenge would have placed Jesus in the same condition as the weak, unbelieving Israelite” (On Inferring What the Explicit Statements of the Bible Imply, p. 8). H. Leo Boles commented, “The quotation of the devil was a scriptural quotation and applicable to himself (Jesus B.H.) and would be fulfilled in due time, but to throw oneself into unnecessary danger in order to ‘tempt’ (test B.H.) God would be a sin..” (Gospel Advocate N.T. commentary series, The Gospel According to Luke, p.95)
Furthermore, the ESV Study Bible comments, “Such a spectacular display as jumping from this great height unharmed would have gained him an enthusiastic following, but it would not have followed the Father’s messianic and redemptive plan of suffering and proclaiming the Kingdom of heaven” (Notes on Matthew 4:6-7). What He did needed to be in harmony with God’s will.
Application for us – If we are going to successfully deal with temptation, then we must know the book, and be able to properly reason from Scripture. The Psalmist said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).