An Analysis of Temptation
Today you will be tempted. I will, too. If we choose that which is forbidden, the repercussions of our decisions can range from “no big deal” to “long-term destruction.”
Where is the line? What, exactly, makes something a sin? Clearly, cheating on my diet is not the same thing as cheating on my taxes or cheating on my wife. How then should I view temptation, and, more importantly, how can I overcome it when I face it?
A deeply significant account of temptation is told of Jesus Himself, who, after fasting for 40 days, was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, where He was tempted by Satan (see Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4).
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
The New King James Version. (1982). (Mt 4:1–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
If temptation is merely defined as an allurement toward sin, we are only viewing one side of the coin. Properly understood, temptation involves not merely a turning toward sin, but a turning from God. In other words, the actual temptation is to distrust God to be all-sufficient in our lives. Temptation, then, is not so much about what we are drawn to, but who we are drawn away from.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent and ate that which was forbidden. But why? Because they, in that moment, trusted their own judgment more than trusted God.
When faced with temptations, our consciences often alert us that something is not right, but we often override the warnings and justify our actions. In essence, we choose to be god, defining good and evil for ourselves. This is, in fact, the ultimate sin of humanity, it is the iniquity that resides in us – to define good and evil for ourselves and to be our own gods.
Today you will be tempted to be god. You will want to justify an action, an attitude, or a thought. Ask yourself, why am I not trusting God right now? Why am I listening to the voice of the enemy? Why am I entertaining the idea of being my own god?
The enemy overpromises and underdelivers.
- Satan promised provision (if Jesus would turn rocks into bread).
- Satan promised protection (if Jesus would jump from the pinnacle of the Temple).
- Satan promised power (if Jesus would bow and worship him, Satan would give Him the kingdoms of the world).
Jesus, however, knew the limitations and manipulations of Satan’s offers.
- Only God can truly provide for our deepest needs.
- Only God can truly protect us from the enemy of our souls.
- Only God can truly empower us with eternal glory and authority.
Temptation, once properly analyzed, begins to lose its luster and loosen its grip. Why would I trust the enemy of my soul, who is a master deceiver? Why would I trust my own human judgment, enthroning myself as the god of my life, defining good and evil for myself? Why would I follow the ways and wisdom of the world, which leads to utter destruction?
Why wouldn’t I trust God? Has He ever been unfaithful to His Word, or to me?