The Issue of Temptation
If the devil is anything besides the enemy of God and of our souls, he is a master of hitting us when we are at our weakest. He knows when we are vulnerable, and he will use his craftiness to draw us into compromising our walk with the LORD to the point where we can become ineffective and a casualty in the invisible war. All it takes for the devil to do his work is to instill in us – at a time when we are most likely alone – thoughts in our head that we can get away with our pet sin or action unbecoming a child of God.
Perhaps the greatest weapon in his arsenal is the scourge of pornography, especially in men. The internet is a breeding ground for all kinds of abhorrent behavior; and even the most innocent post or word search can result in a barrage of images that bring the act of sex to a beastial level, tearing it out of the mold that it was originally intended for, which is the union of a man and woman in the bonds of matrimony.
It is said that a large proportion of pastors view pornography on a regular basis. Little wonder that they are embroiled in sexual abuse cases like what is happening in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Catholic Church. If men reading this are honest, they’ve looked at it at least one time in their lives. It’s a plague brought upon by the fall and also a characteristic of carelessness.
I’m not trying to throw stones at anyone; I’m just stating an observation and to let the men reading this know that you’re not alone. For many men, it is too great a temptation and has led to marital breakups, affairs, and deviant behavior. Lust takes many forms besides that of desiring the opposite sex. There is the lust for power, gratification of appetite, status, fame, and a host of other things that take the place of a sound mind and a godly heart.
It is a blessing to us to know that our Lord Jesus faced the temptations of the flesh and was met by the devil when He was at His weakest point, being out in the desert for forty days, led by the Spirit. The desert is where holy men of God are cleansed and purged of the dross of worldliness and self-satisfaction. We need to look at the temptations faced by Jesus and see how He dealt with each one. The story is found in Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13.
At this point in the story, Jesus has not had anything to eat and is exhausted. Do you ever notice in Scripture that the devil will not usually hit you when everything seems to be going well? He waits to snare us at a low point when we are most vulnerable.
He believed he had the Lord Jesus at such a situation. The first temptation seemed innocent enough, although it was a challenge to Jesus’ divinity. He said to the LORD, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to turn into bread.” This was an appeal to the flesh, and this is where a lot of men fail. However, it was a trap. When we read about the life of our LORD in the gospels, He never did anything to satisfy His own needs or take care of Himself first. His method was to care for others and see to their welfare.
If we take a lesson away from this, it is that real men look out for others before themselves. To succumb to the advice of the devil would mean that He would acknowledge that God wasn’t able to take care of Him and show a lack of trust that would have compromised His mission of salvation. Anyway, the devil never has our welfare at heart. He comes to kill, rob, and destroy and overpower our will to resist.
How did Jesus overcome this first temptation? He didn’t yell at the devil or argue with him. He used the arsenal of Scripture to overcome this trial, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but from every word of God.” This should tell us of the power of God’s word and the importance of knowing it.
The Word of God is a powerful weapon (Hebrews 4:12) that is not used a lot by men or anyone else for that matter because we think we can do it all by ourselves. If we try to resist temptation in our own flesh, we’re just asking the enemy to have a “free for all” with our lives. A real man relies on God for his protection, and Jesus demonstrated it for us.
The second temptation, according to Luke, is where the devil took Jesus to a mountaintop and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, stating that they were his to do with as he pleased. We must remember that Satan is the “god of this world” and desires men’s worship. This was a temptation of acquiring power. This temptation has brought down many men who reached too far for the gold or glory and fell into a morass of family distress and an empty grave filled with dirt, not the riches they acquired in this life.
This was an attempt by Satan to have Jesus rule the world without the necessity of dying for the sins of man. He would rule a world still infiltrated by evil and would be under the direction of his archenemy who was a supreme egotist in having the Creator worship the created. It was a crown without the cross.
How did the LORD overcome this second temptation? Again, He goes to Scripture which the devil can quote, yet hates. Jesus goes to Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you will serve.”
Again, no arguments, just an arsenal that is available to all of us if we would only use it, especially when the urge to “grab all the gusto you can” seems too good to be true. Round two goes to the LORD.
The third temptation was a frontal assault on Jesus’ claims to be the promised Messiah, using His power to convince all of just Who He was with a demonstration of His glory. Essentially, the devil tempted Him to use a gimmick to demonstrate His divinity. It is the equivalent of a child telling his skeptical friends, “I’ll show you who’s the boss!”
It is the temptation that a lot of contemporary pastors use to draw crowds in; they use the spectacular and relevant to push their points about God, as if the Holy Spirit can’t draw people to a saving faith in Christ. You can draw a crowd with dramas and coffee bars, but leave just as spiritually hungry as you came. The Bible seems to be irrelevant and reduced to a prop that the pastor uses to illustrate a trendy topic. The use of Scripture, if used at all, is an afterthought.
The devil used Scripture to present his point, misquoting Psalm 91:11-12. While it is a psalm demonstrating God’s protection, it is not an excuse to try and get God to do something to make you look good or something special. The devil was hoping to get Jesus to make God catch Him if He jumped off the Temple, protecting Him. This was, and is a foolish thing to ask of God. Often we want God to get us out of the mess we made without surrendering to His will and His absolute control over us, especially if we claim to be His child.
Again, Jesus didn’t argue with the devil for misquoting Scripture. He used the correct interpretation of the Word, however, to rebuke Satan’s plans to kill Him off and negate the plan of salvation conceived before the foundation of the world. This is the third time the LORD used the weapon of warfare against the enemy, namely the written word of God which can rebuke anything the devil throws at us.
The point should be obvious to any man reading this: that real men read the Bible and live by its principles, and not by things such as “gut instincts.” Real men seek God’s face when faced with a temptation, and we only need to look at the example of the Lord Jesus on how to overcome it. Call on Him when the devil whispers in your ear; and remember, God is watching us always, and nothing gets by Him.
Being “macho” is pointless and will lead to self-centeredness. The true measure of manhood is to emulate our LORD and trust in Him when things seem bleak and uncertain. He is our source for wisdom in managing careers, family life, and our standing before Him. Don’t give the enemy any opportunity to compromise you; and by the way, turn off the computer after reading this and go hug your wife and play with the kids.
Stay tuned for more of this series.