If you are a Christian (and even if you aren’t one), you will undoubtedly face many temptations to sin in your life. Now this statement assumes that sin is a real violation against a standard of authoritative truth, namely God’s Word. Temptation is a tool of Satan to get a person to disobey God, either by doing something that is forbidden or by not doing something explicitly commanded.
Jesus can identify with being tempted. The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). While Mark only gives us a few verses concerning Jesus’ temptation in the Judean wilderness, Matthew and Luke give a more detailed account of what Jesus endured for 40 days.
If we break down the three temptations of Jesus, we recognize that Satan is appealing to both His humanity and His position as God’s Son. Even though Jesus is fully God, the temptations were real and, shall we say, tempting. They attempt to divert Jesus from His appointed destiny: the cross. The temptations seek to make Jesus autonomous, needing not to rely upon the Father, and appealing to glory without the need of the cruel suffering He would face on the cross.
We should understand these temptations to be selfishly motivated by Satan to subvert Jesus’ mission to fulfill the Father’s purpose of going to the cross and accomplishing the defeat of Satan and the salvation of the elect. Yet, Jesus, relying upon the very Word He spoke to Moses and Israel in Deuteronomy, trusts the Father’s care, protection, and plan as our human representative to win our salvation and glory through His suffering and agony.
For example, where Adam and Eve failed against the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, Jesus triumphed. Satan tried these same tactics on our first parents, appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16). But Jesus wouldn’t fall for it. Therefore, not only does He prove to be the greater Adam, but the victor over Satan through His perfect obedience, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection, as was promised in Genesis 3:15.
Jesus provides help (Heb. 4:15) and a way of escape for us when we encounter various temptations (1 Cor. 10:13). This is where the gospel comes in. Through our saving faith in Jesus, we not only get His obedience credited to us, but that very same obedience is empowered in us through the Holy Spirit. Also, our nature once wracked and driven by sin is cleansed and we are new creations in Christ with a nature now disposed toward godliness. This does not mean we will not struggle with temptation or even fall into temptation. But we can now pray as we never could before, “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). We can expect that this prayer will be answered. We can only pray this because of Jesus and the gospel.
So often, we can focus on particular strategies to avoid temptation, or put into place accountability structures to help conquer temptations when we are weak. These things can be helpful for sure. But ultimately, the way to handle temptation must first begin within our own heart by asking, do we truly believe the gospel? Do we really believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection is sufficient for me to battle and conquer sin and temptation in my life (see Romans 6)? Am I trusting in a program or person? And if we believe it, are we acting upon that belief? Not by only avoiding sources of temptation (which we should), but when tempted, acting in obedience to God’s Word by trusting in the Spirit’s power alone to do what He’s told us to do and not do what He’s forbidden us to do?
Satan will do everything he can to get you to take your eyes off of trusting your Heavenly Father and His Son’s provision, and place it upon yourself, your worth, and your right to do what you want. Satan wants us to live a gospel-less life. Jesus conquered all these temptations for us. Now we can conquer them in Him and truly live a life that reflects the glory and worth of our God who saved us, walking free of guilt and sin, and have the confidence that He will one day bring us home with Him forever.