No one has ever experienced the intensity of temptation like that of Jesus in the wilderness. The three temptations that were presented to Jesus are the three basic issues every human faces.
The Role of the Holy Spirit
The Spirit anointed Jesus on the day of his baptism. We read, “the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove” (Luke 3.22).
The next reference to the Spirit’s activity in Jesus’ life may seem unusual.
— Luke 4.1-2 – Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
Why did the Spirit lead Jesus to a place of testing?
Whether we like it or not, faithfulness to God is proven during times of testing. Until our life with God is tested, we only love and depend upon God in theory. Theory becomes reality when we remain faithful to our commitment to God in hard times.
Jesus is the best example of how to live. He was tested like no other person and shows us the path to victory.
Three Basic Temptations
The devil attempted to turn Jesus away from his devotion to God by using three temptations. These temptations are universal in nature.
They were the root of temptation to the Hebrew nation after the Exodus (Deuteronomy 6-8), and they have been used against people for all ages.
Let’s first examine the nature of the temptations. Then, we will see how Jesus remained faithful to God’s plan through them all.
(1) Temptation #1 – Use your power to get what you want in life.
The devil’s advice was to take the easy way out to solve his hunger. He said, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread” (Luke 4.3).
The devil is the worst advisor anyone could meet. Jesus was tempted to follow the direction of the devil instead of being guided by the Holy Spirit.
How much of the world’s pain and sorrow stems from people and nations using their power to get what they want?
How much pain have we caused or experienced because we followed the devil’s advice instead of the Spirit’s?
(2) Temptation #2 – Strive for power and glory
The devil framed this universal temptation with these words: “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4.6-7).
A brief Greek word study will bring out the full impact of the second temptation what we all face.
— Glory – This word has a wide range of meaning: “Good opinion, estimation in which one is held, reputation, praise, honor, glory.”
— Authority – This involves the power or authority to act. It is the effective reach of a person’s power.
— Worship – To give your loyalty to a superior.
I don’t know about you, but as a “people pleaser” I want to have a good reputation and to be recognized. I don’t usually think about power, until it is questioned by drivers on the Interstate or a long line at the supermarket.
I would never bow my knee to the devil, but I am often tempted to live my life by his rules.
(3) Temptation #3 – Testing God’s Patience
The devil knows the Bible and is willing to use it to draw God’s people away from a faithful relationship with him.
The devil quoted Psalm 91 and said:
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’ and
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” (Luke 4.9-11)
It will not surprise us that Jesus was committed to one purpose, God’s agenda for him.
The devil had a competing agenda for Jesus. The devil’s plan was to divert Jesus from following God’s direction and test God’s promise in the Psalm.
Psalm 91 was not addressed to people who tempt God’s patience through disobedience. It was aimed at people who faithfully live in a relationship with God.
One of the most common ways that we fall prey to the third temptation is to lead an unhealthy lifestyle – too little sleep and exercise, accompanied by the SAD diet (the Standard American Diet).
Upon the experience of chronic health concerns, we pray for God to heal us.
Jesus’ Prescription for Victory
Jesus answered the devil’s three temptation with Bible passages that can be found in the Book of Deuteronomy.
(1) Answer #1 – Maintain trust in God
When the devil tempted Jesus to use his power to obtain food, Jesus replied, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone’” (Luke 4.4).
Jesus modeled a significant truth for us. God loves humans and knows what is best for their lives. We don’t have to take life’s matters into our own hands. We can trust God’s guidance and provision.
The test of our faith is whether we will trust God to know and give us what we need. There is only one way to pass the test. Trust him and find him to be completely reliable.
(2) Answer #2 – Be completely devoted to God and his agenda.
Revelation 13.5-8 pulls back the curtain on who is behind the systems of this world. It is the devil, who has been given power to rule.
The devil has great power, and human lust for power and glory makes us susceptible to his temptations.
The devil is not another god who competes with God for the rule of planet earth. The devil is a created being, whose defeat will be complete at the end.
Jesus’ counsel to avoid this temptation is, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (Luke 4.8).
When we worship the devil, we adopt his methods to reach the power and prestige we seek.
When we worship God, we learn his methods and seek the power of the Holy Spirit to see them accomplished.
(3) Answer #3 – Be completely loyal to God’s plan for your life.
All of the devil’s temptations attempt to get people off track in the journey of following God.
Jesus teaches us to reject the devils guidance, and affirms a loyal following of God’s leadership. He said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4.12).
The Psalm that the devil quoted presumed a personal relationship with God that was characterized by human obedience.
Jesus teaches a proper understanding of Psalm 91. The gift of the Holy Spirit through his life and ministry allows us to personally know God and be able to follow him.
We prepare ourselves to not put God to the test by living in a close relationship with God and by following his direction. We can be assured that the Holy Spirit will guide us and empower us to be able to accomplish this.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I have a YouTube video on this subject. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
I am indebted to good authors, who help me better understand the Bible. I am currently reading a commentary on Luke by Joel B. Green.
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