For all that the world can offer us—the gratification of our flesh, the allurement of the things of the world, and the obsession with status and importance—none of these things come from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16
Can Satan catch you off guard? Does he have any new strategies that he uses that could catch you off guard? Why does God allow us to be tempted and does the way we handle temptation actually have an impact on our identity?
When reading about the start of the ministry of Jesus, it did not start with fanfare, great recognition from a huge crowd or even many people coming to Jesus telling Him about who He was and the plan God had for his life. His ministry started with an encounter with John the Baptist which you can read about in Matthew 3:13-16.
Even though John did not consider himself worthy to baptise Jesus. Instead, he tried to prevent Jesus from allowing him to do so. Jesus said in verse 15, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” When Jesus humbled himself through being baptised by John, he came out of the water, the heavens were opened and "He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him." Matthew 3:16b. And then, Jesus had God confirm His identity. God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17b.
If God spoke to everyone from Heaven about me being His son and that He was pleased with me I would think all the dots in my life were lining up…. I had made it! The interesting thing is that God confirmed the identity of Jesus to all who were present and THEN led him by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1). BEFORE we are tempted and tested, God wants to let us know our identity and that our identity in Him is fixed. It is not reliant on what we do, but who God says we are. If God told Jesus what His identity was AFTER He was tempted this would totally change our understanding of what our identity in God means.
Our identity has been fixed by God BEFORE the foundation of the world and is not dependent on what we do or do not do! What we do, then, is completing the good works He has made us for (Ephesians 2:10) and NOT to work harder just so God loves us more or accepts us as important to Him! What a relief!!
In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted, not when he was strong, but when he was physically at His weakest. He had not eaten for 40 days and nights and would have been extremely exhausted. THEN the tempter (Satan) came to Him and tempted Jesus using three different approaches. Jesus could only defeat Satan through not only knowing His Father and the Word but what it meant. He knew the heart of His Father and could counteract every word from Satan confidently and clearly. The three things Jesus was tempted with are worth looking closely at. Two of these involve lust and the other pride.
What do lust and pride mean (dictionary.com)?
Lust - an intense sexual desire or appetite, uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness or a passion or overmastering desire or craving.
Pride - a becoming or dignified sense of what is due to oneself or one's position or character, pleasure or satisfaction is taken in something done by or belonging to oneself or believed to reflect credit upon oneself or a high or inordinate opinion of one's own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mid or as displayed in bearing, conduct etc..
In 1 John we read that these are not of our Heavenly Father and should be avoided.
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:16
What did Satan use to tempt Jesus in the wilderness and how did He reply?
Temptation 1: Lust of The Eyes
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.’ ” Matthew 4:5-6
Satan was tempting Jesus to "see" if God would rescue Him if He threw himself off the temple roof. Yes, God could and would save Him if Jesus asked, but this was something that God did not send Jesus on earth to do. His power was given to use as God intended. Jesus was to walk fully as a human and not use the power and authority He had been given to test God.
Lust for something with our eyes appears to be harmless, but when God has told us that we should not look at these things, then we need to turn our eyes on what is from Him. When Jesus was tempted He knew not to tempt God, so He said to Satan:-
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” Matthew 4:7
For us, we lust with our eyes when we look at things we should not have or what God has told us it is harmful to us. One example of lusting with our eyes is coveting or desiring what is someone else's. To covet means to strongly desire something that is owned by someone else. This could be possessions, a wife or husband, work position etc. In Exodus 20 we read about the 10 Commandments that God gave his people. The last commandment clearly told people that they were not to covet or desire anything that anyone else owned.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour's.” Exodus 20:17
One of the best-known examples of how the lust of the eyes leads to sin is the story of King David and Bathsheba. King David SHOULD have been leading the army but instead had time out and while time on his hand, he looked from his home and saw a beautiful woman bathing. (2 Samuel 11) Instead of averting his eyes and realising she was someone's else's wife, he continued looking until he HAD to have a sexual relationship with her. This led to Bathsheba's husband being murdered through David's instructions and Satan was given a doorway to bring a curse to operate over his family. Lusting with the eyes ultimately brings destruction.
Temptation 2: Lust Of The Flesh
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Matthew 4:3
Jesus was incredibly hungry and his whole body would have been crying out for food. He had the power and authority to make bread out of the stones but knew it was not what His Father wanted Him to do. It was so tempting and His body needed the sustenance. Instead, Jesus knew, though, that even though food was important, there was something much better. Jesus replied to Satan:-
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.’ ” Matthew 4:4
There are many things that God made, but if not put in the right place, they can not only distract us but take us away from walking as God has made us to OR in the destiny He has made us for. They have been made by God for us to need or desire as a healthy human, but it becomes unhealthy when there is an excessive desire. The pull of our flesh is so strong and Satan has put in a huge effort to have us feel the flesh needs what we are tempted with and if we do not get it we will never be happy. Jesus realised the opposite was actually true. If Jesus made the stones into bread, He would have not been able to fulfil His destiny. Short term He would have felt satisfied physically BUT what was greater would have been forfeited.
What are some things that we find are lusts of our flesh? Food, sex, need to be appreciated, talking about others in an unhealthy way, physical violence, drug use, gaming on the computer, wanting adventure and thrills. The list goes on. Paul in Galatians writes:-
9 The cravings of the self-life are obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, 20 chasing after things instead of God, manipulating others, hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favoured, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, 21 being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions, wild parties, and all other similar behaviour.
Haven’t I already warned you that those who use their “freedom” for these things will not inherit the kingdom realm of God! Galatians 5:19-21 TPT
God is calling us to not give in to our cravings but to show self-control and resist these temptations. This is the only way we will inherit the Kingdom of God. The only way we cannot give in to the lusts of the flesh is to walk in the Spirit. In Galatians, we read:-
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24 NKJV
As we walk in the Spirit and not in our flesh, we learn instead to enjoy the things God gives us but they are done in the right way. They no longer control us or we no longer see them as a "need". Instead, God calls us to see our walk with God more important than anything of the flesh.
Temptation 3: The Pride Of Life
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.” Matthew 4:8-9
This is possibly one of the hardest areas for us. When we do not know and walk in the identity God has given us, we instead seek the approval of others and have a need to succeed so we feel significant. We then are able to drop all that God has given us as important and spend our time, energy and life pursuing significance and meaning through what we achieve. Jesus had the right answer for Satan:-
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.’ ” Matthew 4:10
In Matthew, we find a different way of living when we become disciples of Jesus. We learn that when we seek or chase after things of the Kingdom of God, we actually are given the things that we need as humans to be healthy and content. When we focus on what is of God, we actually are blessed and get what other people are striving for. When we get it, we are blessed as we know that when we live in the Kingdom of God, our King who is Jesus supplies all our needs. (See Colossians 1:13)Our significance comes from our relationship with God and the identity He gives us. We can focus on Him and then become very
“So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly. Matthew 6:33 TPT
When looking at the first two kings of Israel, the difference in their attitudes towards God and themselves was very interesting. Saul was chosen to be King but did not go through the same process of character training as David. In Samuel, we read that he was the person that we would choose because of his outward appearance.
2 And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul. There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. 1 Samuel 9:2.
In the end, God rejected him because his heart was not right. Saul believed he could do it his way and was more worried about what man thought. In the end in 1 Samuel 15:35 we read that the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.
When we look at David's life we see God preparing him for a humble relationship with God. David was a shepherd, hidden and overlooked by his family. He was anointed to be king but he had to endure years of Saul's anger towards him which led to him running away in fear of his life. Yet, through his trials, David loved God and his desire was to walk with the LORD and follow what He called him to do through walking with God. Even when he did the wrong thing, David repented as he did not want to lose his relationship with God. David only became king after a lengthy period of testing, trials and torment. He learnt to trust God and accept his position as king was given to him by God and was not something he deserved or worked for.
There is a huge struggle going on in our lives every day when we choose to follow Jesus. Our flesh is very strong, craving importance and what makes us happy. The world constantly bombards us with things that our eyes are tempted to desire or lust after. Often the desires and pull to things of our flesh are harder when we are tired, hungry, hurt or overwhelmed with life. Jesus had to go into the wilderness for 40 days and not eat until he was so weak his body was crying out for company, food and even significance. What was the purpose of all this? Satan came to him when he was at his weakness and Jesus was able to not only reject the pull of his human needs, he knew God's Word and heart and trusted what God said even above the pull of His flesh.
As you understand the strategies of the evil one, learn the Word of God and be vigilant to stop every attack of Satan. Satan will use lusts of the eyes, lusts of the flesh and the pride of life always to try to take you away from the relationship and destiny you have in God. Beware, especially when you are tired, discouraged or lonely. Fasting is an important way of coming to a place where you can really see how important things of the flesh are to you. Fast or abstain from things of the flesh which may include stopping food, TV, social media or anything you really love and spend time with God instead. As you learn to do this, God will give you the desires of your heart. It means so much more when God supplies your needs.
Finally, as we reject Satan's attacks on us through the lusts of the eyes, lusts of the flesh and pride of life, we are able to present our lives as a living sacrifice to God. Because of all He has done for us, this is a very small way of showing Him how much we love and appreciate him. When we do, we stop living under the culture of the world but learn to see life and the world from a different perspective. We understand the will of God and are empowered to live a "beautiful life that is satisfying and perfect in His eyes". What an amazing way to live!
Now you know the three strategies Satan uses, you can now be ready for the tempting and trials. He does not use any new strategy. As God allows you to be tested, remember the tests are an important part of being promoted to the next "good work" God has prepared you for. As Jesus passed the temptations with the Word of God, continue to learn the Bible so this is a natural way of fighting your flesh and the efforts of the evil one to destroy you. Look forward to the exciting adventure that comes after the trials. Don't give up! Remember, too, that your identity is fixed before you were born and is not based on the trial!
12 Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvellous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship.
2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you,[a] but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. Romans 12:1-2 TPT