TEMPTATIONS - ATTACK AND COUNTER ATTACK
We encounter temptations everyday; several times each day. Temptations are the devious devices used by the devil to entice us into his trap called ‘sin’. Every time we succumb to them, we give the devil a victory. We get defeated, suffer consequences and compound it by letting God down. But, we don’t have to be victims of temptations for we can be victorious over them all the time. Our defeat or victory over the temptations depends on the quality of the relationship we have with Christ Jesus.
Temptations are like writing a test. Our answers in the tests are evaluated and marked. When the answers are good, our scores are high and we are honoured with degrees, awards, jobs and good salary. When the answers are wrong, they are rejected and that leads to rejection in the job market, poor salaries and difficulties in life. Though we may not like them, tests are necessary, and are an inseparable part of life. So are temptations. We cannot run away from them. We must learn to tackle them successfully. James says that we must consider it “pure joy” that we are tested.
Temptations are like the tests that we carry out in our labs on substances. We heat them alone or with acids, bases and other chemicals. We observe how a substance responds to the rigours of these tests. It is these responses that reveal to us the true character of the substance and tell us what that substance is. So will the tests of life reveal your true self. Gold remains largely immune to these tests. It is a noble metal and shows it during these tests. Tests reveal your true nature.
The objective of the devil is first to test and find out who you are and where your weaknesses lie. He uses your weakness to tempt you and trap you. He is like a gentleman thief who would not break into a house, but would use a half locked door, or door which will open on gentle push to enter and ransack.
Anger is an unlocked door for many. If it is so with you, the devil will use that door to enter your life and create havoc in your relationships. Bitterness is one door. Hatred is another. Lying is a door often used by the devil to make his entry and do his dirty works. Jealousy, greed, lust, and drunkenness are some of the doors commonly used by the enemy. He is testing your doors every day. If you do not check and bolt all your doors every day, the enemy will gain access into your soul through these doors. If you are a believer, the devil will use his best and state of the art methods to corrupt you and celebrate if you fall a victim.
The devil did not spare Jesus, God’s only Son. Jesus was and is Holy as God Himself is. He is the true embodiment of Holiness. The devil tested Him with his wily temptations. God allowed His Son to be tested and watched with delight as the devil ran away defeated. The first three gospels give a vivid description of the temptations, and the way the Lord dealt with them victoriously. A careful and analytical study of these passages, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will give us tools and techniques to use against the devil as and when he chooses to use his tricks on us.
It is important to remember that Jesus subjected Himself to three key events before He started His ministry. He was baptised in the Jordan by John the Baptist (Matt.3:15, Mk. 1:9, Lk. 3:21 and Jn. 1:31-34). He was then baptised by the Holy Spirit (Matt.3:16-17, Mk. 1:10-11 and Lk. 3:21-22). The third key event is commonly termed as the ‘wilderness experience’ and is recorded in Matt.4:1-11, Mk. 1: 12-13, Lk. 4:1-13.
Soon after Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He was led by the Spirit into the ‘wilderness’ (‘desert’ in NIV) to be tested by the devil. God planned that Jesus must have the experience of facing the temptations of the devil and overcoming them. It is God’s intention that Jesus must become familiar with the weapons and strategies needed in the spiritual warfare. By recording these events in the gospels, God is introducing us to these tools and methods for use against the devil.
Let us draw parallels now. All of us have to be in ‘wilderness’ several times in our lives. These are times when we have to be alone; sometimes working in places far away from home, far away from known people, away from help, away from familiar food and longing for relationships and familiarity. These are the times the devil brings in his deceptive tricks through wrong relationships, sinful habits like hitting the bottle and getting addicted to the lust of the eyes through pornography. There are times you may feel lonely even in the midst of known people due to problems in relationships and health. The devil targets you during these times, offering what you miss and deceiving you into sin.
But, remember that even as the devil was tempting Jesus, the Holy Spirit was with Him giving Him power (Acts 1:8) and wisdom (Jn. 14:26). For forty days the Holy Spirit nurtured Him and strengthened Him especially for occasions like this. Jesus only had to seek the help offered by the Holy Spirit and not rely on His own strength. Let us learn this from the Master. Be filled with the Spirit and always look up to Him for help.
Wilderness is God’s territory and you can feel His presence there in a special way. It was in the wilderness that Moses saw God in the burning bush, an experience which changed his purposeless life into great mission (Exo. 3:1, 2). When the Israelites left Egypt into the unfathomable desert, “by the day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light” (Exo. 1 3:20-22).
Look for God in your loneliness and you will find Him so near, speaking to you, instructing you, defending you, protecting you and carrying you with His angels. Bible says that “Jesus went to a lonely place to pray” (Mk. 1:35). He went alone into the Mount of Olives several times to pray. In fact, Jesus chose to give Himself these lonely moments so that God could speak to Him in a special way without being disturbed. Your periods of loneliness could be the time God wants to speak to you and make a difference to you.
You have to understand another key component of the ‘wilderness experience.’ The devil was not physically present in front of Jesus to tempt Him. Our enemy is invisible and hence more dangerous. In Matthew 4:3 it is said, “The tempter came to Him and said…” as if the devil was right in front of Jesus. In verse 5 it is said, “Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple.” In verse 8 it is written, “Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the word and their splendour.”
Was there a physical reality to these events? It is reasonable to assume that the devil was working on the mind of Jesus through His thoughts. It is at the thought level that the devil took Jesus to the highest point on the temple and to the high mountain. It is through our thoughts that the devil corrupts our mind and actions. The devil gives evil fantasies to delight people and slowly deceives them into evil action. Sexual fantasies have deceived lots of people into sexual sins. Our battle is not, therefore, against the “flesh and the blood, but against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
If the temptations are at the thought level, it is critical that we learn to regulate our thoughts. It is said ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ Paul warns us against giving the devil a foothold in our mind (Eph 4:27). The best way to prevent the devil from taking a foothold in our mind is to fill our mind with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” and with things that are “excellent and praiseworthy” (Phil.4:8). We can find delight in the Word of God and meditate upon it day and night. The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph.6:17). The devil fears it so much that it runs at the sight of it (Matt.4:11).
The three temptations that Jesus had to face correspond to the three temptations for which Adam and Eve fell. They were deceived on three fronts namely craving for good food, lust of eyes and desire for worldly things (Gen. 3:6). These are the same three temptations against which we are warned in 1 John 2:16. Let us take heed to the warnings.
Fight From Above
During the Second World War, Hitler wanted to invade England and started the Battle of Britain. He sent massive formations of bombers over the British territory attempting both to destroy ground installations and to knock out British air defences. If Germany won air supremacy, the invasion would be easy.
An important strategy the British used was to keep their bombers above the enemy bombers. Gain higher altitude and fight from above. Whenever the radar warned of an imminent attack, the Royal Air Force pilots took their planes up, as high as they could, as fast as they could. From this high position, they could easily hit the enemy formations and rout them.
Fight from above also is God’s strategy for us to defeat the enemy formations in this invisible war because above is where Christ is. Paul beautifully explains: “That power (God’s incomparably great power) is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but also in the ages to come” (Eph.1:19-22).
When God raised Jesus from the dead, He seated Him at His right hand, and gave Him power over Satan and his demonic forces. God placed all things under His feet. As the Psalmist had prophesied, God said to Jesus, “Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool” (Psa.110:1).
You might at this stage feel that Jesus is far above you and out of your reach. But, take heart, because God in His great mercy found a place for us by the side of Jesus. Read what Paul is telling us, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Eph.2:6, 7). We who belong to God, who are washed by His blood, are already positioned in heaven. Physically we may be here in the world, but spiritually we are with God. You do not have to jump into airplanes to achieve this as the British pilots did, as you are already there. You can make the devil run for his life by hitting him from above.
Your Final Victory
The temptations end with the devil taking a run for his life. He was defeated and made to run. In order to achieve this victory in your life, remember to do the following things. Keep your eyes and thoughts on Jesus. Meditate on the Word of God day and night. Pray without ceasing. Develop intimacy with God. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. These actions will take you to the spiritual heights from which you can easily attack the devil. God offers you His presence, His guidance, His strength, His armour and His winning techniques. Be encouraged. Defeat the devil. Receive God’s honour and be blessed!