THE ANATOMY OF TEMPTATION II: THE ESCAPE

The temptation of Jesus in Luke 4 does not begin with the Father equipping Jesus with a supernatural spiritual defense. What the Spirit does instead is lead Jesus into the wilderness, where He will be abandoned. The difference here, of course, relative to the temptation of Adam, is that in the temptation of Jesus, the unveiled devil himself comes to engage Christ. And again, we have the overriding theme in the Biblical narrative of someone being led into the wilderness, which is always meant to be a transitional state, looking ahead to something greater. In the case of Jesus, His temptation happens just before He begins His public ministry. Christ’s dialogue with Satan begins in Luke 4:3-4, which says:

And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The flesh does not like to suffer, and Satan knows this. At this point in the story, Jesus has fasted for 40 days. Yet Christ’s answer with the Word of God highlights the striking point that that even the Son of God stands under the Word of God. Jesus, as God, refused to proclaim any special privilege above God’s Word, and thus He says, “Man shall not live on bread alone.” The flesh is subjugated to the Man, and the Man is subjugated to the Word. The flesh is therefore subjugated to God, the One Whom we ought to look to in order to control the flesh. Satan invites Jesus to use His power to turn away from God and satisfy the flesh. Jesus refused.

Luke 4:9-12: And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written,

‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Christ is asked to demand a sign from The Lord. This ends up being a temptation of Jesus’s faith, because that faith dares to demand of God. In other words, Satan says, “Show me you are God through a sign!” Hence, God testing God equates to setting God’s Word against God’s Word. In a very perverse twist, Satan tempts Jesus, Who is thereby asked to tempt God.

Luke 4:5-8: And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.”

Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

Unlike the serpent that worked by craftiness, the devil now totally reveals himself as the prince of darkness and the one who has dominion over this natural world. He ceases from hiding and shows Jesus, “This is what I am and this is what I can do.” He then tempts Jesus to choose between what he has to offer and what God has already done.

The main lesson from the temptation of Christ is very clear: temptation is overcome only by God’s Word through Jesus. So, what does God’s Word say about the escape from temptation?

I Corinthians 10:12-14: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

Let him who thinks he stands. He doesn’t stand at all, but God stands for us. Adam was already tested in the Garden. He failed. Jesus was already tested in the Garden. He succeeded. So, we don’t rely on the natural man, we rely on God.

The first part of verse 13 deals with temptation in the natural. The next three parts deal in the supernatural and deal exclusively with God. Paul tells us that (1) God is faithful, (2) He is the one Who controls the boundaries of the temptation, and (3) He also gives you a way out. The point: the whole reason you are in this situation is that if you rely on God, He will give you all the strength you need to endure.

He follows up the sentence on an escape door by saying flee from idolatry. Interesting? Yes, because if we flee from something not of God to something not of God, then the flight becomes null and void. All throughout the Scriptures we read, “flee immorality” (I Corinthians 6:18) and “flee from youthful lusts” (II Timothy 2:22). There is no resistance other than flight. Fleeing, however, is only fruitful when we flee to the Crucified Christ. Otherwise, we might flee to alcohol, drugs, adultery, or self-reliance. Self-reliance is actually what the entire modern self-help business is based upon: providing natural routes to which you can escape. What this devious system cleverly omits is God, so what these systems subtly tell you is “you don’t need God … all you need is you.”

The apostle Paul is clear: escape to God. And that escape is grounded in the Word of God. It is the only weapon Jesus used against Lucifer.

People often make the mistake of thinking that in order to be healed from their perverse desires they have to rid themselves of those desires. But what if I told you the key wasn’t to eliminate desire, but to refocus it?

Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV): But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (emphasis mine)

Both the flesh and the Spirit desire. The Spirit desires, and the Spirit is of God, so what the Spirit desires is good. The Greek word for desires is epithymeo which means, “to set the heart upon, to long for.” This means that desire is morally neutral and what makes desire good or bad is what you set your desire on.Example: Saul was a devout Pharisee with a zealous desire to not only be obedient but to correct those who deviated from the truth. This perverse desire resulted in pride, arrogance, elitism, and merciless judgment. Now Paul, after meeting Christ, I dare say had the same desires (following God’s commands and adhering to the truth) but the object of those desires was now Christ. Paul ended up doing the same things that Saul did, but the target was different. When that desire conceives with the things of Christ, the results are things that are God-like: love, joy, peace, mercy, and things of the sort. It is no surprise, then, that Paul authored a large chunk of the New Testament and wrote about how Christians ought to live Christ-centered lives.

In I Corinthians 10:13, Paul does not say that the temptation will go away. He doesn’t say that you are equipped as a spiritual super-soldier and are able to withstand attacks. What he does say is that God will provide a way of escape also, so that we will be able to endure temptation.

The root of the verb endure is the noun endurance, which comes from the Greek word hypomone. This Greek word means “patience, enduring, waiting, steadfastness, perseverance, characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”

James 1:2-4: Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (emphasis mine)

Romans 5:3b-5 (ESV): We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (emphasis mine)

The point is this: we should never rebel against temptation with the prideful assertion that we are too righteous for the sin. We should patiently humble ourselves under the hand of God and endure.

The escape door, then, does not lead to a way out of the temptation, but rather it leads to God, who will give us the strength to remain in the temptation and endure it. There are more than just the two options of fight or flight—there is the option to remain and be patient. If we are not patient, in our frenzy we may either succumb to the temptation or search for a quick escape. In our haste, we will miss the door that leads to God. We are called to endure, just as Jesus did on the cross. He did not flee, nor did He fight. He simply endured.

 

Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?

Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident …

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.

And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord …

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes …

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

 

God has already adorned us with His armor, which He has placed on His struggling community.

Ephesians 6:10-17: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Since temptation is a battle against otherworldly forces, why would we ever think worldly means would be able to stop them? The only way to win is through Jesus Christ, Who already conquered the best these forces of darkness have been able to muster. And He is the one who provided us the armor with which we protect ourselves.

What keeps everything together (the belt) is truth, the idea that we never give up an eternal promise for what is convenient. What protects our hearts, or the seat of our understanding, is that we are righteous because God already justified us—we are already in a condition that God has approved and thus we are never guilty, unworthy, or tarnished by sin. We have peace and tranquility in our feet such that we do not need to run to anyone or anything else because God has already given us His full armor, in which we are secure. The shield of faith is our eternal assurance that no matter what the enemy throws at us, there is only one man—Jesus—that lived the truth, died for truth, and already conquered death; our faith tells us that only He is the way, the truth, and the life. What protects our minds (the helmet) is our salvation, knowing that before the foundation of the world, He already called us: therefore, it’s a fixed fight. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, which cuts through every evil, malicious, and perverse lie that ever existed. For in the beginning was the Word, and in the end, this same Word of God shall ride on a white horse as conqueror (Revelation 19:11-16). And that Word walked among us, and His name was Jesus.

 

Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal

 

 

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