By Billy Graham | February 23, 2015
Temptation is exactly the same now for us as it was for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Bible teaches that Satan tempts us in the same way today as he tempted Jesus—through “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).
It is not a sin to be tempted. Everybody is tempted. Many Christians have an idea that when they are beset by temptation, it must be sin. But it is not a sin to be tempted. The devil tempts you, and God tests you. The devil can tempt you only so far, in the permissive will of God. He can go only so far. Scripture says that God always makes a way to escape.
In the wilderness there was a duel, in a sense, between the devil and the Lord Jesus Christ. The devil was strong. Jesus was tired, emaciated, facing all the forces of hell and evil. He hadn’t eaten for 40 days and 40 nights. How could He stand up against the devil, who had defeated Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve had everything they wanted to eat. They were strong. They had been made in the image of God. Yet when they were tempted, they failed; they sinned against God.
In the same way, you and I have yielded. We are sinners by birth. The Bible says, “In sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). We are also sinners by choice. There comes a time when we make a deliberate choice to tell a lie, to steal, to covet. Each of us is responsible before God.
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Then we become sinners by practice. The more we do it, the easier it is to practice lust, greed, hate, lying and stealing, or whatever it may be—pride, jealousy, anger. These things beset all of us, and we yield to Satan’s temptations.
The devil said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, why don’t You turn these stones into bread?” (Cf. Matthew 4:3). What a temptation that must have been! Jesus was hungry; He had the power to turn those stones into bread. But there was another reason that made the temptation so powerful: the great need of the human race. Think of the starving people He could have fed! He could have fed the whole world—He was the Son of God. He had seen people struggle for livelihood. He had seen the social injustice in the world. Satan was telling Jesus to settle it all right there, without going to the cross, without following God’s plan.
But Jesus was acting according to the will of God. God’s plan from the foundation of the earth was that Jesus would die on the cross for people’s sin. The devil was saying, “Why don’t You bring economic justice and peace to the world, and feed the world right now, if You’re the Son of God?”
Jesus never argued with the devil, never debated him. There is one thing Satan cannot stand: God’s Word. Each time Jesus was tempted, He said, “It is written …” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus delivered the answer from Scripture.
Jesus would not center His mission in an economic crusade. He would not live merely for time or forsake the cross for bread. Jesus saw that mankind had a deeper need. Men and women’s deepest need is spiritual. We need forgiveness, we need to be justified, we need to be reconciled to God. That is what Jesus Christ came to do.
We are to have concern for our neighbors. Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Jesus is interested in social justice. But mankind’s deeper need could be met only by His death and resurrection. It would have been so simple for Jesus to avoid the cross, but then you and I would have been lost. We would be separated from God, because the only way we can be reconciled to God is through the cross. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4).
It is difficult for me to understand how intelligent people can spend all of their time building for this world and have no time for the future world. After this life there is eternity. This life is a preparation for eternity. You are to come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
With one thrust Jesus answered the devil: “It is written.”
But the devil came back. This time he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple, and he quoted Scripture: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6). He omitted one part of that Scripture. The Scripture says, “To keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11), but the devil omitted that.
The devil is subtle—he is like an angel of light. He ensnares people by trying to make us believe a lie by misquoting the Scriptures, misapplying them or taking a verse out of context. We are to compare Scripture with Scripture, “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). In our study of the Scriptures we are to be led by the Holy Spirit.
The devil was tempting Jesus to put on a show, to be spectacular. It was a real temptation, a temptation to doubt the Word of God. Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15), the Bible tells us.
Many who have grown up in church and who may be still active on the outside, no longer really believe on the inside. There are people who go to church but tempt God. Suppose you take a match and put it near a keg of gun powder, and somebody says, “Watch out! It will blow up!”
You say, “Oh, no, I’m trusting the Lord.”
You are tempting God. “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be seared?” (Proverbs 6:27-28).
We tempt the Lord. Jesus said to the devil, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:7). The temptation was genuine, but Jesus relied on the Word of God.
Still, the devil had his most subtle punch. He took Christ to a mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world, all the riches, wealth and power. And he said, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). God had already promised Jesus the kingdoms of this world, but the devil was offering them to Him without the cross.
This is what the devil says to many: “That job is yours, that extra money is yours, if you will just compromise your principles, compromise the Word of God, compromise your faith. And I will give you a little something extra.” He bought some of us cheaply. All he had to do was offer a better job, or a better circumstance, or a little more money, or a little more fame, or a sex experience, and he had us. People today will still their conscience, murder their principles and compromise with evil in order to secure what they desire.
Jesus didn’t argue with Satan. He didn’t rationalize. He said, “it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus won!
Are you winning in your daily battle with the devil? Are you winning in your battle with temptation, or are you losing? The Scripture says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I’m asking you to join the winning side. I’m asking you to surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ and say, “Lord, I want You to forgive my sins, and I want You to give me power to face Satan and all the temptations and trials in my life. I want Christ. I want to know Him as my own Lord and my own Master. I want Him to have all of me.” ©1978 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.