by Amanda McKelroy | January 2, 2018
When I think of the word temptation I think of chocolate. I don’t even have to be able to see it or smell it to know when it is nearby. It’s like I have spidey-senses, only instead of alerting me to danger, they alert me to the presence of chocolate. It calls to me… “Come eat me.” Many people hear the word temptation and think of sin and doing wrong. According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary temptation is the desire to do something, especially wrong or unwise: a thing or course of action that attracts or tempts someone. So temptation may not be sin, but it certainly is something that is not wise. It is not wise for me to frequently indulge in chocolate, but how do I resist?
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” ~Matthew 26:41
There’s a story in the book of Matthew where the devil tries to tempt Jesus – not with sin, but with acting unwisely. The devil caught Jesus at a time when discouragement would be easy thinking that he would be easy prey. Jesus gives us a perfect example of how to respond when the devil is trying to lure us in with temptation.
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stone be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hand they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.” ~Matthew 4:1-11
Notice that the devil didn’t try to tempt Jesus when He was at His strongest, but rather when He was physically weak! Three times the devil tempted Jesus, trying to use the discouragement of His physical weakness to persuade Him. Jesus responded by quoting Scripture to the devil. There was no reasoning with the devil, no excuses, no logic, just Scripture. If the perfect, sinless Son of God used Scripture to fight the devil’s temptations, how much more should I be clinging to Scriptures to do the same?!
There are a few lessons we can draw from Jesus’s response to the devil’s temptations:
1) Don’t make decisions in a valley.
Making decisions when you are discouraged, tired, weak emotionally, sick, etc. is not wise. The devil doesn’t need you to throw away your testimony and quit believing in Christ, he just needs you to stop living actively for Christ. Jesus did not make a decision when the devil was attempting to tempt Him, he simply quoted Scripture: in my imagination, I see Jesus standing there just staring at the devil after He quoted the Bible to him, letting it sink in and marinate. No decision needed in that moment.
The first chapter of Matthew tells the story of the virgin Mary and her espoused husband Joseph finding out about Mary becoming the mother to Christ. Joseph had every right to publicly denounce his marriage to Mary and broadcast her as a scarlet woman for being pregnant out of wedlock. But Matthew records that Joseph did not act immediately and rashly when he was emotionally distraught. He must have been heartbroken to find out that the woman he was supposed to marry, who was supposed to be a virgin, was pregnant. But Joseph chose to wait and think on things before announcing a decision. It’s a good thing he did! Scripture says that while he was thinking an angel appeared to him. This angel told him that Mary was with child of the Holy Spirit and that the child was the promised Messiah from Old Testament prophecy! Don’t make a decision when you are in a valley, wait on God to lead you.
2) Battle temptation with Scripture.
Three times the devil tempted Jesus, and three times Jesus quoted Scripture to him, until finally the devil gave up and left. Scripture is the Word of God, and it is powerful. Consider what Paul says about fighting temptation:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” ~Ephesians 6:10-14
We have armor from God to fight the devil! God provided a way for us to stand up to the devil and his temptations. Hebrews 4:12 tells us “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
3) You can’t use what you don’t know.
Just suppose for a moment that Jesus didn’t have any Scripture memorized to quote to the devil that day. There is nothing that He could have said from man’s reasoning that would have yielded the same result. Now, yes, I realize that the Scriptures Jesus quoted were His own words so of course He knew them. But the point I would like to make is that we cannot quote what we do not know. We must read our Bibles and commit verses to memory so that when the devil tempts us we too can use the powerful Word of God to battle temptation. The place to start knowing the Bible is by reading the Bible. When was the last time you sat down on your own and read from your Bible? Over the years I’ve heard dozens of excuses for why people don’t read their Bibles, but here is the simple truth: they haven’t tried.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” ~II Tim 2:15
Do you remember the last time you took a college course or a high school class? The first day of class, the teacher goes over the class syllabus, which includes the textbook(s) to be used over the course of the class. Does the teacher expect you to understand everything in the textbook from looking at the cover? How about from reading through it one time? No, that would be unreasonable by anybody’s standards. You cannot expect to know the Bible if you do not crack the cover and read it. At the same time, we are not expected to understand every meaning from reading it one time. However, we are expected to study it diligently so we can know it.
Where does one start with studying the Bible? There are so many books and chapters! You start by having a plan. Bible reading plans can be found easily online, or consider this challenge: three chapters a day for a year. If you read three chapters a day for a year, you could read through the whole Bible in one year – and it would take less than fifteen minutes a day! What a good place to start knowing the Bible, by reading it.
Memorizing verses that stand out to you as you read through is the next step to knowing the Bible. So many people say that it is too difficult to remember verses, but they can quote the lyrics to dozens of their favorite songs. It is no harder to memorize a verse than to learn a new song by your favorite artist. Just as you would listen to a song over and over until you have the words down perfect, you can write out a verse on a 3X5 card and go over it over and over until it has been committed to memory. King David and Paul both touted the merits of committing Scripture to memory:
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” ~Psalm 119:11
“O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” ~Psalm 119:97
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteh in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” ~Psalm 1:1-3
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the lord.” ~Colossians 3:16
4) Teach your children the Bible.
As an adult, it is hard enough to fight temptations, can you imagine how much easier it could be if as a child you had been taught verses that today you could use? Give your children an advantage in the battle against the devil’s temptations: teach them Bible verses. Every parent wants the best for their child; no parent wants their child to have a harder time of life than is absolutely necessary. Just like you would nurture nutritious eating habits by teaching your child to eat their vegetables instead of chocolate for dinner, equip your child for the spiritual battles they will one day face by helping them memorize Bible verses now.
“And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” ~Deuteronomy 6:6-7
“Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul… And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up… That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.” ~Deuteronomy 11:18-21
“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” ~II Timothy 3:15
“We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done…That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.:” ~Psalm 78:4-7
Battling temptations is no easy feat, but it is a feat that we can accomplish through the power of the Scriptures, but following the example Jesus set.