Prayer of the Day
“Lord God, our strength, the battle of good and evil rages within and around us, and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. Keep us steadfast in your word, and, when we fall, raise us up again and restore us through your Son.”
Few people stop to think about temptation. Some may not recognize temptation when it comes. People are in need of knowledge and understanding about temptation. The text tells us all we need to know about it. If we know about it, we will be equipped to confront it.
What do you need to know about temptation? Let’s ask the Who, What, Why, and How of temptation.
1. Who tempts you — V. 1. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The reality of Satan. He is very much alive. St. Peter the Apostle warns us, “Keep sober and alert, because your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) His existence is confirmed by the evidence of temptation and wickedness. Satan is a personal enemy of God and humans who deceives: "Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?"’ (Genesis 3:1)
For Jesus, the devil was a reality in the wilderness experience. The origin of Satan is not the question. Our problem is overcoming Satan’s temptation lest we sin. Eve believe the lie the devil was telling her. Satan, the father of lies, continues this tactic to this very hour. He puts a little truth in every lie, and a little lie in every truth so that we become convinced that his fibs are worth believing.
Jesus, as a man, was tempted by all the things that any other man has been tempted with; however He only spoke and did the will of God the Father. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
2. What tempts you — Vv. 3, 5, 8. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.” “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Consider the source of temptation. Jesus was “tempted by the devil.” Satan is the author of temptation. Why do we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”? In this petition, we pray for strength to withstand temptation.
Trust not in your own self. Trust only in Christ. The old song sings, “Trust not in rulers; they are but mortal; earth-born they are and soon decay. Vain are their counsels at life’s last portal. When the dark grave engulfs its prey. Since mortals cannot help afford. Place all your trust in Christ, our Lord.” (Praise the Almighty LSB 797 stanza 2)
3. How you can overcome temptation — Vv. 4, 7, 10. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Never underestimate the power of the Word. Jesus turns away each temptation by quoting the Bible. The power of God’s Word is in its truth. Since Satan is the father of lies, he cannot tolerate the truth. He can’t handle the truth and so, he lies. In the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” Luther says, “One little word shall fell him.” And that “one little word” is Jesus.
By definition, sin is doubting God’s Word. “Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Eve’s yielding was the result of Satan’s causing doubt in her mind. Doubt causes us to hesitate. Doubt causes us to become suspicious of the Father’s clear word. Doubt causes us to become skeptical of the Savior’s clear words. Doubt causes us to question what the Spirit has clearly inspired the holy writers to speak.
How do we defeat the devil’s wiles? Remember, the Savior’s words are both valid and certain. "...the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 4:8-10). Have faith in God’s promises, which is nothing short of taking God seriously – taking Him at His Word.
4. Why are you tempted — Vv. 1, 10. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. God allows temptation as a test of our faith. Temptation forces us to cling to Christ alone. Though Jesus was filled with and led by the Spirit and was pronounced at his baptism the Son of God, his temptation indicates that he was truly and fully human to be tempted as a man. If he were only divine, Satan would have known there was not a chance to succeed. At least, Satan considered him a human being capable of being tempted. If tempted, there was the possibility of yielding to the temptation and sinning. And sinning would have put Jesus on Satan’s side. Though Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, He never sinned.
Learn humbleness of heart as we come broken before the Father’s throne, and plead for mercy, clemency, compassion and pity. We come in our brokenness and plead for the Lord to have mercy. Adam’s fall is the fall of every man. In Adam we are all one. Adam fell because of himself. If we are to live, with God and for God, we must look to a second Adam – Jesus Christ our Savior – for salvation rescue and life. Our victory over temptation leaves us stronger with angels ministering to us.
Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Woodcuts © WELS Permission to use these copyrighted items is limited to personal and congregational use.
Artwork by Ed Rojas, © Higher Things