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Reflections on Temptation

January 22, 2016

Even the most devoted follower of Jesus will experience times of temptation. Jesus himself experienced two intense times of temptation at the beginning of his ministry in the wilderness (Luke 4: 1-13) and at the end, in the garden (Mathew 26:36-46).

There are two questions I want to address: What’s the best way to overcome temptation? and Why does it seem like there are times in my life when temptations look stronger? Let’s look at these in reverse order.

Why does temptation seem to strengthen at different times in my life?

There are at least two reasons for this. First, as in the case of Jesus, strong temptation can simply be brought on by a spiritual attack from the enemy. When Jesus was tempted, satan was allowed to test Jesus. A close reading of the text surprisingly reveals that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by satan (see: Luke 4:1-2). Since nothing happens outside of the permission of the Father, we can take comfort from the fact God is aware of our temptation.

However, Scripture is clear; God is not the one tempting us (see: James 1:13). Since we know that God is for us and not against us (Romans 8:31), he stands ready to help us overcome temptation (see I Corinthians 10:13; I John 5:3-5). Why God permits temptation isn’t entirely clear, but there is a clear biblical theme that times of testing matures our faith (see: James 1:12; II Corinthians 1:3-9; Romans 5:3-5).

Second, temptation strengthens when my delight in God has weakened. In this way, a wise disciple can see that growing temptation helpfully reveals increasing spiritual hunger. The simple fact is that human beings are spiritual beings. All of us crave spiritual satisfaction and temptation offers us counterfeit satisfaction. This leads us to our second question.

What’s the best way to overcome temptation?

There’s a helpful passage referenced above in James. He tells us, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:14). Desire is mysterious. Why do we want what we want? How do we control our wants? We all know that desire eats willpower for breakfast!

Jesus delighted in the Father’s love (John 17:23, 26). He nourished this delight constantly. (Mark 1:35). His prayer life was so intimate and powerful the disciples curiously asked him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). His relationship so tender, he called God “Abba”, an unthinkable address to God for pious Jews. Many times we think Jesus didn’t fall into temptation because, “he was God.” Yes, he was. But nowhere else in his ministry does Jesus live, “as God.” (See: Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:9-10; 5:7-9). That’s why I think, Jesus’s life shows us that when we delight in the Father’s love temptation loses its power over us.

So whether, we’re experiencing temptation as an extraordinary attack from the evil one, or it’s the regular, ordinary effect of drifting from the Father’s arms, the solution is the same. Run from temptation, to Jesus. Determine to delight yourself in God’s promises and love. Remain in his love (John 15:1-5). The truth is, desires often simply reflect what we’ve been feeding ourselves.


For another blog on temptation see:




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