Temptation is a universal experience, and it increases rather than decreases after we have become Christians. This is to be expected, because we have changed sides. Temptation comes at us through:
- “The world” — i.e., society, which leaves God out (1 John 2:15-16)
- “The flesh” — i.e., our own fallen nature (Romans 7:21-23)
- “The devil” — i.e., the anti-God force of evil (1 Thessalonians 3:5)
Genesis 3 gives a wonderfully clear insight into the way temptation operates. Don’t miss the important truths it has to teach.
Why should there be temptation?
Because we have a great outside enemy, Satan: not a figure of fun with a tail and horns, but the concentration of evil, one of God’s creatures who rebelled against God and wants to wreck all that is good in God’s world. Does this seem incredible? Jesus clearly believed the devil existed (Matthew 4:1-11). Experience points the same way (1 Peter 5:8-9).
How does temptation come?
It often comes carefully disguised (Genesis 3:1). It never wears its true colors. It seeks to catch us by surprise. Satan cannot create — only spoil. Satan attacks through:
- The body — twisting its proper desires (Gen. 3:6)
- The mind — causing doubt about God’s goodness (Gen. 3:1), his word (Gen. 3:1), his holiness (Gen. 3:4)
- The ambition — the itch to be top dog (Gen. 3:3-4)
All these temptations are designed to reach our will, and result in disobedience (Gen. 3: 6). However, only when we yield does temptation turn into sin.
What are the results?
When we give in to temptation:
- it makes us feel guilty (Gen. 3:7, 9-10)
- it often affects other people (Gen. 3:6)
- it makes God seem unreal and unwelcome (Gen 3: 8-9; Isaiah 59:1-2)
- it produces fear and moral cowardice (Gen 3:10-12)
- it brings God’s judgment (Gen. 3:14-19)
Where is the answer?
Genesis 3:15: Jesus, “the woman’s seed,” crushed the serpent’s head on the cross. He endured the full force of temptation and overcame it. He is alive and lives within us as conqueror (Colossians 2:15). He offers us his moral power to turn our defeats into victories (Romans 8:37).
Things to remember
- Temptation is not sin. Yielding to it is.
- Jesus was tempted more than we are, but he never gave in (Hebrews 4:15).
- Because Jesus won the war, he can win our battles, too (Hebrews 2:18).
- There is always a way through — if you will take it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Ask for his strength when temptation strikes.
- You can lose a battle — many battles — and still win the war. Take heart; he hasn’t finished with you yet (1 John 3:2-3).
Things to avoid
- Don’t flirt with the world — society, films, magazines, talk, attitudes, ambitions that dull your love for Christ.
- Don’t spare the flesh — that selfish “you” needs to be kept on the cross daily so that the Spirit of Jesus can shine through you (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:13).
- Don’t compromise with Satan. Resist him (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). Have nothing to do with the occult (Acts 19:18-20). There is nothing so miserable as a half-hearted Christian life.
Verse to learn
Learn Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Bible study section
The Bible passage for study is Luke 4:1-13.
- What temptations were presented to Jesus? How would those temptations be translated into our day?
- Is there anything significant about the time and place when temptation struck?
- Jesus quoted various scriptures when handling these temptations (they came from Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:13; 6:16). What do you learn from that?
- In Eden (Genesis 3), humanity fell. In the desert, Jesus overcame. What comparisons and contrasts do you see in these two events?
- The first and the last words of the passage are highly significant.
The group may want to share areas of weakness in their own lives, where temptation is particularly attractive, and pray for one another. God looks for holiness in us and offers us his Holy Spirit.