I raced to the hose, hastily spraying myself with water as my eyes darted everywhere around me. The attack could come from any direction. I begged the water to hurry as I refilled my water gun. I was at war, and I couldn’t be found unprepared. I knew if I ran out of water, my brother would win…. again.
Okay, so my retelling of this water gun fight might be a wee bit dramatic. But many of you fellow younger siblings out there know how much work it takes to beat your big brother at a water gun fight! Even more than sibling rivalry, we are in a serious spiritual war today! Our ammo isn’t water guns or balloons but instead the Word of God. This truth is emphasized by one of my favorite passages in the Bible – the temptation of Jesus found in Matthew 4.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve read that story before. And also, seriously, Renae, why do you like the passage where Satan tempts Jesus? That’s a weird story to enjoy. And yes, I agree. If someone in my life had told me, even a year ago, that one of their favorite passages was Matthew 4, I would have scrunched my nose in judgment. But hear me out. A crucial aspect that makes the Gospel good news is that Jesus, though tempted and tried in every way like you and like me, lived a sinless life. To be the perfect sacrifice, He had to be perfect. 100%, A++, all the time. And though Mark and Luke also reference Jesus’ temptation, Matthew gives the greatest details of HOW Jesus combated temptation by using Scripture. While you read Matthew 4:1-11, pay special attention to the words “it is written.”
Temptations Attack Every Aspect of Our Lives
Temptations have a way of attacking and sabotaging our lives, including our physical, spiritual, and emotional lives. Jesus had just been baptized and was about to inaugurate His ministry on earth. Satan used this 40-day fast to tempt Jesus to disobey God.
The first temptation in verse 3 was to turn stones into bread. Satan wanted to exploit Jesus’ physical hunger. I don’t know about you, but Satan frequently tempts me when I’m hungry. Just ask my husband! When I’m hungry, my patience and kindness plummets. All I want is to eat – immediately!
The second temptation in verse 6 is for Jesus to jump off the temple and have His angels catch Him. Satan wanted Jesus to misuse His spiritual power for His own selfish gain.
The third temptation in verse 9 was to worship Satan in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. Satan dangles an appealing offer in front of Jesus – all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And his asking price seemed small, simply “fall down and worship me.” But worshipping Satan would involve forsaking God. Today, Satan still wants us to worship him. And yes, there are people who bow down to images of Satan. But worshipping Satan can actually be more subtle than that. Satan wants anything in our lives to be more important than following Christ. He does everything in his power to distract us and attack our emotions with the things of this world. He wants us to idolize our athletic ability, intellect, popularity, or even sleep.
Just like I had to be prepared for an attack from any direction by my brother during our water gun fight, we have to remember that we are in the middle of a spiritual battleground. Matthew 4 helps us realize that Satan will attack any weakness he finds.
Scripture Is Our Defense in War
We must be familiar with Scripture so that we can use it in a desperate time of need. Here’s the quick synopsis of the passage. Satan tempts Jesus. Jesus quotes Scripture to fight the temptation. Satan misuses Scripture to tempt Jesus, but Jesus quotes Scripture to correct Satan and fight the temptation. And finally, Satan tempts Jesus, and Jesus uses Scripture to fight the temptation and get rid of Satan.
Did you catch the familiar thread? Jesus repeatedly used Scripture to combat temptation. That’s why I love this passage so much! Jesus repeats the phrase “it is written” three times, one time for each temptation. Jesus used Scripture, not emotions or feelings, to overcome the sinful desires that Satan threw at Him.
Even if we don’t have Scripture memorized, we need to be able to find passages in our Bible when we are in the middle of a struggle. In the Bible I used in high school, there was a quick reference section in the back that listed “hot topics” alphabetically. I added words and references of my own as I had my quiet times so that I could find them easily in the future. I also asked the Holy Spirit to reveal areas in my life where I was struggling to obey God. As He faithfully brought these to mind, I used that same reference section in my Bible to find verses that would help me. It was my way of preparing for the spiritual battle before the conflict began. For example, if you struggle like many of us do, with being content with how God designed your body, write Scripture on index cards and tape them to your mirror. Spend more time reading Scripture at your mirror than you do examining your appearance.
Scripture Must Be Kept in Context at All Times
This last point must not be overlooked. In verse 6, Satan Himself used the phrase “it is written.” The Devil knows how to manipulate God’s Word so that we will fall away from a right relationship with God. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 but used it in order to tempt Jesus. Jesus boldly used Scripture to proclaim that, yes, Psalm 91 is true, but the bigger truth is that we are not to put the Lord to the test.
It is easy to accidentally “twist Scripture” to suit what we want it to mean. When we memorize individual verses to use against temptation, we need to be certain we read the whole passage so that we get a deeper understanding of how God meant for it to be interpreted. We also need to test how other people interpret God’s Word with Scripture. Every verse in Scripture is inspired by God. It does not contradict itself. As we read Scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand it and apply it to our lives, we can use other passages for clarification.
As you face temptations this week, I pray that the Holy Spirit will bring this passage to mind. By following the example of Jesus, we, too, can use Scripture to combat any temptation that comes our way.
Father, thank you that we are not alone in the battle against Satan. As we face temptations to sin, please bring Your Word to our minds so that we can combat it with truth.
Psalm 119: 1-16
Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs