In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; Ephesians 6:16
Welcome, Young Believer! For New Believers, this is probably one of the first questions that come to mind as you start out trying to live your life for Christ. You know that you've been transformed from that old person who was bound in slavery to sin, but you quickly realize that you're not suddenly immune to that old way of life, the temptations it has to offer and often failing to make the right choices.
I've been a Christian for 18 years and I still fail far more often than I would like to admit!
I struggle with anger.
I struggle with foul language.
I struggle with lustful desires.
Besides transparency, I'm telling you this because I want you to know that you're not alone in wrestling with temptation. In fact, temptation is such a universal experience that Jesus Himself went through it too, when He walked the earth.
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18
How Did Jesus Confront Temptation?
We see in the Gospel of Luke that nearly immediately following Jesus' Baptism He is led off into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, where He is tempted for forty days and all that time eats nothing! Can you imagine how hangry if not dead you would be if you didn't eat for forty days?!
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” Luke 4:1-4
Perhaps it is difficult for us to understand why it would have been a sin for Jesus to simply command the stone to become bread. After all, we know that He is the Son of God, and later in His ministry, He feeds thousands of people by His power and authority. However, when you look to His response to this temptation, maybe it becomes a little more clear.
“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:1-3
The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness because of their inability to obey and trust that God who had delivered them out of bondage in Egypt would now be able to provide for them as He had promised.
Jesus spent 40 days wandering in the wilderness and responded to Satan that He would trust in the word of the LORD!
Where the Israelites and all of humanity fail to keep God's commandments, Christ lived a sinless life being the fulfillment of the law on our behalf.
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Luke 4:5-8
This temptation is a little more obvious to our human understanding, but can you think what would have happened if Christ had failed this temptation?! He would no longer have been the fulfillment of the law or a perfect sacrifice on our behalf. Like us, the punishment for His own sin would have been death and He would have been able to pay the cost for anyone else! What the Devil didn't know is that Jesus was already well on His way to conquering over sin and death so that this old world and all its kingdoms along with its vile Prince of Darkness would pass away.
It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 6:13-15
I think another thing we should be taking away from Jesus' response to temptation so far is that He responds with the Word of God. Where Satan attempts to twist His human needs and desires, His purpose on earth, and the Word itself, Jesus is confident in His Father and knows the Word intimately using it as a shield against temptation.
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:9-13
This last temptation is probably the most insidious because Satan decides to quote Scripture to Jesus as the justification for why He should listen to this temptation. I think this is a great warning to us as well, that just because someone quotes the Bible does not mean that they're rightly handling it or that we should follow after them. The Devil loves to put just enough of a ring of truth in His lies to deceive even the most discerning Christians. It certainly, did not fool Jesus though as He once more defeats the temptation thrown His way with the Word of God.
“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. Deuteronomy 6:16
"What happened at Massah?" you might ask. Well, that is where Israel after being freed from bondage in Egypt, fed but Manna from Heaven, and knowing God's promises for their future were still consumed by distrust and worry in their present circumstances. They were out of water and asked Moses, "Well is God among us, or not?" Over and over again the Israelites test God's goodness, but still, seem just as surprised every time God comes through.
Instead, Christ responds that He doesn't need some confirmation from Heaven that He is who God had declared Him to be following His baptism only 40 days earlier. Christ chooses to trust and obey God despite present circumstances being bleak and uncomfortable.
How fitting then that Paul describes the Shield as one of Faith that is able to put out all the flaming darts of the evil one.
If you have any other questions about overcoming temptation, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. I highly encourage you to find a mentor in the faith who can help personally walk you through many of these issues as you grow into a mature believer. This is one journey you were never meant to take alone!