The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That’s one of those “they-isms.” You know:
“They say you should not swim at least a half-hour after eating.”
“They say you should never discuss politics or religion in polite company.”
“They say the more things change the more they stay the same.”
I don’t know who, exactly, “they” are, but they are correct; when it comes to the devil’s schemes to tempt us to sin, he tends to not be too creative. He uses the same temptations over an over again. But I guess he sticks with what works!
The devil started tempting people way back when there were only two people in the world. He approached Adam and Eve and tempted Eve to disobey God. The devil had a three-fold temptation scheme (in Genesis 3:6)
1. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” (Hunger)
2. “and that it was a delight to the eyes…” (Attraction)
3. “and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise…” (Wisdom)
I’ve noticed that I’m tempted to sin when I’m hungry. I’ve stolen candy or some other snack from my sons when I’m hungry (please don’t tell them until I’ve had a chance to repent and ask their forgiveness – I’ll do that right after I finish this).
But hunger doesn’t just have to be about a lack of food. People are tempted (and rather successfully) to sin when they have a hunger for power, possessions or money.
Attraction is also used by the devil to tempt us to sin. Eve was tempted by the attraction of the fruit. Now, I’ve never been tempted to sin by how a fruit looks. Even the most gorgeous apple, orange or watermelon only makes me think, “That’s a nice piece of fruit.” But everybody is different. And we all have that weak point where attraction to something or someone can be used by the devil to tempt us to disobey God.
Wisdom is a very subtle point of temptation for the devil. In a world that seems to be increasingly lacking in wisdom, it may not seem like the devil is using this one all that often. But “knowing more” can be, and is, used. Some of the highest rated TV shows are those that promote “knowing more” about celebrities, politicians, and knowledge. These can – and are – used by the devil to tempt people to disobey God.
The devil is crafty. And when you look around today – not to mention throughout history – you see a track record of hall-of-fame temptation levels by the devil.
And the devil set his goals of temptation pretty high in that he even tempted the Son of God – Jesus Christ!
Where Eve was tempted with the idea that forbidden fruit was just as good to eat as all the other fruit, Jesus was tempted with food after having been on a fast for over a month. This is a hunger of a different kind. The devil, perhaps, is tempting Jesus to give in to physical hunger. If Jesus does that, He will have broken His fast, something He had set out to do for specific reasons, and doing it by giving in to a lost and condemned creature. Instead of listening and following Himself (God) He would be listening and following the devil – and this would be a sin.
The devil’s second temptation was to question Jesus’ wisdom in putting His trust in His Father. The devil uses God’s Word against Jesus here, just as he used it against Eve (“Did God really say…?”). Surely this was foolish on the devil’s part. Who would trust God more fully and intimately than God’s only Son? Yet, the devil does it.
The final temptation is that of power. While Jesus knows that the world is His by virtue of being the Son of the Creator, this temptation is more subtle. How Jesus fights off this temptation is important. Jesus must fight it off without giving even a hint that He might accept the premise that the devil has some claim to the world. And this Jesus does successfully.
Temptation is something that we all face. The devil tempts us to sin because we are God’s children. He hates everything that has to do with God and he wants to destroy our relationship with God.
Jesus teaches us how to fight against the devil’s temptations and win. Know and use God’s Word. Every time the devil tempted Jesus, Jesus responded by quoting God’s Word.
Jesus fought this battle and won. And by His death and resurrection Jesus gives us the power to also fight and win our battles of temptation.