Look, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, but don’t enjoy. Sound familiar? Maybe your forbidden fruit isn’t hanging from a tree in the garden of Eden, but if you are reading this, you are probably tempted by something. One of the biggest frustrations Christians face is trying to overcome temptation. We want to do right, but we keep slipping up and failing. We keep doing the wrong behavior. Try and try as we might, we just can’t seem to get it right. Why?
There is an important lesson we can learn about the root of temptation from studying the temptation of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew. After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, he heard his father say:
3:17 This is my beloved son, in whom I’m well pleased.”
After this statement the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to fast and pray. After Jesus fasted 40 days, Satan appeared and tempted Jesus three different times. We are going to look at the different temptations below, but as you read, I want you to see if you notice a common thread that runs through each temptation:
4:3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4:5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
4:8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Did you see the common thread? It’s pretty obvious the root of temptation wasn’t related to behavior because each behavior Satan was trying to influence was different. In fact, the temptation of Jesus wasn’t tied to his behavior at all. It was tied to his identity. Prior to going into the wilderness to fast and pray, the Father declared that Jesus was His beloved son in whom He was well pleased. The root of Satan’s attack on Jesus was to try to get him to do something to prove who he really was; do something to verify His father’s words over him. Satan was after Jesus’s identity as a beloved son!
This is clearly stated in the first two temptations and implied in the third. In the first two temptations, Satan said, if you be the Son of God ….. do something to prove who you are. In the third temptation, Satan attacked Jesus’s inheritance as a beloved son: all the kingdoms of the world – again related to identity as the kingdoms were Jesus’s inheritance.
If you stop and think about it, the Bible doesn’t forbid turning a stone into a piece of bread or throwing yourself down from a high place and having angels catch you. Those things aren’t necessarily sin. The root of the temptation was the attack Satan placed on the Father’s words about who Jesus believed himself to be. The root of all the temptation you and I experience today is related to our identity. If we would learn to believe that we really are righteous, holy, and complete (all things the Father says about us), Satan wouldn’t have an inroad to attack us.
As sure as I’m writing this, I know someone is asking, how does my knowing my identity as righteous, holy, and complete help my problem with pornography or drug addiction? That’s a great question. The answer is because we reproduce what we believe about ourselves.
Proverbs 23:7 as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
Whatever we believe on the inside, will always work its way out. When we give in to the desire for drugs, sex or something else, we are believing that joint or that person will make us feel complete. Essentially aren’t believing what the Father has said about us and are choosing to to substitute a behavior in order to make us feel whole. On the flip-side, if we believe what God says about us, we can’t help but reproduce righteousness, holiness, and purity. I’ve included a link to an entire message on this subject here. Give it a watch if you’d like to learn more.
I want to encourage you to dig into the word of God and find out what the Father says about you today! You are his beloved son or daughter and He longs for you to know who you are!