Overcoming Temptation

Text: Luke 4:1-15
Date: Sunday October 8, 2023


A Temptations: Temptations come in many forms. The idea of a temptation is simple. You are headed in a particular direction, you are walking the narrow path. Yet as you walk that narrow path there are distractions and false gospels calling you in a different direction. The Christian knows this. The Christian is not so foolish to expect that the very same temptations that were worked upon the great saints of the past will not be worked upon us as well. Yet many Christians today are unprepared for the battle with temptation, and unequipped to know how to have victory.

B Personal: Have you been overwhelmed by temptations? Do you ever feel like certain temptations just keep getting the best of you? What is the Christian to do?

B Context: Recall where we are in the gospel of Luke. Jesus has just been baptized by John the Baptist. He has done nothing yet, other than be identified as the Son of God. As His first act of ministry, he enters the desert.

Luke 4:1–15 “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.’ ” 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.’ ” 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…”

Meaning & Application


A An Offensive: Jesus was led “by the Spirit” into the wilderness. This is vital information that frames the entire story. Many people see Jesus’ temptation as a story of Jesus on the defense. Jesus was just out in the wilderness on a casual retreat with God, and while he was there the Devil attacked him. No, that is not the story. Throughout Biblical history, the desert is the place where demons dwell. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to confront the devil. This was an offensive move. Jesus entered enemy territory, for battle. He was armed with nothing but the weakness of the flesh and the power of Word of God and the Holy Spirit, and he conquered.

B Continually Tempted: Jesus fasted for forty days, and the entire time he was being tempted. Why forty days? Likely it was because it was forty years that Israel wandered in the wilderness as they were often tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. But after these forty days of fasting from food and water, Jesus was as weak as a human can physically be. Humans typically die when they go that long without water. His body would have begun to shrivel up. He would have been pure skin and bones. Then, at Jesus’ most physically vulnerable moment, the Devil laid on his greatest attacks. Isn’t it true that the Devil so often waits until our weakest most vulnerable moments to attack us. He does not play fair. He is a callous exploiter of human frailty.

C The Nature of Temptation Defined: As we look at these three temptations, I first want to reveal the nature of the temptation. Temptation comes in two categories. William Gurnall summarizes it well when he says,

“Faith teaches the Christian to discern and distinguis those fireballs of temptations which are thrown in at his window by Satan, from those sparks of corruption which fly from his own hearth and take fire at his own sinful heart.”

William Gurnall

He distinguishes between external temptations, temptations placed before you by the Devil, and internal temptations, temptations arrising from your own heart. Jesus never experienced internal temptation. His heart was wholly true to God always. But he did experience every kind of external temptation as we do. All three of the Devils attacks on Jesus are externally tempting. The Devil will always exploit our weakness by promisings temporary gratification in place of eternal satisfaction.

D Three Basic Temptations: When the Devil tempted Jesus what was he trying to do? “If you are the son of God.” The Devil’s temptations towards Jesus were to get him to deny etiher in thought or in action the special relationship he had with the Father. And that’s what he does to us. He’s aiming to make a breach between our soul and God. To get us distracted from that which our souls truly love. He does this in three ways.

E 1st Temptation: Lust of the Flesh

The Lust of the Flesh: The first is the lust of the flesh, the need to satisfy the desires of one’s body. The Devil used this category on Jesus by inviting him to turn a stone into bread. The Devil here is appealing to Jesus’ human needs and desires. After forty days of doing the Lord’s will by fasting, the Devil invited him to feel his hunger pains in his belly, and to satisfy them using a shortcut to what God had planned.

So With Us: The Devil’s schemes have not changed much, and he will often tempt us with invitations to satisfy our flesh. Unlike Jesus, our flesh has every type of corruption and pollution of the soul attached with it. We are batter both by external temptations, and internal temptations. We not only hunger for food and water, as Jesus did, but our appetites and lusts are as depraved as the human mind can conceive.

Matthew 15:19 ESV For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

The Devil masterfully plays on our flesh. Like social media, he knows your algorithm, your proclivities, your tendencies, your wishes, and he tempts you in just the ways that are catered to your own wicked inclinations. And he offers short term momentary gratification of our lusts in place of eternal satisfaction. Only a fool would take such a bargain, yet we do it all the time.

D 2nd Temptation: Lust of the Eyes (5-7)

The second common category of temptation is the lust of the eyes. The Devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world. He put it before his eyes for him to see it and want it. All of this could be yours.

Luke 4:5–7 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.”

Our Lust of the Eyes: The Devil tempts us in many similar fashions by appealing to our eyes. He presents before our eyes opportunities to shortcut God’s plan. Perhaps you plan to spend time in prayer and reading God’s Word but the TV or your phone, or your calendar distract you. Many of you have experienced this at work. A shortcut, no one will know. It’s only a little wrong it could probably be justified. You’ve experienced this in relationships where you see the weakness in another person and use it to justify your own behavior. The Devil often plays on our insecurities, and suddenly we find ourselves coveting that which was never ours to desire in the first place, breaking the ninth commandment. The child of God is to be content with that which God has assigned him, but the Devil sows discontent by playing to our eyes.

E 3rd Temptation: Pinnacle of the Temple (pride of life 9-12):

The Pride of Life: The third category of temptation is the pride of life. The Devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. Tells him to throw himself down and let the angels catch you. An act that certainly would have thrust Jesus into the messianic spotlight in a way that would have derailed altererd the entire course of the plan.

So With Us: The Devil will tempt us with the pride of life. He’ll prey on our inner desire for fame, to be well known and well loved. A good way to understand your own heart is to ask yourself whether or not you are pursuing certain paths for the glory of God or for your own glory? Why did you take that job? Was it for your own glory, or for the glory of the King? Why did you make that purchase, or post that picture, or go to that event? Whose glory were you seeking? The devil knows our heart, and is constantly bating us away from God’s design of the hidden life in Christ.


We have seen the nature of temptation under its three major categories. But what of the answer to temptation. How are we to respond. From this text, two things are fundamentally clear.

A All Temptation is to Be Responded to With the Word of God

First, all temptation is to be responded to with the Word of God. Three times, the Devil tempts Jesus, and all three times, Jesus responds with, “It is written…” and then he quotes from the book of Deuteronomy of all places. Jesus built his entire life and expectation for life off of God’s Word. He depended on it, not as a secondary apparatus for a good moral jibe now and again, but as His very standard of life. The Word was in him. It was in his heart. It was in his mind. It was on his tongue.

The Devil Twists Scripture: Also, don’t miss that the Devil also uses Scripture. But rather than using Scripture as God designed it, he twists it to mean something it never meant. O Church, this is our every day. The Devil is on every street corner, and in many of the pulpits across this city, twisting the Scriptures to loosen God’s moral standard. Most Christians today are so deceived by these twistings of scripture that many Christians actually believe God is for the very things his word says in an abomination. And you Christian, have these twisted temptations thrown at you every day. Heresy in the name of love.

Ask Yourself: How can you be prepared for this? Be like Jesus. Equip yourself with the Word of God. Ask yourself these questions. Are you in the Word daily? Are you letting God form the Word in you with freshness? Are you mulling over the Word of God throughout the day? If the answer is no, your soul is in danger. You are prone to be taken captive by twisted heresy that will lead you away from God. We must make like the Psalmist who said,

Psalm 119:11 ESV I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

B Our True Hope is in Christ Who Won the Battle Where We All Failed

Second, this passage has a deep signifance to it in that it mirrors the temptation scene of Adam and Eve in the Garden, very intentionally. In Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sinned they were presented with the same three categories of sin that Jesus was presented with

Genesis 3:6 ESV So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Adam and Us: Three reasons are given for eating the fruit. Good for food (the lust of the flesh). It was a delight to the eyes (the lust of the eyes). She could gain wisdom (the pride of life). Adam and Eve failed that temptation. They ate the fruit. And you I have failed these same temptations countless times in countless way in countless degrees. But this passage teaches that there is one hero who marched into enemy territory, experienced the fullness of the temptations to the greatest degree, and won. He left the Devil wimpering in fear, for he knew after this encounter his time was short.

In Adam or In Christ: Every person either stands in Adam or in Christ. There is no middle ground. To be in Adam is simply to be a natural man or woman, born in this world. We are conceived in sin, born into sin, and guilty of sin. We have no means available to us to overcome sin and temptation. If we are in Adam we are all alone in our battle, we will lose that battle every time in this life, and will lose eternally in the next underneath the judgment of God. But, our hero, Jesus the victor, has paved a new way. And if by faith you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are no longer in Adam, but you are in Christ. God the Father receives the perfect obedience of Jesus, as if it were your own.

Some Blinded By, Not Wrestling With Devil: For some in this room. You are not being tempted by the Devil, you are fully blinded by Him. God is not your Lord because you are still in Adam. You have never determined in your heart to turn from sin, to trust in Christ and His way. I exhort you today, trust in Jesus. When you do that, God equips you with every tool and resource needed to withstand this new enemy of yours. This is why no true Christian can give up hope during temptation. You have Christ, your victor, going ahead and behind you.

To the Christian in temptation, remember this. The same Holy Spirit that led Christ into the wilderness led him out victoriously! And he will do the same for you. If you are in Christ, you will come through temptation on the other side more deeply clinging to the Holy One.


Now, I would like to close with six very clear calls to action. I offer these to the Christian soldier, who knows the battle we live in daily, and who wants to take ground from the enemy.

A Take Courage to Fight Boldly

First, take courage and fight boldly! Jesus was led into battle. He fought for forty days, not just against low level demons, but against the Devil himself. Christian, be bold and courageous. We are not cowards who slink away at the sight of danger. We are well aware of the Devil’s schemes. We are well aware of the countless self proclaimed saints who have fallen by the way side. As we walk the narrow road, their carcasses line the streets and remind us of the danger of “one-foot-in one-foot-out Christianity. Buckle up and take courage in Christ our victor. He has won the battle. He has secured our path. He will guard on the road no matter how wicked the day gets, no matter how fierce the temptation seems. William Gurnall writes

“Say not thou hast royal blood running in thy veins, and art begotten of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by this heroic spirit, to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.”

William Gurnall

Take courage, and do not waver. Your cause is good and just and right and true. Your King is alive and well. Your captain beckons you to follow him.

B Refuse to Grumble

Second, refuse to grumble or complain. Look at Christ. He fasted for forty days until he was skin and bones. The Lord left him in that demonic wilderness to be attacked for forty days. At his weakest and most vulnerable moment, the Devil released his greatest onslaught. Christ never complained. He faced it with a resolute dependence on God. O Christian, we are all prone to grumbling and murmuring about our predicaments, our challenges, our temptations. I do not want to water down how serious your challenges are. But consider Hebrews 12:3-4

Hebrews 12:3–4 ESV Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

You are a soldier in the Lord’s army. Do not complain that you have to sleep in the barracks, that you have to eat a soldiers rations, and that there are often long and weary nights.

C Know Your Enemy

Third, know your enemy. The number one rule in any kind of warfare is to know your enemy. Jesus was prepared and not caught off guard in his temptations. He knew the Devil used the same scheme on Adam and Eve. He was not caught off guard, and neither should we be. The Devil is going to attack you. He is going to tempt you. And he is going to play on every vice that dwells in your heart. Know his schemes. Study how he has caused to fall in the past, and refuse to give acces to cause you to stumble that way again. Does the Devil use alcohol to blur your decision making, then get the alcohol out of the house. Does the Devil use your laptop to tempt you to lust, then don’t your laptop home.

Matthew 5:30 ESV And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
  1. When you’re weak, tired, sad, hurt (Jesus)
  2. Success in Ministry (Nehemiah):
  3. Habits of Sin: (David on the rooftop)

D Be Watchful

Be watchful. We don’t know the exact details of all the ways the Devil tempted Jesus over those forty days, but we can guess that he came at him in hundreds of different techniques and approaches.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

If you were sleeping in a jungle and you knew a lion roamed freely and sought to devour you, you would not sleep securely. And if you must sleep you would have another stand guard in protection. Your eyes would ever be to the trees looking for movement. Your weapons would always be readily available should the moment be needed. O how lamentable it is that Christians are so sleepy in the midst of such hostilities. There is so little watching taking place, so little preparation for the battle. We must have our eyes to the trees. Our enemy is coming, and if he catches us sleeping, if he catches us distant from God’s Word, lacking in prayer, lacking in holiness, we will not stand a chance against his schemes.

E Take No Prisoners

Fifth, take no prisoners. Jesus dominated the Devil in this account. This was not passive Jesus just eeking it out in the wilderness. Jesus marched into enemy territory, he defeated the ancient on his ground, and then marched out. Christian, take no prisoner in this war. Do not play nice with Satanic ideology. Do not pretend like what is going on in our schools, and our libraries, and our entertainment, and our laws, and our culture is okay. Our enemy has showed up for war, and most of the time Christians speak and behave in a way that communicates that they’ve shown up for a kid’s game. No wonder we’re losing the culture. Take no prisoners. Stand firm on the Word of God as the sole authority of truth and righteousness and justice.

F Your Battle Cry is Ever & Always “Here go I, but by the blood of the lamb!”

Sixth, and finally, go forth in the name of your conquering king. Jesus would not be swayed from his true allegiance. The Devil tried his best, and failed. Yours and my power to overcome every sin and every temptation is not of you. John Owen once wrote,

“Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”

John Owen

But we have a champion who has already the won the victory and who has secured our safe passage home. Cling to Jesus. You do that by studying His every word, by meditating on his word, and loving His word, and thus learning to depend on the Spirit in all circumstances. We do not pave our own way, we follow Jesus wherever he takes us.


May Christ get the glory, and may we get the great joy of sharing in His victory.

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