I have written on this subject before but certainly not recently. This post from 2009 focuses on the nature of sin as the easy way out. Stealing is easier than hard work, one night stands are easier than putting time and effort into a relationship, etc. Just about every example of sin that can be listed involves an easier or quicker way of getting something that would take time, effort, patience or involve suffering to obtain otherwise. Is also involves settling for less than what God has in mind for us were we to to do it his way instead.
I want to focus here on Jesus’ responses to each of Satan’s suggestions. Read the story in Matthew 4:1-11 and notice some things with me. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. Satan knew he was physically hungry and suggested he turn stones into bread. The purpose of fasting, virtually unheard of anymore among American believers, is to deny the body. It is an act of self-sacrifice that reminds us there are more important things than the physical self and a method of training that ignores the body in order to focus on the spirit. Jesus was tempted to eat because of his hunger but responded “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He is quoting Deuteronomy 8, a passage that explains to the Hebrews why they ate manna in the wilderness 40 years. Jesus carries the connection between actual food and spiritual food, specifically bread, into the New Testament. It’s a connection between their story (the Hebrews) and our story (Christian believers, the descendents of Abraham in the faith if not the flesh).
Jesus also demonstrates the need to read, understand and memorize scripture. Two of the most basic tenants of the Christian faith are to read the Bible and pray. We sometimes get the misguided notion that as we mature in our Christian walk or advance in “position” in the church we can cut back on reading and prayer. The idea is that as we get closer to God those things are less necessary. The opposite is actually true. Jesus was coming under attack at this point in his life because his earthly ministry was about to begin. If there is no kind of opposition or attack in your life then you must not be doing anything that concerns the enemy. Doing big things for God will require more time in scripture, pray and meditation, not less. As always, look at Jesus. He was the incarnate Son of God, the second person of the trinity. You can’t get closer to God than that and he read the Bible and prayed every day.
When Satan tempted him to throw himself from the peak of the temple Jesus told him “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” and when offered him the kingdoms of this world if he would bow and worship Jesus replied “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only you shall serve.” These are taken from Deuteronomy chapter 6. We do not live under the Old Covenant but there is so much of the Old Testament that applies to our faith. Jesus relied on these passages from the writings of Moses to defend against the attack of Satan. We can learn a lot about God by reading the Old Testament. We will fail in our attempt to follow each of the Ten Commandments but they show us what God is like and teach how to live and treat one another. What does it say about God – and about us – if he commands that we not kill each other? The tenth commandment to not covet shows us that sin takes place in the mind and the heart rather than in our actions only, an idea that Jesus carries forward in the Sermon on the Mount.
Here’s the real point: the only way to respond to attacks of Satan or even the troubles of life with the words of hope found in scripture is to have spent time in the scriptures in the first place. “I have stored up (hidden) your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” -Psalm 119:11 Jesus was intimately familiar with the written word in a way many of us today are not. The reason we practice things like fire drills is so we can instinctively respond during an actual emergency without having to think about what to do. We need to practice reading and praying before we need to use them in an emergency. If we make a habit out of daily walking in faith that’s how we will respond to any and every situation.