The Strategies of Temptation

The nature of temptation is not random. There is strategy, purpose, and power involved.

The temptations of Jesus in the desert show us what kind of strategies the powers will use on us. In 1 Cor. 10:13 we learn that none of our temptations are new. There are just newer ways of surrendering to old temptations. The temptations themselves are, as the Scripture puts it, “common to man,” and in Jesus’ desert testing we see how true this is. It is here that the Scriptures identify for us the universal strategies of temptation. You will be tempted exactly as Jesus was, because Jesus was being tempted exactly as we are.

  1. Tempted with consumption (to provide for yourself)

  2. Tempted with security (to protect yourself)

  3. Tempted with status (to exalt yourself)

The danger we face presently isn’t cognitive but primal. Demons are thinkers. They know who God is, and they tremble before that truth (James 2:19). Mere intellect cannot ensure that we are “led not into temptation” or “delivered from evil.” Only “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6) can do that. We are not simply overcoming something about human psychology. We’re wrestling against the cosmic powers (Eph. 6:12), grappling with an animal-like spirit intent on devouring us (1 Pet. 5:8). The gospel brings good news to tempted rebels like us. Just as our temptation is part of a larger story, so is our exit strategy from its power. The same Spirit who led Jesus through the wilderness and empowered him to overcome the Evil One now surges through all of us who are joined by faith to Jesus.

The article is adapted from Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore.

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