The Three Flavors of Temptation

We’ve been doing a Chip Ingram study on Romans chapter 12 in our adult Sunday school. I think Romans 12 is perhaps my favorite chapter in scripture; it describes how we are supposed to act as true Christians. Chip hit on something this week that I want to dig into because I think it is the crux of the battle we face in becoming Romans 12 Christians.

The Apostle John identifies three specific approaches Satan takes with us when trying to tempt us to fall away from God. 1 John 2:15-17 says this, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

There are three flavors of temptation with which the world – run by Satan – will attack you:

  • Lust of the Flesh
  • Lust  of the Eye
  • Pride of Life

So what does that really mean? Chip did a nice job explaining it this way:

  • Lust of the Flesh = Lust through Senses (touch, eyes, taste, hearing, etc…)
  • Lust of the Eyes = Lust to Have (Seeing and then wanting to possess)
  • Pride of Life = Desire to “Be” someone (Ego gratification)

Let’s take a look at how these three played themselves out in scripture and then how they continue to play themselves out in our everyday lives.

In Genesis 3 we read the story of Adam and Eve being tempted by the serpent. If you read carefully you will see the serpent first tempted Eve using these three attacks.

Genesis 3 starts with Satan having a conversation with Eve where the serpent is trying to convince her that God has not been honest with her about the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 3:6 scripture reports, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and at it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

  • She saw the fruit was good for eating – Lust of the Flesh
  • She said the fruit was pleasing to the eye – Lust of the Eyes
  • She said it was good for gaining knowledge (be like God knowing good and evil) – Pride of Life

Notice that the text says that Adam was with her during this? He also failed not just by eating the fruit but by not being the spiritual leader and stopping her from being beguiled by a talking snake.

Let’s fast forward to Matthew 4. Jesus has been baptized and the Holy Spirit has driven him into the desert where he has been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. We pick up the story when Satan comes to tempt him.

  • First Satan tells Jesus that if he is indeed the Son of God that he should turn stones into bread and feed himself, attacking the Lust of the Flesh.
  • Next Satan tells Jesus that if he is indeed the Son of God it is written that no harm can come to him so Satan tells Jesus to jump off a cliff to prove it, attack the Pride of Life.
  • Lastly Satan brings Jesus to the top of the world and shows him all the kingdoms, promising to give Jesus everything he saw if Jesus will bow down before Satan – Lust of the Eyes.

As we know unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus wins his battle with Satan, telling him to buzz off and redeems what was lost by Adam and Eve through his eventual crucifixion.

But that didn’t stop Satan who according to scripture is the “prince” of this world. Jesus won that day in the desert and completed the victory on Calvary, but Satan is still here tempting in the exact same way he did Adam, Eve, and Jesus. Let’s take a look at how it might play out in our lives.

Lust of the Flesh – Gratifying our Senses

The immediate thing that comes to mind here is sex, which is a biggie but certainly not the only way Satan tempts the flesh. Satan will attack you with food, resulting in obesity, bulimia, anorexia, binge/purge, and other extremely unhealthy conditions that are more emotional than physical. Satan will attack you with gratifying your desire of violence through video games, movies, music, and other media. Satan will attack your desire for fun or relief through alcohol and drugs. While sex seems to be the lust of the flesh that men struggle with the most, I would tell you that the others affect men and women equally.

Lust of the Eyes – Gratifying our Need to Have Stuff

America is the perfect place for Satan to use this method. Our entire culture is based on wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, having the right job, making the right amount of money to afford the right toys, owning that flat-screen TV, and generally satisfying your desire to have what you see with Satan telling you that you deserve it all! Don’t believe me? Go out and buy a pair of Rustle jeans, wear a thrift store shirt and shoes (no Nikes allowed!), drive a Yugo, work part-time as a greeter at Wal-Mart, and live in a studio apartment without a TV, cable, or Internet access (no email). Oh yeah, no cell phone either. Then see how many people want to be your friend. Simply put we’ve been sold through the media (TV, Magazines, Internet, etc…) that cool looks a certain way and cool people have certain stuff, and if you’re going to be cool – which you have to be or else you should just go kill yourself – that you need to do exactly what the people in the media do. It’s a crock but it sure sells to our society! Satan is extremely crafty using Lust of the Eyes to take our focus off of God and put it on our own greed.

Pride of Life – Gratifying our Ego

This is a HUGE one where most of us fall. Simply put Satan convinces us that we are better than others and that our job title, our authority, how many people answer to us, how influential we are, and where we are in the social pecking order matters more than our relationship with God. See Jesus tells us the first will be last and the last will be first. We are told to consider others better than ourselves and to humble ourselves. We are told not to be offended but to instead turn the other cheek and pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. What did you do the last time you were offended? Probably the same things I did – we got ticked off! Why? Because someone dared to transgress against US! Don’t these people know who we are? How dare they!!! And we wrap it in righteous indignation even to the point of claiming that our anger is justified somehow by scripture! Satan continues to blind us to what scripture calls us to and instead whispers how important it is to “Be Somebody” and to instead focus on climbing the corporate ladder; or taking over the club or organization you’re in because the people running it now are idiots; or to believe that you are defined by your job title and the number of zeros in your paycheck instead of who you are in Christ! I have to admit that while I fall to all three this is the one that KILLS me. Even now I am battling Satan over this as I embark on serving God full-time and no longer have a title, an office, a regular paycheck, influence, authority, or any of the things that made my former peers respect me.

Do you see Satan using these three attacks against you in your life? If not, you’re not looking hard enough! So what do we do? We do what Jesus did! When Satan was attacking Jesus, Jesus responded with the Word of God! When tempted to feed himself after 40 days without food, Jesus responds to Satan quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 – Man does not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. When told to display is deity by throwing himself off a cliff, Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 6:16 – Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Finally when told he could have the world, Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 6:13 – Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. Satan fled, knowing he had been beaten.

Here’s what I pick up from this exchange in Matthew. First, I can do nothing to confront Satan in my own power. Even Jesus had to use the Word of God to defeat Satan. Second, God has given us every good thing, including the means to beat Satan when we are tempted – his Word! Third, Jesus completely understands our temptations because he was tempted in every way like us with the Lust of the Flesh, the Lust of the Eyes, and the Pride of Life. That is why we are not condemned due to our temptations and even failures! Jesus covers us. Lastly, I know that I need to study my scripture so I know where to turn when confronted by Satan. I need to pray the Holy Spirit reveals the scripture to me when I need to it to fight against these three attacks.

Here’s what I’d like you to do – it’s what I asked the Sunday class to try. Take a piece of paper and a pen and draw three columns. The first is Lust of the Flesh, the second is Lust of the Eyes, and the third is Pride of Life. Next place the things with which you are tempted in the appropriate column. Once you do this, pick one or two and get into scripture and find a verse with which you can defeat Satan when the next attack comes. Eventually work your way through your entire list. Satan is going to keep attacking but you will have the Word of God to defend yourself just like Jesus. I really hope you do this little exercise – I plan to do it today as well.

As you recognize the enemy’s battle plan and fill your mind with scripture to defeat him, you will then start to realize that you are becoming a Romans 12:2 Christian as you begin to be transformed by the renewing of your mind through the Holy Spirit!

Victory awaits!

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