If Jesus overcame temptation by quoting Scripture, why does the same thing not work so well for us?

Or maybe I should only presume to speak for myself: Why hasn’t the same thing always worked for me?

Remembering truth from Scripture helps us to overcome temptation, but from my experience, I’m not sure it’s the whole solution. While the powerful forces at work in our souls require Scripture, they may also require other factors to be in place before we can overcome as Jesus did. I’d like to explore one such factor.

When we see Jesus quoting Scripture in the face of temptation, it’s easy to miss another element in the story: what happens to Jesus just before the temptation. He hears God’s voice, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Scripture did its work for Jesus when Satan tempted him, but the context of the passage tells us that Jesus went into those temptations grounded in the love of the Father.

What if we went into times of temptation fully assured of God’s love? What if, like Jesus, we were firmly rooted in our identity as children of God?

To overcome temptation, in addition to Scripture, we need what the apostle Paul describes in Romans 8:16: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” When we cultivate our relationship with the Spirit of God who lives inside us, we get more firmly rooted in the reality that we are God’s beloved children. And then we have a better shot at loving our Father more than the sin that entices us.

In the letter to the Ephesians, just before we get to the chapters that tell the believers how to live, we find a prayer that they will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in their inner being, that they will be rooted and grounded in love, and that they will know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. Those last few verses of chapter 3 prepare believers for the commands to live the Christian life in chapters 4 to 6. The Christian life works best – and perhaps only – when it’s lived as a response to God’s love.

As Jesus overcame temptation, so can we. But part of how he overcame was by being grounded in God’s love. Let’s pray to hear the Spirit telling us we are God’s beloved children, so that we, too, are rooted and established in the love of God.

I’ve offered something that I think can help in overcoming temptation, but much more could be said. Feel free to share more that can reinforce our stand in the face of temptation.

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    • Henry Greene
    • March 17th, 2012

    Great word, Dusty! Thank you! The love of God, above all in the cross, wins our hearts — and that gives us a new affection and focus. It doesn’t immediately solve all our heart problems, but it brings a new reality into our lives. Henry

    • Thank you, Henry, for the comment. Just to build on what you’re saying, I’ve always thought Paul’s words about his own ongoing Christian life at the end of Galatians 2:20 were really significant: “…the life which I now live…I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”. Paul didn’t only think that Jesus died for people in a general way, but for him personally. And so Paul’s way of life was a response to that personal love expressed in Jesus’ death for him. I think your words apply really well to what Paul says of his own life, and Paul’s life is paradigmatic for us in many, many ways.

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