In the Garden of Eden, Satan first appealed to the lust of the flesh. The fruit looked good to Eve, so why not have a bite? “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Notice that the devil said “any tree” when God said only “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (2:17). Satan distorts and questions the Word of God when he attacks the mind.
The key to winning the battle for your mind is to recognize tempting thoughts for what they are and practice “threshold thinking.” Take that first thought captive to the obedience of Christ. It is not a sin to be tempted, but entertaining those thoughts will lead to sin. If you consider them in your mind, your emotions will be stimulated in the wrong direction and your will power will crumble. You should avoid any discussion with Satan’s mouthpieces, which Eve failed to do when she answered, “God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’’’ (3:3). Notice that she added the restriction, “you must not touch it.” Don’t continue to dialogue with the tempter – the person pushing you for sex or to have another piece of pie. “Let your ‘Yes’ by yes, and your ‘No,’ no, or you will be condemned” (James 5:12).
Satan had piqued her appetite for the forbidden fruit, and she saw “that the fruit of the tree was good for food” (verse 6). Her initial “no” was now a “maybe.” It was through this same channel of temptation that the devil attempted to get Jesus to turn a rock into bread, which prompted Christ to quote Deuteronomy 8:3: “Man does not live on bread alone.” There would have been nothing wrong with Jesus eating bread at the end of His fast, except that it wasn’t the Father’s will for Him to do so. He made His decision by verbally quoting Scripture, and that was the end of the dialogue. He was not about to act independently of the Father’s will.
Eating is necessary and right, but eating too much – or eating the wrong kinds of foods, or allowing food to rule our lives – is wrong. Food sustains life, but it does not guarantee life, which is God’s gift to those who trust in His Word and live by it. When we fast, we suppress the most powerful appetite we have, because food is necessary to sustain life. In a similar way, sex as intended by God is beautiful and good, but sex outside of marriage, fornication and selfish sex are out of bounds and enslaving. If we give in to the temptation to meet our own fleshly desires independently of God, we are yielding to the lust of the flesh.
We all have residual flesh patterns that become points of vulnerability, and Satan seems to know just what buttons to push. What could be tempting to one person may not be at all tempting to another. It is important that we recognize our weaknesses and not subject ourselves to unnecessary temptation. We should also restrict our freedom for the sake of weaker Christians.
LUST OF THE EYES
Eve saw that the food was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6). The “lust of the eyes” was the second channel of temptation through which Satan took advantage. Eve’s resolve was weakening. It looks good and I want it. What harm could possibly befall me if I took just one little bite? Seizing the opportunity, Satan said, “You will not certainly die” (Genesis 3:4). “Don’t listen to God,” he hissed. “He is just trying to deny you some of life’s great pleasures. Do what is right in your own eyes. There are no serious consequences for choices that you make.
The lust of the eyes subtly draws us away from the Word of God and eats away at our confidence in Him. We see what the world has to offer and desire it above our relationship with God. We begin to place more credence in our perspective of life than in God’s plans and promises. Fueled by the lust for what we see, we grab for all that we can get. Tempting lies have not changed since the original sin. Go ahead and do it. You know you want to. Everyone else is doing it. Why should you be denied? Who would know if you did? You will get away with it.
With Eve, Satan questioned the Word of God. With Jesus, he quoted Scripture, but in a diabolical way. “If you believe God’s Word is true, prove it. Jump off the Temple wall. God will save you by sending His angels to bear you up. You won’t even come close to hitting the rocks below” (see Matthew 4:6). Had Jesus jumped to His death, everyone’s confidence in God would have been shattered.
However, Jesus was not going to be seduced by a passage taken out of context. He countered the temptation with a passage of Scripture that exposed Satan’s ploy: “Do not put the LORD your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). That verse follows the Shema (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9), which is still recited daily by orthodox Jews. Shema means “to hear so as to obey.”
The righteous live by faith in the written Word of God and do not demand that God prove Himself in response to our whims or wishes, no matter how noble we think our cause may be. God is under no obligation to us – He is under obligation only to Himself. There is no way that we can cleverly word a prayer so that God must respond to our will. Such thinking distorts the meaning of prayer and puts us in the position of trying to manipulate God.
A beloved man was once dying with cancer. Word spread throughout his church that four independent witnesses had all testified that the man was not going to die. The congregation believed these witnesses had heard from God and rejoiced. Three weeks, later the man died. Either those four “witnesses” were paying attention to a deceiving spirit, or God’s Word can’t be trusted.
Counterfeit gifts of knowledge and prophecy spoken through false prophets and deceived Christians can destroy our confidence in God. If they give us a “word from the Lord” and it doesn’t prove to be true, God can no longer be trusted. The same thing happens if we pay attention to a deceiving spirit and think it is from God. Paul says that we will fall away from the faith if we pay attention to deceiving spirits and things taught by demons (see 1 Timothy 4:1).