How Temptation Works

Temptation of Christ (Ary Scheffer, 1854)In the third chapter of the Book of Genesis, we see the first example of the devil tempting a human being to disobey God. If we look closely at specifically what happens in verses 1-6, we can learn a lot about the method that the devil used and still uses today.

We saw in verse 1 that the very first step that he takes is to call into question the Word of God. Did God really say what you think that He said? In other words, his first objective is to undermine the authority of God’s Word on which the child of God stands. How often could we escape temptation’s snare if we would simply stand firm on the Word of God and end the matter right then and there. But we do not always do this. We allow the shadow of doubt to be cast across our faith and begin to agree with the enemy and question the Word that we have received from the Lord.

Denying The Consequences

The second step is to deny or marginalize the consequences of our disobedience against God:

“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die!” (Genesis 3:4)

God said that disobedience would result in death (Gen. 2:17), Satan said that it would not. He then proceeds to call into question the goodness and motives of God Almighty. The devil portrays God as a jealous tyrant who merely wants to suppress Adam and Eve’s true potential and keep their “eyes closed” (Verse 5).

This same tactic is employed against the believer today. Temptation always over-promises the rewards of sin and negates the consequences. It leads us to believe that we can arbitrarily break the commandments of God and suffer no loss for it. It focuses our attention on the passion of the moment and diverts our thoughts away from considering the long term effects of our actions. And it always greatly magnifies the supposed “pleasure” we will reap by choosing to do things our own way rather than God’s.

Appeal To The Flesh

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food…” (Genesis 3:6a)

The first target that the devil aims at during temptation is our flesh or our base desires. This was also the first thing that Satan targeted when he approached the Lord Jesus Christ:

“And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3)

How successful the enemy has been by tempting us to fulfill our fleshly appetites in a way that God never intended! I have heard even non-believers comment about how many Christians seem to fall into sexual sins and how many ministries have been toppled by the lusts of certain preachers. Why is this so common? Because the enemy knows that it works. Sadly, for so many believers, no other appeal is necessary.

Appeal To The Mind

“…and that it was a delight to the eyes…” (Genesis 3:6b)

The second appeal is to man’s intellectual faculties. Temptation not only appeals to our fleshly appetites, but to our appreciation for that which is aesthetically pleasing. The fruit of the tree looked good to eat and it was also apparently nice to look at. The tree that bore the fruit of temptation was not an old, withered up little shrub off in the corner of the Garden of Eden. No, it was “in the middle of” the Garden, possibly right in the very center; alongside the Tree of Life. I do not think that God aggravated the temptation by making the beauty of this tree above the others, but I also do not think that there was anything particularly ugly or unattractive about it that might suggest its deadly qualities. I believe that there was actually nothing distinctive at all about it except for the fact that God chose to designate it as the single tree in the Garden that was off limits.

This is a facet of temptation that often gets us into trouble. We use our own reasoning and determine that there is nothing unappealing about the object of our desire, nothing that would suggest its danger to us. In fact, it looks quite the opposite. It looks good to us, how can it be wrong?

“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.”  (Luke 4:5-6 KJV)

Desires for money, possessions, and any appeals to our intrinsic greed and jealousy all fall into this category, as well.

Appeal To The Soul

“…and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…” (Genesis 3:6c)

Put quite simply, this is an appeal to man’s pride. Satan wields this particular aspect of temptation with such skill and cunning because this was the temptation that caused his own downfall. The desire to be like God and become a god himself had ensnared him (Isaiah 14:13-14), he believed that it would also ensnare Eve. And it did. “Ye shall be as gods” or, literally, “Ye shall be as God” was the promise that Satan made and he continues to promise people the same thing to this day. Prideful self-reliance and the rejection and denial of man’s need for God is a temptation that appeals to the very soul of man. The temptation to do things in our own strength and deny our need for God’s providence is a sin that often ensnares believers where nothing else will. Like the ascetic monks of the Middle Ages who denied all fleshly desires, gave away all earthly possessions, and yet went to gruesome extremes to demonstrate their confidence in their own piety, there are many believers today who resist the lusts of their flesh and eyes and yet fall headlong into this temptation.

“And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” (Luke 4:9-11 KJV)

It wasn’t that Jesus could not have easily done this, but to do so would have meant rebellion against the will of God the Father Who had another plan in mind for the Lord Jesus Christ. He would demonstrate that He was in fact the Son of God, but He would do it God’s way and no other.

Doing It God’s Way

This is what temptation is really all about. Getting the believer to satisfy their own desires in a way that God does not intend them to. There were plenty of other trees in the Garden that were good for food. There were plenty of them that were beautiful to look at. And if Eve wanted wisdom, couldn’t she have asked God for it (see James 1:5)? There is always a way that God can satisfy our needs and pure desires in a way that glorifies Him. As for our impure desires, God can replace them with holy desires if we will trust Him to do so. The key is to let God satisfy us body, mind, and spirit and not give in to the enemy’s appeals.

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16)

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,


[This post was originally published August 21, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]


2 responses

  1. I think (just my opinion), that the reason most people enter into some sort of sin is because they like it. I think that they know that many of the things they do is wrong — people don’t need to be a Christian to know that certain things are wrong such as adultery. They do it because they want to. While they do not think in these terms, they want the ‘pleasure’ that sin brings to them instead of gaining the real pleasure that comes from doing what is right. Sin will always burn us one way or another. A person may get away with something for a while but in the end, they get burned by losing family, jobs or whatever the cost may be. I’m talking about the temporal consequences. One day, those sins will be displayed before God and will be judged.


  2. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

    Sin definitely will always burn us one way or another….good point.


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