This post is the third in a series of posts about God’s short lists. In our first post we considered the outstanding simplicity and completeness of God’s Word, and presented the first short list of our series. This first list was comprised of the four influences which the Bible says act upon us while we are in this world. They are:
- the world
- the flesh
- demons and Satan
In our second post, we talked about how the believer can be an agent of these four influences in the lives of others.
Today we will consider another one of God’s short, and yet perfectly complete lists—namely, the three avenues through which temptation reaches us. These are:
- The lust of the flesh
- The lust of the eyes
- The boastful pride of life
We find this list in 1 John 2:16. “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).
“The lust of the flesh” is the strong, sinful desire for things which appeal to the body. “The lust of the eyes” is the strong, sinful desire for things which appeal to our flesh through our sight. And “the boastful pride of life” is, as the name implies, pride. Temptation comes from our flesh, the world, and Satan and the demons, not from the Father.
Let’s look at one passage from Scripture which provides a real-life illustration of the short list we are considering today. Our passage is found in Genesis chapter 3. In this chapter Satan tempts Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan begins by calling Eve’s attention to the tree. He questions her regarding what God said about the tree. He then lies to her (where God has said, “you will surely die”, Satan says, “You surely will not die!”). And finally, he proceeds to insinuate that God’s command about the tree is meant to keep Adam and Eve from something good. According to Satan, eating from the tree will result in them being “like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
This brings us to Genesis chapter 3, verse 6. It is in this part of the biblical narrative that we clearly see the three avenues of temptation in action in the life of Eve: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
Eve “saw that the tree was good for food”. “Good for food” speaks to eating, something the body desires. The tree “was a delight to the eyes”. The tree was pleasing to the sight. In other words it looked good, appealing to her eyes. And “the tree was desirable to make one wise”. The serpent told her, “in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”, an appeal to pride (Genesis 3:5). Instead of being an obedient creature, if she ate, according to Satan, she would be “like God”: the Creator.
Satan’s temptation of the Lord Jesus, as described in the gospel of Matthew, also follows this same pattern. But our Lord perfectly rebuffed every one of Satan’s temptations without sinning. Our Lord never sinned, but “since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
And so, in summary, instead of having a hundred-item-long list of things to remember (like the lists we get in the world, which are not only long, but incomplete and always changing) the Lord gives us another short, complete list. In addition to being both short and complete, the Lord’s list is not subject to man’s changing and fallible ideas. By this list, and through the help of the Holy Spirit, we can identify the three ways through which temptation comes into our lives.
Therefore, let us be careful what we see, what we desire, and let us keep our pride in check. We need God’s help to do this. We must keep alert and pray that the Lord will keep us from temptation.
Remember, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).