Three Bringers of Temptation
So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12:9NKJV
This morning we will continue to study Westminster Larger Catechism Question 195, which asks, “What do we pray for in the sixth petition?” The second part of the answer states: “In the sixth petition (which is, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,) acknowledging… that Satan, the world, and the flesh, are ready powerfully to draw us aside, and ensnare us….” Last time we saw how God is sovereign over any temptation that we experience. And that even when God brings us to the place where we will be tempted, He only does it for our true and everlasting good. Today we consider the enemies outside of our souls and in our souls which are continually seeking to tempt us in order to destroy us.
The Bible is clear that there is a malevolent spirit, whose name is Satan. His most common title is “devil,” which means slanderer or accuser. Twice in Scripture the devil is called “the tempter” (Matt. 4:3; 1 The. 3:5), and he is the only one in the Bible given that title. To tempt someone is to entice or allure them. It is where you try to get someone to desire or be attracted to do something to the point where the craving moves the will to act in order to satisfy it. Once in John Jesus declares that Satan is “a murderer” and “a liar and the father of lies,” (John 8:44). The titles “liar,” “devil,” and “tempter” tell us who Satan is and how he operates. It is the nature of Satan to seduce, in order to deceive, in order to accuse unto judgment and destruction. Because Satan brought the first temptation – which was a half-truth making it a whole and more dangerous lie – there is a sense in which all temptation goes back to him. No doubt this is the meaning of Jesus when he calls Satan “the father of lies.” Satan gave birth to the lie and it is always the lie that is used in temptation. For temptation always says “Disobey God in some way, shape, or form and it will go better for you in this one instance.” And that is always a lie. Because God is omniscient, omnipotent, loving righteousness and hating iniquity, it will never go better for us if we disobey.
There are many instances in the Bible where Satan tempts directly either personally or through one of his angels (demons), but that is not the only way temptation comes to us. The second great enemy of the Christian, which is constantly seeking to lure us into disobeying God, is the world. The world is not some impersonal system that somehow exerts some kind of evil force upon us. When the word “world” is used in Scripture to refer to the enemy of our soul it is being used as a collective noun to include all human beings who are in rebellion against God. We see this personal, collective aspect of people in rebellion against God when Jesus says, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you,” (John 15:19). Here the world is said to “love” or “hate.” Loving and hating are activities that only rational creatures can engage in. Therefore, clearly the world here means all the people who are opposed to God. In fact they are so opposed to and filled with hatred for God that the people whom God has chosen, merely for that reason, also become the objects of their displeasure according to this verse. Contrariwise this verse says the world promises to “love” those who join it in its rebellion against God. But this too is a lie as the world’s love would do us no good whatsoever and is not in fact a love for “us” at all but only for our increase, by way of participation, in its chosen evil (whatever it may be in that culture, people group, and time).
The third and final enemy of the Christian is our flesh. “Flesh” here does not mean physical body but it is used as the most common appellation for our old sinful natures. If you are a Christian you have a new nature that loves God and wants to obey Him, but if you are not in glory then you also still have to deal with your sinful desires. The only reason the world and the devil are able to successfully tempt us to sin is because part of us still loves sin. Thus, “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed,” (James 1:14). Even apart from Satan and this God-hating world, we would still give in to temptation, because we would tempt ourselves. May God grant us increasing victories over all three of our mortal enemies.