How to Resist Temptation Like Jesus

The Lord's strategy in the Judean Wilderness also works today.

Everybody faces temptation. And on some level, everybody has fallen to it. Everybody but Jesus. I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Jesus.

Judean wilderness

(Photo: Judean wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Good grief, what a place. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the solitude and struggle Jesus would have endured for over a month. But I could not.

How did Jesus resist temptation here?

Temptation Comes in Moments of Need

We can barely stand to fast for a day or two. Can you imagine fasting 40 days? Jesus did so in preparation for temptation—and became desperately hungry and needy. And in His moment of need, the devil slipped in. (Satan waits for moments like these.)

If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread (Luke 4:3).

The devil is no idiot—and also no gentleman. When he tempts, he plays dirty. No rules. No concessions. No mercy.

Judean Wilderness, where Jesus was tempted

(Photo: The Judean Wilderness, the place where Satan tempted Jesus. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

In a moment of vulnerability, Satan tempted Jesus to satisfy His legitimate need for food in an illegitimate way. It’s as if Satan said: “Turn this stone to bread—use your power to gratify your need.”

What a cheap shot. Every stone would then become a temptation. And believe me, the wilderness of Judea has plenty of stones! Jesus’ reply shows that—though He was physically hungry—He was spiritually full:

It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone’ (Luke 4:4).

How Jesus Prepared for Temptation

What had Jesus, the meek and mild carpenter, been doing all those silent years growing up in Nazareth? We just saw it. His first words revealed it to us.

It is written.

Jesus grew up with a hammer in one hand and a scroll in the other. He prepared for three-and-a-half years of ministry by spending about three-and-a-half decades memorizing portions of the Word of God.

4 Ways to Resist Temptation Like Jesus

Jesus’ attention to the Word of God gave Him a spiritual reservoir to draw from in time of temptation. The Scriptures can do the same for us.

Here are some actions you can take to resist temptation like Jesus:

  1. Determine to commit portions of the Word of God to memory. Get a friend to hold you accountable.
  2. Meditate on the verse in your mind throughout the day. The goal is the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).
  3. When tempted, quote the verses out loud, remembering they are true and the temptation offers a lie.
  4. If you find yourself tempted in the same areas repeatedly, learn verses that speak to that topic (see #2 below).

4 Resources to Help in Temptation

Here are some resources you may find helpful:

  1. I have benefited from memorizing the Topical Memory System.
  2. You can search for verses by topic at BibleGateway.com.
  3. My podcast on “How to Beat Temptation,” focuses on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
  4. John Owen’s books, Of Temptation and Of the Mortification of Sin (read online or download for free) have been helpful to me. Both books are also available in one volume. These are heavy reading, but they are great and intensely practical.

Jesus’ knowledge of the Word of God remains a model for us of faithfulness under fire.

Like Jesus, we can resist temptation.

Question: What verses have been most helpful for you in temptation? To leave a comment, just click here.

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  • Tamara Munger

    The Scripture Typer app has greatly helped me memorize Scripture. I really like the reservoir analogy. To me, it’s also an arsenal and the Holy Spirit helps me keep it in order and hands out to me the weapons I need when I need them. For temptation these include:
    Psalm 18: 1-3,32
    Psalm 119:37
    Psalm 19:13-14
    2 Corintians 10: 3-5

    • These are great verses, Tamara! And yes—the Scripture Typer app is very innovative. I’ve used it as well. God bless.

  • Firdematase

    One of the verses that helps me when I’m struggling is Philippians 4.8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” God is so good and we can find gold in his Words like in Hebrews 4 ” Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”. God bless you! Thank you for the posts!

    • These are fabulous verses with such essential reminders. Thanks for including them!

  • Felix Moses

    Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was tempted for forty days and forty NIGHTS: Matthew 4: 2 “After fasting forty days and forty NIGHTS, he was hungry.”

    We must call to mind David’s personal experience in overcoming temptation: Psalm 119: 1, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

    However, I’ve always wondered whether he wrote this verse BEFORE or AFTER he sinned with Bathsheba.

    • Thanks for these significant ponderings, Felix. The phrase “days and nights” simply is a Hebrew metaphor for a day–similar to Genesis’ words, “and it was evening and it was morning”–simply representing a day. Psalm 119 is anonymous, however, your quoting of verse 11 is so significant. Indeed, we do need to hide God’s Word in our hearts in order to choose wisely. Thanks.

      • Felix Moses

        C.H. Spurgeon asserts that it is David who wrote Psalm 119. “AUTHOR. The fashion among modern writers is, as far as possible, to take every Psalm from David. As the critics of this school are usually unsound in doctrine and unspiritual in tone, we gravitate in the opposite direction, from a natural suspicion of everything which comes from so unsatisfactory a quarter. We believe that David wrote this Psalm. It is Davidic in tone and expression, and it tallies with David’s experience in many interesting points. In our youth our teacher called it “David’s pocket book”, and we incline to the opinion then expressed that here we have the royal diary written at various times throughout a long life. No, we cannot give up this Psalm to the enemy. “This is David’s spoil”. After long reading an author one gets to know his style, and a measure of discernment is acquired by which his composition is detected even if his name be concealed; we feel a kind of critical certainty that the hand of David is in this thing, yea, that it is altogether his own.” Source: http://www.gospelweb.net/SpurgeonGoldenAlphabet/GoldenAlpha_1.html. The muslims fast during the daytime during the month of Ramzaan and feast from sunset to dawn the next day. That is why DAYS and NIGHTS are clearly specified in Matthew 4:2.

        • You and Spurgeon may be correct, Felix. Perhaps David did write Psalm 119. We just can’t know for sure what the Scriptures don’t say. However, I’m doubtful Matthew referred to “days and nights” from a Muslim perspective since he was writing to Jews (and since Islam didn’t exist as a religion until five centuries later).

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