By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: How does Satan go about tempting us today?
Answer: Satan tempts us today in the same way that he has always tempted men. He tempts us through three avenues: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life (1 Jn. 2:16). Eve, in the garden of Eden, was beguiled through these three avenues. God had forbidden Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree that was in the midst of the garden (Gen. 3:3). Death was the penalty that God had imposed upon this couple should they eat of it. “God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” But the serpent (the devil) seduced Eve, saying to her, “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4,5). Then in verse six we are told: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), and that it was a delight to the eyes (the lust of the eyes) and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (the vainglory of life), she took the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat. “
Achan was tempted to sin through these same three avenues. The booty taken from captured cities was devoted to the Lord, and if anyone should take it for himself, he was doomed to destruction. Achan took the devoted (accursed) thing from Jericho (Josh. 7:1); thus he was taken and found guilty. He confessed his sin by saying, “When I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonian mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and behold they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it” (v. 21). It is obvious that he was tempted by the lust of the flesh when he coveted these items; he was tempted through the lust of the eyes when he saw them and he succumbed to the vainglory of life when he possessed those things which he saw and desired. His sin was progressive: “I saw,” “I coveted,” “I took.”
Satan tempted Jesus in the same way. Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights and he afterward hungered (Matt. 4:2). The devil appealed to the lust of the flesh when he suggested that Jesus command the stones to become bread (v. 3). He appealed to the lust of the eyes when he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, promising them to Jesus if He would fall down and worship him (vv. 8,9). He appealed to the vainglory of life when he suggested that Jesus cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and thus exercise His power of divine protection (vv. 5,6).
Satan is the same Satan today that he has always been, and he is doing his same work by using those same tactics. His goal is to tempt us to evil (Jas. 1: 13,14). He is real and very much alive, which is attested to by our ungodly society. He is active in politics, in social life and in the church. The apostle Peter admonished, “Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). We must be aware of his subtleness, for the devil blinds men (2 Cor. 4:4). Paul expressed his concern to the church at Corinth, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). One of the foremost subtleties is to eliminate or hide sin as the cause of misdeeds. For example, some say that criminals are not responsible, but rather they are misunderstood by society, not understood by their friends, parents, and school teachers; or their crimes are due to inhibitions, etc. A fellow gospel preacher well stated it when he said, “It is hard to find an old-fashioned sinner anymore.” We need to realize that sin is prevalent because the devil is ever active.
The most potent counter-attack to Satan is the word of God. With each temptation, Jesus countered with, “It is written.” Peter wrote, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 1:7). All men are tempted, but it is not hopeless. We are reminded that Paul wrote, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10: 13).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, p. 389
July 4, 1985