Perfection and Deception

God placed Adam and Eve in a luxurious garden He planted in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. The Garden of Eden was self-supporting; fruit-bearing trees were abundant, four rivers ran through it, and nourishing plants yielded plentiful food. Rain never fell; irrigation occurred by gentle mists rising out of the ground. No pests invaded green growth; everything was pristine and pure. Such exquisite beauty and flourishing abundance would overwhelm us with its magnificence, but to the first inhabitants, it was simply home, the only residence they had ever known.

The people who walked in the exquisite environment of the garden, who bathed in the clear, cool rivers, and who communicated constantly with their Creator, enjoyed freedom and protection in the fertile, life-sustaining garden. There were no flaws in their lives or surroundings. They were created in an untarnished, sin-free world.

Now, the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). Satan questioned Eve about God’s authenticity and the accuracy of His specific directions regarding the one tree from which they were instructed they should not eat. Satan was baiting Eve. She informed him of what he already knew: God told them they must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden or they would die (Genesis 3:2-3).

Satan temped Eve to gaze at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The fruit may have suddenly acquired a tantalizing appeal to Eve. Neither person had been previously exposed to the tree, for it was forbidden to them. If any of us devote time where we do not belong, view or read that which is harmful, we too, begin to see beauty or advantage in the detrimental. We often defend our thoughts and actions by the world’s standard: the end justifies the means. God’s principles are defended by Jesus’ criteria: “Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

Though temptation constantly swirls about, God commands us to watch and pray, to show discernment with our choices, and to use Jesus as our standard. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). For a moment Adam and Eve were overcome with opportunity and greed. Greed is not need; rather, it expresses selfish longing.

During Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness, the devil offered Him the opportunity to circumvent His original purpose for coming to earth in exchange for food, material riches, and power (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan’s ultimate goal was to convince Jesus to bow down to worship him instead of His heavenly Father, offering Jesus immediate gratification with physical, psychological, and spiritual rewards, tempting Him to by-pass death for mankind on the cross. Jesus is sinless, with characteristics of purity and holiness, so He couldn’t yield to Satan’s wily ways. Jesus refused all of Satan’s clever tricks, quoting Old Testament Scripture as a retort to each of Satan’s enticements.

It was imperative for Christ to experience temptation as a man to know how we feel, the amount of courage needed to resist, and the necessity of claiming God’s power to send Satan away in utter defeat. Jesus was tested during His weakest physical state of hunger and sleeplessness to prove that we serve a sinless Savior on whom we can depend when we are seduced by Satan and his cohorts. Jesus’ trials covered the entire spectrum of human temptations as He experienced personally the devastating damage Satan’s demonic powers wield over humanity. Now Jesus’ victory is the ideal example for all believers to follow. Human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible.

Because Christ was successful in rejecting the temptation of the devil by immersing Himself in prayer, His example instructs us to become so familiar and intimate with our Lord that when we are enticed by demons, our reaction is to Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8, NASB). God then acts as our barrier for the destructive influence of Satan. Jesus is the pure, holy Son of God who teaches us by example that men live “on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3b).

We are privileged that God desires to communicate and fellowship with us! The Word of God and prayer are powerful deterrents for evil. Ask “God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way (Colossians 1:9-10a). Praying throughout each day prepares us with strength to resist temptation, answers to repeal Satan’s charm, and wisdom to claim God’s strength as our own. With such protection, we possess the ability to recognize and resist the demons who aim to separate us from God.

The professional tempter is intimately familiar with the tools of his deceptive trade. Demons major in confusion and chaos. As Christians, our emphasis is shining Christ’s light into darkness to reveal the tempter at his schemes. “For he {God} has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). As we saturate our lives with prayer, we give glory to the Light of the World.

While Jesus prayed alone in Gethsemane prior to His crucifixion, He commanded His sleepy disciples to remain on guard with Him against evil forces. “ ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’ ” (Matthew 26:41). Because Jesus was tempted as we are and resisted, He is now our advocate in heaven, pleading continually to the Father for our benefit.

Christians are engaged in spiritual battles against Satan and his demons, but God has not left us defenseless. Our most dangerous enemies in this world are invisible, not to be fought with brute force, but with the unique spiritual equipment which God supplies: truth, faith, peace, and righteousness (Ephesians 6:4-16). Jesus, who crushed Satan on the cross, has provided us with prayer, our greatest military arsenal for life’s battles.

Though our trials are often intense, we are endowed with the spiritual weapons God designed. Be prepared with a life of determined conflict through prayer and knowledge of Scripture, equipped to deflect Satan’s fiery arrows, just as Jesus did.

Perfect Peace

The Lord gave this verse to me years ago during a particularly troubling time in my life. I was using the New King James Version of the Bible then and to this day I still love that version of Isaiah 26:3 best because the word “stayed” speaks to my heart:

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.