In the beginning of Matthew 4, we read about the Spirit leading Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. I’ve written a deep study of this portion of scripture in the post Where the Spirit Leads, but today we’re going to focus on the aspect of resisting the devil and the example Jesus gave us to doing it victoriously.
James 4:7 tells us to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Most of us understand the concept of submitting to God and His will in our lives, and we want the devil to flee from us, but how do we practically resist the devil?
First off, I do think it’s important to remember and understand that as followers of Jesus, we WILL face trials and temptations. Jesus told us that in advance - “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) And throughout the New Testament there are many encouragements for WHEN you face trials. So when we account for the fact that if we resist the devil, he will flee from us, it’s not a matter of if we’ll need to use this practically, it’s a matter of when and being ready to do so.
When Jesus was approached by the devil in the wilderness, His flesh was extremely weak from having fasted 40 days. The devil has a sneaky way of trying to pick us off while we’re at our weak moments. However, Jesus was successful in resisting the devil and the devil did leave Him. So, let’s make a list of the things Jesus did that we can learn from and use practically in our own resisting of the devil:
- Jesus submitted Himself to the Father by the Spirit’s leading in fasting and being in the wilderness. While He may have looked weak, He was indeed strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. (Ephesians 6:10)
- Jesus only replied with scripture and rebuke as He was tempted by the devil. There was not a discussion with the devil no matter how hard the devil tried to keep a deceitful conversation going.
- Jesus had scripture memorized and it was memorized in context. The devil even quoted scripture to Jesus, but he used it out of context to deceive and tempt Him. Yet, because Jesus had memorized scripture and had memorized the context of it, He was not deceived by the scheme.
- Jesus did not waver in His way of response and weapon of choice. Even though the devil was trying to tempt Him several times in His physical needs, His pride, and His resolve, Jesus kept using the same weapon, which was the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. He didn’t find different ways to fight the different angles of attack, He used the same weapon over and over again because it’s powerful and effective.
These are practical things that our Savior, who lived life here on earth and can sympathize with us as our High Priest, has given us by His own example to follow. It may sound a bit overwhelming, but if you’re spending time everyday in the Word, just spend a little extra time daily memorizing scripture. It doesn’t have to be a marathon either. My kids and I memorize a chapter of scripture each school year and make up songs to go with it. It takes us 9 months to slowly and steadily memorize little chunks at a time, but it sticks. Last school year we memorized Hebrews 11, and now I can walk up to my kids and randomly say, “Now faith is the assurance” and they get a big smile on their face and start singing our Bible verse songs through that chapter.
And I do want to make a quick mention that Jesus didn’t memorize Bible references (not that memorizing references is bad, but they didn’t have references like we have today in the scrolls back then). The most important thing is that Jesus memorized the content and context of scripture. So, if you have a hard time memorizing references, don’t fret so much as long as you’re memorize the content and understand the context of the scriptures.
When we are being tempted, we need to recognize when it’s the devil. We can only do this by being so immersed in the Word of truth, that when lies and deceit come our way, we can spot it instantly and start swinging our sword of the Spirit in defense. It’s kind of like when we look at the moon. It is pretty and bright in the night’s sky, but from afar it still just looks like a tiny white ball in the sky. But if you take the time to get out a telescope and look at the details and craters upon it, the more magnificent it appears. Then if you’re later talking about the moon during the day, you’ll better remember the details of looking through the telescope and have a better picture of it in your mind’s eye. The Word of God is a powerful weapon, but if we aren’t reading and memorize it, it will seem much less like a sword and more like a dagger during our battles. The more we know the Bible and memorize it, the better equipped we’ll be to use it in our battles.
Lastly, just as Jesus didn’t, we don’t need to think up a bunch of different ways to fight the devil. Even when fighting the spiritual warfare as the devil used the Pharisees in Jesus’ day to attack Him, Jesus used scripture over and over again. Pastors and Bible teachers are amazing people of God, and God uses them for His purposes, but they don’t replace our own reading and memorization of scripture. Jesus would go to synagogue and listen to the readings of scripture and spent time meditating on it and praying to the Father. How much more are we able to read and meditate on the Word when we have our own Bible readily available to us? The Word of God is living and active and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that we may be equipped (Hebrews 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
As you move forward, either in your current spiritual battle or in future ones to come, I want to challenge you to memorize Bible verses just as Jesus had and see what difference it makes in your walk with the Lord and in your effectiveness to resist the devil in battles.