Matthew 4:2,3 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
When I got home from work last night, I was starving. Perhaps I was far from actual starvation, but I was very hungry and I proceeded to eat until my stomach hurt. I had intended to eat in moderation but my appetite commanded and I obeyed. I do not mean to minimize my addiction by comparing it to food, but my appetite reminded me that I still live in the flesh and at times, I still act as though I am enslaved to it.
Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness revealed that as He lived in the flesh, He too knew the temptations of the flesh. He knew hunger. He knew fatigue. Growing up a carpenter, He probably hit his thumb with a hammer and He likely knew the temptation of anger and cussing. He had testosterone and knew the temptation of lust. It is not sin to know temptation as He never sinned, but he did absolutely share the temptations of living in this flesh.
There are those who insist that when we come to Christ, that our flesh nature is gone, but this story, I think illustrates that Christ could not have possibly been tempted if He had no flesh nature. As long as we are bound to our flesh, we will be tempted by its defective desires. Jesus showed us through his temptation however, that we are not destined to obey those defective desires.
So how did Jesus respond when Satan offered him that which He desired? Jesus did not try to insist that He had no flesh nature. He did not try to convince himself that He was not in fact hungry. I am sure his mouth watered and his stomach grumbled. He did not try to pretend hunger did not exist but He did turn his focus to that which He desired more than food. He wanted to do right in the eyes of God and so He turned his focus from his own will to God’s will. He denied his flesh and followed God.
In denying self and following God, Jesus showed me how to combat the temptations of my own flesh. Jesus, in the moment of temptation was able to realize that his true satisfaction came not from the immediate gratification of his flesh’s appetites but rather in pleasing God. His greatest pleasure was not in obeying self, but rather in obeying God. He did not deny that eating would have been pleasurable, He just knew the destruction that would follow the flesh. He chose life instead of destruction.
I too, need to understand my flesh nature. It is not helpful to deny that it exists. I need to acknowledge the destruction that inevitably follows my flesh. Likewise, I need to know the life that comes from obeying God. I should, with every temptation, choose God, even when the appetite of my flesh demands otherwise. I need to follow Christ’s example and choose the life that comes when I deny self and follow God.