(On our last day in Uruguay, we spent some time at the church with Youth Pastor Diego Garcia, who runs a program for troubled youth, similar to Teen Challenge. I had the privilege of giving a short devotion/sermon to the young men there. This is the basic text of that message with some additional material to expand it.)

When I was a in high school and college, I attended and later worked at a youth retreat called The Search. On the last day of the camp, one of the speakers usually gave a talk about going back into “The Real World” and what it would be like after having such a mountain top spiritual experience. For those of us that attended the National Youth Camp in Uruguay, we have just come back from one of these spiritual highs and need to be prepared for the next step.

Jesus had the same experience. After being baptized by John the Baptist and having a tremendous spiritual experience, Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted by the devil. We read in Luke 4:1-13,

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Jesus was tempted the same way that we are. We exist on 3 levels: the physical (our bodies), the mental (our minds), and the emotional (our hearts/souls). The devil tempted His body through His hunger: “tell this stone to become bread”. He tempted His mind through appeals to His pride: “I will give you all authority and splendor”. He finally tempted His emotions by even suggesting suicide: “Throw yourself down from here.” Echoes of the Garden of Eden arise with the devil’s idea that “You won’t die. God will send angels to lift you up.”

Adam and Eve faced the temptation in the Garden in exactly the same 3 areas. Genesis 3:6 says that Eve saw that the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was “good for food,” (physical), “a delight to the eyes,” (emotional), and “desirable to make one wise,” (mental).

In 1 John 2:16, John warns of the same 3 areas of temptation in the world: “For all that is in the world,the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” We again have the physical (lust of the flesh), the emotional (lust of the eyes), and the mental (pride). The traditional Jewish creed, the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6 and quoted by Jesus as the greatest commandment in Luke 10, echoes this idea as well: “Love God with all your heart and soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.”

The scriptures assure us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that the temptations we face are common to all people, but that God helps us in our weakness and provides a way to escape each temptation. One of the key ideas in facing temptations in our wilderness moments is found in Hebrews 4:15, which says:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”

Jesus faced EVERY temptation that we face. He knows what we are going through because He went through it too. He understands hunger, lust, despair, anger, greed, pride, and any other thing we go through. He also shows HOW to overcome temptation. In the desert, he resisted the devil’s attempts by quoting promises from Scripture. The devil attempted to use and twist God’s Word, both with Eve and with Jesus, but the word of God, spoken by THE WORD silenced the devil and he left. We can walk through our desert moments and get to the other side by walking with Jesus and claiming the promises in His Word.

In 2007, I lost my oldest child, my only son, in a car accident. It was only a few days before he would have graduated from high school. We were looking forward to a mountain top experience, but instead, were thrown into the wilderness of grief, despair, doubt, and anger. The days, weeks, and months ahead were difficult, but I clung to the promise that my High Priest knew what I was facing. God showed me that He understood my pain, because He too had experienced the death of His only Son. Through that, I gained hope that the same power that raised Christ from the dead also raised my son, Bradford, and that I knew the two were together in heaven.

Jesus defeated the artificial with truth. In our hunger, He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). In our mental confusion and darkness, He is the Light of the world (John 8:12). In our emotional turmoil and despair, He is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

In one of His most important “I AM” statements, Jesus again addresses our 3-part existence. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

  • Jesus shows us The Way to walk (physical)
  • Jesus shows us The Truth to think (mental)
  • Jesus gives us Life in our despair (emotional)

In the speech given way back at our Search retreats, the truth that was pointed out was that the mountain top spiritual experiences we have ARE the Real World. The everyday mundane activities and trials we go through are NOT. As John says again in 1 John 2, the desires and temptations of this world will pass away. What is left is the Real World. Our High Priest has made a way for us and empowers us to walk it in truth and in the fullness of life.