Genesis 3 contains everything we need to know about what goes wrong in all of us. It contains the anatomy – the inner workings – of temptation, from the beginning seed planted by the enemy to the tragic fall which follows. It’s a fall that need not happen to us because we know how the enemy attacks. And yet, we fall for it time and time again.
Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthian church that we should not allow Satan to get an advantage over us, for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:11). That we are not ignorant of how Satan works may have been true in the first century, but is it today? Do you know how the enemy sets out to destroy you? Do you even know that you have an enemy? Peter, another one of Jesus’ first followers, warns that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). If you don’t know this, nor understand how he works, you are easy pickings.
So, looking closely at Genesis 3, learn this “anatomy of temptation” well so that you can be better prepared to defeat the lion, and even see him coming a mile away.
The Enemy Subverts
- Bring into question whether God really said something or not.
- “Did God really say…?” (3.1)
- Twist the command into something absurd.
- “You must not eat from any tree?” (3:1)
- Notice how he twisted God’s original command, that they may eat of every tree but one (2:16-17), into one that seems absurdly restrictive.
- Implants doubt in the mind that God has my best interests at heart.
- God must be holding out on me. He is not a good Father.
The Unprepared Response
- A misquote of the original command, even adding something (we may not touch it) that is not there (3:3).
- Because we are ignorant of what the bible actually does say, the lies the enemy tells us ring true.
- How easily we fall into the trap of adding more rules to the perfectly good ones God has already given, thus adding to our delusion that God is not a good Father and is holding out on us.
- Water down the punishment.
- This is more evident in the original Hebrew, but God’s initial command came with the warning that if they disobey, they will surely die. Eve misquotes the command itself and then diminishes the punishment, essentially saying, “If we do this, God said we might die.”
The Enemy Pounces
- Seeing an opening, Satan presses in on the angle of non-punishment. “You will not surely die!” (3:4). You will be fine!
- He then appeals to our sense of entitlement, desire and independence.
- You deserve to be happy. Everyone else has it. You have the right to be your own boss.
- Satan convinces us this will make us like God. It will give us life. It’s what we have been missing all this time.
- After seeing that the thing wanted is appetizing (isn’t all sin?) Eve reaches outside of God’s design and grabs something she shouldn’t.
- Result is estrangement from God rather than unity.
- Result is shame and guilt rather than a deeper intimacy with God and with each other.
- Result is blaming everyone else, never taking responsibility for the choices made.
- Result is a sure death, both physical (one day) and spiritual (immediate).
Consider how this plays out in your life. If you are addicted to something – sex, porn, food, fame, career, money, whatever – then every point above has been compromised as your reaching for something outside of God’s parameters has become habitual. We addicts have, over time, whittled away at what God has really said about how we should live our lives (if we ever knew it to begin with), convincing ourselves that God is holding out on us and that we must seek happiness on our terms. Even more, we have watered down the punishment God promised would come to us if we do this. The enemy has pounced on this and each time we do it without getting caught we think ourselves more and more invincible.
And yet, if we are honest, in the cool breeze of the evening (3:8) when God comes looking for us, we are found hiding. The intimacy and connection we crave is broken, not only with God but with all our relationships. Our reaching for life on our terms has not delivered anything the enemy promised. We are dying, both physically and spiritually, with each successive bite.
Want to be free of this insane cycle of destruction wrought through this anatomy of temptation? Go and read Matthew 4:1-11 and see how Jesus handles the same cycle. Jesus knows and respects the words of God and their authority. Jesus knows where the true source of Life is found and never questions the goodness of his Father (even while he is going to a cross!). Jesus knows the designs of his enemy well, and comes through temptation victorious.
You and I can do the same. The enemy is prowling. Are you prepared to face him?