“What sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion!”—2 PET. 3:11.
1, 2. ‘What sort of persons ought we to be’ to gain God’s approval?
IT IS not unusual to care about what others think of us. As Christians, though, should we not be more concerned about Jehovah’s opinion of us? After all, he is the greatest Personage in the universe, and with him is “the source of life.”—Ps. 36:9.
2 Emphasizing the ‘sort of persons we ought to be’ from Jehovah’s viewpoint, the apostle Peter urges us to engage in “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.” (Read 2 Peter 3:11.) For us to gain God’s approval, our “acts of conduct” must be holy, that is, clean—morally, mentally, and spiritually. Moreover, we need to perform “deeds of godly devotion” with reverence for God and loyal attachment to him. Seeking his approval, then, involves not only our conduct but also our inner person. Since Jehovah is the “examiner of the heart,” he knows whether we are holy in conduct and are exclusively devoted to him or not.—1 Chron. 29:17.
3. Concerning our relationship with God, what questions should we consider?
3 Satan the Devil does not want us to seek God’s approval. In fact, he does all he can to get us to abandon our relationship with Jehovah. Satan does not hesitate to use lies and deceit to seduce us and draw us away from the God we worship. (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:13-15) Therefore, we are wise to ask ourselves: ‘How does Satan deceive people? What can I do to protect my relationship with Jehovah?’
HOW DOES SATAN DECEIVE PEOPLE?
4. In an attempt to destroy our relationship with God, what does Satan target, and why?
4 “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire,” writes the disciple James. “Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) In an attempt to break our attachment to God, Satan targets the source of our desires—our heart.
5, 6. (a) By what means does Satan make us his target? (b) What enticements does Satan employ in an effort to corrupt the desires of our heart, and how experienced is he in using them?
5 By what means does Satan make our heart his target? “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” states the Bible. (1 John 5:19) Satan’s weapons include “the things in the world.” (Read 1 John 2:15, 16.) Over thousands of years, the Devil has carefully crafted the environment surrounding us. Since we live in this world, we need to guard against his subtle tactics.—John 17:15.
6 Satan uses methods designed to corrupt the desires of the heart. The apostle John identifies three enticements that Satan employs: (1) “the desire of the flesh,” (2) “the desire of the eyes,” and (3) “the showy display of one’s means of life.” Satan used them to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. Having had years of practice using such traps, Satan today uses them effectively, adapting his approach to each person’s inclinations. Before considering measures we can take to protect ourselves in this regard, let us see how the Devil successfully used certain enticements with Eve but unsuccessfully with the Son of God.
“THE DESIRE OF THE FLESH”
7. How did Satan use “the desire of the flesh” to tempt Eve?
7 Humans have a fundamental requirement for sustaining the body—the need for food. The Creator designed the earth to produce food bountifully. Satan may try to appeal to the natural desire for food in an effort to turn us away from doing God’s will. Consider how he did that with Eve. (Read Genesis 3:1-6.) Satan told Eve that she could eat of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad” without having to die, saying that on the day of her eating from it, she would be like God. (Gen. 2:9) The Devil thus insinuated that Eve did not need to be obedient to God in order to live. What a blatant lie that was! Once the idea was planted in Eve’s mind, she had two options: She could reject the idea, or she could keep dwelling on it, allowing her desire for the fruit to grow. Despite the fact that all the other trees of the garden were at her disposal, she chose to dwell on what Satan had said concerning the tree in the middle of the garden, and she “began taking of its fruit and eating it.” Satan thus created within her a desire for something that was forbidden by her Creator.
8. Using “the desire of the flesh,” how did Satan try to entice Jesus, and why did this temptation not succeed?
8 Satan used the same tactic when he tried to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. After Jesus had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, Satan attempted to appeal to Jesus’ desire for food. “If you are a son of God,” said Satan, “tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (Luke 4:1-3) Jesus had two options: He could choose not to use his miraculous power to satisfy the need for food, or he could choose to use it. Jesus knew that he should not use such power for selfish purposes. Though he was hungry, satisfying the hunger did not take priority over maintaining his relationship with Jehovah. “It is written,” Jesus replied, “‘Man must not live by bread alone but by everything proceeding from Jehovah’s mouth.’”—Luke 4:4, ftn.
“THE DESIRE OF THE EYES”
9. What does the expression “the desire of the eyes” suggest, and how did Satan appeal to this desire in Eve’s case?
9 John also mentioned “the desire of the eyes” as an enticement. The expression suggests that one can begin desiring something by simply looking at it. In the case of Eve, Satan appealed to this desire, saying: “Your eyes are bound to be opened.” The more Eve looked at it, the more the forbidden fruit became attractive to her. Eve saw that the tree “was something to be longed for to the eyes.”
10. In what way did Satan use “the desire of the eyes” to tempt Jesus, and how did Jesus respond?
10 What about in Jesus’ case? Satan “showed [Jesus] all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time; and the Devil said to him: ‘I will give you all this authority and the glory of them.’” (Luke 4:5, 6) Jesus would not with his literal eyes see all the kingdoms in an instant, but Satan must have felt that the glory of these kingdoms, as presented in a vision, would hold some attraction for Jesus. Shamelessly, Satan suggested: “If you do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:7) In no way did Jesus want to be the kind of person Satan wanted him to be. His response was immediate. He said: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Luke 4:8.
“THE SHOWY DISPLAY OF ONE’S MEANS OF LIFE”
11. How was Eve enticed by Satan?
11 In citing the things of the world, John mentioned “the showy display of one’s means of life.” When Adam and Eve were the only humans on earth, they could of course not make a ‘showy display of their means of life’ before other people. But they did manifest pride. When tempting Eve, Satan insinuated that God withheld something wonderful from her. The Devil told her that in the very day of her eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad,” she was “bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Gen. 2:17; 3:5) Satan thus suggested that Eve could gain independence from Jehovah. Pride was apparently a factor that caused her to accept the lie. She partook of the forbidden fruit, believing that she would not really die. How wrong she was!
12. What was another way that Satan tried to tempt Jesus, and how did Jesus respond?
12 In contrast with Eve, what a wonderful example of humility Jesus set! Satan tried to tempt him in another way, but Jesus rejected even the very thought of doing something dramatic that would put God to the test. That would have been an act of pride! Instead, Jesus’ reply was clear and direct: “It is said, ‘You must not put Jehovah your God to the test.’”—Read Luke 4:9-12.
HOW CAN WE PROTECT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JEHOVAH?
13, 14. Explain how Satan uses certain enticements today.
13 Today, Satan uses enticements similar to those that he used with Eve and Jesus. Appealing to “the desire of the flesh,” the Devil uses his world to promote immorality and overindulgence in eating and drinking. By means of pornography, especially on the Internet, he can catch the attention of an unwary viewer and appeal to “the desire of the eyes.” And what temptation materialism, power, and fame hold for the proud and for those inclined to make ‘a showy display of their means of life’!
14 “The things in the world” are like the lures of a fisherman. They are attractive, but attached to each lure is a hook. Satan uses what people may regard as normal everyday needs to make them want to do what is contrary to the laws of God. Such subtle temptations, though, are designed to influence our desires and corrupt our heart. They are really an attempt to make us believe that taking care of our personal needs and comforts takes priority over doing the will of God. Will such enticements work on us?
15. How can we imitate Jesus in resisting Satan’s temptations?
15 Though Eve succumbed to Satan’s temptations, Jesus successfully resisted them. Each time, he gave a Scriptural answer, saying: “It is written” or, “It is said.” If we are diligent students of the Bible, we will be well-acquainted with the Scriptures and be able to bring to mind the verses that can help us to keep our thinking straight in the face of temptation. (Ps. 1:1, 2) Remembering Scriptural examples of faithful individuals who were loyal to God will help us to imitate them. (Rom. 15:4) Having true reverence for Jehovah, loving what he loves and hating what he hates, will safeguard us.—Ps. 97:10.
16, 17. What effect can our “power of reason” have on the type of person we are?
16 The apostle Paul encourages us to use our “power of reason” to become the kind of person who is molded by God’s thinking, not by that of the world. (Rom. 12:1, 2) Stressing the need to have tight control over what we allow ourselves to think about, Paul stated: “We are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God; and we are bringing every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) Our thoughts have a powerful effect on the kind of person we are, so we need to “continue considering” upbuilding things.—Phil. 4:8.
17 We cannot expect to be holy if we are feeding on improper thoughts and desires. We must love Jehovah with “a clean heart.” (1 Tim. 1:5) But the heart is treacherous, and we may not even realize how deeply “the things in the world” are affecting us. (Jer. 17:9) Therefore, should we not ‘keep testing whether we are in the faith, keep proving what we ourselves are’ by honest self-examination in light of what we study in the Bible?—2 Cor. 13:5.
18, 19. Why should we be determined to be the kind of person Jehovah wants us to be?
18 Another factor that helps us to resist “the things in the world” is that we keep in mind John’s inspired words: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Satan’s system seems to be permanent and real. Nevertheless, one day it will come to an end. Nothing that Satan’s world has to offer has permanence. Remembering that fact will help us not to be seduced by the Devil’s enticements.
19 The apostle Peter exhorts us to be the sort of person God approves of as we are “awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah, through which the heavens being on fire will be dissolved and the elements being intensely hot will melt!” (2 Pet. 3:12) Very soon now, that day will be here, and Jehovah will destroy every part of Satan’s world. Until then, Satan will continue to use “the things in the world” to tempt us, as he tempted both Eve and Jesus. We must not be like Eve and seek to satisfy our own desires. Doing so would be tantamount to acknowledging Satan as our god. We need to be like Jesus and resist such enticements, regardless of how appealing and attractive they are made to appear. May each of us be determined to be the kind of person Jehovah wants us to be.