Teaching Teens About Temptation


A few days ago I got to speak to the teens in our church about temptation. Temptation comes to ALL of us. There are many temptations that teens face: “fooling around,” internet pornography, peer pressure, tearing down others to make yourself look cool, drugs and alcohol, smarting off to parents, self-righteousness among the holier-than-thou churchy teens, etc. I confessed to our teens a particular temptation I gave in to over and over again while in High School, cheating. I remember the day before our Freshman English mid-term. The teacher was reviewing and telling us how to study. She wanted to make one final appeal for us to take the test seriously, so she held the exam up and said, “This is your exam right here in my hand. It’s got a lot of things on it, so you need to study hard tonight and be ready to take it tomorrow.” She quickly put the test into a drawer in her desk as she said, “There’s a few minutes left in class so turn around and start reviewing in groups.” The guys in my group made me an offer (a temptation) that I could not refuse. The plot was hatched. When the teacher began to help another group we quickly undid the latch that locked the outside windows. When the bell rang, everyone got up to go to lunch and the teacher locked the door to her room. After a few minutes we went around the outside of the building, hoisted a guy on our shoulders who opened the window to the classroom and climbed down into the English classroom. He got the test out of the drawer, and we went to make copies of it in the library. The next day we aced the test…

Temptation comes to everyone! In fact, the Bible even tells us that temptation came to King Jesus (Heb. 4:15). He is able to sympathize with us because He was tempted too. Yet, there is one difference between us and the King. He never gave into the temptation (in the context of the stories the Gospel writers are showing us that Jesus succeeded where Adam and Israel failed, and of course where we fail as well). We have given in. Because of that difference, when many Bible teachers come to the story of Jesus’ temptation at the hands of Satan in Matthew and Luke 4, they teach it as if Jesus is our example in how to overcome temptation. How? You beat temptation by hiding God’s Word in your heart so that you don’t sin (cf. Psa. 119:11). Jesus did a good job in AWANA’s as a child and did His scripture memory so that he was able to use the Bible to fight off sin. So, you need to learn the Bible and then you can fight off temptation and sin. But, that’s not the way we are intended to teach the story of Jesus’ temptation. Two reasons: 1) We haven’t hidden God’s Word in our hearts, and we have sinned against him, so we are already guilty before God and under judgment. 2) We CAN’T perfectly hide God’s Word in our hearts and keep from sinning! We have a major problem, and the Bible tells us that the wages of giving into temptation are death and Hell (cf. Mark 9:42-48).

So, the question is, “How is the story of Jesus doing what we could never do good news for us?” The answer is that is the Gospel! He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In fact, the story of Jesus defeating Satan here is parallel to the story of David and Goliath. Jesus is anointed with the Spirit at His baptism and goes out to fight the Devil. David is anointed King of Israel, receives the Spirit, and then he goes to the camp to take on the Philistine Giant. What Israel was unable to do and too afraid to do, David did on their behalf. After their champion took the Giant’s head, then the Israelites fighting from that victory were able to rout the Philistines and put them to flight. We so often want to identify with brave David when we should be identifying ourselves with the cowering Israelites. Jesus, like David, is the champion and hero who fought the battle that we could not fight, but he didn’t fight a Philistine Giant. He fought the Wicked One who wields the power of death, and He crushed his head. That’s how this story is good news.

As Mark Driscoll often says, “He lived the life we could never live, a life without sin. And, He died the death we deserved to die, the death for sin.” So, every time we give in to temptation it should point us to our champion who won the battle we cannot win. If we turn to Him in faith he will save us from sin, death and judgment, because we will be counted before God as living the life that He actually lived! That’s Good News!

The second thing this story teaches us is that those who believe in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit are given a new life where they are now actually enabled to wield the Sword of the Spirit to fight off temptation. We are given a new ability now to hide God’s Word in our hearts and fight off sin and temptation.

The story of our Warrior King crushing the head of Satan and succeeding where Adam, Israel, and ALL have failed is great news. It means that those who have given in over and over to temptation from the glow of a computer screen in the dark, or temptation to yell “I hate you” to your parents, or temptation to let your hands wander in the back seat of a car, or temptation to steal a mid-term, have a hero who can rescue them. They also have a hero who can change them. So, pay attention in AWANA’s, youth group, and when the preacher preaches the word, so that you can hide the word in your heart and do battle with the Evil One, because the victory has already been won!