Summary: God has a specific goal and purpose for his Church and for each individual Christian. Satan’s intention is to cause the Church and the individual Christian to deviate from that destiny and, in so doing, to thwart the will and design of God.
Living With Purpose
The temptation of Jesus was for the purpose of distracting him from his ultimate goal and purpose in life. And that goal, that destiny, was to go to the cross as the atoning sacrifice for humanity. Satan’s intent in the wilderness was to defeat God’s purpose for Jesus and the means he would use was temptation.
The very name, "Satan", means the Adversary, or the One Who Opposes.
Just as God had a specific goal and purpose for Jesus, he has a specific goal and purpose for his Church and for each individual Christian. Satan’s intention is to cause the Church and the individual Christian to deviate from that destiny and, in so doing, to thwart the will and design of God.
The goal for your life and my life is two-fold: (1) To be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in this life. And (2) to be brought safely into the God’s kingdom at the end of this life.
The first goal is summed up in popular Christian culture by those little bracelets that bear the inscription "WWJD" — What Would Jesus Do?. God wants our lives to be lived so that we reflect the ACTIONS and PERSONALITY of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:29a For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son...
The second goal is summed up in Paul’s second letter to Timothy: For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day... (2 Tim 4:6-8a)
The destiny that every Christian shares is to cross the finish line of death with those words of Paul on our lips: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!
Anything that has the power to lure us away or distract us from that GOAL is temptation. Or to put it another way: Temptation is the persuasive attraction that would cause us to center our lives on something other than God and God’s purpose for our lives. And if we surrender to that attraction the result is SIN and RUIN.
John Wesley asked his mother, the saintly Susanna Wesley, "How do you define sin?" Her reply was perhaps more penetrating that many formal theologians could develop: "If anything weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God or takes away your relish for spiritual things; in short if anything increases the power or authority of the flesh over the Spirit — that for you becomes sin however good it is in itself."
Satan employed three types of temptation to seek to derail Christ in his purpose. We can expect similar temptations. Thus, if we are going to be prepared for this attack we need to look at how Jesus overcame temptation.
1. The first avenue that Satan used to tempt Jesus was that of physical appetite. Luke 4:3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."
Jesus’ purpose was to go to the Cross. If he had begun to give into his appetites at the beginning of his ministry he would have NEVER HAD THE SELF-DENIAL REQUIRED TO FACE THE ULTIMATE TORMENT OF THE CROSS! He would have lost the goal of his incarnation!