Temptations seem to be everywhere these days. Luxurious food commercials on TV, lusty billboards, R-rated movies, dirty jokes, etc. The challenge for us all is to overcome these things and to stand up for morality and chastity. So how do we do this? Through sheer will power? Or is there a better way?
The Bible talks about Jesus being tempted in the desert by satan himself. These three temptations concerning the flesh (turn these stones into bread if you are the son of God), the devil (all these kingdoms will be yours if you fall down and worship satan), and the world (throw yourself down from the pinnacle, and let the angels catch you), are the same 3 temptations that we have to overcome every day - those of the flesh, the devil, and the world. Jesus overcame these temptations through prayer and fasting, which is an excellent recipe for us today.
Another parallel to the above 3 temptations of Jesus regards the Israelites in the desert. The Israelites had just come up out of the water of the Red Sea into the desert, where they spent 40 years. Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan River, following His Baptism, and spent 40 days in the desert. The Israelites worshiped a golden calf in the desert, instead of God. Then the Israelites grumbled about food, and God sent them bread from heaven, called manna. Then they grumbled about thirst, and put God to the test. Moses then struck the rock, and out came water. Notice the parallels here with Jesus - satan wanted Jesus to worship him, a false God (the golden calf), the devil told Jesus to turn the stones into bread (the manna from heaven), then he wanted Jesus to put God to the test by jumping off of the high pinnacle (putting God to the test by striking the rock to bring water). Whereas the Israelites failed their 3 tests in the desert, Jesus passed the same 3 tests with flying colors.
Jesus also gave us some great insights resulting from these temptations- "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God" (a prefigurement of the Mass, composed of the liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist), "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" (the sin of presumption), and "Begone satan. You shall worship the Lord your God, and only Him shall you serve" (how many of us worship money, pleasure, drugs, food, etc., instead of God).
Matthew 4:1-11: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you,' and `On their hands they will bear you up,lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Deuteronomy 8:1-20: "All the commandment which I command you this day you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers. And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. Your clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. "Take heed lest you forget the LORD your God, by not keeping his commandments and his ordinances and his statutes, which I command you this day: lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built goodly houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. Beware lest you say in your heart, `My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you this day that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
In the above chapter 8 of Deuteronomy, God tells us all how he operates - He tests us to see if we really love Him. If we don't love Him, and trust in our own strength to save us, then we will perish. And whereas this is referencing the Israelites in the desert, if you substitute the word "heaven" for "a good land" and "modern society" for "wilderness" in the verses above in Deuteronomy, you will see that this also applies to us, who walk in the very dry and arid wilderness of a secular culture. Our serpents and scorpions that could keep us from heaven are the spirit of lust and gluttony we see on TV, the movies, and on billboards. Our thirsty ground is living in a society where many people don't even acknowledge that God exists. So if we want to get to our promised land of heaven, then we need to not go after the false gods of money, sex, drugs, power, and the occult. Rather, just like Jesus, we need to tell satan to "begone" and to worship Jesus Christ only, through his body that He created, the Church.
And notice how the devil left Jesus alone after he had resisted the 3 temptations. James says in his epistle:
James 4:7: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Some people believe that by giving in to the devil, he will leave you alone, when just the opposite is true. So start saying that rosary every day, ask Jesus for Divine Mercy, and start going to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration as often as possible. If you really want satan to leave you alone, then start singing "Hail Holy Queen" or "Immaculate Mary" in your car. He really hates Mary, and flees from her every time, because she is the one human being other than Jesus that he has no power over, even for a second.