When George S. Patton was a young cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (1904-1909), he wrote down three rules of engagement in the cover of one of his text books which he followed throughout his military career and his campaigns in WWI and WWII--never hold, never retreat, always take the offensive. Three simple rules of engagement he never wavered from enabled him to become one of the most successful generals in history. When a person finds what works, there’s no need to change.
The same can be said of Satan (no comparison intended) who has used the same three tactics against God’s people since the beginning of time. In 1 John 2:16 we read these words—“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” These are the devil’s three rules of engagement, his three tactics--the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. The devil always attacks through one of these three avenues. This was true in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God. There we are told that Satan questioned whether or not God had really said “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden” (Gen 3:1). Of course Eve corrects him and says that God has said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” To this the serpent replies, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The pride of life—“you will be like God”. The text then says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the desires of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [the desires of the eyes], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
Satan used these same three tactics against Christ in the wilderness during his forty days of fasting (Matt 4:1-11). First, he appeals to the desires of the flesh by tempting him to turn stones into bread, which would have been a tremendous temptation after forty days without food. Next, he appeals to the pride of life by taking Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and saying to him, ‘If you really are who you claim to be, then prove it by throwing yourself down for the Bible says, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ Finally, he appeals to the desires of the eyes by showing him all the kingdoms and treasures of the world and says, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Of course Jesus succeeded where Adam and Eve failed, and all those who followed thereafter.
The point, however, is that from the time of Adam and Eve down to the present day, Satan continues to use the same three tactics with great success. However, in the world of military strategy, knowing what your enemy is going to do gives you a strategic advantage. Knowing is half the battle. The other half is responding appropriately. Thus, in light of the fact that we now know the enemy’s battle plans, what should be the Christian response? First, with regards to the desires of the flesh, pray for contentment, recognizing that “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1Tim 6:6-7). Second, with regards to the desires of the eyes, be careful what you place before your eyes, knowing that the “eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matt 6:22-23). Third, with regards to the pride of life, we need to pray regularly for humility, recognizing that God doesn’t owe us anything. The only thing we deserve from God is hell and eternal damnation. Yet for some amazing reason he chose to save some, to open our eyes to the glory of Christ and enable us to see him in all his beauty. If in this world all we have is Christ, we have more treasure than all the kingdoms of all the earth throughout all of history.