1 Corinthians 10, 1 Peter 1, California fires, Isaiah 14, Isaiah 41, Isaiah 53, Isaiah 61, Jesus begins His ministry, Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus tempted, John 1, Luke 3, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, Matthew 3, Matthew 4, pride of life, Psalm 91, Satan's strategy in temptation, temptation and the Christian
I remember reading a story last year during the annual fires that seem to rage uncontrolled through the forests out west.
One national magazine sent a photographer to take some pictures of the devastation. He was told to go to a certain small airport where a plane would be waiting for him.
When the photographer arrived at the airport he found a plane with engine idling waiting for him on the runway as promised. Hopping into the front seat of the two-seated plane the photographer told the pilot, “Ok, let’s go.”
Once they were airborne the photographer told the pilot, “Now, I want you to fly over the north front of the fire and make 3-4 low-level passes.”
The pilot looked at the photographer and asked “why?”
To which the photographer responded “because I want to get some close-up shots of the fire.”
With a “deer-in-the-headlights look” the man in the pilot’s seat said “you mean you’re not the instructor?”
Assumptions can be very dangerous!
The same thing can be said about the subject of temptation. Assumptions about the cause and/or effect can be very dangerous for your spiritual health.
Consider the thief who just couldn’t seem to stop his stealing. He decided that he needed to pull off one more burglary. Half way through ransacking a house of all it’s valuables he was startled to hear a voice clearly say, “Jesus is watching you.”
The thief froze in place. Slowly he reached for his flashlight and after not hearing anything for several minutes switched it on and scanned the room. Satisfied that there was no one else there he resumed his criminal activity.
Not 10 seconds later though that same voice pierced the darkness again with “Jesus is watching you.”
This time the thief immediately switched on the flashlight and scanned the room. In the far corner was a parrot sitting on a perch watching him.
Relieved and amused at the thought of a talking parrot scaring him, he said to the parrot “What’s your name?” The parrot responded “Moses.”
The thief said, “Now who in the world would name a parrot Moses?”
To which the parrot responded “The same people who would name their Rottweiler Jesus.”
Temptation gets us into trouble every time folks.
It’s a subject we can all relate to. That’s because its part of the human condition isn’t it? There are lots of assumptions out there concerning temptations and most of them are wrong. We’ll talk about this subject today.
Last week we were introduced to John the Baptist. We learned about the need to proclaim God’s truth to our culture and we saw that the message we are to proclaim is repent and be saved for Jesus is coming again.
Our passage today introduces our Lord into the scene and with Him the beginning of the gospel message of salvation in Christ alone.
We could call this passage the coronation of the King. Think about where we have been. Matthew first introduced Jesus by way of:
- His ancestry through His genealogy (1:1-17)
- His arrival through His birth at Bethlehem (1:18-25)
- His adoration by the shepherds and the magi (2:1-12)
- His fulfillment of prophecy through His going to Egypt and returning to Nazareth (2:13-25)
- His announcement by John as the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit (3:1-12)
And now, the beginning of His public ministry – the coronation of our King!
So Jesus “arrived.” This is the same word we saw used in 2:1 of the magi arriving in Jerusalem and in 3:1 when John “came” to preach in the wilderness. You’ll recall that we said the meaning behind the word was that John arrived at his divine appointment to fulfill his divine commission. The same is true of Jesus.
Notice that the verse says Jesus arrived and went directly to John to be baptized by him. From the parallel passage to this one in the gospel of Luke we know that Jesus came to John in a very public way.
“Now it came about that when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized” (Luke 3:21).
Verse 14 tells us that John resisted this idea strenuously. Why? Because John not only knew Jesus’ human identity, he also knew his divine identity. We read these words in the gospel of John related to this same event:
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ (John 1:29-30)
It’s not hard to understand John’s reluctance to baptize Jesus. Remember his words to the Pharisees and Sadducees? “You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
John baptized upon a repentant heart and a confession of sin. How could he baptize Jesus and thus identify Him as a sinner?
We see the dilemma racing through John’s mind in the words “I have need to be baptized by You.”
How did Jesus address this concern and the quandary it appeared to create? By giving a simple explanation in verse 15.
The words it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness imply that it was necessary for the plan of God.
The purpose was for Jesus to completely identify Himself with sinful man. This is exactly what He did in His birth, His life, and His death. So here is Jesus, standing again in the place of sinful man as a picture of the redemption he would bring.
Even in this act we see prophecy fulfilled. Isaiah had declared centuries before that the Messiah would be:
“numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (53:12).
The confirming sign of the “rightness” of this act was the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus and the announcement of the Father that He was pleased in the Son.
It’s interesting to me that God chose to use a dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit. In the Jewish mind a dove pictured sacrifice. How appropriate that God would send a message to all those gathered that Jesus was the Messiah who came to sacrifice His life.
Again, in this act we see prophecy fulfilled as it was Isaiah who said:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (61:1-3).
This sets the stage for the events of chapter 4.
This verse is key to understanding the whole context and application of the temptation of Christ and of temptation in general as it applies to God’s people.
Notice that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. This doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t know how to get to the secluded parts of the Judean wilderness. It means that Jesus was living under the power and the anointing of the Holy Spirit that had openly descended upon Him at His baptism by John.
This was another divine appointment. Jesus purposely went into the wilderness to engage our enemy. He didn’t wait for Satan to come to Him; Jesus took the battle to Satan.
Now here’s the picture. Jesus is communing completely with God the Father. His every waking thought is attuned to the Father and His will for Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus is drawing strength and power during these 40 days. Fasting and prayer has a way of doing that in your spiritual life folks.
But our enemy does not understand this principle. Thinking that Jesus is weakened by His fasting, he decides that at the end of the 40 days and before Jesus eats, he will attack.
The Bible tells us that temptation comes in one of three areas.
- The lust of the flesh
- The lust of the eyes
- The boastful pride of life
1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father, but is from the world.”
We see this same pattern of Satan used in Genesis to deceive Adam and Eve.
Eve saw that the fruit was “good for food.” This corresponds to the lust of the flesh.
Next Eve thought the fruit was “a delight to the eyes.” This corresponds to the lust of the eyes.
Finally, she listened to Satan’s lies and believed the fruit “would make her wise.” This corresponds to the boastful pride of life.
Our enemy employs the same strategy against our Lord in verse 3. Satan is in effect saying, “If God loves you so much why is He letting You starve to death in the wilderness?” Satan was appealing to the lust of the flesh.
Now I want to point some things out here folks because often we get to a place where we start thinking this very thing – that God has left us in the desert. We’re hungry and we don’t know where God is.
Satan’s strategy always depends on deception and we see it here clearly.
First of all, Jesus wasn’t starving to death as Satan implied. He was fasting and praying.
Secondly, God the father had not abandoned Jesus; prayer and fasting brings you closer to God.
Thirdly, remember that Jesus was there by divine appointment.
So the temptation was to doubt God’s provision and to encourage Jesus to use His own divine power to meet His needs.
Satan tries the same tricks with us. How often do we hear “If God loves you so much why are you sick, broke, lonely, depressed, tired, unemployed?”
The first step on the road to deception is when we start agreeing with these questions – “Yea, how’s come all this stuff is happening to me? I don’t deserve this.”
The Bible addresses this issue when it says:
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).
Notice Jesus response in verse 4. Jesus is saying that “it is not food that is the most necessary part of life.”
You see folks, man’s existence, man’s purpose is found only in relationship to God and in obedience to His revealed will for us.
And don’t miss the principle that Jesus introduces here and will repeat twice more – “it is written.” When our enemy comes against us we can respond with the Word of God.
When Satan tries to convince you that you’re not saved, you answer him:
“It is written – if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.”
Remember, your salvation does not depend on your feelings but on God’s promises.
When the enemy comes against you and tells you that you can’t be forgiven of “that” sin, you tell him:
“It is written – There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
When the enemy says you aren’t a Christian because Christians don’t act like that, you tell him:
“It is written – I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”
Satan will try to convince you that you’re a nobody and that God can’t use you. You tell him:
“It is written – as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.”
Brothers and sisters the principle is this – filling your mind with Gods Word; allowing the Holy Spirit to make application of God’s truth in the circumstances of your life is a first line of defense against the enemy.
Having failed in his first attempt to cause Jesus to sin, Satan tries a different approach.
Notice the slight change in the temptation. Satan quoted Scripture – Psalm 91:11-12.
Here’s the temptation – “You claim to be God’s Son so prove it by putting Him to a test to see if He will actually fulfill the Scriptures concerning you.”
In this we see the temptation to the boastful pride of life. Scholars tell us that the pinnacle of the temple was roughly 200 feet high. Throwing Himself off of the temple with all those spectators below would certainly have been quite the show.
These kinds of signs were actually expected though. The Jews believed that the Messiah would perform an authenticating miracle at the temple. Seizing on that knowledge Satan tried to wrap the temptation into a supposed demonstration of God’s goodness and fulfillment of a Jewish expectation.
Sensationalism has always appealed to the flesh. Look around the landscape of Christianity today and you’ll find just about everything imaginable being done in the name of Jesus.
It’s getting to the point today that the more bizarre the teaching and the more bizarre the behavior the more people flock to it as some new thing. But this is a natural result of the pride of life.
Once you create a hunger for “signs” you have to keep feeding the beast. Signs and wonders is an addiction like any other. The more you have the more you want and soon no amount will satisfy.
Many Christians today have left the path of sound teaching and godly living and have become “experience junkies.”
But Jesus would have none of it and responded with Scripture again – verse 7.
Folks here this loud and clear – the most spectacular thing that God could ever do, he has already done:
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
This is why we praise Him; why we worship Him; why all our desire is to exult Him.
But this is also why our enemy comes after us so viciously – because he wants our worship.
Notice the progression of Satan’s attacks:
- What Jesus ought to do for Himself
- What God ought to do for Jesus
- What Satan could do for Jesus
The first strategy of Satan is to get us focused on self. Looking out for #1 is the attitude of many today. If that fails Satan tries to get us to blame God for our situation. And if that fails he tries to convince us to abandon our faith and “go for all the gusto” we can by living according to the world’s rules.
When people fall for this last deception – abandoning their faith and living as the world lives they have unwittingly stopped worshipping God and started worshipping Satan.
In this series of temptations folks, we see the true desire of the enemy. Satan doesn’t care about people at all. He is most interested in being worshipped. Remember his words as recorded by the prophet Isaiah:
“But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (14:13-14).
Getting us to take our eyes off of God is always Satan’s key to victory. In this temptation the strategy was to make the cross void. Jesus could have all the people who He came to earth to redeem in the first place by merely worshipping the enemy.
Satan is all about short cuts, and he wants us to consider taking as many as possible as well.
I’ve heard people over the years say things like:
- You don’t need to attend church to worship God. Lots of people worship God in nature every Sunday.
- You don’t need to read your Bible. The pastor will do that and tell you what it means.
- You don’t need to pray. Other people can do that for you.
- You don’t need to honor God with your money. There are lots of people better off financially than you.
- You don’t need to fill a position at the church. There’s always someone else to work in the nursery, or help in a children’s class.
Let me tell you something brothers and sisters – when you get to thinking like this the next words out of your mouth need to be “forgive me Lord” and then “hit the road Satan” because these thoughts are not of God.
Now, let me pull all of this together and give you some principles to remember from this passage.
- Temptation is inevitable. It’s not a matter of if but when we are tempted.
- Temptation is not sin. Acting on the temptation is sin.
- God has promised to see us through every temptation so it is imperative that we wait on and trust in Him.
- The Christian life can not be lived in a vacuum and it is not stagnant. You are either moving forward in maturity with Christ or you are losing ground and becoming flavorless salt.
These principles are clearly seen in 1 Peter 1:3-7:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;”
God’s strength is our strength. We are not alone. Our Father has told us:
“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My mighty right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).