You close out of the instant message dialogue box that had contained a plethora of nasty jokes about your boss. It had been tempting to add one of your own, but you had resisted. Then, you check your email last time. One message is a Facebook update. One of your friends has liked Miley Cyrus wearing more clothes than usual (but still less than appropriate). It’s tempting to look out. The other update is a link to a “Science” article attempting to prove that God doesn’t exist. The arguments are tempting you to doubt your faith.
You head out the door only to pass by a coworker that you don’t like very much. It’s tempting to frown at him. Then, your boss reminds you that you have reports to finish at home this weekend. It’s tempting to give him a piece of your mind.
You get into the car and turn on talk radio. The conversation is anger. It’s tempting you to get angry. Then, a car pulls out in front of you. You’re tempted to let that anger out. Fortunately, a giant billboard for Victoria’s Secret catches your eye and eases your angry (by tempting you to lust).
Finally, you get home. You’re exhausted. Temptations were everywhere today. It’s nice to be where you are safe.
Then, your phone buzzes. It’s a text message from your friend. A Groupon for ½ drinks at a local bar. It’s accompanied by the simple text: “Don’t B a Loser!”
Temptation is everywhere. In today’s society, that has never been more true. Thanks to technology, shady activities that formerly involved heading to the seedy part of downtown at night, are now accessible from the comforts of your own living room. And it’s always getting newer and more dangerous. New technology needs to new temptations. The iPhone 5 should really called the iTemptation 5!
With temptations everywhere, how is a Christian to survive?
Today we’re going to focus in on part of Jesus’ life when temptation surrounded him. Even though these temptations had nothing to do with technology, I think you’ll see that they are very similar to temptations that you and I face today. But unlike, how you and I deal with them, Jesus deals with temptation in a entirely different fashion that has worlds of meaning for us.
1) Temptation comes in real circumstances.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Immediately, you may notice that Jesus was not in the best condition to face temptation.
He was hungry. He hadn’t eaten for 40 days and 40 nights. Tell me if you’re the same as me, if I haven’t eaten for a few hours, I start to get cranky! 40 days and nights? I can’t even go a few days without a bag of potato chips.
And when humans are hungry, how do they do with temptation? This is so carnal and yet so true. Think about yourself.
*Are you more likely to kindly share the last stack of Pringles, if you are really hungry?
*Does not having enough food help you focus and be productive instead of being lazy?
*Are you more likely to say a happy “good morning” if you haven’t had your coffee yet?
Of course not. Hungry is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Jesus was tired. Not getting the nutrients that his body needed had to leave him tired. Plus he was in the desert. Last I checked there aren’t a lot of Serta mattresses growing wild in the wilderness. How does being tired play into the temptation battlefield?
*Are you more irritable when you get a good night’s rest or when you toss and turn all night?
*Are you more likely to spend time with your kids when you’re exhausted from the demands of work or when you’ve been enjoying a leisure Saturday?
*Is it easier to get up and go to church, when you’ve been out all night partying or when you turn in early?
Tired is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Jesus was alone. There wasn’t anyone else around. Just Jesus. Some trees. Sand. Maybe, a scorpion or two. How does being alone affect the human battle against temptation?
*Does your smart Phone tempt you to look up porn at lunch with your pastor or when you by yourself at home?
*Do you commonly say swears while driving the kids to swim practice or commuting in the car by yourself?
*Do you slip a box of pencils from the supply cabinet while office manager is watching you or when everyone else is busy?
Alone is a real circumstance that puts us in real danger of temptation.
Consider this then: Jesus, was suffering a severe circumstance of all three of these. 40 days hungry. 40 days tired. In the desert, alone! It was the perfect time for the devil to strike. Listen to the three different ways that the devil tempts Jesus. See if they sound familiar.
2) Temptations are real tricky.
Scripture says that The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. Immediately, he plays on Jesus’ situation. “You haven’t eaten in days! Your Father is going to let you die. Why don’t you do a quick miracle and feed yourself? And…maybe…at first glance, that sounds just fine to us. Jesus turned water into wine. Why not stones into bread?
It wasn’t the act itself that would be coated with sin. It was the attitude behind it. Because Jesus was the Messiah! He knew that it was God’s plan to have him suffer and die on the cross not to starve in the desert. He also knew that God would sustain him until then.
Jesus also knew that miracles were for people to see. They were to be see by people everywhere and bring them to faith in Jesus as Messiah. If he did this miracle, it would be selfish and against God’s plan.
Bottom line: The devil was trying to get Jesus to doubt God’s promises.
Has he ever done that to you?
"God won't provide for you. He’s abandoned you. Go ahead and cheat on your taxes.”
“God doesn’t love you. He won’t forgive you. Just drown your guilt in alcohol.”
"God won’t strengthen your faith when you study his Word. That’s foolish. Make church your last priority.”
When the devil has tempted you to doubt God, how have you done?
Jesus listened to God’s promises over the devil’s lies: 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus = 1. Satan = 0.
The devil didn’t give up so easily. Verse 5 tells us that the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Notice how tricky the devil is. This time he uses God’s Word. He quotes Psalm 91. He makes it seem like the good option is for Jesus to show his faith and jump off!
But the devil was twisting God’s Word. God tells us not to be foolish too. Satan conveniently left that out.
Has the devil ever done that to you? He focuses you on one part of God’s Word – which isn’t the whole picture – and gets you to ignore another part?
* God says, “he will spread his word to the nations,” so there’s no reason for me to share it with my friends.
* God says, ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you,’ so I guess I should condone my friend’s homosexual lifestyle.”
* God says, “You are forgiven! So you can do whatever you want.”
When the devil has tempted you to twist God’s Word, how have you done?
Jesus did great. He held to God’s Word – both his promises and his commands – in every aspect. Jesus calls him out: “It is also written: (In Deut. 6:16) ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus = 2. Satan = 0.
Finally, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Notice the outright lie. The devil claims to have power to have earthly authority. He ignores God’s authority. He then promises to give it to Jesus.
This temptation runs deeper than that. For when Jesus had completed the work of his salvation, “God gave Jesus the name above every names, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow.” (Philippians 2) In other words, Jesus would have this authority after completing the Father’s plan.
Listen to the devil’s words again: “Sure, you could have that rule and authority after suffering a viciously cruel death on the cross. Why would you want to do that? I have an easier way. A less painful way. A better way. Bow down. Worship me. It’s yours.”
The devil was trying to Get Jesus to dishonor God’s Authority.
Has the devil ever done that to you? He gets you to doubt that God is in control OR that he’s even the best one to be in control?
*God’s too old fashioned to let run your life. The Bible? That’s hogwash. Modern society says so.
*You don’t need God. You’re smarter than him. He doesn’t have time for you. Why don’t you be in charge of you? Do what you want. Ignore him. Ignore his Word. Ignore his authority.
* You’re sick. Denounce God! Tell him and your family how God doesn’t know what he’s doing. Obviously he isn’t in control OR he just doesn’t care.
When the devil has tempted you to dishonor God’s Authority, how have you done?
Marvel at Jesus. When he was faced with dishonoring God, he refused! Even if it mean that he would suffer and die!In verse 10, Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
Jesus = complete victory. The devil = defeated.
3) Jesus gave real obedience.
Now, this whole section about temptation, probably makes you feel very glum. In a sense, it serves as a reminder of our failures against temptations. (It does for me.) But if that’s where your thoughts remain, Satan is tricking you yet again.
Because this section isn’t about you! It’s about Jesus. Jesus’ and his real obedience.
Notice that he never sinned during the Desert Battle. In fact, when it is over, Scripture says that 11 Then the devil left him,” He didn’t start celebrating. He hadn’t won. He left with his tail between his legs like a dog losing a fight. Then, Scripture says, “angels came and attended him.” Angels who work for God. God who judges how we do with temptation. God who had judged Jesus’ work in the desert as victorious.
But this wasn’t the only time that Jesus defeated temptation. Jesus never sinned during the rest of his life.
* Hebrews 4:15 says, “Our high priest (Jesus)...has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin.”
* 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him (Jesus) who had no sin, to be sin for us.”
* Hebrews 7:26 says, “ (Jesus) meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, and set apart from sinners.
* 1 Peter 1:19 calls Jesus, “A lamb—without blemish or defect.”
This remains true, even during his death. Because that’s probably the only time where Jesus was in worse circumstances than the desert. He was hungry. He was tired. He had been physically beaten. And he was alone – literally attacked on every side by his enemies. Yet, even at that time, Jesus did not sin. He did not fall to temptation.
How do we know? The proof is in the empty tomb.
If Jesus had fallen to temptation – whether in the desert, in the streets, in a house, in the temple, even on the cross, then Jesus would not have risen. He would be suffering the punishment that God prescribes for all sin – hell!
But Jesus came back to life. Meaning that he had no sin AND meaning that his innocent death was not suffering for his own failures. But for ours!
Now we’re going to bring it full circle. Because now we can focus on how:
4) Jesus is our real help.
First, he offers forgiveness for our failures.
He forgives you for the times you have doubted God’s promises. He forgives you for the times you have twisted his Word. He forgives you for the times you have dishonored God’s authority. He forgives you for all the times that you have fallen to temptation.
Trust Jesus. Remember he doesn't sin. Lying is a sin. Therefore, it's the devil who's lying when he says, "You've fallen to temptation too much! You can't be forgiven."
Jesus crushed Satan's head on the cross. He is a whiny loser who can't get over the fact that he lost. Your champion Jesus is the one to trust. A champion who says that “whoever believes in him will be saved!” (Mark 16:15)
Second, Jesus is a champion to turn to.
As we saw today, he dealt with real temptations in the midst of circumstances that put him in real danger of falling. Whatever temptation it is that you just keep falling to, know that Jesus knows what it is like to face that temptation.
But, here’s the difference, Jesus has faced those temptations, but unlike you or me or anyone else in the world, Jesus completely defeated them!
So pray to him! Ask him for help. Ask him for strength. Ask him for guidance. Don’t ignore the opportunity to have help from the One who has mastered all temptation!
Finally, Jesus gives us words to wield.
Notice that every time he was tempted in our text, his reply to Satan was, “It is written.” “It is written.” “It is written.”
Jesus knew that God’s Word is powerful! He used it to thwart Satan’s plans.
You can do that too! It’s why we read Scripture. It's why we hear it. It's why we learn it and memorize it. We take it to heart so that when we are tempted by Satan, we can throw God’s all powerful Word in the devil’s face.
Try it! If you need help locating passages that expose your temptation as the sin it is, contact me. I’ll help you. Then, put those words to memory. And think them. No. Speak them. Shout them at the devil. “I will serve the Lord!”
Friends, it’s a battle out there. On our own, we don’t stand a chance against Satan. But Satan doesn’t stand a chance against Jesus. And Jesus, is on your side. Praise be to God for the one who gives us victory over temptation – now and always! Amen.