1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2 where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them He was hungry.
3 The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to Him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
9 The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.
12 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
A little boy was in a sweet shop one day, and he stood gazing longingly at the contents of an open jar of sweets.
“Now then, young man,” said the shopkeeper as he approached the boy. “What are you up to?”
“Nothing,” replied the boy.
“Nothing? Well it looks to me like you were trying very hard to take a sweet.”
“That’s where you’re wrong”, came the answer. “I’m trying very hard not to!”
Today we’ll be looking at something we all struggle with – temptation.
No matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, temptation is never far away. Sometimes we might feel a million miles from Him and there are other times when we know with an absolute certainty that He is walking right beside us, but temptation is always there.
Someone once said that opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.
I think that we all understand what temptation is and how easily it leads to trouble.
I remember reading one of the little snippets at the bottom of the page in a Reader’s Digest about a man who was shopping with his wife.
She was looking at something on the shelves when a very pretty young lady walked past.
The husband’s eyes followed her, and his wife, without even looking up asked, “Was she worth the trouble you’re in?”
Some of the temptation we fall into might seem relatively harmless, but there are times when we find ourselves trapped and heading down a slippery slope that we know can only bring destruction, but we feel helpless to do anything about it. Even though temptation in and of itself is not sin, we know that it is a very easy step to fall into sin, so we find that not only are we burdened by our sin, but the very prospect of sin, in the form of temptation, can be just as heavy a burden for us.
The opposite extreme is to pretend that it doesn’t really matter. We shrug our shoulders and say, “The devil made me do it,” and we don’t accept responsibility for our actions. Saying that the devil made me do it may sound like a good excuse, but there’s a problem with that: the devil can’t make me do anything.
He may be clever, but he’s not all-powerful.
It may feel that way, however, when we’re dangling on temptation’s hook, because satan has a tried and tested strategy for luring us into his net.
The Bible commentator Charles Swindoll uses the illustration of fishing to describe how satan works to draw us into temptation.
First, he lays out the bait. satan knows people like a skilled angler knows fish. He knows our habits and he knows where we hang out.
Then he prepares a tailor-made lure and drops it right in front of our noses.
Second comes the appeal. He can’t make us bite, but he does know what happens inside us when we catch a glimpse of the bait. Our fleshly nature draws us to it. We linger over it. We toy with it. We roll it over in our minds until it begins to consume us.
Third, the struggle begins. Our conscience starts bugging us, warning us of the danger. We know it’s wrong to take a bite. We may even see the hook partially hidden by the lure – we know the consequences, but it looks so delicious.
Fourth, the temptation ends with the response.
We either resist or we give in. We swim away or we swallow it whole.
Anyone who has resisted knows the feeling of freedom that decision brings. On the other hand, anyone who has yielded knows the feeling of emptiness that follows and the pain of the hook in your cheek.
Today we’re going to see Jesus meet and master temptation.
We’ll see some of the tactics that satan uses to try and draw us away from God.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the episode of satan tempting Jesus, and they all make the point that it happened straight after Jesus’ baptism.
It was here that God spoke and said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”
You will find that testing will often come after a spiritual high point in your life. What this means is that when your faith appears to be strong, it can also be vulnerable and open to attack.
Secondly, it came at a time of physical weakness - Jesus hadn’t eaten in 40 days.
Temptation often comes when we are weak - physically or emotionally – and when we are exhausted or emotionally worn out.
And thirdly, Jesus was tempted when He was alone. We are the most susceptible to temptation when we are alone.
We’re going to look at three types of temptation that satan used to try and tempt Jesus, and he uses the same methods today. The Bible often records the words of satan, so we’ll see what he has to say, and then also how Jesus reacts to each specific temptation.
What we need to know is that each temptation that Jesus faced was real, and therefore by definition, very tempting. This is what Hebrews 4:15 was talking about: “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.”
C. S. Lewis said about temptation: “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good. There is a silly idea that good people do not know what temptation means. That is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is, and Christ, because He was the only Man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only Man who knows to the full what temptation means.”
The first is the temptation to try and do things ourselves.
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Don’t be misled by satan’s words when he says, “If you are the Son of God”.
This is not a supposition but an affirmation.
satan knew that Jesus is the Son of God, so what he was actually saying was, “in view of the fact that you are the Son of God.”
The first temptation would be no temptation at all if Jesus were not the Son of God.
The devil is well aware that God exists and that Jesus Christ is His Son. He doesn’t spend a lot of time and energy denying that fact. Only human beings are that foolish.
He’s happy if we say that God doesn’t exist, but for those of us who do believe in God, satan tries to convince us that God can’t be trusted.
What was he really saying to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3?
“Do you really believe that God is good and that He has your best interests at heart? He has told you not to eat from that one tree because He knows that the moment you do, you will be a threat to Him because you’ll be just like Him. He is not your friend.” In other words, do things your way.
satan’s first temptation of Jesus sounds innocent enough.
After all, what harm can it really do? “Just make these stones into bread. What’s the big deal? You’re the Son of God – just do it. There is no law against turning stones into bread. It won’t hurt anyone.”
Jesus had been without food for six weeks. The temptation was very real, and His hunger was screaming, “Do it.”
satan was telling Jesus that God could not be trusted. There must be something wrong with the Father’s love since “His beloved son” was hungry.
So Jesus replies, “It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone.” Matthew adds, “but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
We often brag that we are people of the Word, but are we really?
The question is not how much of the Bible you know but how much of the Bible that you know are you applying in your life.
Jesus lived by the Word. The key phrase in each of His answers is, “it is written.” He did not allow the situation or the circumstances or even the enemy to dictate the truth.
It is no coincidence that each of Jesus’ answers to all three temptations came right out of Deuteronomy. The backdrop to the book of Deuteronomy is the story of God’s people coming out of Egypt – out of bondage.
Jesus in His answer was saying, “I will not complain. Neither will I take matters into my own hands. I will trust my Father and His Word.”
But the complaint behind the temptation is still very strong. The devil’s ploy is to make us believe that if we want something done we need to do it ourselves, and not to trust God to do it.
There’s a saying that if you want something done properly, then just do yourself, and that is exactly the tactic that satan uses.
We are often tempted to go outside the confines of God’s will to satisfy our personal needs or desires.
We do it ourselves because we’re sure that God won’t.
We scheme and we plan our own well being, because we assume that God does not know about our needs, or if He does, that He doesn’t care.
Secondly there is the temptation to take the easy way out.
“The devil led Him up to a high place and showed Him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to Him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
satan knew that Jesus would ultimately be in control, but what he was doing was offering Jesus the easy way out.
The devil was offering Jesus a kingdom without the cross. Why go to all the trouble and pain to win the world when it can be handed to you on a silver platter? No suffering, no struggling and no sacrifice required.
But satan knows God’s purpose for sending Jesus in the first place, and a crown without the cross would mean that there would be no forgiveness for our sins.
“It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
The world teaches us to avoid pain and to take the easy way - the path of least resistance. Avoid sacrifice.
Why give all that money to the Church when you can spend it on yourself?
Why spend the rest of your life with the same person?
Go out and find yourself someone new – after all you only live once. You deserve to be happy.
If satan can destroy the family unit, he can destroy society with it.
If we are going to be serious about our commitment to Jesus, we have to know that the Christian life can be very hard sometimes, and it will involve making some very difficult decisions.
John Piper says that sin “gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be more happy if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier.”
Victoria Osteen has been in the news recently. She is one of the high-profile false prophets of the deception known as the prosperity gospel. Proponents of the prosperity gospel tell us that God’s greatest desire for us is to be happy. That is absolute nonsense. God’s greatest desire for us is to be holy, and pursuing the path of holiness is not easy. Being faithful to Christ involves dying to self, and satan will always provide far easier and more tempting options for us. Holiness and obedience to Christ is a choice – it does not just happen.
The third temptation is waiting for God to somehow prove who He is before we will trust Him.
“The devil led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command His angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
Having seen Jesus defeat him twice by quoting Scripture, satan now quotes it himself, and makes another tempting offer. For Jesus to have supernaturally survived a fall from the top of the temple in the full view of the people would have immediately identified Him as the Messiah. But what Jesus would have been saying to God was, “show me that you love me.” This is the same as saying to God, “I won’t believe in you until I see you show it to me on my terms.”
What He did say though, was, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Jesus understood that to start His ministry by dramatically jumping from the roof of the Temple would be completely contrary to the will of God. To do so would be to test God, and He refused to take this shortcut.
There are many subtle ways that we put God to the test.
We might not jump from the top of the Church – but we do it in other ways.
We do it when we don’t put the worship of God and involvement in the Church and its ministries as a priority – and yet we expect God to keep blessing us – that is putting God to the test.
We do it when we head down a path of our own choosing and then cry out to God to bail us out.
We do it when we test the boundaries of known sin.
We seem to specialise in flirting with danger.
Why are rollercoasters so popular, and more and more dangerous?
What possesses us to tie a rubber band around our ankles and jump off a bridge?
We like the thrill. Some say it is only when we dice with death that we really feel alive.
And we do that with our spiritual lives too.
God says, “Here is the line,” so what do we do? We see how close we can get to that line, only to be shocked when we fail.
We blame God when the wheels fall off, but we choose to test Him in the first place.
The one thing common to all three temptations that Jesus faced is that they are designed to try and distract Jesus from His mission or destroy His relationship with His heavenly Father. And that is precisely what satan wants to do with our lives. If he can convince us that it’s all about us and our happiness, then he has distracted us from the purpose God has for our lives, and our relationship with Him.
Don’t miss the words in verse 13 – “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time.”
When it says that the devil “left Him” the original Greek says that he “stood off.” This battle was over but he had not given up.
Margaret Thatcher once said, “You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.”
What this means is that satan will always be lurking in the shadows - watching, waiting for the next vulnerable moment. Remember, opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell.
When you are weak – expect a major assault.
When you resist – be ready for a different approach.
When he leaves – count on another attack.
Martin Luther was once asked how he overcame the devil.
He replied, “Well, when he comes knocking at the door of my heart, and asks ‘Who lives here?’ the dear Lord Jesus goes to the door and says, “Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. Now I live here.” When Christ fills our lives satan has no place there.
There are two lies satan wants us to believe:
Just once won’t hurt.
Now that you have ruined your life, you are beyond God’s use, and might as well carry on sinning.
Occasionally, by God’s grace and in His strength we are able to defeat and resist temptation, and those are times of great victory in our lives. Resisting temptation strengthens our faith tremendously. But what happens when we don’t?
What about the many times that we fail, and find ourselves caught up in sin?
The first thing, and the most important thing to remember is this: Jesus Christ died for your sin. If you remember only one thing from this morning, let it be this. Jesus died for your sin, and as a result of that He took the blame, the guilt and the punishment so you don’t have to. Romans 8:1 says that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
The burden of shame that comes through temptation and ultimately manifests itself as the burden of sin, was carried on the cross by Jesus.
The second thing to remember is that there is a fundamental difference between condemnation and conviction of sin.
Occasionally when you face temptation, God by His Spirit will give you the sense of a tremendous burden in your heart. This does not mean He is condemning you – far from it, because condemnation is what satan does. What God is doing at times like that is convicting you of something in your life that needs to change. He is challenging you to turn whatever it is over to Him, so that you will be able to live your life more fully for Him.
Remember, God’s greatest desire for us is that our lives would be holy, and by His grace, and through the sacrifice of Jesus, He makes this possible.
Temptation and its devastating consequences when we give in is something we all struggle with, but that is precisely why Jesus came. He came to give His life, so that in Him you can find yours once more.
In a moment we’ll be singing a wonderful song written by Graham Kendrick. As you sing the words, allow God to speak to you and remind you of His love for you.
We all know that temptation and sin are not the same thing, yet there often seems to be some confusion when separating the two.
Why do you think it is hard sometimes to tell the difference?
In which ways have you confused temptation and sin?
Read Luke 4:1-13
Discuss in your group the tactics that satan used when tempting Jesus.
How have you experienced the same challenges in your life?
What about Jesus’ response to temptation – how have you used the truth of God’s Word to defend yourself when fighting temptation?
Discuss the differences between condemnation of sin and conviction of sin.
If you feel able, share with your group the circumstances of an ongoing challenge in your life, how you feel that God wants you to respond, and how hard it is to conform to His will for you.
How have you felt His grace carrying you through times of temptation?
Giving in to temptation means basically putting our own interests ahead of others. Selfishness is often a motive when making bad decisions with little or no regard to the consequences.
What has God done and what has He given us as tools to help us in our ongoing fight against temptation?