Jesus experienced temptation of every kind and was able to overcome. His example teaches us what we need to know in battling temptation and rising above it in our own lives.
Prayer: Gracious God “We know that we are not immune to the temptations of life. Remind us of how you feel about us. Protect us from the dead-end road of worldly gain and keep our eyes on the eternal reward. Help us to practice patience, delayed gratification, simplicity, and sacrifice that we might experience fully the life you have planned for us. Amen.”
We are talking about temptation today. If you are watching/listening at home you could go get something that is tempting to eat or drink at this time, but don’t eat or drink it just place it in front of you. I have M&M’s here and I gave M&M’s to our pianist and our cameraman, they aren’t allowed to eat it just is going to be there in front of them and me tempting us to taste it.
As we walk through our Lenten journey our lives can sometimes feel like they are a disappointing pile of ashes. We can be broken, shattered and destroyed. Our lives, no matter how bad before, are never irredeemable. Or said another way, you are not broken beyond repair.
In and through Christ, you can rise above the ashes and experience an abundant life.
We will see that this isn’t just about those who are broken and shattered - this is for anyone who wants to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ. Each week we will look at one aspect of Jesus’ life and ministry during His time here on earth and what we can learn from Him.
We begin this week with a conversation about temptation. Did you know that immediately preceding the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, he experienced a 40-day period of temptation?
While resisting the temptation of free chocolate or whatever it might be, you know that resisting temptation when it is right in front of you is difficult, can you even imagine a persistent and prolonged season of it? And, as an added bonus, the person overseeing your temptation is none other than the devil himself? I cannot even imagine what this would have felt like, looked like, or been like to endure. And yet, this is the exact scenario that Jesus had to overcome.
We begin today with a look into this season of Jesus’ life and how we can learn from and be encouraged by the fortitude of our savior.
First and foremost today we all need to acknowledge that temptation should be expected in our lives. We all experience temptation each and every day. No one is immune from the desires to have things or do things that do not align with the way of Christ.
Temptation comes in many forms, and in many ways it can seem innocent enough. Sneaking in some social media time at work, binging that extra show on Netflix, shaving a few dollars of income off your tax return… In the eyes of many these don’t seem like huge problems, Song of Solomon Chapter 2:15 reads “Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards, for our vineyards are in the blossoms. So believe me, when I say that the temptations and desires behind these actions can grow into big problems.
This can lead to things that we all would agree are devastating; Broken marriages, ruined relationships, losing your career, ministries closing down, the list goes on and on.
It does us no good to pretend like we are immune to temptation. Or to think that we can handle things on our own. Listen to what 1 John says about walking in the light;
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Today, let’s begin by confessing and acknowledging that we all deal with temptation in our lives and that there are times when we follow temptation down paths that are neither Christ honoring nor consistent with our heavenly citizenship.
So, how do we manage temptation? How do we respond to temptation? How do we model the fortitude and endurance Jesus had?
It begins with our identity
Before we look at the temptation of Christ in Matthew chapter 4, we need to talk about the event that immediately preceded his 40 day temptation in the wilderness.
Let’s Matthew 3:13-17, The Baptism of Jesus;
“13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.
The baptism of Christ is an incredibly significant moment for many reasons. But for us today, I want you to focus on verse 17 when God says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Notice God didn’t say, “Good! Now go and fulfill your destiny on Earth!” Or, “This is my son, watch out Satan and demons and all the other spiritual wickedness because He’s coming for you!”
No, none of that. He simply said, this is my Son. And we know God loves His son and is pleased with Him.
This is Christ’s identity. He is the beloved Son of God.
And this is such a powerful reality that when Jesus is drawn into the wilderness this is the very first thing that Satan tries to call into question. He tries to tempt Jesus out of His identity and position. Look at what He says, in Matthew 4:3 “The tempter came and said to Him, If you are the Son of God…
For Jesus, the tempter said, If you are the Son of God. For Eve, in the garden it was, Did God really say…
What does this voice sound like in your life? If you really were a Christian you wouldn’t… If you really loved God you wouldn’t… If you were only more like x, y, or z… If you were really saved you wouldn’t be suffering like you are...
The questions may be different for all of us but the motive is always the same. The motive is to get us doubting our identity and position, AND get us doubting who God is, what He said about us.
When dealing with temptation, always remember who you are and whose you are; A beloved child of God.
Okay, so now we’ve all agreed temptation is something everyone deals with. We also realize questioning our identity is a primary tactic of our enemy. So, let’s look at the three specific areas Jesus was tempted while in the wilderness.
Have you ever been really really hungry? Or as they call it now Hangry, where you are just so hungry you get angry because you just need to eat and nothing will help you until you eat something and that growling in your stomach stops and your head stops hurting and you calm down and smile again. Have you ever been that kind of hungry?
Imagine how hungry Jesus must’ve been after his 40 day journey in the wilderness. It’s just cruel that Satan would come to him, question His identity, and then challenge Him to turn stones into bread.
Honestly, if you had the power to turn stones into Cheeseburgers or Chick-fil-a chicken sandwiches how difficult would it be to stay true to a 40 day fast?
But aside from bread and cheeseburgers, what was really going on here? What was the underlying need Satan was trying to manipulate? The need Jesus had, (that we all share) is a need for provision. It was food in Jesus’ case, but for us it’s finances, clothes, a home to live in, and so on.. However, in all these things we look to God, the benevolent creator of the cosmos and we trust He will supply all we need.
Philippians 4:19 says
19 And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
A good shepherd will always supply for the needs of his flock. A good Father or Mother will always supply for the needs of his children.
We have a good shepherd, a good father/mother , and we can trust our needs will be met.
We find the second temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4:5-7 “5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
This temptation of Jesus seems to be focused on inviting Jesus to test God’s protection of His beloved son. Jesus, having confidence in the care and concern for His well-being by God, saw no need to do such a foolish thing. In fact, Jesus brings up a very important principle, that we should not test the Lord.
But if we’re honest, we often feel tempted to do foolish things simply because we know God is a God of grace, and He can pick up the pieces of a bad decision.
Yes, we know He will protect. Yes, He can work all things for the good. Yes, He is omnipotent and nothing can derail His will.
But sometimes you simply need to say “NO” to the voice of temptation in your life. And if you’re in a precarious situation, then give some time to prayer, call some trusted counselors and advisors, and exercise caution and wisdom through your decision making.
Psalm 46:1 SAYS “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” We find the third and final temptation in Matthew 4:8-11 it says “8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.”
This third and final temptation is for Jesus to worship Satan, and in doing so, He would receive dominion over all the kingdoms of the world. It seems like an easy enough choice, but for some, the temptation for position and power is overwhelming.
We are often given a choice to worship something other than God in order to get ahead or receive worldly gain. The significance that comes from worshipping an idol of any kind is temporary and temporal.
We too must choose to worship God alone and trust in the significance that can only come from our relationship to Him.
As a beloved son or daughter of the most high King, you will inherit an eternal kingdom and it cannot be shaken. Oftentimes we forget or look past this reality as believers and get distracted by worldly gain.
But truth be told, the best is yet to come. And your eternal position is greater than any promotion your boss can give.
When feeling tempted in this area, try to keep things in perspective;
Matthew 6:33 says:
33 “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
One glaring thing was consistent every time the devil tempted Jesus;
Jesus responded with scripture.
The Word of God is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 says;
Hebrews 4:12 12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
As we journey together this Lenten season, I’d like to encourage you to commit to daily time in the word. Making this a daily habit can literally transform your life. You could read a Proverb every day, jump into a chronological reading plan, or simply read 2-3 chapters every day starting in Matthew 1 and going through each gospel.
You could give up your evening TV time for the word. You could set your alarm 30 minutes early for the word. You could read the word over breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Carve out some creative ways to spend with Jesus and His word?
Let’s make no mistake my friends. The tempter isn’t going to take the Lenten season off in preparation for Easter Sunday. And He definitely doesn’t want your faith and knowledge to grow in response to the word of God.
But here’s what we know, if scripture was sufficient for Jesus, then it is for us too. Amen