The Temptations of Jesus
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 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.
The Holy Spirit was in charge——and yet He led Jesus to a place where He was “tempted”. For what purpose? I believe that this happened for us as well as for the Son of God. Jesus, the perfect man, was tempted and tested, and ordeal was recorded for our encouragement and help! If the a 100% sinless man is tempted, don’t feel like you’re a failure if you are tempted. You’re in great company! God does allow us to be tempted—-for our own good. When you resist the tempter and walk away from that temptation, you’ll know that you do have the power to say “no” to sin and “yes” to God.
“The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’”
Satan does not tempt us to deny God, but to doubt God’s goodness and care for us.
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Let me add that we are to work and not merely wait for God to send angels to feed us, but we work trusting that God will bless us and send angels if needed. But you see how Jesus slapped Satan down with scripture—-i.e. truth, not a distortion of truth. Beware of any pastor, podcast, or writer that distorts the Bible, as Satan did, to push his/her agenda. Let the Word of God speak and convict you, but don’t let others try to convince you of things that you know are wrong with bits and pieces of scripture.
“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 splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’”
Satan has been given authority on this earth?—-and permission to tempt us to sin?. Yes, he has. But why does God permit Satan to have this power?! I think that the answer is found in what we call “free will”. God desires that we choose to trust in Him and yield to Him. But in order to choose Him, there’s go to be an alternative. That alternative is Satan——of course few of us deliberately set out to follow the devil, but when you listen to his lies and deception and succumb to his temptations, you are in fact making a choice of who is the master of your life.
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Jesus response: It does not matter what you offer me. My singular focus is to obey Him. Jesus was proclaiming: “I intend to please Him now matter what you offer.” Satan does not tempt us with garbage, but with pretty things and nice feelings!
“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.’” Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, Satan technically told the truth——but used scripture out of context. Jesus put the matter straight. You and I can also use the Bible to justify just about anything we want, but are we testing God by reading into scripture what was clearly not intended? Are we making sure that we are praying before we take that action to be sure it’s in-line with God’s plan and what a man/woman filled with the Holy Spirit would do?
Jesus knew what G. K Chesterton wrote about 2000 years later in reference to temptation. Once you yield, you’ve lost more than that one small battle. “Yielding to a temptation is like yielding to a blackmailer; you pay to be free, and find yourself the more enslaved.” Had Jesus given in to temptation more than the battle would have been lost—-He would have been a slave to future temptation as well—-and Satan would have been quick to point that out each time he tempted Jesus in the future. The devil just wants to get his toe in the door—but then he’s becomes a very unwelcome guest nearly impossible to kick out!
Bonhoeffer once said that, "The deceit, the lie of the devil consists of this, that he wishes to make man believe that he can live without God's Word. Thus he dangles before man's fantasy a kingdom of faith, of power, and of peace, into which only he can enter who consents to the temptations; and conceals from men that he, the devil, is the most unfortunate and unhappy of beings, since he is finally and eternally rejected by God." Yield to temptation and you’ll soon understand a bit of how unhappy life can be.
“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.”
But Satan tempted Jesus again——-just as he tempts you and me throughout out lives. Even at the end of his life, Satan tempted Jesus. That last temptation, in my opinion, took place in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane when the choice was between his life and the path marked out for him by the God. But Jesus did not yield to self pity, His prayer ended with, "not what I will but what thou wilt” (Mk. 14:36).
Think of the similarity, 1500 years earlier, when for forty years, Israelites wandered through the desert —and they were also tempted. Sometimes they passed the test, at other times they did not. It was a time testing and temptation (Deut.8:2-5).
Likewise, Moses spent forty days on the mountain (Ex.24:18) and was tested by God. The number forty represents important and momentous times when God moves His people and prepares them for something extraordinary.
This is my 40th year of running my own camp and ministry….I have felt that I too have been in the wilderness, the desert, on a mountain….lost with God. Sometimes I believe I have passed the test, and because of my own weaknesses sometimes I have failed. And yet, He has not given up on me. It is a blessed thing to know that no power on earth, no temptation, no human frailty can dissolve what God holds together. (Bonhoeffer)
There are some that believe that trust in God means taking foolish chances and taking not using good judgment. I trust in God, but if I I am walking on a busy street and see cars flying by, I trust in God but I also trust in physics and God’s laws of nature. If I am careless and walk in front of a Mac truck, I am going to die. Trust in God can be misused, Satan knows that, that’s why he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple. There is a false trust which attempts to manipulate God for ones own purposes and trade on his care. It was an attempt to blackmail God. "All right, I trust you, but you must save me if I jump." Our temptations aren’t likely to come to us from Satan in the desert. But he tempts us, just as he tempted the Son of God and the saints of old, with those things that we consider important or essential to a good life. The devil wants us to be anxious about upon food , security, safety, status, ambition, respect from our fellow man. These aren’t bad things——but getting them his way is bad. This is what folks like Jorge Santos, Vladimar Putin, and most political leaders forget. The end result is not nearly so important, spiritually speaking, as the path, or means you took, to get there. In the end of Christ’s temptations, after all the temptations were over, Jesus accomplished far more than what Satan offered! He was fed by attending angels, for crying out loud! His Father was pleased with Him and exalted Him. Because Christ overcame Satan, one day every knee will confess that He is Lord. Oh yes, He got much more than what Satan could ever offer! And the same is still true. Who are you listening to that is tempting you to ignore God?
It’s been said that, “no man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is going around that good people do not know what temptation means—they’re never tempted. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.” After all, the Ukrainians found out the true strength of the Russian army by fighting against it, not by surrendering to them. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why lost people, in one sense, know very little about being lost — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: 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 —and how to defeat it.
Let me close by suggesting to you that succumbing to temptation does not mean you’re going to hell, it means you’re just as weak as most folks around you. It’s common to surrender to temptation——it’s quite uncommon to be able to tell the devil “no” each time he come with a challenge.
But I’ve observed in my life, and the lives of those I am close to, that one of the primary ways we justify our defeat is self pity. He tempts to do something we ought not to do, or to not do what we know we should do, and we don’t resist because of self pity. We claim that we’re tired, we’re just worn out, we’re too old, someone really hurt our feelings, I am not properly appreciated or applauded, and so on. I lost a good friend this past week, whom I am sure had her faults, but one was not self-pity. I would dare say she suffered as much, or more than anyone I know of, but she never allowed self pity to keep her from church, or Bible study, or taking care of her husband, or keeping a smile on her face.
Satan tempts us to give up——-God challenges us to look up…….and thereby inspire others to look to Jesus for the strength and the power to overcome selfishness and self-pity.