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“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days, He ate nothing and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.’ Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You and their glory; for this has been delivered to me and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve.’ Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the Temple and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:1-13
Expect Opposition and Temptation
After the dove at the baptism came the devil in the wilderness. When you have the approval of God you can expect the assaults of the devil. Immediately before this time of fasting and tempting in the wilderness, our Lord Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit came down as a dove, the Words of the Father was spoken from Heaven, “This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.”
After Action Reaction
This is a high point. It is almost inevitable after any kind of high point, that there is a low point. Examples abound after some of the greatest achievements, Moses experienced the depths of depression. Elijah after the victorious battle against the false prophets at Mount Carmel, went into depression, he didn’t even want to live. It is not unusual that a great counter attack, or depression, happens after great victories.
There are Dangers in Victory and Opportunities in Defeat
Napoleon said: “A good general should not be unduly elated by success, nor unduly depressed by defeat.” He said this because after every victory, you must be alert as the enemy will be planning a counter-attack. Similarly, after any defeat, you have an opportunity, while the enemy is looting, feasting and celebrating, it is your chance to counter attack. It is natural, what goes up has to come down. When you are climbing up a mountain, you have to know that after that peak, there is another valley, etc.
No One is Exempt from Temptation
What we see in the temptation of Jesus is that no one is exempt from temptation. If anybody thought that as a Christian I will not be tempted, that is foolish. Not even our Lord Jesus Christ was exempt from temptation. We read in Hebrews that He was tempted in all ways like we are, yet was without sin.
Temptation is Not Sin
This reminds us of the teaching in Scripture that temptation is not sin. Giving in to temptation is sin. Martin Luther put it very well: “You cannot be blamed for birds flying over your head, but you are to be blamed if you allow them to build a nest in your hair.”
Entertaining or Giving in to Temptation is Sin
A temptation, or evil thought passing through your mind, is not the problem, if you kick it out immediately. If you open the door, welcome it in, let it sit down, then it is passed temptation, it is now sin. The experience humbles us. We often feel defiled and disappointed in ourselves that we could even be tempted in such things. In Luke 4, we read an example that helps and empowers us and inspires us. When you have the approval of God, expect the assault of the enemy.
Collision and Conflict with Evil is Good, Collusion and Compromise is Bad
In the wilderness, we see a collision between our Lord Jesus Christ and the devil. Collision is good. Collusion is bad. We should not collude, or compromise, with the devil; we should collide with him. “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness...” You can be led into a time of temptation. We pray: Lead us not into temptation… God does not tempt anyone, but He does test us. God might lead us into a situation where the devil tempts us. We also read that no one is tempted from God, but our own evil thoughts tempt us. No temptation comes from God. Being led by the Holy Spirt does not mean that we should expect a clear road without any thorns, obstacles, dangers, or temptations.
Led by the Holy Spirit
Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness and He was tempted for 40 days. During these 40 days, He ate nothing. He was on a full fast. I do not know how many people can survive a 40-days fast, let alone in a hot environment such as the wilderness where shade would have been hard to find. He may have found a cave, or a tree, but there would not have been much shade. Our Lord must have been physically and mentally strong to survive the fast in the desert heat for 40 days. “Being tempted for forty days by the devil… He ate nothing… He was hungry…”
Doubting and Denying the Word of God
As in the Garden of Eden, “Hath God said…” Satan was the first fact checker. The pharisees were also fact checkers, they were absolutely sure that Jesus could not have been the Messiah, that He was not the Son of God. They condemned and betrayed Him to be crucified. They knew better, being religious leaders. They not only doubted, but they discounted His teachings, His claims and His identity. Regardless of what He did: He healed the sick, raised the dead, calmed the storm, fed thousands of people with a handful of food, fulfilled all the prophecies. Yet the pharisees chose not to believe.
Distraction and Distortion
Satan starts off with “if” … he tries to get us to doubt. He does not need to prove anything; he just needs to create a bit of doubt. “‘If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ What is so bad about that? Does it even look that serious? A lot of temptation is taking legitimate desires, but elevating them above the will of God. If God’s will was fasting, then a legitimate desire, like hunger, needs to be suppressed. What is wrong with satisfying your hunger? There is nothing wrong with it, but God may have a prior claim, or higher reasons. There are all kinds of legitimate desires that can be distorted into sin. So, hunger can easily become gluttony. Drink can produce drunkards. Where there is natural affection that should lead to marriage, it can deteriorate into lust, fornication, adultery and perversion. There was a legitimate desire, but it has been taken to an extreme. One may have caution and self-preservation, but if it becomes cowardice, or desertion from duty, it is evil. Cowards are at the top of God’s list for those who will be condemned, into the Lake of Eternal Fire in Revelation 21:8. Self-preservation is good; cowardice is evil.
An Example and Encouragement for Us
Hunger is a legitimate desire, but not for the Lord to use His power in an illegitimate way. He did nothing except what the Father had commanded Him. The Lord on earth was fully man and fully God. Bearing this in mind, this is not the second Person of the Trinity being tempted, this is the Son of Man being tempted, the humanity of Christ was tempted. If Jesus was able to resist temptation as the second Person of the Trinity, as God incarnate, what help would that be to you, or I? Jesus could be tired, hungry and thirsty, so much so that he could even fall asleep in the middle of a storm. Then you can imagine the humanity of Christ was tempted and He was able to resist it as a fully human being with the same grace that is available to you and I, as sons and daughters of the King, as born-again Christians. This is not just us looking and saying well, of course, He can do that, He is God. In His humanity, He was tempted and by grace, He resisted.
Sola Scriptura – The Sword of the Spirit
Satan begins with questioning God’s Word. That is how Theological Seminaries become Theological Cemeteries. The counter attack, how did our Lord react: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ The Scripture is the Sword of the Spirit. This is the weapon of the Word. We are able to take God’s Word and quote it to resist satan. He said “it is written” twice and the third time, “it has been said.” But even when He said that, He is quoting what is written in Scripture. What the Lord does each time when satan temps Him is quote Scripture. It is another good reason for Scripture memorisation. To know the Word of God, is to have the sword of the Spirit, it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God. God’s Word is like a seed, it always produces what it is sent out to accomplish. It is like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces. His Word is like fire that burns within our hearts. So, the Word of God is the weapon we have to use to resist and defeat temptation.
Bible Before Breakfast – Scripture Before Supper
This verse inspired our practise of Scripture reading before lunch. It is an excellent principle, as we are about to have physical bread, which we need for our body, we also disciple the mental and spiritual food that we need for our minds and our soul. Yes, He has the power to turn the rocks into bread. But this is not the time and place. God has a higher purpose right now and He is not going to let His desires, appetite, or aspirations get in the way of the will of God. God’s will is higher and more important.
A Shortcut to Power and Honour
‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ If Jesus jumped off the Temple and an angel caught Him and ushered Him into the Temple, what an entrance, what a triumphal entry! People could see Jesus defying the laws of gravity. There is an angel delivering Him to the very steps of the Temple.
No Shortcuts to Discipleship
Instead of the way of pride, He chooses the way of entering on a humble donkey. He was given a chance to take a short cut. Don’t worry about the suffering, the words of John Newton’s song: “I asked the Lord.” Satan tempts us: “don’t worry about going through the cross, you can go straight to the crown. Take a short cut. Say, I am a child of the King! I demand my rights!” No, our Lord answers: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Our Lord resists every temptation by quoting Scripture and by putting the will of God above what may be legitimate desires, but will interfere with the will of God. These must be denied. Take up your Cross. Deny yourself, forsake the world, follow Jesus.
“Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” We can assume that the Lord was tempted with far more than these three examples. He was continually tempted for 40 days; you can imagine it could have been multiple temptations each day.
The Lust of the Flesh, The Lust of the Eyes and the Pride of Life
This passage speaks of just three: The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. The three categories of temptation in a sense combine them all. The lust of the flesh are things you do with your body: passions of the body which lead to drunkenness, laziness, greediness, gluttony, gossip, immorality, perversion, etc. Where we love sleep, food, drink, more than the Word of God.
The lust of the eyes, have to do with things we see that we want and must have. Bigger and better: phones, cars, houses, more possessions. A bumper sticker said: “The man who dies with the most toys, wins!” When you die, they will just go to someone else! You can’t take it with you to eternity. Unless you have laid up treasure in Heaven, you don’t win at all. The pride of life, is to be with your being, your person: pride, status, fame, fortune, position, face.
Selfishness is the Heart of Sin
The middle letter of pride is “ï”, the middle letter of lie is “ï”, the middle letter of sin is “ï”, the middle letter of lucifer is “ï”. Selfishness, “I” is at the heart of all sin. Existentialism. Me, myself and I is the heart and soul of sin. The new trinity of evil.
Judas and Esau
For such temptations, Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Esau sold his birthright for a plate of food. No wonder God loved Jacob and hated Esau, for having such a bad attitude to despise his birthright, what his parents had given him and how God had placed him, he ignored for a plate of food.
Encouragement and Empowerment
When we look at Luke 4, we see an experience of temptation that should humble us. We also see an example of how Jesus resisted the temptation. This should inspire, help us and empower us. We can be a victor not a victim. Every temptation we give into makes the next temptation harder to resist. Every temptation we resist, makes the next one easier to resist and less likely to give in to. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Fight or Flee Temptation
Think of Joseph in Genesis, who was in Potiphar’s house, being tempted and harassed by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph fled, leaving even his cloak behind him. God knew his integrity; Joseph made a stand. He did the right thing. Joseph said, how can I sin against my master like this and how can I sin against God? God will give you the strength to resist, or the ability to flee from it.
Avoid Situations of Temptation
Sometimes the best form of discretion, is just to flee. Making sure we are not in a place of temptation is the best. The best driver is not the one who can drive closest to the edge of the cliff, it is the one that drives the furthest away from the edge of the cliff. Why entrust your daughter to a driver who likes to show how close to the edge he can drive? Rather be safe and not take those risks. A lot of Christians seem to want to say: “How close can I live with the world and yet still be a Christian and still get to Heaven.” The goal should not be to see how worldly I can be and still be considered a Christian. It should be how holy can I be? How far from the world can I be as I resist and make a stand?
Our Lord was Also Tempted
“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:18. Because our High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ, was tempted, He is able to help us. He understands temptation. We do not have a God, a Saviour, a Redeemer, a High Priest, who cannot understand what it is to be tempted.
Rejoice As you Resist Temptation
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” James 1:2. What is joyful about trials and temptations? The suffering is temporary, but the glory of victory is eternal. Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors. How are we to be stronger, better, able to fight the good fight if we do not know what it is like Pilgrim, to go through the valley of the shadow of death, fight Apollyon; climb Hill Difficulty, be trapped by Giant Despair in Doubting Castle; escape from Bypass Meadow; get out of Vanity Fair, etc. All of these obstacles, which seem grievous and difficult, can make one stronger. At the end, Pilgrim is a soldier in the full armour of God able to resist Apollyon, because of what he went through, which includes failures and defeats. We should count all suffering joy. If you see a lion with battle scars across his face, just remember this shows that the lion was stronger than whatever tried to kill it. “Knowing that the testing of your Faith produces patience.” James 1:3
Purged, Purified, Prepared and Powerful
Like people who have gone through a plague. Ulrich Zwingli came through the plague in Zurich, he suffered from it and though he was going to die. He came out of it, not just physically stronger, but spiritually on fire and launched the Reformation. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
Hard Assignments are a Privilege
This reminds one of Judges chapter 2: God allowed those gentiles to surround the children of Israel, that he might test them to see if they love Him. Sometimes the battles, tests and pressures are a privilege. In the military, a hard assignment is a sign of greater favour, it is an honour. “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the Day of Judgment.” 2 Peter 2:9
Do Not be Distracted, Discouraged or Derailed
Satan knows our weakness and what buttons to press, he knows how to get us off the path, derail us, distract us and discourage us. “Lest satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” 2 Corinthians 2:11
Beware of Being Corrupted or Confused
Satan deceived Eve, by questioning God’s Word, by putting doubt into her mind. “Corrupt and conquer.” “Confuse, divide and conquer.” These are the tactics of satan. “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3
“For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your Faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you and our labour might be in vain.” 1 Thessalonians 3:5. Paul was concerned that the Thessalonians might give in to temptation and that his labour would be in vain, so he sent this message to encourage them to resist temptation. Our counter attack is to submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Greater is Christ who is in us than him who is in the world. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Take up the Sword of the Spirit and the shield of Faith.
Greed and Covetousness Have Catastrophic Consequences
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” 1 Timothy 6:9. This is just another reason why it is so dangerous to be in any church that is a health and wealth prosperity orientated church. It is dangerous for us to have aspirations to be rich, as the Scripture says, those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, a trap and a snare and to many, foolish and harmful desires.
Road to Ruin
We have a good comedy in our video library, a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association film, Road to Redemption. It starts out with a person at work who is convinced that if she “borrows” money from the company and puts it on a horse, since she had insider trading information, that she could double the money, get rich, put back the original sum of money back and nobody would know! The end result was she loses and the mafia comes after her. “You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked.” 2 Peter 3:17
I was on a mission to Ciskei, back in 1993, a guest of Brigadier Gozo. A chaplain from the Ciskei Defence Force was driving me to a meeting and on the way, he stopped and picked up a weeping woman on the side of the road who needed a lift. They were talking the whole time in Xhosa until we arrived at the place where she needed to be dropped off. Afterwards he turned to me and said: “That poor woman!” He started to relate the tragic story. Someone had died in the family and she was entrusted with all the money from the extended family to pay for the funeral. On the way to the funeral organisers, she saw a big billboard sign, “you could win a million!” outside the casino. Temptation overtook her and she thought she could double the money. She went inside and lost everything! Now, the entire family was going to hate her. “Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not walk in the way of evil.” Proverbs 4:14
Promised Paradise but Received Perdition
The billboard sign was dishonest advertising, but that is how the devil works. He promises you Heaven and delivers you hell. We should not be ignorant of satan’s devices. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” James 1:14. “For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error.” 2 Peter 2:18
Deliver Us from Temptation
Temptation comes more from inside than outside. The devil knows what triggers us. The sinful inclinations within us that respond to the devil’s temptations. The ability to resist, or give in to, the temptation is within us. We can destroy our own lives, as we are our own worst enemies, or we can resist the temptation and keep walking by. We can do it, because our Lord did it. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Proverbs 1:10
In the Confessions of a Shopaholic movie, the shopaholic finds mannequins in the shop window irresistible, she goes and compulsively buys whatever is on sale until she learns to resist temptation and walk on by. “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and cares of this life and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” Luke 21:34
Time and again we see good examples in the Bible of those who resisted temptation: Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. We need to have an attitude of: Get thee behind me satan! For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve! “And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” Romans 6:13
“Therefore, take up the whole Armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
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