June 28, 2014.
I was listening to a sermon on the standard of sin today and the preacher went in to the temptation of Jesus and made some good points. I would like to share one of those points and add a few of my own. I there there are at least four (there are more I’m sure) lessons that we can draw from this story. To give a little bit of background before we jump into the lessons, Jesus has just been baptized by John and God has said from heaven “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased, hear him.” Jesus is about to start His public ministry, but before he starts teaching in the streets, he is lead into the wilderness to fast and be tempted. It was necessary for Jesus to experience temptation (and this was undoubtably not the only temptation he experienced) so that he would know how to empathize with our temptations and weaknesses. This is why the Hebrew writer refers to him as a great high priest. If you want to read the suggested reading now so that you can get the story in mind, go ahead and do that now. Let’s look at four points that I want to highlight about the temptation of Jesus.
1. Temptation came at a high point in Jesus’ life.
This was a point made by the preacher I listened to today that I had never really thought about before.
“In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
If you think about it, this was probably one of the highest points in Jesus’ life here on earth. When we make the decision to become a Christian and are baptized into Christ, that is a very important day for us. It is the start of a new life, a life lived for the Messiah, marking the death we died to the life of flesh and the rebirth into Christ. For most of us, this is a very high point in our walk with God. However, this occasion might have even meant more to Jesus as he was glorified in the process. The voice from heaven signified that Jesus was doing exactly what was in accord with the will of the Father and it let everyone around know that He was the Son of God. But read the next verse:
“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.”
Immediately he was driven into the wilderness. The preacher made the point that God wanted to give Satan his best shot at Jesus, knowing that Jesus could withstand all temptation. Often, when times are good and we feel the most spiritual, we let our guard down. This gives the devil an opportunity to sneak in and lay down a stumbling block. Perhaps God immediately sent Jesus into the wilderness to that the devil had no excuse about why he couldn’t make Jesus fall, having been given the opportunity at a prime time in Christ’s life. I cannot tell you that this is the exact reason he was sent at this time, but it is indeed an interesting point, which ties into the next.
2. The tempter hit the weakest points.
Jesus had been fasting for 40 days. Needless to say, that is a long time to go without food. I can’t really go more than a few hours without something to eat, much less days. Jesus must have been quite hungry. So what is the first recorded temptation made by Satan?
“The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
The devil is intelligent. He knows what he is doing. He is not going to tempt us with things that we are not tempted by. This would be a waste of his time. Jesus was hungry, very hungry, so the devil tempted him with food. Do not underestimate the schemes of the devil. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Corinthian church:
“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”
(2 Corinthians 2:10-11)
We should not be ignorant of the devices of the devil. This would be nieve, and you better believe he will use this against us. I think we often think temptation will be a glaring eyesore and easily spottable. I do not think this would be smart for the devil, nor do I believe he often uses that tactic. There are many subtle ways he tempts us. One of the ways he uses that we don’t think about that often is the next point.
3. The tempter used Scripture.
“And he took him to Jerusalem and 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 will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up,lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Did you notice what he did here? The devil just used scripture. This shows me that Scripture can be twisted and used against the doctrine of Christ. Don’t be so sure that just because someone quotes some Scripture that he or she is quoting it in context or even using it to teach what it should teach. There are many who have twisted Scripture today to make it say what they want it to say rather than believing the truth. The scary thing about this is that these people seem to be followers of Christ. They deceive many, even themselves often. this is nothing new, of course, as Peter warns Christians that some did the same with Paul’s writing even in bible times:
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
(2 Peter 3:15-16)
It is obvious that this is a problem that needs to be monitored. Teaching error is a dangerous business. The best way to fight against this is the same way Jesus did when the devil twisted scripture, which is the next point.
4. Jesus always responded with “It is written…”
No matter what the temptation was, Jesus always had a passage of Scripture to rely on when he was defeating temptation. “It is written.” I think this is a wonderful phrase. It shows that we need to rely on the bible to lead us into truth and life. The word of God is what we should go to when we are tempted. Even when the devil twisted Scripture, Jesus pointed out his flaw by responding with Scripture.
But what does this imply? It implies that we need to have a good knowledge base of Scripture so that we too can defend against the schemes of the devil. How are we supposed to respond if we do not know what is written? How can we follow Christ if we don’t do what He did? I’ve said it before, but I will keep on emphasizing how important it is to read the word of God for yourself and to learn what God is saying. This is a must do for the Christian, there is no way to sugar coat it. To follow Christ, you have to know what Christ said. Jesus knew the Scriptures. This is how he defended Himself. Listen to what Paul has to say about this:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”
We need to have the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God. I hope this has shed some new light on the temptation of Christ so as to encourage you to overcome the evil one. May we all rely on God that he lead us through temptation.
Suggested Daily Reading: Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4, Ephesians 6.
Be strong and courageous.