Introduction: (Please open your Bibles to Matthew 3:16)
This morning we are going to take a minor detour from our study of the book of Deuteronomy and look at the passage in Matthew chapters 3 and 4 which describes Jesus facing temptation in the wilderness.
And we’re going to do this for at least two reasons:
The first reason lies in the fact that all 3 times that Jesus responds to Satan’s temptations he uses scripture from the book of Deuteronomy.
You may be tempted to ask the question “why are we studying a book that was written 3400 years ago?”. The short answer to that is that it’s part of holy scripture, the eternal, infallible timeless word of God. It has application for our lives now just as it did when Moses first wrote the book.
But it is encouraging that our Savior, when he was in one of the biggest temptations of his earthly life, uses words from this book that had been written over 1400 years before the incarnation, his birth. He took the word of God which is called the sword of the Spirit and he used it against Satan.
And secondly, we want to use this occasion to talk about temptation. Because for the Christian temptation is a big deal. It’s one of the top challenges we face every day when we wake up. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the day before was. We will be tempted by the world, the flesh and the devil.
We are all tempted each day with little temptations and sometimes with bigger temptations. We all daily face the little annoyances of life - we’re tempted to sin against one another in our thoughts, words and deeds.
We can also be tempted to sin in ways much more serious. Paul mentions some of these in Galatians 5 when he lists the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness and orgies.
Paul does not try and paint an unrealistic picture of the Christian life and the things that Christians will be tempted in. In Colossians 3:5, he mentions some of the same sins and then adds in verse 8, but now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
The Apostle Peter adds to this warning in his 1st epistle: (Do you ever)
"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." (I Peter 2:11)
So we face little temptations and big ones and everything in between. We live in a fallen world and we have old fallen natures and so living in this age for the Christian is a battle. It’s a battle against temptation to sin and if we want to be fruitful as believers we must fight to resist temptation:
This in itself is an evidence of grace. You may not always be winning the battle but are you fighting the good fight? Let us look to our text to see how Jesus resisted Satan and his temptations.
Facing temptation is one area where it is appropriate, maybe not to ask “What would Jesus do?” but to ask “How did he do it?”
We don’t want to think we’re called to exactly imitate Jesus’ life (40 daysand a face off against Satan is a unique calling), but we are called to emulate how he did it.
What we see in this passage is that Jesus overcame Satan and his temptations through the power of the Spirit, by using the power of the word of God and by the power of living for the glory of God.
B. Resisting Temptation By the Power of the Spirit and Prayer:
Obviously, our goal here is to grow in the grace of resisting and defeating temptation. But another goal which really should be the goal of every sermon and of life itself is the exaltation of Jesus. For the Christian growing in our love and appreciation and worship of our Savior is vital and one of the ways we do that is to grow in our thankfulness for all he went through in his earthly life on our behalf.
So often, we can read the gospels and just take Jesus for granted, and not realize or appreciate what he has done.
And our text is an example of that. Here we have the Son of God coming to earth and laying aside his kingly crown and taking up the role of a servant. An obedient Son who came to do his Father’s bidding. And in our text the bidding was to be tempted by Satan. And he was willing to do so because of his great love for the Father and for us. So how did he face these temptations and defeat Satan in the wilderness.
Well one was by the power of the Spirit. Our text tells us that the Spirit descended and rested (coming on him) upon him. Jesus, as the Son of God was one person with two natures; one human, one divine. Now having said that, we have automatically swum to the deep end of the theological pool.
And we don’t really have time to go down deep into those waters but what I do want to bring to our attention is that Jesus’ ministry on the earth was done not by his divine nature but by the power of the Holy Spirit.
"Every other act upon Christ’s human nature was from the Holy Spirit. Christ performed his miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit not immediately by his own power… Christ’s humanity, both body and soul does not get lost or “gobbled up” by his divinity. Because of this Christ’s humanity needed the Holy Spirit in order to have communion with God. His prayers to God were never simply the prayers of a man nor even the prayers of the God-man to the Father; but more specifically they were the prayers of the Son of God to the Father in the power of the Spirit." - Mark Jones
Jesus lived as a dependent man. Dependent on the power of the Spirit to live and minister. Luke 4:1 tells us he was full of the Spirit. And so just like Jesus we need to be full of the Spirit and dependent on him to live and minister. We need the Spirit for all of life. And this includes the Spirit’s power in our fight against temptation.
Now this is where it gets a little tricky. Verse 1 of chapter 4 tells us that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
James 1 informs us that God himself tempts no one. Temptation is from the world, the flesh and the devil. God providentially uses these 3 enemies and their temptations for our good. He allows temptation to come into our lives but he wants us to be wise and prudent when it comes to dealing with it.
Temptation is an invitation to do evil and we should respond appropriately to that danger by the following options: 1) Flee it 2) Pray that we don’t enter into it. 3) Don’t put yourself in a situation where you will be sorely tempted; deal radically with those type of circumstances to avoid temptation. These options fall into the category of don’t give your enemy an opportunity to easily defeat you.
But there are times we are called to stand and fight against our enemy in the power of the Spirit. And that’s what we see happening.
Jesus was a man full of the Spirit and he was also a man committed to prayer (40 days)- I believe those two are connected to one another and to overcoming temptation. We might ask... Spirit filled life is one rooted in desperate prayer; one in which we are constantly calling out to the Lord for power to overcome temptation.
"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death." - Hebrews 5:7
"And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." - Luke 22:44
Physical condition caused by emotional stress. The capillary blood vessels are ruptured. Man of sorrows what a name/For the Son of God who came/Ruined sinners to reclaim what a Savior.
He resisted temptation through the power of the Spirit in prayer and he calls us to as well:
We overcome temptation in part by being filled with the Spirit as we call out to God in prayer: Matthew 26 says, "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Why do we give into temptation so often?)
Matthew 6 says, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Is this a regular petition (lead me not) in your life? It should be! Even when we are doing (or at least feeling) fine we should be praying this for ourselves and those close to us
Why? Because we live in a fallen world and we are fallen people. It’s not a magic wand that will protect us from never being tempted but it is a means of grace that we should take advantage of. It’s rooted in a desperate and wise and humble understanding of our state. (Though in the Spirit...)
Are we praying daily and regularly to be filled with the Spirit? Are we praying with great earnestness in regards to the great temptations in our lives? The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses
We live in a culture that thrives on quick answers to our problems. And if you’re like me (skimming articles)…
This area is one area we can’t skim. We are talking about life and death. Joy or sorrow. Fruitfulness or emptiness. Big issues-require effort and we can’t get away.
Our text tells us that Jesus was fasting and that is another tool we can employ along with prayer. We may not fast 40 days but skipping one or two meals and specifically praying during the time we normally would be eating may be what is needed to help break the power of temptation over us.
Dealing with temptation is serious and we must use the weapons of our warfare that Jesus modeled for us and the second way he did that is:
C. We Overcome Temptation By The Power of God’s Word:
In all three of the temptations that Satan puts before Jesus, each time he responds with “it is written”. He used the scriptures from Deuteronomy against Satan.
There’s many things we could say about how we should use God’s word when being tempted. Let me start by asking us a few questions: (a little more time on this section).
Is it your daily bread? That is it your daily or regular sustenance? Matt 4:4 tells us that we don’t live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
It’s our daily bread. For the Christian it is one of the main sources of our spiritual strength. This is where strength comes from…
Are you sprinkling your life with it?
"May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb." (Deut 32:2)
Are you finding different ways of having God’s word sprinkled in your life - through reading, study, meditation? Often times we don’t, not because we’re too busy, but because we haven’t take the time..
Are you hiding it in your heart and mind? Deut 30:14 sasy, "But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it." Call to mind/building a reservoir.
Are you having regular conversations with yourself thru the word of God. This is a big part of renewing your mind and is to be an ongoing activity. It’s where we instruct our hearts and minds and this is the way walk in it.
There are so many voices out there both internal and external. Is God’s word for you the primary voice and influence in your life. Is it what you are feeding on?
Third, are you using it as a sword? A sword of the Spirit against the temptations that Satan and your flesh and the world put before you. Strong temptations and impulses must be met with a strong reliance on the clear word of God. Jesus answered Satan each time with scripture that was hidden in his heart and mind, it is written. He was ready for the battle. We have formidable foes
Are you using it as a word of grace?
John 1 tells us that the law came through Moses…
If we just use God’s word as the law (thou shall not) it does give us motivation but I think our power is limited. The power comes from his promises.
The word of God instructs in the way that we should go and it also gives us promises to trust in so that: Future grace.
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (I Corinthians 10:13)
The Christian life is a life of faith including faith in the promises. So what are the promises of God that you are negligent in concerning...
The last question is are we using God’s word as a scalpel?
If we’re ignorant of what we are being tempted in we will be lacking in grace to overcome it.
Sometimes we fail in fighting temptation because we haven’t worked hard at understanding where we are being tempted. We haven’t let the word and the Spirit examine us in our temptation especially in area...
If there is someone at work that you have “negative feelings” toward have you examined those “negative” feelings? The why question needs always to be asked. (envy; judgmental; lack of love/acceptance) said to your soul “what does God’s word say about this situation?”.
This verse in Hebrews 4 illustrates that we need to use scripture as a scalpel in our mind and heart:
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)
D. Overcoming Temptation By Living For The Glory of God:
So the first two points had to do with tools of grace that Jesus used and that we should use in our fight against temptation. This last point can be seen as a tool but I like to see it more as the motivation that empowered our Savior to resist temptation and should be our motivation as well.
Everytime that Satan tried to tempt our Savior Jesus responded in a God centered way. Our series in Deuteronomy is titled “God: The Center of it All”. And Jesus is modeling that for us.
In the first temptation it says that after fasting 40 days Jesus was hungry.
And then Satan comes and suggests that he turn stones into bread.
Satan is also named the tempter. He looks for opportune times to tempt us. He’s not stupid. He’s been doing this for a long time. I Peter tells us that he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (Need to be aware of Satan’s schemes)
Jesus' response was man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He was basically saying that there are things more important than even one’s physical hunger. In fact in John 4 he told the disciples that his food was to do the will of the Father.
In the second temptation Satan tells him to throw himself down and the angels would catch him...Okay Mr. Bigshot. Satan is not stupid or dumb.
Jesus’ response was that it was sin to put the Lord to a test. He wasn’t interested in proving his own importance. He put the Father’s will above his own. He cared about his glory.
And in the third temptation Satan shows him all the kingdoms of the world.. if he would bound down and worship him.
Isn’t that what temptation is really about? Worship? The world, flesh and the devil all come to us and whisper in our ear: ”This guilty little pleasure you want, just bow down to me and it will be yours."
And that’s what’s happening when we give into temptation. We are doing what Romands 1 states that we exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.
This temptation especially got Jesus' righteous anger stirred up and he said to the devil be gone Satan. He had had enough!
See for Jesus there was something greater than his own importance, his own fame, his own agenda and pleasure and glory - it was living for the glory and pleasure of God. And that inner disposition gave him motivation to overcome temptation. And we are called to do the same.
“Nothing in our conduct should obstruct God’s glory from being reflected in us. That is, in everything we do and say no matter how insignificant, the world should be able to see that we are God’s people. Exalting God’s glory ought to be our chief purpose in this earthly life.” - Simon J. Kistemaker
And this is what the book of Deuteronomy calls us to. Over and over again Moses keeps reminding the Israelites of their special honored call of being God’s people. Here is one example of that:
"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." (Deuteronomy 7:6)
Now you might ask, “Mike how does that practically help me in resisting temptation?”. Proverbs tells us that without vision we run amuck. Vision motivates us gives us purpose in life and God’s glory is the hightest and best motivator that we could ever have.
I think all of us desire to be motivated by the glory of God but the flesh is weak so how do we cultivate that? By grace! You can’t manufacture it. It must be by the instruments of God’s Spirit as we seek him in prayer and ingraft his word into our souls..
But here are some suggestions:
Ask to purify your motives. And don’t worry, the Lord is in the purifying business. He is often working in our lives to reveal to us the motives of our heart. “Why am I doing this?” Is it for my glory or God’s? God is in Invite him, be aware and cooperate with him as he regularly works that way in your life.
Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. For myself I have found that most growth in the Christian life doesn’t primarily come by “big moments”. I’m not against big moments.
But I think most growth comes from the day in and day out consistent or even inconsistent seeking and asking the Lord to help live for his glory. It’s often rooted in simple, desperate prayers such as Matt 3 or Psalm 69:
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. Psalm 69:6
Ask the Lord for a bigger vision of himself and his calling: Eph 1 enlighten the eyes of our heart to the hope of his calling.
“We must ask God to show us the unspeakable honour and privilege of being invited to stand before the God of the whole earth.” Arthur Wallis
This is our heritage, this is the great call on our lives, our reason for being = to live for God that is to represent him and serve him well. And we must fight to stay true to it. The world, the flesh and the devil will seek to tempt us away from it. But thru Christ alone and the means that he modeled for us can overcome it.