Facing Temptation – Pt. 1
“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Happy Birthday! Open Your Present
If you are like me, opening your presents is usually an enjoyable thing is when your birthday comes around. I think it was my 14th or 15th birthday and my family had gathered for my birthday. As we were sitting around our living room after dinner, people began handing me presents. I was especially curious about the present my brother Ken handed me. It was small but you never know what domes in those small packages. This is what was in this one. (Show picture of a Hersey Chocolate Bar) I love chocolate so you would think I would have been pretty happy, I mean a candy bar is a candy bar and from my 8 year old brother that seems cute. Right? The only problem is that it looked like this (show wrapper of a Hersey Bar half eaten).
This is the situation. My brother had bought me a candy bar for my birthday but having it in his room was just too much temptation for him. He couldn’t resist the urge to eat some chocolate so he wrapped up half a candy bar and gave it to me and said he “owed” me the rest. I’m not sure I ever got the other half. He and I have laughed about this over the years and we did again on Friday when I called him to ask if he minded if I share the story.
My brother Ken had a temptation; chocolate. And the chocolate won. Today we are going to have the first of three sermons on the temptations of Jesus faced in the desert found in Matthew 4:1-11. If you are able, please stand as we read God’s Word.
Read Passage – Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Showdown In The Desert
Last week we looked at Matthew 3 where Jesus was just baptized by John the Baptist. We pick up that story here in Matthew 4. It says in verse 1:
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” vs. 1
Here’s the thing: Just when things seem to be going well, trouble can hit. Jesus is coming off the high of God affirming who he is and his purpose. But take a few notes on what is really going on here.
-He is Spirit-led. It tells us that in the passage. This is not an accident. God has led him here purposefully to be tempted. It is God’s will that he is here and that this take place. If it wasn’t God would not have led him there.
-We are also told at the end of the verse that the devil is the Jesus’ adversary. The passage is very clear about that. This is the first recorded confrontation of Jesus and Satan since he has come to earth as God in human form. That’s why I call this the showdown in the desert. Satan has made appearances in the Old Testament but this is the first time in the New Testament.
Vulnerable Times In Life
Verse 2 also gives us some insight and background in helping us understand this passage:
“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”
Don’t you look at that and go, duh! He has been fasting for 40 days, of course he is hungry. As I mentioned earlier, Jesus is there to fast, to focus on God and to prepare himself spiritually for his upcoming ministry. You’d think that getting away from things, kind of secluding yourself and getting yourself focused would be a good thing and get away from difficulties. When we get away we try to go to places that are away from the everyday things of life, from work, from things like TV, news, phones, etc. Jesus had gotten away for noble purposes. Even when we get away or try to focus our lives, some circumstances can cause us to stumble especially when we are in situations where we have let down our guard.
Ex. When a business person gets away and is alone, maybe in a hotel room on their own and they have time and the hotel has provided resources for them to stumble, i.e. alcohol, TV, movies, etc.
Temptation #1: To Misuse Something Good
So let’s look at the first of three temptations Jesus faces from Satan in this passage. It comes in verse 3:
“The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” vs. 3
Remember, temptations are not something that is necessarily bad. A temptation many times is not something that is evil but rather a good thing used for the wrong purposes.
Ex. Power, Money, Sex, Chocolate, food, etc.
Eating, and more specifically eating bread, is not a bad thing. In fact, it can be a sustainer for life. Jesus eating bread would not have been necessarily bad. So what is the real issue? The issue is that Jesus knew God, he had a relationship with him. He was ordained to be there and he knew God’s will and God’s law. Satan was trying to tempt Jesus to obey him rather than obey God. Turning stones to bread to eat them because Satan told Jesus would be Jesus following Satan’s plan, not God’s. Also, doing this would violate his fast. When you are in relationship with God and you are sure of God’s plan for you, you make choices and decisions to stay in that will and plan. You make choices that honor that relationship.
An example of this comes from the first of the 10 Commandments given in Exodus 20:
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” Exodus 20:7
Saying God’s name is not a bad thing. Misusing God’s name is. Look at our society today and you see God’s name being misused in alarming fashion.
Ex. How people cavalierly say “Oh my God!” I noticed it this week when I was watching a TV show where people were being surprised and the that was the response a the majority of the people. We have shows like OMG.
Remedy #1 Knowing And Trusting God’s Word
So what is the remedy? It is actually quite simple, it’s knowing and trusting God’s word. Notice Jesus response to Satan’s ploy in verse 4:
“Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” vs. 4
This is a great response (but of course from Jesus would you expect anything else?). It’s short, it’s to the point, it’s only one line, and it’s a verse and it sets everything it the right perspective.
A quick note about what our tendency is compared to what Jesus didn’t do when facing temptation:
1-He didn’t try to argue the devil down or reason with Him. That would not have accomplished anything. Reasoning will not work with Satan because he doesn’t care about reasoning nor does he want to be reasoned with.
2-He didn’t try to impress Satan with a great display of power – We tend to think we can do it on our own or that we can somehow just push make it happen ourselves. We should not try to display spiritual power by playing with or flirting with temptation – we should be running from it.
It comes down to this, we need to know and trust God’s Word. God tells us why. Notice these verses in Psalms and the Gospel of John.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” John 17:17
God’s word was given to us for 2 reasons; to light our path (in other words to give us direction in life and in life’s situations) and to know what truth is.
Notice that even after quoting scripture Satan keeps coming back and he quotes Scripture too. Just because someone knows Scripture does not mean they are using it correctly or are interpreting it correctly. Don’t fall into the trap that if you quote scripture it will scare the devil to death and he’ll run.
You Can Get Through It
Here is what I can guarantee you: with God’s help, you can get through anything. I am not just hoping or guessing that can happen. God’s word tells us it does and will happen. 1 Cor.10:13:
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Cor. 10:13
God gives us what we need when we need it. When we need a way out, it’s there. When we need a verse, it’s there, if we have read his word and spent time learning it. If we need strength, it there, power it’s there, love it’s there, a way out, it’s there One of the reasons Jesus went through these temptation is that he knows what we are going through. He can empathize with us because he has been through the things we have and God