Facing the Temptations of the Devil

Facing the Temptations of the Devil

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

Date: August 26th, 2007

Last week I taught about how to face the devil and demons through exorcism. Jesus gave us a model or pattern as to what to do when we come face to face with someone who might be possessed of demons. Today, I like to teach not on demon possession but demon temptation, like the kind Jesus faced in the wilderness with the devil tempting. We all remember the account where John baptizes Jesus the Baptist in the River Jordan. Then, after this, Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. This account is given in Matthew 4:1-11 (read). Now what good is this story to us today? Is it just a great example of how Jesus defeated the forces of evil on his way to saving the world by dying on the cross for our redemption? Yes, it is that, but it’s also more: it’s a model or pattern for the kind of temptations we’ll face in life, as well as a model or pattern for us how to face these temptations, and how to have victory over them. In this passage Jesus faces three separate temptations. First, Jesus is tempted by the devil to forget about his god-given purpose and solve his short-term, temporary needs. Jesus was tempted to act in a way like the Old Testament figure Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage. Jesus was tempted to sell out his divine mission for short-term survival and earthly material needs. Second, Jesus is tempted by the devil to make a big splash by jumping from the top of the temple in Jerusalem; surely that would have gotten him fame and recognition, if that is what he was looking for. Instead of going from village to village preaching his message he might have been able to attract even bigger crowds by being “the man who jumped from the temple without injury.” Jesus was tempted to depart from God’s slow and steady plan for his life and achieve notoriety quickly. Finally, the third temptation was Satan’s offer of earthly power and status by selling out to the Devil himself. By bowing down to the Devil, Jesus would have been given authority over all earthly powers, in effect, making him the most powerful man in the world as far as politics were concerned. But Jesus refused Satan’s offers; He refused to sell out to the Devil. He stuck with God’s perfect plan for his life, took the hard road, went to the cross, and became our Lord and Savior. Praise the Lord, Jesus didn’t give in to the temptations he faced. But we shouldn’t think that just because Jesus won in his battle against temptation that we will automatically win the victory. We will face similar situations in life. Will we win the victory? Will we say “No” to sin and temptation as Jesus did? Only if we follow His example will we win his victory. Let’s see how this can be done.

First, we are all tempted to put our earthly life ahead of our heavenly spiritual life. Matthew 4:1-4, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” What was this temptation to Jesus? It could be a number of different things. It could be the temptation to use his powers for his own personal good rather than the good of mankind. It could be the temptation to depart from God’s plan and follow his own selfish, temporary plan to meet his needs. It could be a number of other temptations as well. Now what form might this first temptation take in our own lives today? I think the most obvious application of this temptation for us today would be the temptation for us to sell out our spiritual life for earthly, material life. Lots of people focus 100% on their earthly, material lives and totally ignore any spiritual reality in their lives. This is a big temptation for all of us today, especially because we live in modern day America where there is great prosperity and wealth. We are constantly tempted by the Devil to build a material and earthly Garden of Eden, while we totally ignore or neglect the Kingdom of God. And isn’t it easy to give in to this temptation? The earthly kingdom is visible, the spiritual kingdom is invisible. The earthly world is easy to understand, the spiritual world is a little difficult to understand, even reading the Bible, even praying daily, even attending church, etc. Isn’t it easier to think materially rather than spiritually? Sure it is, because we are so used to the earthly and material world. It’s hard for me as a pastor to get people to think about the Bible, about prayer, about church, about spiritual things of any kind. While it’s so easy for people to think of the earthly, mundane, common things like food, transportation, housing, education, money, material goods, etc. The Devil would have us focus and concentrate solely on material, earthly things; he would have us forget about all things spiritual. If he can tempt us enough, we’ll spend our lives thinking about and following a path that leads to earthly things — better housing, better clothes, better job, more money, etc. Lots of people do this; lots of people give into this temptation. But like Jesus we must reject this temptation. We must refuse to live only for this life. We must decide we will “Seek first the kingdom of God,” as another teaching of Jesus says. How? By doing what Jesus did — staying close to God’s Word, the Bible. Jesus quoted scripture against Satan’s temptations. He knew scripture and used it against temptation. That’s what we have to do. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We need to remember and never forget that truth, along with all the truths of the Bible. And when we are tempted in any way, respond against the temptation by thinking of and quoting scripture against the temptation. Can you remember to do that? Can you learn the Bible well enough to quote it? Can you remember to quote it when tempted?

Second, we are all tempted to seek recognition and make a name for ourselves apart from God’s will. Matthew 4:5-7, “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God, 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.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” What was the temptation of Satan to Jesus here? Again, there are a number of possibilities. Maybe the Devil was trying to get Jesus to depart from God’s plan for him and his ministry by speeding things up — make a big, grand entrance in Jerusalem, get attention for his mission and message. By jumping and then landing safely to the ground he would have gotten a lot of attention for sure, but it wouldn’t have been the plan of God. Jesus carried out God’s plan from birth to death on the cross, to the grave, to rising up from the dead and ascending into heaven. Jesus refused to depart from God’s plan to follow the Devil’s plan. Or maybe Satan was trying to get Jesus to test the Father, to paint God into a corner by having to rescue Jesus falling to the earth, in other words, forcing the hand of God. But Jesus refused to try to manipulate God into doing something, and Jesus also refused to follow the quick, short cut method of gaining followers. Jesus would certainly gain fame and recognition, but it would be within the will of God following God’s plan not Satan’s. Like Jesus, we are all tempted to follow the plan of Satan, especially if it is easier and faster. We are all tempted to take the quick and easy way to some place. But God would have us follow his will, which sometimes is the long way around. Are you willing to be patient and wait upon the Lord’s timing and not try to force God’s hand by rushing things? We are especially tempted to try to rush things if it will make us look better, or make us honored, recognized, or praised. That was part of Satan’s temptation, to force God’s hand by doing something attention-getting and so drawing attention and fame towards ourselves. Nobody likes to be ignored; nobody likes to be taken for granted, at work, in the family, in society, in the church, among friends, etc. Everyone likes to be honored and recognized, awarded and praised. But we must not let our personal need for self-esteem and esteem among people to tempt us to follow the way of Satan over the way of God. If you look at a lot of celebrities and famous people you get the impression that recognition and being famous is very important to them. Some people seem to do anything for publicity. Some people are always doing something to get their name in the spotlight or their picture in the paper. We all like to be recognized. I remember when I was in high school sports, I used to love to have my name mentioned on the sports page for my participation in a sporting event. It made me feel important, it made me feel good. But we must resist that temptation to chase after fame, recognition, honor if it causes us to depart from God’s will for our lives. We must live for God and God alone, and not chase after the applaud of men. By the power of Jesus we will be given the ability to say “No” to the temptations of Satan. By reading and knowing the Bible, we can pursue God’s will and not get sidetracked by the Devil.

Third, we are all tempted to take control and impose our own will through a position of power. Matthew 4:8-11, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain an showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away form me, Satan. For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and the angels came and attended him.” Satan was obviously tempting Jesus with power and control; in the case of Jesus, world power, total earthly control. Jesus could have been the world’s most powerful man. But he refused it because the Father in heaven had a higher plan and purpose for him than to rule this world as an earthly ruler. Now most of us will never be tempted to absolute world power. Maybe people like President George Bush are tempted to that. But what we will be tempted in is for control and power in our sphere of things in life. The Devil may try to get us to chase after power and control in the lives of people around us. We’ve all heard of controlling persons? The Devil may tempt us to become controlling persons who try to manipulate all of life to fit our will. We’ll be tempted to do things outside of God’s will to get our own will. Many people try to take matters into their own hands and manipulate things and people to accomplish their own will. But like Jesus, we must reject Satan’s temptation to manipulate all things for our benefit. The Bible teaches us to love one another, not manipulate one another for our own ends. We see Satan tempting us to seek after power and control at work, in our neighborhood, among family and friends, etc. It’s human nature to want our way in life, but it’s God’s way that we trust him to give us what we should have, not to chase after power and authority directly. Are you tempted to control others, to manipulate things to get your own way all the time? If so, realize that it isn’t from God; it’s from the Devil. The Devil wants you to strike a deal with him: he’ll give you your way if you give him his way. Ultimately, he wants you serving him and not God. But you and I must refuse to strike a deal with the Devil. Have you ever heard of a man named Faust? There’s a story written about a man who made a pact with the Devil. The Devil would give the man everything he ever wanted in this life, but the catch was the man would have to give the Devil his soul when he died. Don’t ever make such a deal. Better to follow God, even if it means suffering in this life, than to gain the whole world and lose your soul. Jesus defeated the Devil’s temptations with the Word of God, the Bible. Jesus quoted from the Bible every time he was tempted. What does that say to us today? That we must study the Bible from one end to the other so that we know God’s truths. Then, it means we must bring to mind the specific passages that deal with what we are going through, whether its a temptation or trial or struggle or problem of any kind. Once we have the passages of scripture we need, then we should begin to stand on those truths and promises from God. Are you a serious student of the Bible? Do you read it every day? Do you learn what it teaches so that when trials and tests come your way in life you’ll be able to draw from the Bible the teachings you need for the moment to help you? Remember what Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We’ve got to learn how to live that truth out in our lives today.

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