Friday, February 13, 2009


The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.

For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

In our culture we all are very familiar with temptation. Unfortunately, instead of teaching our children to resist temptation, they are taught quite early to give in to nearly every temptation. Nearly all marketing and advertising uses temptation to get us to desire the product or service being sold. A great portion of our economy is driven by temptation, much of it sinful.
It is important for Christians to understand how temptation works. Temptation is the ONLY weapon the devil can use to destroy us, but he wields this weapon skillfully and it is why he is so dangerous. The devil is a big problem, but he is not our biggest problem. Our biggest problem is that we are by nature sinful and we naturally desire only the things which will destroy us. Obviously this makes the devil’s job much easier. All he has to do is to get us to do what we want to do anyway.

I think that the danger of temptation is one of the reasons why God limited man’s life span to a maximum of 120 years after the great flood of Noah's day (see Genesis 6:3). Before the great flood people lived hundreds of years. Noah himself lived 950 years (see Genesis 9:29), but he was the last one to live anywhere near that long. When people lived that long it gave the devil more opportunities to tempt them to sin and to find their weaknesses so he could lure them away from the faith. This is one of the reasons why the world was so evil in the days of Noah, which prompted God to send the flood.

Many of the most popular preachers in America are fond of telling you how “great” it is to be a Christian, but you don't often hear them teaching about how difficult it is to fight temptation. This is completely backwards. It is much more difficult and troublesome to be a Christian than to be an unbeliever because the Christian must struggle and fight against temptation, while the unbeliever generally doesn’t care and freely gives in to temptation whenever he desires.

The way temptation works is that the devil tries to get us to want or desire that which will kill us. That is how it has worked all the way back to the garden of Eden. There Satan got Eve to desire the forbidden fruit by getting her to believe the lie that eating the fruit would make her more like God.

Satan didn't (and couldn't) force Adam and Eve to kill themselves, and he couldn’t make God condemn the people He loved, but by getting Adam and Eve to desire to eat the forbidden fruit the resulting effect was the same. Once they desired evil it didn’t matter to them that God had decreed death to all who disobeyed Him.

“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from
the mouth of the Lord" Deuteronomy 8:3

The temptations of Jesus worked in the exact same way. In each case the devil tried to get Jesus to desire something sinful so that He would act on it and in so doing make himself unworthy to save us from our sin. The trick was to get Jesus to act on self interest rather than love. The first temptation was to satisfy His own hunger after 40 days of fasting. Other temptations tried to get Jesus to take the easy way out instead of having to suffer and die or to test God the Father to make Him prove that His Word was true.

We should also take notice of how Jesus resisted the temptations of the devil. Jesus did not do anything miraculous in resisting the devil. All Jesus did was to quote the Holy Scriptures and put His trust in God and His Word over and against the lies and innuendo of the devil. This also should give us comfort and confidence in our task to resist temptation. Jesus did nothing that we cannot do. It is true that we have our sinful nature working against us which really does want to sin, but we, too, can learn and quote Bible verses to resist temptation. As sinners, we are not going to be able to resist all temptation, but when we fail we can trust that Jesus will forgive us, even as we ask for strength to resist the next time we face a similar temptation. We also have to be careful to use Scripture properly because you may have noticed above that the devil quoted the Bible, too, in trying to get Jesus to sin. The verses he quoted were accurate, but out of context. God' s Word should never be used to justify disobedience against God, but the devil has been doing that since he asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat...?’”

Fortunately for us, Jesus loved us more than He cared about His own comfort. Jesus also trusted that God the Father’s will is always best, even if it cost Him tremendous suffering and death. That is what love does - it cares more about someone else than one’s self. Because Jesus wished to obey God the Father and save us from our sins He always resisted temptation, and though it cost Him greatly, He won for us full forgiveness and everlasting life.

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