Summary: We can repent and believe, but we will never grow if we don’t overcome temptation by God’s Word.
Lead by the Spirit - still tempted
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-17
As we start our message this morning, I want you to look at Matthew 3, verse 2. “John said, ‘Change your hearts and lives because the kingdom of heaven is near.’” Jesus’ first message as he began his preaching ministry was the same. Look at chapter 4, verse 17. “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Change your hearts and lives, because the kingdom of heaven is near.”
Now that message, summed up in one word, is REPENT! Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near! Repentance is a change of hearts and lives. It’s a call to holiness. We’re not talking about the kind of repentance as in just being sorry for a sin we’ve committed, or determining to engage in some kind of self-reform. You know - pull yourself up by the boot-straps and do better kind of thing. That’s not the kind of repentance that is the foundation for the message this morning. Repentance that is talked about in scripture, is the kind of repentance - the change of heart and mind - that leads to a holy life. It’s a supernatural change. Did you know that the Christian religion - Christians, followers of Christ, is the only religion that claims a supernatural transformation of our lives. That something happens within us supernaturally, when we commit to Christ and accept Jesus as our Savior, that we cannot, ourselves, make happen. And if we, as Christians, are claiming a supernatural transformation of our lives, then it must manifest itself, not only in the public arena, where we are being watched and criticized, but it must also display itself in our private lives as well.
Well - that was an aside. We’re talking about repentance. When I was back in Broken Bow and I was visiting the jail one Thursday afternoon, I had one of the inmates ask me - He said, “You mean all a guy has to do is say “I’m sorry” and he’ll be forgiven and get into heaven? That doesn’t seem right.” It’s not right. Scripture tells us, not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will get into the kingdom of heaven. Without repentance, in the truest sense of the word, there is not salvation. You can pray what we call “the sinner’s prayer” ‘til you’re blue in the face, if you don’t have a repentant heart, you don’t have salvation.
Now with that understanding of repentance, let’s look at the core of the message for today. Temptations.
A grandpa asked his little grandson one day, “Jimmy, why don’t you ever eat your gravy?” Jimmy furrowed his brow and said, “Grandpa, the problem with gravy is you just don’t know what’s underneath of it.”
It’s the same way with temptation. Most of the things we are tempted with are like gravy - it looks good when you look at it - but you just never know what going to be under it.
Let’s look at temptation - the temptations of Jesus. If you look at Matthew chapters 3 and 4 together, you will see an interesting progression. John comes and preaches repentance. He denies that he is the Messiah. Jesus comes and asks John to baptize him. John resists but Jesus tells John to just go along with it because it is God’s will. So John baptizes Jesus - he gets confirmation in the form of the Spirit descending like a dove, that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, that same Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted OF THE DEVIL, and then Jesus begins his public ministry preaching - repentance.
Jesus set us a perfect example. We think of following in Jesus footsteps - we think of him as our example for living - but do we think of Jesus setting us an example in terms of salvation and holiness. He was already holy - he was already perfect - he had no sin. But look at these chapters. Jesus heard the message. He approached John to be baptized. He was tempted. He overcame temptation. He became a witness. That sounds like a good example to me!!
Why was it so important that Jesus be tempted? Because his next step was to preach about the Kingdom of God. And he was not only going to preach that the kingdom was coming, but he would preach that HE was the King of that kingdom. So Christ must not only be victor over Satan, but over the pull of human nature. We must never forget that Jesus was fully human. He felt the pull of human nature just like we do. And that “pull” for all of us, basically falls into three categories.
1. Jesus’ first temptation was directed toward his physical needs. Jesus had fasted for 40 days and he was hungry. “Medical science has shown that after 30 to 40 days of fasting, hunger, which disappears the second or third day, returns. All the body’s stored resources have been used, and the return of hunger is a sign that the body must have food again.”