A. The story is told of a minister who parked his car in a no-parking zone in a large city because he was short of time and couldn’t find a space with a meter.
1. So he put a note under the windshield wiper that read: “I have circled the block 100 times. If I don’t park here, I’ll miss my appointment. FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES.”
2. When he returned, he found a citation from a police officer along with this note. “I’ve circled this block for 10 years. If I don’t give you a ticket, I’ll lose my job. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.” (www.jokes.christiansunite.com)
B. One day a dad was trying to teach his 6 year-old son how to shoot a basketball.
1. The boy would push the ball as hard as he could toward the basket, but it would always fall short.
2. The dad would then demonstrate how to do it and effortlessly toss the ball toward the goal, saying, “Just do it like this, son. It’s easy.”
3. The boy would try again and fail again.
4. So the father would demonstrate it again.
5. Finally, the boy said, “It’s easy for you up there. You don’t know how hard it is from down here!”
C. Brothers and sisters, as you well know, temptation is everywhere, and it is hard down here!
1. That’s one of the reasons Jesus came.
2. He came to experience temptation and show us how to overcome it.
3. The Hebrew writer gave us this wonderful news, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16)
4. Our Jesus knows what we are going through, because He has been here and He has battled against the Tempter.
5. Therefore, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, because we know that God understands not only how hard it is to overcome temptation, but He knows how to help us do just that – win the victory over temptation.
D. Last week we spent some time examining the baptism of Jesus.
1. In humble obedience Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordon River to fulfill all righteousness.
2. In so doing He identified Himself with us and set us an example.
3. God the Father spoke a Word from heaven, and God the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.
4. Thus Jesus received the affirmation and anointing He needed to begin His ministry.
5. What happened next?
6. Did Jesus go into the marketplace and begin His ministry of teaching and healing? No.
7. The Bible says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” (Mt. 4:1)
E. The story of the temptation of Jesus is told in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but not in John.
1. All three of them mention the fact that it was the Spirit who led Jesus into the desert for the showdown with Satan.
2. Satan did not lure Jesus into the desert, God put Him there on purpose.
3. Luke tells us that Jesus was “full of the Spirit” as He entered into that contest with the devil.
F. Here’s an interesting aspect of the story – In the absence of eyewitnesses, all the details of the story must have come from Jesus Himself and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
1. Jesus thought it important to tell His disciples about His personal battle with temptation.
2. As we will see, there are important lessons for us to learn from His victory.
G. A significant question comes to mind at this point – Was Jesus really tempted?
1. Some have concluded that because Jesus was 100% divine it was not possible for Him to give in to temptation.
2. But that is where the mystery of the incarnation comes into play.
3. Jesus was 100% divine, but He was at the same time 100% human.
4. I believe that the temptation of Jesus was a genuine conflict, not just a contrived play where Jesus acted out His role with a prearranged outcome. (Like professional wrestling)
5. The same tempter who had found a fatal spot of vulnerability in Adam and Eve aimed his focus at Jesus with deadly accuracy.
6. I have to believe that this was Satan’s best shot at the time.
7. Hebrews 2:18 tells us, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
7. And although Satan is the one who posed the tests, in the end it was he who flunked them.
8. Jesus passed the test, but it wasn’t easy. He suffered through the temptations.
9. Each temptation painfully pulled at Jesus, and resisting that pull required effort to win the victory.
I. Jesus’ Temptations
A. We are not told what went on for the first 40 days in the wilderness.
1. Was there tempting that went on before that point?
2. I would think that there would have been, but all we know is what is recorded for us.
B. The Bible says, “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.’” (Mt. 4:2-3)
1. That has to be one of the greatest understatements ever – “after fasting 40 days and forty nights, he was hungry.”
2. I’m hungry an hour or two after my last meal!
3. After missing 120 meals the right word to use would be famished…starving…ravenous!
4. I’m assuming that Jesus was drinking water during those 40 days.
5. It is amazing how long we can go without food, but we don’t last very long without water.
6. In my experience with fasting, the longer I fast, the easier it gets.
7. The first day or two, the body cries out to be satisfied, but it then quiets down. It kind of resigns itself, “Okay, if you are not going to feed me, I’ll stop asking to be fed.”
8. The longest I have ever gone without food is 7 days, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to go 40 days.
C. So Jesus was hungry, and Satan suggested that He turn some stones into bread.
1. That doesn’t seem to be a very evil thing to do, does it?
2. In the not too distant future, Jesus is going to make bread for thousands of people, on two separate occasions. So why not make some bread for Himself right now?
3. I’m told that in that part of the world, the stones can get so smoothed by the wind and baked by the sun that they look like little loaves of bread.
4. So why would it have been sinful for Jesus to do this little miracle?
D. Maybe the answer to that question is found in Jesus’ reply to Satan, “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Mt. 4:4)
1. The Father’s will for the Son at this time was to fast, not to eat.
2. Therefore, to make bread and eat would be to disobey God.
3. In time God would provide food for Jesus, but this was not the right way.
4. So the challenge for Jesus in this temptation was to trust and obey God and not turn to self-sufficiency.
E. One of the ways that Satan attempts to lead us into sin is by tempting our appetites.
1. These appetites are a part of being human – it could be our appetite for physical food, sexual fulfillment, housing and clothing, or freedom from pain.
2. These things are all legitimate needs, like Jesus’ hunger.
3. The question that we face is - what will we do to get these needs met?
4. Will we trust and obey God even when we feel that these needs are not being fully met?
5. Or will we go about meeting these needs any way we feel we have to?
6. When we do so, we find ourselves getting into trouble and sin. Right?
7. Jesus stood strong. He put His trust in God, believing that God would sustain and provide.
8. With God’s help we can do the same!
F. When that temptation didn’t work, Satan tried another.
1. The Bible says, “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,’ 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.’” (Mt. 4:5-6)
2. The pinnacle of the temple may refer to the southwest corner of the Temple mount.
3. According to Josephus, there was a designated spot on the corner of the Temple, high above the houses and shops below, from which the priest stood when blowing the trumpet. It was probably about 450 feet high.
4. So what is really going on here? How is this temptation supposed to make Jesus sin?
5. Some have suggested that this is a temptation for fame and popularity.
6. Just think, if Jesus does this little circus trick it will get everyone’s attention. He would certainly gain a name and a following immediately.
G. From Jesus’ response, I think that something else was going on.
1. In both of these first two temptations, Satan begins with the words, “If you are the Son of God…”
2. In these words there is the challenge to prove Himself. Prove His identity.
3. In this second temptation there is the challenge to make God serve Jesus.
4. So Satan says, “If you really are the Son of God, then jump, and make God catch you.”
5. Jesus replied, “It is also written: ’Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Mt. 4:7)
6. Obviously, Jesus doesn’t want to simply draw a crowd by doing something foolishly sensational.
7. But more importantly, just because Jesus knows that God promised to keep Him from harm, Jesus should not do something to foolishly force God to serve Him.
8. We can fall into the same trap when we know that God loves us and has promised to provide for us and forgive us.
9. We can assume that we can be sinful and irresponsible and God will pick up the pieces.
10. Like spoiled children of God we can chose to do whatever we want and expect God to rescue.
11. I knew someone who used to say that they could not outspend God. They would just spend, spend, spend on their own desires and expect that God would provide.
12. I don’t think that’s what God had in mind when he made His promises.
13. Nor did God have in mind when He made the promise to protect Jesus, that Jesus would go around throwing Himself off cliffs just to force God into rescuing Him.
H. When the first two temptations of Jesus failed, Satan tried one more.
1. The Bible says, “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’” (Mt. 4:8-9)
2. So Satan took Jesus to a mountain, perhaps Mt. Hermon located at Israel’s northern border.
3. It was the tallest mountain in Israel.
4. Satan offered Jesus a shortcut to power and glory.
5. In God’s plan Jesus would have been given the place of supremacy after suffering and being raised from the dead.
6. In Satan’s plan, Jesus could bypass the cross and reign over the kingdoms of the world.
7. In many ways this must have been a tempting offer.
8. All He had to do was bow down and worship Satan.
9 Surely those words broke temptation’s spell.
10. Jesus replied, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Mt. 4:10)
I. We must remember that anything Satan offers is a counterfeit. It is not really what we need or want, it just looks like what we need and want.
1. Satan may promise us all kinds of things in this life, if we will just bow down to him.
2. He promises freedom, but he delivers bondage.
3. He promises the best, but delivers the worst.
4. He promises pleasure, but delivers pain.
5. He promises life, but delivers death.
6. Jesus knew that serving God and God alone is what is best. We must know and do the same!
J. After Jesus stood firm and overcame the temptations, the Bible says, “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Mt. 4:11)
1. Luke adds, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)
2. Satan wasn’t done with Jesus yet. The series wasn’t over yet.
3. Satan retreated to lick his wounds and come up with a different game plan.
4. Whenever Satan would return, Jesus would be ready, and so must we!
II. Our Temptations
A. As we try to bring this lesson to a close, I want to apply the story of Jesus’ temptation to our lives.
1. What can we learn about temptation and how to overcome it from Jesus’ experience?
B. First, We learn that temptation is common to all human beings.
1. Every one of us is tempted in one way or another.
2. What tempts me may not be what tempts you, and visa versa.
3. My temptations tend to involve things like selfishness, greed and lust. Yours may be jealously, hatred or lying.
4. Every one of us will respond to temptation in one of two ways – we will either give in to it or we don’t, but all of us can expect temptation.
C. Second, We learn that temptation is not sin.
1. Jesus was tempted, and if temptation is sin, then Jesus was a sinner.
2. The Bible clearly says that Jesus was tempted in every way but did not sin. (Heb. 4:15)
3. Temptation is just an invitation to sin. We sin when we accept the invitation and act on it.
4. James wrote about temptation in his little letter and warned us not to allow temptation to incubate, because if allowed to do so, it will eventually give birth to sin.
D. Third, We learn that temptation falls into predictable categories.
1. What were the kinds of things Satan tempted Jesus with?
2. The categories, if you boil them down to their simplest form were, appetites, fame and power.
3. Richard Foster wrote a book titled, “Money, Sex and Power.”
4. There is a teacher used to warn his preaching students about three sins, “Gold, glory and girls.”
5. The apostle John categorized sin as “lust of the flesh, lust of the eye and the pride of life.” (1 Jn. 2:16)
6. When Paul wrote about temptation he said, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Cor. 10:13a)
7. All I’m trying to say is that what tempts us should be of no surprise to us – It’s predictable.
8. Satan uses the same kinds of things on us, and we all fall for the same kinds of things.
E. Fourth, We learn that temptation comes at the most opportune times (Inopportune to us).
1. Like Jesus, there are times when we are more vulnerable, and it is during those times we must beware.
2. The vulnerable times include:
a. After a spiritual victory – Jesus’ temptations came right after His baptism.
b. When we are alone – Jesus was alone in the wilderness – Satan wants us isolated.
c. When we are physically drained – for Jesus fasting 40 days had affected him physically. The physical and spiritual are intimately connected and what effects one can effect the other.
d. When we are starting something new for God – Satan came at Jesus just as he was about to start his mission - the devil will try to stop something before it gets started.
e. Part of our strategy for victory must recognize our vulnerabilities and counteract them.
F. Fifth, We learn that temptation can be overcome.
1. In the passage I mentioned a minute ago from 1 Cor. 10:13, in addition to saying that our temptations are common, Paul goes on to say, “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 stand up under it.”
2. That’s God’s promise – temptations can be overcome.
3. We can’t like Flip Wilson claim that “The devil made me do it.” The devil can only invite us to do it.
4. When temptation invites, God promises to provide a way out so that we can overcome it.
5. I know that we all can relate to the failure of giving in to temptation. For those wanting to live a godly life, that failure is disappointing and discouraging.
6. How did Jesus overcome His temptations? He remembered who He was. He put His trust in God the Father. And He employed the Word of God; the Sword of the Spirit.
6. If we will do the same, then we can be more successful in our struggle with temptation.
G. Thankfully, we don’t have to be perfect to be saved.
1. Jesus perfectly overcame temptation and sin. He took all our sins upon Himself on the cross.
2. God forgives us of all our sins because of Jesus. That is not a license to sin, but a reason to be thankful and to strive toward faithfulness and maturity!
3. Paul wrote, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:18-20)
4. If you are a Christian, be faithful. Keep fighting the tempter – don’t give in or give up!
5. If you are not yet a Christian, then be reconciled to God.
1). Bud Ross, “Does Satan Have a Better Plan?” (Sermon Central)
2). Daniel Brown, “The Temptation of Christ” (Sermon Central)