Summary: A single brush with temptation may lead to an act or decision that ruins families, devastates churches and incapacitates our fellowship with God. Prove yourself faithful in the midst of temptation.

One sagging electrical line near Cleveland, Ohio, connected with a tree branch at 3:32 p.m. on August 14, 2003, beginning a chain of events that led to the largest blackout in American history.

According to a comprehensive study, the failure of this single transmission line caused a utility company in southern Ohio to overload and seal itself off from the now infamous power grid.

To the north, this created a huge need for power, and Cleveland began pulling an unsustainable amount of electricity from Michigan and Ontario…knocking out more transmission lines and generating plants.

When the demand for power reached New York, power plants there sealed themselves from the grid in order to protect their own systems. This, however, created a new problem: New York City (ironically) had too much electricity and overloaded its own system. The result: history's largest shutdown.

Isn’t it amazing? One sagging power line touches a tree branch, and blacks out a coastline over 460 miles away – how is that for a ripple effect? The truth is, seemingly small actions can lead to devastating consequences.

The same is true of sin—a brush with temptation leads to an act or decision that can eventually ruin families, devastate churches and incapacitate our fellowship with God. OYB to Matthew 4.


1. We tend to think of temptation as the influence of evil in our lives, and perhaps in some way it is. One must ask, however, how we explain Adam and Eve’s temptation and subsequent sin; after all, they had no evil in their lives when they faced temptation. What about Job? He was tempted beyond imagination—what evil existed in his life?

2. Most importantly, how do we explain the temptation of Jesus? Today we consider his temptation in order to develop a deeper understanding of temptation itself: its source, purpose, and role in our spiritual formation.

3. Lent recalls the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness to prepare for his ministry. Our goal during Lent is to prepare ourselves for the ministry to which God calls us.


1. The OT word for temptation (??????? refers to the testing or proving of armor in 1 Sa. 17:39, and in Gen. 22:2 characterizes God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.

A. A similar use of the term refers to God’s testing of people (Ex. 16:4, 20:20; Dt. 8:2,16; Ps. 26:2) as he did in Egypt, performing terrible and wonderful acts to test the will of the Pharaoh. We must note however, that the OT rarely (if ever) applies this word to Satan’s act of enticing people into sin.

B. Interestingly, the OT makes it clear that man can tempt God, though scripture expressly forbids the practice. In this understanding, man is not enticing God to sin, but rather testing him in order to challenge his will.

2. The NT word for temptation also applies to man’s testing of God. Peter uses it to describe the sin of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:9; yet, in our gospel lesson of the morning, Satan leads Jesus into the wilderness in order to tempt him. With all these possibilities, what should we understand about temptation? Does man tempt God, God tempt man, or does Satan tempt both? Is temptation the work of Satan, or the work of God? Who is in charge here?


1. To understand the source of temptation, we must understand it (in the context of scripture) as a test. There is ample evidence to support that definition. Once accepted, we can answer the source question: Paul gives us valuable insight into temptation in 2 Co. 12:7-9 (read):

A. He recognizes that his “thorn in the flesh” is under God’s sovereign control (vv. 8-9); but the “thorn” itself is a “messenger of Satan” (7). Therefore,

B. God may allow his people to be tested; in some sense, he may even bring the test to them (cf. Job); but Satan alone entices believers to sin, to divert Christians from God’s ways and will. Because he allows and controls this, we may see God as the source of temptation.

[A single brush with temptation may lead to an act or decision that may ruin families, devastate churches and incapacitate our fellowship with God. Prove yourself faithful in the midst of temptation.]


1. We may ask then, why would God allow Satan to tempt (test) us?

2. God calls us to holy lives; conforming to the image of Christ and living as he taught us to live. We call the process of learning to live the Christian life our spiritual formation. As we seek God’s will, we submit to his authority, and carry out the work he desires us to engage in.

3. Occasionally during this formation, he tests us to determine our progress. If we are faithful, we press on; if not, he corrects (sometimes disciplines) us and brings us into submission so he may continue to prepare us for ministry. Temptation allows God to evaluate our spiritual progress.


1. Christ knew no sin, yet the devil tempted him in the wilderness. Matthew tells us Jesus fasted for forty days before the temptation began. At this moment, we should assume Jesus’ earthly body was weak from lack of food.

2. Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines; a means of attaining spiritual growth (formation) in the life of God’s children. Scholars agree that a primary role of temptation in Jesus’ life was to expose him to it so he might experience first hand what humanity experiences from Satan.

3. Temptation is analogous to a whetstone; the abrasive stone that sharpens a knife or an axe. The more contact the blade has with the stone the sharper it becomes, making it very effective in the work for which it was intended.

A. The downside is that the stone sharpens the blade by removing some of its surface. As you draw the knife across the stone, you actually forfeit some of its substance.

B. The upside is, what is left is always sharpened. No matter how much substance is removed, the edge improves. So is the role of temptation.

C. Temptation sharpens the believer, improving efforts in spiritual formation.

[A single brush with temptation may lead to an act or decision that may ruin families, devastate churches and incapacitate our fellowship with God. Prove yourself faithful in the midst of temptation.]


1. God allowed Christ to be tempted so that he would [1] understand human weakness, [2] awaken his compassion for man in his struggle with holiness, and [3] allow him to demonstrate his power over Satan, even on “his turf”. Without his victory, he would not be our Savior and Lord. Who would follow him if he were no more powerful than we are?

2. Satan uses the same temptations on us that he used on Jesus:

A. “You are entitled to it” (3)

B. “God won’t mind…just this once” (5-6)

C. “Power is the answer to everything” (8–9)


1. Prepare yourself to face temptation. Those who prepare to battle their enemies are capable opponents when attacked. Know your weakness; study Scripture to learn the biblical response.

2. Know that temptation is always present. The alert, aware Christian is seldom surprised. Remove yourself from situations that may cause you to sin. If you are serious about your spiritual formation this Lenten season, you can expect some “testing” along the way.

3. Rejoice in expectation of passing the test. A positive, prayerful attitude toward testing is fundamental to success. Remember the purpose of tests in the life of the believer. James said that believers could rejoice in trial because they detect God’s good purpose (James 1:2-4, 12).

4. Pray in advance for God’s help. This is the difference between prayers of purpose and prayers of panic. You won’t pass every test; but you will find God’s presence in each one. 1 Cor. 10:13 assures us that he controls temptation, giving us a way to avoid or endure it for our benefit.