Spiritual Lessons from the Lord's Temptation
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - January 23, 2013
(Revised November 13, 2020)
*How long has it been since you were tempted to sin? If it's been more than 24 hours, then maybe you haven't been paying attention. Or you are a very rare person, indeed.
*We must learn how to overcome temptation in our lives. And in this story of the Lord's temptation we will see how. But that's not all. Here God gives us at least four key spiritual lessons.
1. FIRST: THE TEMPTATION OF CHRIST TEACHES US ABOUT THE LEADERSHIP OF GOD'S SPIRIT.
*In the last chapter, Jesus was about to begin His public ministry. He humbled Himself to be baptized by John the Baptist. Then the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord in the form of a dove. But here in chapter 4, the story takes an unexpected turn, because vs. 1-2 say: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry."
*If sinful men were running the show, we would have led Jesus to a mansion on a hilltop, to the governor's house, or straight to the emperor's throne. But the Holy Spirit led Jesus out to a dry, barren wilderness without food. This fact reminds us that the Holy Spirit will sometimes lead us into difficult places. Thankfully, that's not the end of the story for us. Jesus is preparing a mansion for every one of His followers. But sometimes God's Holy Spirit will lead us to difficult places in life. We must not think that the Lord is always going to put us on easy street.
*George Young helps us understand this truth. George was a carpenter and little-known preacher in the 1800s. He spent a lifetime humbly serving the Lord in small communities. Financial support was often lacking, and it was hard on George's family. But through all the ups and downs his faithful wife never wavered in her loyalty to God and to her husband.
*After a long struggle, the family was able to move into their own small home which George built himself. But later when George was away preaching, some local thugs, who didn't like his Gospel message, set fire to the house. It was totally destroyed. But out of that experience George wrote this wonderful song:
"In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along;
Where the water's cool flow bathes the weary one's feet, God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song, in the night season and all the day long."
*Sometime around 1942, years after George died, another hymn writer decided to track down his widow, and find out more of George's story. That song writer's name was Haldor Lillenas, and he found George Young's widow living in a County Poor House in a small out-of-the-way town.
*Conditions there were far from pleasant, but when Lillenas found Mrs. Young, she radiated the joy of the Lord, and spoke of how He'd guided her and her husband over many years.
*Then, she exclaimed, "Dr. Lillenas, God led me here!" I'm so glad He did, for you know, about every month someone comes into this place to spend the rest of their days. So many of them don't know my Jesus. I'm having the time of my life introducing them to Jesus! Dr. Lillenas, isn't it wonderful how God leads!" (1)
*Whenever we need leadership, God's Spirit will give it. And that's the first lesson from the Lord's temptation.
2. BUT THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS ALSO TEACHES US ABOUT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF OUR SAVIOR.
*Of course, Jesus did not yield to the devil's temptations. The Lord never did yield to sin, even once. But why did Jesus even allow Himself to be tempted? There are at least 2 reasons:
 FIRST, HE ALLOWED HIMSELF TO BE TEMPTED IN ORDER TO SYMPATHIZE WITH US.
*Jesus Christ was certainly a flesh-and-blood man. He got hungry, thirsty, and tired. He felt pain. He shed tears. He bled when He was cut. And Jesus allowed Himself to go through all of this, so that He could sympathize with us.
*This is an amazing, encouraging truth for Christians, and Hebrews 4:14-16 puts it this way:
14. Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
15. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
16. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
 JESUS ALLOWED HIMSELF TO BE TEMPTED TO SYMPATHIZE WITH US. HE ALSO ALLOWED IT TO SHOW US HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
*When Jesus was being tempted in the wilderness, do you think He was worried about doing the right thing? -- Certainly not. Isaiah 26:7 addresses the LORD as the "Most Upright." And the Lord God is perfect in every way!
*That's why Psalm 33:5 tells us that the Lord, "loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord." And Psalm 107:8-9 pleads with all people to "give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness."
*The Lord God is perfect in every way! And His goodness is eternal. It's something that we can depend on today, tomorrow and forever! God will always do the right thing at the right time. Psalm 111:3 tells us that "His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever." Psalm 119:142 also declares that God's "righteousness is an everlasting righteousness."
*Jesus was a man like us, but He is and always has been the Lord God Almighty. That's why Paul made this mind-boggling statement in Colossians 2:8-9: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
*Astounding statement! All of the fullness of the Godhead permanently lives in the body of Jesus Christ. This is astounding, but of course absolutely true. And God cannot sin. Listen to some evidence from His Word:
-2 Timothy 2:13 says: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; HE CANNOT DENY HIMSELF."
-Titus 1:1-2 says: "Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which is according to godliness, in hope of eternal life WHICH GOD, WHO CANNOT LIE, PROMISED BEFORE TIME BEGAN."
-And James 1:13 says "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; FOR GOD CANNOT BE TEMPTED BY EVIL, nor does He Himself tempt anyone."
*God cannot sin, and Jesus is God, so it was not possible for Jesus to sin. James Merritt expressed it this way: "Jesus was tempted not to prove he could overcome sin, but to prove that sin could not overcome him." That's why in John 8:29 Jesus could say this about Himself and His Heavenly Father: "He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." (2)
*The temptation of Jesus Christ teaches us about the righteousness of our Savior.
3. BUT IT ALSO TEACHES US ABOUT THE POWER OF SCRIPTURE.
*God's Word has the power to help us overcome sin. And here we see some of the ways the Bible can work in our lives.
 FIRST: IT CAN HELP US EXPECT TEMPTATION.
*In vs. 1 when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, He knew that He was going to be tempted. And we need to know that we are going to be tempted too, not by God, but by the devil and by our own sinful hearts.
*Again, James 1:13-14 puts it this way: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God;' for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed."
*The Bible tells us that we will be tempted to sin. And we will be tempted the same basic ways that Jesus was tempted here.
*1 John 2:15-16 spells this out for us, when it says: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world THE LUST OF THE FLESH, THE LUST OF THE EYES, and THE PRIDE OF LIFE is not of the Father but is of the world."
*The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life: These are the three areas where we are attacked. And in tonight's Scripture, Jesus faced all three types of temptation.
-In vs. 3, the tempter came to Him and said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." That's the lust of the flesh.
-In vs. 8, "The devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory." That's the lust of the eyes.
-And in vs. 5-6, "The devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: "He shall give His angels charge concerning you," and, "In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone."'" That's the pride of life.
*These are the same three kinds of temptation we face. And it has been that way ever since the Garden of Eden. There in the Garden, the serpent, Satan, tempted Eve the very same ways he tried to tempt Jesus.
*Genesis 3:6 tells us that:
-Eve "saw that the tree was good for food." -- The lust of the flesh.
-She saw "that it was pleasant to the eyes." -- The lust of the eyes.
-And she saw that it was "a tree desirable to make one wise." -- The pride of life.
*Both Eve and Jesus faced the same three kinds of temptation. And we will too.
 THE SCRIPTURE CAN HELP US EXPECT TEMPTATION, AND IT CAN HELP US DETECT TEMPTATION.
*This is important because the devil often covers up a lie with a piece of truth. This is what he tried to pull on the Lord in vs. 5-7. The devil tried to use God's Holy Word in an unholy way. He dressed up a lie with some truth.
*Look starting in vs. 5:
5. Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6. and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge concerning you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"
*Those words came from Psalm 91, and what the devil said was true. But Jesus was able to put that verse in context. And He knew that it did not mean for Him to tempt His Heavenly Father. So in vs. 7, Jesus replied: "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"
*Jesus knew how to detect temptation, and He used the Light of God's Word to do it. Psalm 119:105 says: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." God's Word is the light that can help us detect the deceitful danger of sin.
*Rodney Buchanan pointed us to this truth in a story about a canoe trip he once took. There was so much rain that week, Rodney warned the other men to be careful, because there wasn't a snake in the area still in its hole.
*Rodney later reported: "The other guys were studying a map of the area and I walked over to a clump of bushes with only sport sandals on my feet. When I turned around there was a snake, just inches from the back of my heel.
*I jumped about four feet straight into the air! No one had to tell me to get away from that snake as fast as I could. I did not stop and look it up in a snake identification book before I decided what to do. I did not pause to plot my course. I just jumped and ran. (3)
*But what if Rodney had been walking around in the dark? "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
 THE SCRIPTURE CAN HELP US DETECT TEMPTATION, AND IT CAN HELP US REJECT TEMPTATION.
*Every time Jesus was tempted in these verses, He overcame it the same way: With the Word of God. Jesus said: "It is written. It is written. It is written." And we can too, but first we must learn the word.
*Verse 3 says: "Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'''
*After 40 days of fasting, I probably would have said, "Hey, -- sounds like a great idea to me!" But in vs. 4, Jesus knew enough of God's Word to say: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
*We have to learn the Word. And we have to trust in God's Word.
-In vs. 4, Jesus trusted that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."
-In vs. 7, He trusted that we should not tempt the Lord our God.
-And in vs. 10, Jesus trusted that we should worship the Lord our God, and Him only shall we serve.
*The more we learn God's Word, and trust in His Word, the more we will be willing and able to reject temptation.
*But first and foremost, we have to trust what God's Word says about our sin and our Savior Jesus Christ:
-That we are sinners who deserve eternal death.
-That Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins.
-That Jesus rose again from the dead.
-And that Jesus will save us if we will turn to Him and trust Him as our Lord and Savior.
*Jesus overcame temptation by God's Word, and so can we! This is just one of the great powers of the Bible, and the Lord's temptation teaches us the power of Scripture.
4. BUT IT ALSO TEACHES US ABOUT GOD PROVIDING NEW STRENGTH.
*In vs. 11, the devil left Jesus, "and behold, angels came and ministered to Him." Jesus needed new strength, and so will we. God the Father provided that strength to Jesus through His angels. And our Heavenly Father will make a way to provide His strength to us!
*Paul prayed for it in Ephesians 3:14-16: "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man."
*Paul prayed for new strength. And the Lord promised it in Isaiah 40:31. "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."
*About 18 years ago, I had the privilege of baptizing a young mother named Kristina. The Lord renewed her strength in an amazing way. And here is part of a testimony she gave in 2004:
"A couple of years ago, Bro. Rick asked me if he could share my testimony with the church. I told him 'no' because I felt like it would make people look at me differently. Today I realize how wrong I was to say that. If I could make an impact for God on just one person by what He has done for me in my life then I would feel that I have fulfilled His purpose for me.
*You see, over seven years ago I was shot in the back of the head with a 38 caliber handgun at point blank range. The doctor told my mother that I would more than likely not make it through the surgery that night. By the grace of God, he was wrong. A few months later, he told my mom that I was only here by God's will, and I know that is for sure.
*Only by God's grace, I learned how to walk, talk, eat, dress myself, and care for my one-year-old child again. Eventually, I started driving again and I went to work. I got married again, and although my new husband and I were told that I probably could not have children, we have two more beautiful children.
*There have been so many instances such as that in the past seven years of my life. I look back and think about what a tremendously wonderful God we have. I wish I had lifted Him up to others in all of those moments.
*You may not have had such a tragedy as mine in your life. But surely our Gracious God has pulled you through some sort of trial in your life, whether it was the loss of a loved one or even a close miss of what could have been a horrible car accident. I urge you to look for God's grace in even the tiniest instances of your life and to give Him praise for it. Pray that He will show you how you can share his blessings with others."
*Kristina's strength was renewed in a miraculous way by the amazing grace of God. And God will renew our strength too! That's why in Philippians 4:13 the Apostle Paul could say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
*Christians: The temptation of our Lord has important lessons for us tonight:
-When we need leadership, God's Spirit will give it.
-When we face temptation, God's Word will help us overcome it.
-When we need new strength, our God will give it.
*And if you are still in need of a Savior, the perfect God-man Jesus Christ is the one and only hope for you. He loves you. He died on the cross for you. He rose again from the dead. And He will save you, if you will put your trust in Him.
*You can do that right now, as we go back to God in prayer.
(2) Sermons.com sermon "Nobody's Perfect -- Except Jesus" by James Merritt - Hebrews 4:15-16
(3) SermonCentral sermon "How Can I Experience God" by Rodney Buchanan - John 3:1-17