Summary: Satan, the accuser, and the tempter, is revealed-- the what, when and how he works against the believer.
GRANT AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH
The Truth About Temptation
Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Message From: Pastor David Wilson
WHAT THE DEVIL WANTS TO DO TO US:
There should be no doubt in the mind of the believer about WHAT the devil wants to do to us! The example of the demoniac found in Mark 5 offers clear, irrefutable truth that the devil wants us to be uncontrollable, isolated and alone, belligerent and frightening, in pain and misery, and self-destructive. In order to accomplish this the devil seeks to break our relationship with God by leading us into sin
WHEN THE DEVIL COMES AFTER US:
The devil almost always comes after us when we demonstrate a commitment to doing the will of God. We commit to attending church, tithing, dropping a bad habit, forgiving another person, or something else God is speaking to us about.
In the context of our text, we find Jesus leaving a place of commitment! At the end of Matthew 3 we read of his baptismal experience. Jesus submitted to God’s will and was baptized and God responded with a voice from heaven declaring His great pleasure with Christ. Then as we read the beginning of chapter 4 we see that Jesus is led away into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
So the first point I think we need to make is that God uses the “mountaintop experiences” that are wonderful and glorious to prepare us for the wilderness of temptation.
However, here I have a bit of a doctrinal conflict that I had to resolve. We have the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer where Christ teaches us to ask our Heavenly Father not to “lead us into temptation” where it appears that God, who does not tempt us (James 1:13), actually led Christ to the place where he was tempted through the Holy Spirit. Do you see that in Matthew 4:1—“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the Devil.”
Alexander Maclaren wrote “…though God does not tempt as wishing us to fall, He does so order our lives that they carry us into places where the metal of our religion is tried.” What this author means is that God leads us into places where we have to live what we believe.
Let’s imagine for a moment a person attends medical school in order to become a surgeon. He learns all sorts of ideas, he studies the human body, he gains insight into problems and solutions, and then one day he is in an operating room. Eventually, he will be called upon to take the scalpel in his hand and to do the work of a surgeon. It is only when he begins to act in the role of a surgeon that he and those around him will know whether or not he really is going to be a surgeon. All of the money spent on his education, all of the hours spent in study, all of the care and knowledge accumulated mean nothing if he never takes the scalpel in his hand.
For the believer, all of the work God is doing means nothing if the believer is never brought to the place where he or she must put into action the things that God is teaching him. This means we have to get out into the world and discover that God is faithful there as well as in the church.
God leads us to the place where we can be tempted. He never does this when we are unprepared. The ammunition that Jesus needed in order to defend against Satan’s assault was provided through his relationship with God as confirmed in God’s own voice from heaven at the baptism. All he would need to do was choose to believe God and continue to act in obedience.
Satan’s approach occurs when Jesus is hungry—when he is physically weak. I believe this is another time that Satan likes to approach us. Not only does he come after us when we are on a spiritual high and full of a great desire to please God—he also comes after us when we are physically or emotionally down. When I read of Moses’ downfall, when he struck the rock and spoke disrespectfully- equating himself with God—I think it is interesting to note (Numbers 20) that that episode begins with the death of Miriam. I cannot say with certainty, but I know that when we are emotionally down, that is one time that the devil seeks to create a wrong attitude towards God in our hearts.
HOW THE DEVIL WORKS:
It is interesting that there are two names that Matthew uses for Satan here. He calls him the devil—literally the accuser or slanderer. He who challenges us before God. Then, he calls him the tempter- the one who entices. Therefore we see two things about Satan’s identity and operational method (modus operandi) before we ever read one word from that scoundrel. We see Satan is he who falsely accuses or slanders us and then entices us.