Summary: In the story of the temptation of Jesus we see three general kinds of temptation that we still face.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 7
Three Big Temptations in Life
Luke 4: 1-14
I think that we all understand what temptation is. There is a story told about a little boy in a grocery store that I think illustrates the nature of temptation. The boy was standing near an open box of peanut butter cookies. “Now then, young man,” said the grocer as he approached the young man. “What are you up to?” “Nothing,” replied the boy: “Nothing.” “Well it looks to me like you were trying to take a cookie.” “You’re wrong, mister, I’m trying not to!” That’s temptation!!
We understand that temptation leads to trouble. Such was the plight of man that I read about in Reader’s digest. This man said he was shopping in the mall with his wife when a shapely young woman in a short, form fitting dress walked by. He said as she walked by his eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item she was examining his wife asked, “Was it worth the trouble that you are in? [Drew Anderson. (Tucson, Arizona) Reader’s Digest] That’s the trouble with temptation.
How many of us have shrugged and said, “The Devil made me do it!” and used that as an excuse when caught doing something we weren’t supposed to? It’s a convenient defense. But there’s one problem: the Devil can’t make us do anything. He may be clever, but he’s not all powerful. It may feel that way, however, when we’re dangling on temptation’s hook, because Satan has a tried-and-true strategy for luring us into his net.
First, he lays out the bait. Satan knows people like a skilled angler knows fish. He notes our habits. He observes our hangouts. Then he prepares a tailor-made lure and drops it right in front of our noses.
Second comes the appeal. He can’t make us bite, but he does know what happens inside us when we catch a glimpse of that tantalizing bait. Our fleshly nature draws us to it. We linger over it. We toy with it. We roll it over in our minds until it consumes our imagination.
Third, the struggle begins. Immediately, our conscience jabs us in the ribs, warning us of the danger. We know it’s wrong to take a bite. We may even see the barbed consequences poking through the bait. But Satan’s invitation looks so delicious. What do we do?
Fourth, the temptation ends with the response. Either we resist or yield; swim away or swallow it whole. Anyone who has resisted knows the feeling of freedom that decision brings. On the other hand, anyone who has yielded knows the feeling of emptiness that follows and the pain of the hook in your cheek.” [Charles Swindoll. The Origin of Something Glorious: Jesus Birth and the Beginning of Ministry - A Study of Luke 1:1-6:49. Bible Study Guide. (Anaheim, California: Insight for Living. 1994). p. 83]
This morning we are going to see Jesus meet and master temptation. In this story we will see three general kinds of temptation that our adversary is still using against us. By way of introduction I want you to see with me when the testing of Jesus came about (vv. 1-2). “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, (2) being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.”
First, Matthew 4 records that this temptation of Jesus came directly after He was baptized. It was here that God the Father spoke and said, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased!” What a spiritual high. You will discover that testing will often come on the heels of a spiritual high point in your life. Secondly, it came at time of physical weakness; Jesus had not eaten in 40 days. Temptations often come when we are a weakened state physically or emotionally, when we are exhausted and emotionally spent. “In a survey on temptation among readers of the “Discipleship Journal”, the respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent.)” [Discipleship Journal, November / December, 1992.]
Third, this temptation came to Jesus when he was alone. We are the most susceptible to temptation when we are alone.
As we begin our study today it is necessary that we understand that these temptations were very much real. C. S. Lewis made these insightful observations about temptation: “No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. That is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is....Christ, because He was the only Man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only Man who knows to the full what temptation means.” [Today in the Word, November, 1998, p. 24] The temptations of Jesus had to be real for the consoling truth of Hebrew 4:15 to be true: “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.” To sympathize with us, Christ had to have fully experienced the Devil’s temptations!