Triumph Over Temptation
January 5, 2014
Topic: Sermon Passage: Matthew 4:1–4:11
“TRIUMPH Over TEMPTATION”
Mankind has always been fascinated by dramatic stories of BATTLE between GOOD & EVIL.
We see this theme repeatedly, in books & movies. Though the PLOT may differ to some degree, or the CHARACTERS may change, the BASIC STORY is still the same: the titanic, to-the-death STRUGGLE between DARKNESS & LIGHT.
WHY do we have this unceasing FASCINATION? Basically, because it is the story of LIFE ITSELF; of HUMAN EXISTENCE; even the story of ALL CREATION.
There is ONGOING & frighteningly FURIOUS WARFARE between GOOD & EVIL; between DARKNESS & LIGHT; between GOD & SATAN.
Nowhere is that struggle seen so VIVIDLY & DRAMATICALLY as here, in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ WILDERNESS TEMPTATIONS.
Remember, NO ONE was there, other than Jesus & Satan – so, we have this account because Jesus TOLD His DISCIPLES about it. And what He told them is not only FASCINATING; it is INSTRUCTIVE as well.
In its essence, this encounter centers upon the critical question: WHO IS Jesus Christ?
Already, Matthew has described Him as:
“the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1b);
“Immanuel (which means, God with us)” (1:23b);
“king of the Jews” (2:2)
“my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (3:17b).
But, is Jesus REALLY God’s Son? That is not an unimportant question! It is even one that JOHN the BAPTIST would soon ask: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (11:3).
The RESULTS of this wilderness battle PROVE that Jesus is indeed the MESSIAH; the Son of God.
It is here that Jesus will prove why He is so WELL-PLEASING to His Father:
Here, He proves His POWER over HELL.
Here, though TEMPTED, He remains UNTOUCHED by sin.
Warren Wiersbe described the scene this way: “Just as the first Adam met Satan, so the Last Adam met the enemy. Adam met Satan in a beautiful Garden, but Jesus met him in a terrible wilderness. Adam had everything he needed, but Jesus was hungry after forty days of fasting. Adam lost the battle and plunged humanity into sin and death. But Jesus won the battle and went on to defeat Satan in more battles, culminating in His final victory on the cross.”
It is also important to view this passage as more than JESUS’ VICTORY over SATAN.
It is also instructive as to how WE can overcome as well.
We need to appreciate the fact that Jesus did not use any of His DIVINE POWERS to overcome the enemy.
Rather, He used the SAME spiritual resources that are available to US TODAY:
The PRESENCE of the HOLY SPIRIT;
The POWER of the WORD of GOD.
Another important reminder is that, although these temptations were GIVEN by SATAN, they were ALLOWED & even ORDAINED by GOD.
There was a DIVINE PURPOSE to this wilderness war.
V.1 – Jesus was in this remote, forbidding place for a SPECIFIC REASON: “to be tempted by the devil.”
James 1:14 (NIV) tells us that “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
JESUS, however, was SINLESS. Therefore, His temptation could only come from an OUTSIDE source, that is, the devil.
Notice also that it was THE SPIRIT who led Jesus into this conflict. But, although the Holy Spirit LEADS Jesus to the PLACE of His temptation, He is not the CAUSE of His temptation. No, He is“tempted by the devil.”
Satan’s INTENTION here was to lead Jesus into SIN & DISOBEDIENCE – but God’s intention was to demonstrate the HOLINESS & WORTHINESS of His Son.
Whenever WE are tempted, God ALWAYS has a plan to USE that temptation for OUR GOOD & for HIS GLORY – if we will follow His plan.
V.2 – though it is not specified here, we can be sure that Jesus FASTED and PRAYED.
We must realize that, when FACING TEMPTATION, the SON of GOD NEEDED to PRAY – HOW MUCH MORE, then, do WE?
Following a 40-day fast, Jesus was physically WEAK - & that is when Satan will ATTACK us; when we are at our WEAKEST & most VULNERABLE.
He will also attack us following a MOUNTAINTOP SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE, which is basically what Jesus had with His BAPTISM.
Vs.3-4 – Satan reverted to the SAME approach he had taken in the GARDEN, when he caused Eve to DOUBT God’s WORD.
He was tempting Jesus to USE His POWER to PROVE that He was God’s Son – which would have VIOLATED God’s intention for Him to SET ASIDE His DIVINE POWER & serve God in the form of HUMBLE HUMANITY.
Remember that, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”(Phil. 2:6-7)
Jesus could SETTLE ALL DOUBTS that He was God’s Son, by simply doing ONE MIRACLE.
Why, after all, if you are really God’s Son, would He intend for you to STARVE to death in this wilderness? Surely, the SON of GOD should NEVER go HUNGRY!
Ironically, the demand for Jesus to PROVE HIMSELF was REPEATED at the CROSS, when the jeering crowd said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” (Matt. 27:40b)
But Jesus had come to earth to do His FATHER’S WILL, & not HIS OWN.
John 4:34 (NASB): “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work.”
John 6:38 (NASB): “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
Jesus RESPONDED to EACH temptation by appealing to GOD’S WORD: v.4 (Deut. 8:3).
Jesus took His stand on the SUFFICIENCY & the RELIABILITY of the Word of God.
It is, after all, “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
It is “the sword of the Spirit,” (Eph. 6:17b), & if JESUS DEPENDED upon it, then SO should WE.
Therefore, while Jesus was TEMPTED to do something that ONLY HE could do – turn stones into bread – He OVERCAME His temptation by doing something that WE ALL can do: RELY upon the WORD of God.
Jesus TRUSTED the FATHER to MEET ALL His needs! Shouldn’t WE do the SAME?
Should we ever then COMPLAIN about any of our NEEDS NOT being met? Isn’t it true that our“God will supply every need of (ours) according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”? (Phil. 4:19)
Shouldn’t we then “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” knowing that all these things that we truly need “will be added to” us? (Matt. 6:33)
Vs.5-7 – Josephus wrote that this was a drop of about 450 feet. Legend has it that James, the brother of Jesus, was KILLED by being hurled from this pinnacle.
Notice here that the DEVIL QUOTES SCRIPTURE. However, as Wiersbe states, “We can prove almost anything in the Bible if we isolate texts from the contexts and turn them into pretexts.”
If Jesus had done what Satan suggested here, He would supposedly have proven to many of the Jews that He was INDEED the MESSIAH- but many people are willing to believe ALMOST ANYTHING if it is accompanied by the SPECTACULAR.
That is why Jesus later warns that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”(Matt. 24:24)
The gospels prove that the MIRACLES of Jesus only INCREASED the OPPOSITION of His enemies, & many who PRAISED Him for His marvelous acts later called for HIS BLOOD.
John 12:37: “Though he had done many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.”
V.7 – “to test God is to doubt God.” (John MacArthur) - & God is being TESTED whenever something SUPERNATURAL is DEMANDED from Him which He has not ENCOURAGED or COMMANDED.
It is also RECKLESS & FOOLISH to deliberately place ourselves in a DANGEROUS position & then presume that God is REQUIRED to RESCUE us.
That is a brazen attempt to MANIPULATE God; to create a situation not of His choosing, in which He would supposedly be REQUIRED to ACT.
God does NOT NEED to PROVE that He is FAITHFUL – WE need to prove OUR faithfulness!
And ONE way that we do so is by TRUSTING Him.
Vs.8-9 – this 3rd & final temptation reveals Satan’s ULTIMATE DESIRE – that Jesus (& everyone) – WORSHIPS him.
In the 1st temptation, he had suggested what Jesus should do FOR HIMSELF.
In the 2nd temptation, he suggested what the FATHER should do for Him.
In this 3rd temptation, Satan suggests what HE could do FOR JESUS – IF ONLY Jesus would WORSHIP him.
After all, if ALL THINGS ultimately BELONGED to Jesus, why not HAVE THEM NOW?
But those were SATAN’S terms, not God’s.
Here we see Satan in his classic form: offering us the SAME THING that GOD offers, but at a much CHEAPER PRICE.
But Satan is not only a DECEIVER; he is a LIAR, & it ALWAYS COSTS FAR MORE to accept his bargain, & he always GIVES FAR LESS than he promised.
Vs.10-11 – why did Satan LEAVE? Because Jesus had COMMANDED him to leave; he had NO CHOICE!
James 4:7: “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
God gives EACH of His children the POWER to RESIST the temptations of the devil.
As we each face our DAILY BATTLES with temptation, remember:
We face the SAME BATTLE that Jesus faced.
Heb. 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Eph. 6:12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
JESUS faced the SAME BATTLE.
We have the SAME CHOICE that Jesus had.
We can GIVE IN, or we can RESIST.
We can say YES, or we can say NO.
We can be VICTORIOUS, or we can suffer DEFEAT. It’s OUR CHOICE.
We can have the SAME VICTORY that Jesus had.
Heb. 2:18: “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
1 Cor. 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
And so, the EPIC BATTLE between GOOD & EVIL CONTINUES.
But we KNOW WHO will WIN the battle!
When that VICTORY COMES, WHOSE SIDE will you be on?