Wednesday, March 4, 2009
The Nature of Temptation
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' Then the devil took him to the holy city and 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 will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.' Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.' Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Be gone, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.' Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him" (Matthew 4:1-11). Every believer is born again into spiritual conflict which will last his or her life time. This is why we must be aware of the wiles (schemes) of our common enemy. In the account of the first temptation of Jesus we learn that Satan tempts our Lord to carry out his mission in an unfaithful manner by using the powers that He had voluntarily set aside by becoming a man. The temptation sequence was real and not a vision. This temptation takes place immediately after Jesus' baptism and the declaration that He is God's Son. Satan wants Jesus to test (or prove) that declaration.The first temptation is for Jesus to trust Himself rather than God the Father to meet His physical needs. Every believer will be like wise tempted. When times of financial hardship come we must trust the Lord for His provision. Faith is living without scheming. The second temptation is for Jesus to "force" God to save Him. Jesus was wise enough to not put Himself in a place where He was tempting God. This applies to how we drive, how we care for our health needs, and how we use wisdom in protecting our lives. The Devil is the god of recklessness.The third temptation is for Jesus to avoid the cross (note Peters request Matthew 16:22-23). Many times the enemy will tempt us to avoid a painful change in our lives in order to build a better relationship with our mate. He may temp us to cheat (taxes comes to mind) in some way to avoid making financial sacrifice. To every temptation, Jesus responded, not by performing a counter miracle or showing a counter sign, but simply by quoting a relevant passage from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. We can clearly see that Jesus had enough of God's Word memorized to refute and protect Himself against Satan's best temptations. In the third temptation, Satan essentially claims the world as his dominion (Luke 4:6). This statement by Satan is neither affirmed or denied by the Lord Jesus. It could a statement not worth commenting on. In tempting Christ, Satan shows Him the kingdoms of the world in their splendor, but, as a liar, hides the sin that would be involved in gaining the kingdom Satan's way. Often Satan will, in type, present an old harlot dressed in a new gown. The evil one sugar coats sin in such a way that one cannot see beyond the "pleasure for a season." He does his best to make us forget" the wages of sin are death. "Satan's power and abilities are evident in that no earthly mountain would have been high enough for him to have shown Jesus the whole world in an instant. Having failed, Satan leaves Jesus, waiting for a more opportune time. This does not mean that he gives up all activity until a much later time. It simply means that he does not give up for good and that he is always looking for the right time to try again. We must be careful to think that that after we win one victory Satan will call off his hounds of hell. After the temptations, angels come and 'minister' to Jesus with food and comfort. Note the sequence 1. Jesus is hungry. 2. Satan's fulfillment is offered and refused. 3 God provides Jesus' needs through angels. 4.Jesus' victory over Satan at this time gives the foundation for His authority over demons in the rest of His ministry. We must be careful to avoid the trap of thinking that Satan's strategies do not change over the course of time and from culture to culture. With that warning in mind, the parallels in the two temptations are worth pointing out. Garden of Eden: 1. Question the content of God command. "Did God really say,"2. Reject the command itself. "You will not die."3. Get Eve to believe that Satan is the one who is really concerned for her. Jesus' Temptation: 1. Trust Himself rather than God to meet His needs. "Turn these rocks into stones."2. To "force" God to save Him. "Jump off the pinnacle of the temple and the angels will catch you."3. To avoid the necessity of the cross. "I will give you the kingdoms of the earth."Common to both: 1. Appeal to physical senses before spiritual ones.2. Twisting God's words.3. Questioning the character of God (testing Him)4. Offering a shortcut. 5. Goal: to break relationships.6. Theater: the mind. As we walk through life, we will be in many ways like wise tempted. We must know enough of the Word to combat the lies of the enemy. The power of Satan is in the lie. Spiritual warfare is confronting the Devil's lies with God's truth. God's Truth will trump Satan's lie every time. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.