Facing Temptation

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. (Matt.4:1-11)

After Jesus was baptized, we read that He was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan. He first fasted for forty days and forty nights, then the tempter came to Him.

There are a couple of things to notice here. First, the temptations didn't come until AFTER Jesus had publicly displayed obedience by His baptism. Those who are not trying to live Christian lives are tempted also, but Satan works especially hard to tempt the obedient ones, the ones who are earnestly trying to do God's will. If he can make us fall, he hinders the work of the Lord on earth, and that is his purpose and his pleasure. (John 10:10 tells us "The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy!")

Have you ever given in to temptation, even though you try to live an obedient life? How did it affect your spiritual life? How did it affect your work and your witness for the Lord?

Second, the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted. God allows His children to be tempted, and not only allows, but actually enables our testing. Why? I can think of at least two reasons:

1. To forge and strengthen our faith. Faith that is not tested is not really faith--- it's only an idea we hold until it is tested. Our beliefs do not become convictions until they are tested and stand the test. As precious metals are refined and made pure by fire, so is our faith refined and made pure by the testing of it.

2. To teach us to rely on His word, His power, and His Spirit. Any time we try to resist temptation on our own power, we are ultimately going to fail. We may succeed one time only to fall the next, or we may succeed in one area, only to come crashing down in another. We cannot do it on our own; we have to learn to rely on God.

The third thing to notice here is that Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights before the temptation came; He must have been in a very weakened physical state. Remember He was in human flesh, just like us. He got tired, cold, hungry, and thirsty just like us. And whenever we are weakened, whether physically or spiritually, is when Satan likes to attack---he has a much greater chance of success!

Has your faith been tested lately? Does it seem like Satan always attacks when you're tired, or stressed, or otherwise weak; does he sneak up on you when you least expect it and are least able to deal with it? How important is it to keep from becoming weak spiritually?

It is also notable that Jesus fasted forty days and nights. That's the same number of days that Moses fasted, and the same number of days Elijah fasted. Moses represents the law, Elijah the prophets, and Jesus is the Messiah to whom the law and the prophets point. These two men were also present at the Transfiguration of Jesus! Nothing is incidental in God's overall plan.

Satan tempted Jesus three times, attacking on three different levels: a physical level, a spiritual level, and a personal level. He tests us at these same levels, because they are the common denominater in all people. We all have these same drives and desires.

PHYSICAL--- Satan used a basic neccesity of life as a trap. Jesus was hungry, and Satan told Him "If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread." Satan KNEW who Jesus was; he wasn't trying to establish identity, he was encouraging Jesus to satisfy one of the most basic human needs. Who could blame Jesus if He had turned the stones into bread when He was so hungry? BUT--- if Jesus had done that, He would have been doing the will of Satan, not the will of His Father! Pretty chilling thought, isn't it? He would have satisfied a basic human need Satan's way, instead of God's way.

We all have the same basic human needs that are neccesary to maintain physical life. However, God provides the means for us to meet those needs in accordance with His will.(see Matt. 6:31-33) We should never put our physical needs ahead of the will of God in our lives.

SPIRITUAL---Satan tried to create doubt in God, to test God, and destroy Jesus's faith. Satan took Jesus up to the top of a temple, and told Jesus "If your are the Son of God, throw yourself off this temple, for it is written 'He will give His angels charge over you; they will hold you up in their hands, to keep you from tripping on a stone'." Jesus had already quoted Scripture to him, so now the father of lies twists the Holy Scripture to serve his own evil purpose; he misquotes Psalm 91:11-12 to try to snare Jesus that way. God meant that scripture in a spiritual sense, and Satan tried to put a literal meaning on it. Had Jesus done this, He not only would have been obeying Satan, but He might have even been killed in the jump, and ruined God's plan for the redemption of mankind.

Can you think of any time you've heard scriptures misquoted to validate someone's point; to suit someone else's purpose, instead of God's? What was the end result? Have you ever heard people try to give a literal meaning to a verse intended in spiritual sense? Does that change the whole meaning of the verse, and the whole message the verse was intended to convey?

PERSONAL--- Satan next tried to appeal to Christ's ego, the selfish and self-centered part of all human beings. He took Jesus up to the top of a high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and told Jesus "I'll give you all these things if you'll just bow down and worship me." He tried to steal the worship that rightfully belongs to God, and God alone, promising wealth and power in return. Never mind that all these things weren't (and still aren't) his to give; he still offered them as if they were! This was the same principle he used to tempt Eve in the garden---an appeal to human egotism and greed. The bottom line of this method of attack is always that we don't NEED God, we can be great, (or rich, or smart, or powerful, or whatever else may appeal to our ego) without God.

Is it possible to find true and lasting satisfaction in life, apart from God? We must always guard against greed, egotism, self- importance, and self-satisfaction; all those things are tools of Satan to make us rely on self, instead of on our heavenly Father.

Remember John 10:10--- The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy? Do you see the truth of all those things in these verses? Even God's only begotten Son was not immune to the devil's manipulations. Satan tried to steal Jesus's trust in the Father, destroy His faith in God, and even, in a sneaky, lying way,(by twisting Scriptures to suit his own purpose) to kill Jesus! Make no mistake about it: Satan's purpose is to turn us away from God, in whatever manner he can! That is why Eph. 6:11 tells us to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. He is always seeking to steal, kill and destroy.

Each time the devil tempted Jesus, Jesus defeated him, not by His own power, but by quoting Holy Scriptures. (see Deut. 8:3; Deut. 6:16; and Deut. 6:13-14) What a wonderful reassurance for us! We can ALWAYS defeat Satan with God's Word! He cannot stand up against the truths of the Holy Scriptures! God's Word will save us from Satan's power; we don't have to fight the battle alone! AMEN !!!

After this time of testing, angels came and took care of Jesus. This should reassure us that whenever we hold fast to God's word, He will always provide for our care! Only after His faith was put to this test did Jesus begin His ministry here on earth. Faith has to be tested in order to be used by God.

Satan is always trying to defeat God, and to defeat God's purpose. Eph. 6:12 tells us that we do not fight against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness. I Peter 5:8 says that our adversary, the devil, roams around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour. When we are faced with temptation, we must always look to God and His Holy Word to help us stand the test, and emerge victorious. We cannot do it on our own!

Also see Luke 4:1-13, and Mark 1:12-13.

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