The Temptatations of Jesus

How do you define temptation? It is, simply, an enticement to satisfy God-given needs and desires in our own way, rather than God's way. God has a specific plan for each of us, but far too often we try to do things our way instead. We try to provide for our own wants and needs – especially if it seems God is taking His time getting to it. Today's lesson focuses on Jesus's victory over temptation, and as always, He serves as an example to us.

We live in a time of instant gratification and self-indulgence. Advertisers spend millions and billions of dollars to encourage us to indulge ourselves every day, in every way. But advertisers weren't the first to use this strategy to entice us to only think about our wants: Satan has used this strategy from the very beginning. He used it on Adam and Eve, he tried to use it on Jesus, and you can be sure he will use it on us as well. We all have a tendency to want what we we, when we want it, don't we? Instant gratification is just one of the tools in the enemy's arsenal.

The three temptations he used on Jesus all had one major theme: they tried to entice Jesus to do something outside of God's will. As we look at how the enemy tried to use this tactic of instant gratification on Jesus, we can learn to trust God and His providence for us, rather than trying to gratify our own desires in our own way, knowing thats God's provision for us is better than anything we can provide for ourselves, or certainly better than anything the enemy can offer.

Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you are 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 proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:1-4)

What Moses did at the beginning of the law, Jesus did at the beginning of the gospel: He fasted for 40 days and nights. Moses gave the law, Jesus fulfilled it: In both cases, God was preparing them for something new, something bigger. Both had to trust God instead of trying to do things their own way, in order for God's plan to be fulfilled. God was establishing the law through Moses, and He was fulfilling it through Jesus. Remember, Jesus said.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17)

Jesus was led into the wilderness immediately after His baptism. Who led Him there? The Holy Spirit did. None of what happened to Jesus was accidental: it was all part of God's divine plan! He remained there for forty days, fasting and surely talking with His Father. Then Satan appeared with the temptations, one after another. It is not clear from the text whether the devil was present throughout the 40 days, or only showed up at the end of them, when surely Jesus would be weak and vulnerable. That's when Satan likes to hit us: when he knows we're weak and vulnerable.

The temptation here was to meet a natural, God-given need, but in a way that God didn't intend. Satan basically said , “You know you're hungry - If you really are the Son of God, prove it! Feed yourself!” Satan was trying to cast doubt on God's provision for His Son, trying to make Him question God's goodness and thus try to meet His own needs apart from God's provision.

In addition to oferring us instant gratifcation, this is another one of his favorite tactics: casting doubt, making us question God's goodness. He did it in the garden when he tempted Eve's to eat the apple. He did it to Abram when he tempted him to have a baby with Sarai's maid. He does the same to us, trying to make us doubt God's goodness and His provision for us, making it seem like we should go ahead and take matters into our own hands, rather than trust God. Why does he use the same old tactic over and over? Because it works!! He makes it seems so reasonable, 'cause we've been waiting so long already, and after all, we deserve it, don't we? The only one immune to Satan's tactics was Jesus.

It is important for us to learn three things from this passage:
  1. First, that while He was led there by the Holy Spirit, the temptation did not come from God. God does NOT tempt anyone to commit sin; not then, not now, not ever.
    Let no man say when he is tempted, I am
    tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted
    with evil, neither tempts he any man:” (James 1:13)

    Some have tried to say that the spirit referred to here was not the Holy Spirit, but that doesn't stand up to careful scrutiny. First, the word “Spirit” is capitalized, which was used by the NT writers for the Holy Spirit. Any other time that word translated “Spirit” or “Ghost” is used, it is not capitalized. Second, Luke gives us a bit more detail, specifically identifying the Holy Spirit.
    “And Jesus being full of the Holy Spirit
    returned from the Jordan, and was led
    by the Spirit into the wilderness...” (Luke 4:1)

  2. The second thing we want to notice is that Satan cannot act independently. God allowed Jesus to be tempted by the devil for this forty days, in the same way He had allowed the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, and Job to suffer and be tempted to curse God, and Peter to be sifted like wheat by Satan. We may not always know exactly why God allows such things, but we can trust that He has a purpose for it, and it will result in our ultimate good, and His glory. God never wastes our suffering; He always has a purpose for allowing it.

    In the case of the Israelites, we see that God explained the reason to Moses, who in turn told the Israelites . God's purpose for their wandering was to test them, to see if they would be faithful and obedient to Him. Moses told them:
    God led you these forty years in the wilderness,
    to humble you, and to test you, to know what
    was in your heart, whether you would keep His
    commandments, or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

    God is totally Sovereign over Satan. He is in fact, on a leash, and can do no more than God allows. He must have God's consent to act: Remember how God told Satan,
    Behold, Job is in your hand,
    only spare his life. (Job 2:6)
    And remember how Jesus told Peter:
    Satan has asked to have you, that he
    might sift you as wheat. (Luke 22:31)
  3. And finally, we want to note that the temptation of Jesus never rose to the level of sin. The temptation itself is not the sin, the sin is giving in to the temptation to meet our own needs our own way. Satan threw everything he had at Jesus, yet Jesus never sinned. Satan isn't throwing something new at us - Jesus understands our temptations, because He was tempted in the same ways we are! Scripture makes it clear:
    For we have not an high priest which cannot
    be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;
    but was in all points tempted like as we are,
    yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

We can also resist temptation, because God makes it possible! Knowing we are imperfect humans, vulnerable to temptation and prone to sin, the Bible promises us that there is no temptation we cannot overcome, when we trust in God's provision for us:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to
man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted
above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make
a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

Satan's timing is always perfect: He hits us at our lowest, weakest point. Always remember the acronym S-H-A-L-T. We are most vulnerable to temptation whenever we are Sad - Hungry - Angry - Lonely -Tired. These are the times when we are most likely to fall victim to the enemy's tactics. Therefore, this was the perfect offer at this moment. Jesus was HUNGRY – after 40 days of fasting, who wouldn't be? He was in every way human, just like us. No temptation could have been more plausible, or more likely to succeed, than this. Immediately after His baptism, Jesus had just been declared to be the Son of God, (in Mt 3:17) and here was the perfect opportunity to prove it! The circumstances made it seem reasonable and proper to work this miracle, but Jesus knew it was not part of God's purpose and plan!

It would have been so easy for Jesus to succumb to the temptation to both prove His identity, thus putting Himself above God's plan, and feed His hunger, putting physical needs above spiritual concerns. But Jesus knew there was much more at stake than merely proving His identity or satisfying His hunger. In order to save humanity and bring about salvation and restoration He had to fulfill all righteousness, trusting God completely. He had to face temptation and not fail, as we humans do.

With this time of temptation and testing, God was preparing Jesus for the cross. There was a lot more at stake here than simply satisfying hunger. We must realize when we are tempted that there may be much more at stake than what we can see. There may be much more at stake than merely fulfilling our momentary needs or desires. The choice is: are we going to trust God and obey Him, or not. Will we rely on Him, or ourselves? Do we truly believe God is good, all the time, or not? Our ability to stand firm against temptation may affect others besides ourselves!

Jesus realized this. All the temptations He faced had the same goal: to cause Him to use His divine rights as God's Son and neglect His mission. He was being tempted to put Himself first, and to put the physical ahead of the spiritual. Jesus countered this extreme temptation by quoting Scripture found in the book of Deuteronomy:
And he humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
The only way to combat Satan's lures and temptations is with God's Word. That means we have to have it on hand, memorized and ready to go when needed. But notice that in the next temptation, Satan quotes Scripture, as well. So we must not only know the Word, but be able to place it in context, understanding it's purpose and how it is to be applied. For example, many people quote James 4:7: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But they leave out the first part of that verse: “Submit yourselves therefore to God”.

We will never be able to resist the devil for long by our own willpower. We must submit ourselves to God in order to have victory over the enemy! The Holy Spirit gives us insight and wisdom about Scripture, but He doesn't just pour it into our brains with a funnel, we have to make an effort to learn it and apply it! And we cannot take just the part that appeals to us, twisting God's word to suit ourselves. We have to study it and compare it with the rest of the Bible, to understand what it is intended to say. In the case of our example, it is clear that only by drawing close to God that we are able to resist the devil and cause him to flee from us!

The passage Jesus quoted here was from Deuteronomy. (Remember the New Testament had not yet been written!) Although this passage is speaking specifically to the Jews regarding their time in the wilderness, it also gives us some insight into why God allows some trials in our lives. It also gives us the assurance that even in the midst of our trials and temptations, He WILL provide for our needs! l
And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled you, and allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live. Your clothing grew not old upon you, neither did your foot swell, these forty years. You shall also consider in your heart, that, as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.” (Deuteronomy 8:2-5)
This passage described the provisions God had provided for Israel during their desert wanderings. The Israelites failed to remember what God had done for them, and did not believe He would deliver them. That was their sin, for which they would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. God never once abandoned the Israelites. We need to remember this ourselves: although we may feel lost and alone, God is always with us, just as He was with the Israelites. He provided manna for them to eat, and made it so their shoes and clothing did not wear out in all that time. He allowed them to thirst, and then gave them water out of rocks. All these things were to teach them to rely on Him, instead of themselves. The God who loved them in spite of their unfaithfulness and provided for them in such miraculous ways was certainly a God who could be trusted! He will always meet our needs, just as He did theirs!
Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, And said unto him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, You shall not test the Lord your God.
One once, the temptaion is a physical one, but notice that Satan, after seeing Jesus's response to the first temptation, also began to quote Scripture. This is another favorite tactic: twist God's word to give it a meaning God never intended. Never forget that Satan was originally an angel - he knows Scripture! And he knows how to twist it to serve his own purpose! In any battle it is important to know the enemy and his tactics. In this temptation Satan was trying to get Jesus to prove Himself Son of God. Again, He tried to get Jesus to do something outside of God's will. But Jesus knew what Satan was doing, and once again He replied with scripture, correctly understood and applied.

Jesus again quoted from Deuteronomy:
You shall not test the LORD your God, as
you tested him in Massah. (Deut. 6:16)

Again this was a reference to the stubborn and willful diobedience of the Israelites while wandering in the wilderness. The whole story about Massah can be read in Exodus 17:1-7. They doubted God, questioning His power to provide for their needs, and abusing his graces. Had Jesus done as Satan suggested, He would have been doing the same thing they did: He would have been putting God to the test, rather than relying on Him. It would have meant that Jesus did not fully, and completely trust God's word.
Again, the devil took him up into an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And said unto him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus unto him, Begone, 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 ministered unto him. (Matthew 4:8-11)
This time Satan appealed to Jesus's ego. He was trying to get Jesus to glorify and worship him, rather than God the Father, and promised Jesus everything if He would. Jesus again quoted from Deutoronomy. God had just given the Ten Commandments to His people, and and Moses was explaining the importance of following God alone, and serving only Him. God Himself had made a covenant with them, making them His people, set apart for His purpose.
You shall fear the LORD your God, and serve him,
and shall swear by his name. (Deuteronomy 6:13)
If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are also God's chosen people, and are also set apart for His purpose. To fulfill His purpose, we have to fully trust in His provision for our lives, even when we don't understand why God is allowing various trials and temptations in our lives. We have to stay grounded in His word, which is not only His instruction manual to us but also His promises and reassurances to us.

There are plenty of voices out there leading us to rely on only ourselves. The world tells us all kinds of things that are contrary to God's ways. It teaches us to depend on ourselves to meet our own needs however we choose and fulfill our desires in any way that seems right to us. It teaches us we're number one, and we deserve everything we want. It teaches us to think more of ourselves than others - and certainly more of ourselves than God!

Everything the world teaches us is the total opposite of God's plan for us, because this world is so tainted by sin. So we can see that Satan is a necessary part of God's plans for His people; otherwise, He would have thrown him into the lake of fire already! But if we'll follow the example of Jesus, in His strength we can learn to trust fully in God's plan and provision, and we can overcome our temptations too, and have the victory God intends for us! Be assured, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, that God has a purpose for this trial you're facing. Satan's defeat will be absolute, but it is not yet! We will have the victory in the end, for Scripture assures us:
The God of peace will soon crush
Satan under your feet. (Rom. 16:20)
Amen, and Amen!

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