Dealing with Temptation :: by Sean Gooding

Matthew Chapter 4:1-11

“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 hungered. 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.”

In my previous article I made the case that God Himself had identified that Jesus is God by calling Him His Son, and thus equal with Him.This is the defining line between religion and true Christianity, who is Jesus?

Some may say that he is a good man, or a prophet or a great teacher and many other things, but the Bible clearly states that Jesus is God in the flesh and this is the beginning of any belief in Him.One must accept that Jesus is God in order to be saved.If you believe that Jesus is any- thing less and our salvation is not a salvation.Only God can save, Jesus is God, thus He can save.

Today we will begin to look at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the first obstacle He has to deal with is temptation.We will observe some things about being tempted; things like the fact that all men are tempted, we are often tempted when we are most vulnerable with the things that are not necessarily sinful, it is our motives that are the issue and we will see the true power of the Word of God and why it is so important.

We will also take a look at the devil’s power and his realm; he is a real character with real power and a real kingdom.He is a highly intelligent created being, a highly skilled adversary and he is not afraid to enter Jesus’ space as if he owns it. Like any soldier in battle it is important to know your enemy and his ways.

Temptation Comes to All Men, Verse 3

Jesus is a man, thus he was tempted. In Hebrews 4:15 Jesus tell us this via the pen of the author:

“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.”

Jesus has endured every temptation that you and I face. He has been touched with the feelings of our infirmities.Jesus was not tempted at the height of his physical prowess but when he was tired, hungry and thirsty.God made sure that Jesus was tempted at his weakest point.Jesus, however, never sinned.

He never once gave into temptation.Being tempted is not a sin, giving into temptation is.This event should be most assuring for us as fallen people. One, it reminds us that Jesus was a man, a real man who could be hungry, thirsty and tired.

James 1:13 tells us that “God cannot be tempted” yet we see Jesus being tempted.This is a clear affirmation of his humanity to us by God. Jesus did no rely on His godliness to resist temptation He had to endure it as a man and say “NO!” to it as a man.

We, too, can say no to sin. Sadly we don’t.I don’t, nearly enough.Up until recently I had never understood the difference between sin and iniquity.Then I was listening to an old preacher and he offered this: A sin is a commission of circumstance. We have all been there, you are caught in the moment and you make a sinful choice “off the cuff” so to speak.

But an iniquity, he said was sin we planned.Listening to Andy Stanley a month or so ago he mentioned a similar idea.All too often we are not temped but we simply plan to sin.The devil has very little to do with it other than he set ball rolling a while back with a temptation and we found a sin that we like and we/I abuse the grace of God.

Thankfully, God also forgives our iniquities. If He did not where would we be?Jesus was tempted, as we will see in the next section. He said No!

Jesus Refuses the Devil’s Offers, Verses 4, 6, 10

We will do well to learn these lessons and to apply them.Pride is an issue for all of us; men usually, are the most guilty of all in this area. We are afraid to ask for help. Sadly, countless years of “superheroes” on TV and in the movies have made us feel that if you can’t fight the darkness by yourself then we are failures.

If you could fight the darkness by yourself, then Jesus wasted His life and suffered in vain for us.God knows that you cannot fight by yourself, so He sent Jesus to fight for you and with you. Upon salvation He put His Holy Spirit in you to remind you of His power, His love and His grace.

In each cases of temptation Jesus quotes Scripture.In verse 4, He quotes Deut. 4:8, in verse 6 He quotes Deut. 6:16 and in verse 10 He quotes Deut. 6:13.We all know these verses and we can probably quote them as well. not only quoted them He acted on them.It is one thing to know the Scripture and another to act on it in full reliance.

Jesus, the man relied on the writings of Jesus the God.He did not make up some answer of His own and He did not conjure some lightning and thunder storm to help. He used the Bible.This reminds us that the Bible is all we need to battle temptation coupled with the intention to do what it says.

A sadly sobering thought is that we will sin. Jesus never sinned, but you and I for all the verses and good intentions will sin.1 John 1: 8-9 offers us some insight into this:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

This is not a license or a justification for our sinfulness rather God offering a practical look into our lives.We will sin.We will stop sinning when we die or when we are raptured.Until then sin is a reality of our lives.Some sins we will be able to walk away from simply with Christian maturity just as kids normally stop certain behaviors with age and maturity.

Other sins will take deliberate choices and painful discipline from the Lord as we see in Hebrews 12: 5-11:

“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

The word chastens, means to beat as with a cane or a stick. This is painful for anyone who has ever endured such discipline.I, as a child, was disciplined with a belt by my parents.Well, God disciplines us and no form of discipline is painless.God’s discipline is a sign that you are His and not abandoned by your Heavenly Father.

God is not nor has He ever been an absentee parent, He is very “hands on.” Jesus never needed this kind of discipline as He was a sinless Son.One day we too will be sinless sons and daughters, until that time read the Bible, do what it says and confess when you fail.

The Devil Left, Verse 11

This is the best part of the encounter for us mere humans.I have never seen angels come to minister to me. This is not to say that they have not done so, but I have not seen them with my human eyes.But the part I want to focus on is that the devil left; he ran off for a time.

Make no mistake Jesus was tempted right up until He died, just like you and I will continue to be.The devil would have done all in His power to try to make Jesus fail. Whatever testing you think you go through multiply it by 1,000,000 times and you may scratch the surface of what Jesus faced. He was under constant pressure and constant temptation.

But for a few minutes, maybe a few hours Jesus had some peace.The devil left Him and went about other business.He, too ,will leave us alone for a time.

James 4:7 offers us this piece of heaven:

Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you

Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee. A+B=C. Too many of us can’t do math very well and so we fail. The devil will leave you for a season; he will go about other business, just hold on for a bit longer.Say “NO!” for just a bit longer and he will take “NO” for an answer for now.Come on and let us be good at Bible algebra together:

Submit to God + Resist the devil = He will flee from you.

Sean Gooding
Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church Mississauga
ON Canada