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The Trouble With Temptation – 02/17/13

Luke 4:1-14 (GW) – “Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit as He left the Jordan River. The Spirit led Him while He was in the desert, where He was tempted by the devil for 40 days. During those days Jesus ate nothing, so when they were over, He was hungry.

The devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus answered him, “Scripture says, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone.’”

The devil took Him to a high place and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. The devil said to Him, “I will give you all the power and glory of these kingdoms. All of it has been given to me, and I give it to anyone I please. So if You will worship me, all this will be Yours.”

Jesus answered him, “Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”

Then the devil took Him into Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest part of the temple. He said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, jump from here! Scripture says, ‘He will put His angels in charge of you to watch over you carefully. They will carry you in their hands so that you never hit your foot against a rock.’”

Jesus answered him, “It has been said, ‘Never tempt the Lord your God.’”

After the devil had finished tempting Jesus in every possible way, the devil left Him until another time.

Jesus returned to Galilee. The power of the Spirit was with Him, and the news about Him spread throughout the surrounding country.

Reverend Joel Holls –

We all think we understand what is temptation! There is a story about a little boy in a grocery store that is a good illustration of temptation. The boy was standing near an open box of peanut butter cookies. The grocery manager approached the boy saying, “Now young man, what are you up to?” “Nothing,” the boy replied. The manager said, “Well it looks to me like you were trying to take a cookie.” But the boy answered, “You are wrong, Sir. I am trying NOT to!” – THAT is temptation!

We understand that temptation leads to trouble. Such was the plight of a man who was shopping in the mall with his wife. A shapely young woman in a short, form-fitting dress walked by. As she walked by his eyes followed her. Without looking up from the item his wife was examining she asked, “Was it worth the trouble that you are in now?”

That is the trouble with temptation. How many of us have shrugged and said, “The Devil made me do it!” using that as an excuse when caught at something we should not have been doing? It is a convenient defense. But there is one problem: the Devil cannot make us do anything. He may be clever, but he is NOT all powerful. It may feel that way when we are dangling on temptation’s hook, because Satan has a successful strategy for luring us into his net.

First, he lays out the bait. He notices our habits. He observes where we spend our time. Then he prepares a lure designed for us personally and drops it right in front of our noses.

Secondly comes the appeal. He cannot make us take the bait, but he knows what happens inside us when we catch a glimpse of the tantalizing lure. Our sinful desires draw us to it. We linger over it. We toy with it. We roll it over in our minds until it consumes our imagination.

Thirdly the struggle begins. Immediately, our conscience jabs us in the ribs, warning us of the danger. We know it is wrong to take a bite. We may even see the barbed consequences poking through the bait. But Satan’s invitation looks so delicious. What do we do?

Then, the temptation ends with our response. Either we resist or give in – swim away or swallow it whole. Anyone who has resisted knows the feeling of freedom that decision brings. On the other hand, anyone who has yielded knows the feeling of emptiness that follows and the pain of the hook.

As we focus on the temptations Satan put before Jesus, we can see three kinds of temptation that Satan is still using against us. Think about what we hear when Jesus was tested. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit as He left the Jordan River. The Spirit led Him while He was in the desert, where He was tempted by the devil for 40 days. During those days Jesus ate nothing, so when they were over, He was hungry.

The Gospel writer Matthew records that this temptation of Jesus happened directly after He was baptized. It was here that God the Father said, “This is My Son, whom I love – My Son with whom I am pleased.” What high powered spiritual moment!

Notice that testing will often come soon after a spiritual high point in your life. Then, too, it came at a time of physical weakness. Jesus had not eaten for 40 days. Temptations often come when we are in a weakened state physically or emotionally, when we are exhausted or emotionally spent. In a survey once taken about temptation, the results noted that temptations were more potent when the tempted one had neglected their time with God, and when they were physically tired.. Thirdly, Satan came to tempt Jesus when He was alone. We are the most susceptible to temptation when we are alone.

Temptations are very much real. An author once noted, “No one knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea exists that good people do not know what temptation means. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is” The temptations of Jesus were real as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews noted: We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but He did not sin. When Jesus fully experienced the Devil’s temptations we need to remember the 3 great types of temptation that we today still face.

THE TEMPTATION OF DO IT YOURSELF
When the Devil said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Do not be mislead by a false understanding of the Devil’s statement when he said, “If You are the Son of God” – this was not a disclaimer but a statement literally “since You are”. The first temptation would be no temptation at all if Jesus were not indeed the Son of God. The Devil is well aware that God exists, so Satan focuses on trying to get us to believe that God cannot be trusted. He did it to Adam and Eve when he questioned God’s reason for telling them not to eat the fruit from that tree.

The temptation sounds innocent enough? What’s the big deal – making those stones into bread. There is no law against it. It won’t hurt anything – will it? Jesus had been without food for 6 weeks. Jesus could invoke His supernatural powers. Satan is implying to Jesus that there must be something wrong with the Father’s love since His beloved Son was hungry. Satan was tempting Jesus to disobey the Father’s will by using His divine power for His own purposes. The power of temptation is the prospect that it will make us happier.

Jesus answered him, saying, “Scripture says, ‘A person cannot live on bread alone.’” We often brag that we are people of the Word. But are we really? The question is not how much Bible you know but how much of the Bible that you know are you applying in your life? Jesus lived by the Word. He did not allow the situation, the circumstances, or the enemy dictate the truth. The response Jesus gave to all of these temptations came right from Deuteronomy. Jesus was saying in this response, “I will not complain. Nor will I take matters into my own hands. I will trust my Father and His word.”

Our temptation is not to turn stones into bread because for us that is impossible. But the complaint behind the temptation is still very strong. The Devil’s ploy is to move us to believe that if we want something done we need to do it ourselves – not to trust in God. We regularly are tempted to go outside the limits of God’s will to satisfy our personal needs or desires. We often promote ourselves because we are sure that God will not do it. We plan for our own well-being, because we assume God does not know about our needs.

THE TEMPTATION TO TAKE THE EASY WAY
The devil took Him to a high place and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in an instant. The devil said to Him, “I will give you all the power and glory of these kingdoms. All of it has been given to me, and I give it to anyone I please. So if You will worship me, all this will be Yours.”

The Devil was offering Jesus a kingdom without the Cross. Why go to all the trouble and pain to win the world when it can be handed to you on a silver platter. No suffering, no struggling, no sacrifice. But without the Cross would mean that there would be no forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus answered him, “Scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.’”
Our world teaches us to avoid pain, to take the easy way, the path of least resistance. Avoid sacrifice. Why give all that money to the church when you can spend it on new conveniences and toys. Why spend the rest of your life with the same spouse? Go out and find yourself someone new. You deserve to be happy. What is the result? We are living in a country with children whose lives are ruined because of parent’s selfishness.

THE TEMPTATION TO NOT BELIEVE IT UNTIL YOU SEE IT
Jesus now having defeated him twice now by quoting Scripture Satan now quotes it himself, for his own purposes. Then the devil took Him into Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest part of the temple. He said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, jump from here! Scripture says, ‘He will put His angels in charge of you to watch over you carefully. They will carry you in their hands so that you never hit your foot against a rock.’” Satan misuses the promise of God because he did not quote the whole passage. Jesus would have supernaturally survived the jump in full view of many people. It would have revealed Him as the Messiah. But it would have insisted that God be tested showing how much He loved us. That would be like saying to God “I will not believe in You until I see You show it to me on MY terms.”

Jesus answered him, “It has been said, ‘Never tempt the Lord your God.’” Jesus understood that by dramatically jumping from the high point of the Temple would be contrary to God’s will. To do so would be to test God. Jesus refused to take this shortcut.

There are many subtle ways that we put God to the test. We may not jump from the top of the church – but we do it in other ways. When we do not put our worship of God as a high priority in our lives. Yet we expect God to keep our children on the right path. Isn’t that putting God to the test. We do it when we do things that are risky according to God’s will and then cry out to God to bail us out. We do it when we test the boundaries of known sin. God says, “Here is the line,” and we try to see how close we can get to that line. Then we are surprised when we fall. Some blame God even though they tested God.

The one thing in common to all 3 of the temptations toward Jesus is that they attempted to distract Him from His mission, or to destroy His relationship with His Father. But notice there is one more point in this passage today. After the devil had finished tempting Jesus in every possible way, the devil left Him until another time. This says that when the Devil had left, the battle was not over. He had not given up. The Devil will always be lurking in the shadows, watching, waiting for the next vulnerable moment. When we are weak – expect another assault. When we resist – be ready for a different approach. When we leaves – count on another attack.

When Martin Luther was asked how he overcame the Devil, he replied, “When the Devil comes knocking at the door of my heart, and asks “who lives here?”, Jesus goes to the door and says, “Martin Luther used to live here, but he has moved out. Now I live here.” May our hearts be filled with the power to overcome temptation in Jesus’ name.

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