Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do 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 splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Temptation—it’s a scary word don’t you think? What’s your biggest temptation? Have you ever experienced temptation like Jesus? Do you think as it says in the Lord’s prayer “deliver us from evil” or might we even say deliver us from temptation or test?
Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness fasting and facing temptation. He’d gone out into the wilderness to figure out who He was and why He was on the earth and in that place. Then along came the devil.
How do you envision the devil? Because the devil is real. Evil is real. They both walk the earth. We see evil all over the world. Some people even see it in their own family. On their own street. In their own city, town, or state. We must give evil a name. Pay attention to it. If we don’t it will overpower us and consume us.
I wrote about temptation in my book A Place Called Common Sense. The chapter I entitled “Finding Your Emotional Intelligence.” In this chapter, I share a story about the Marshmallow Experiment. This is a true test of not only one’s resolve but it is a true test of temptation. A teacher places a kid in a room at a desk. She then places a marshmallow on a plate in front of the kid. The teacher then tells him he can eat the marshmallow now or if he waits and doesn’t eat the marshmallow; when she returns, she’ll give him another marshmallow making two. Then she leaves the room. It then becomes a race against the clock to see if the kid can hold out. These kids amazed me. Temptation at its best! Check it out on YouTube.
Here’s the good news. God’s power is greater. Greater than the devil and greater than evil. Greater than temptation. Jesus shows us this in the wilderness. He proves it to us. He was human after all. Let’s look at each of the temptations.
First temptation: Hunger – Devil taps into that craving first. Jesus is dealing with that immediate need. A need for food. Hunger is a powerful thing. He’d been in the wilderness for forty days for goodness sakes. Think about when you’re hungry. I know I’m awful when I’m hungry. I just want food. I get antsy. When you give something up the craving kicks in harder and you want it even more. But look at what Jesus tells the devil. “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Jesus isn’ tempted and the devil isn’t happy. The world for him is at stake. The devil wants to not only control Jesus he wants to control the world.
Second temptation: Celebrity status and the offer of popularity. Funny to see the devil quoting scripture with every temptation. Jesus fires back: Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Now the devil is getting angry.
There’s something known as magical religion and moral religion: (Magical)-what God does for us like prosperity. (Moral)-what God does in and through us to bless others. We see in these passages that Jesus turns away from the magical and goes to the moral.
Third temptation: Power and Kingdom Building. Power, pretty impressive. Many of us crave power. It’s a drug. Some crave it more than money. Those who crave power find themselves blinded to what power can do to a human being. The devil thinks now he’s got Jesus right where he wants him. I mean, power and kingdom building. Who wouldn’t go for that? But Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Jesus calls back to His roots. Remember in Mark 8:36 the verse that reads: What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? It applies here. We can no more gain it all than we can lose our soul. Some things frighten me. Losing my soul would frighten me more than anything in my life.
Where are you in your battle with temptation? These passages show us how to deal with temptation. Jesus turned away from it. Three times. We need a connection to help us with temptation. We long for that God connection.
One of the best times to deal with temptation is at God’s table. The communion table. At the table, we can come face to face with those temptations and ask God to help us with them.
So, what do you do when you meet a bad guy or when you meet temptation?
And that’s what I learned in Church……see ya next time!