The Three Temptations
October 24, 2010
Forty days, in the wilderness. Forty days, not four, not fourteen but forty. And all he took with him was what he was wearing. He wasn’t part of a tribe, had nobody to build an alliance with, it was just him, a rugged terrain and God. What did he eat? Did he hunt, or fish, he didn’t do either, because he didn’t eat. For forty days he fasted and prayed and at the end of that time he faced his foe. This would either be the beginning or it would be the end. And this is one view of how it happened. (Video clip from CBS mini-series Jesus)
One of the central pillars of our faith is that fact that when Jesus walked this earth he was 100% man and 100% God, that is he had both a human nature and a divine nature. And a part of that is the belief that even with his human nature that he never sinned. But just because he never sinned doesn’t mean he wasn’t tempted. And it’s not just my opinion the Bible says Hebrews 2:17-18 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
The story is told in the fourth chapter of Luke. It was at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, he had just been baptized and went into the desert for forty days and during that time he fasted. And at the end of the forty days Satan came and tempted him.
So, the question is: was Jesus really tempted? There are some who say that even though the temptation was real in the sense that it actually happened, that because Christ was 100% divine that he wouldn’t have given into the temptation. If that is the case then he wasn’t a 100% man and that’s part of the mystery of the incarnation. My own theory is yes the devil tempted Christ, and yes it was a temptation. I read a great explanation from Alexander McLaren who wrote “As a true man, he could have been truly tempted; as perfect man suggestions of evil could not arise within, but must be presented from without.”
So, because Jesus not have a sinful nature to tempt him those temptations had to come from an outside source, in this case Satan.
It was at this point that Jesus would have to make a decision how he would do his work. God was saying “Take my love to the people of the world, love them, die for them if you have to, but conquer them with your unconquerable love.” Satan on the other hand was saying, “Take the power that you have and demand the submission of mankind, win the world through might and force.” And so Jesus had to decide that day, would he follow the way of God or the way of Satan.
Well we have the benefit of the book and we know that Jesus didn’t give in to Satan, that he didn’t sin. And this morning we are going to look at the story and discover what we can learn about being tempted and defeating temptation.
Every person here is tempted in one way or another, that’s part of being human. And every one of us will respond to temptation in only one of two ways. We’ll either give in or we won’t. It’s as simple as that. No in between, no ambiguity here, it’s either yes or no, win or lose. When I first became a believer my Dad told me, “Sin is black or white; grey is just a colour of paint.” That might be a little simplistic but it certainly applies to temptation. It’s unfortunate that too many people’s strategy of dealing with temptation is easy, they simply give in and get on with. They are a lot like Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation.”
Let’s start this morning by looking at The Three Temptations. Earlier I said that we are all tempted in one way or another. And we are, and our temptations are all different, what tempts me may not tempt you. But there is a common thread that runs through all of our temptations. When I was in Bible College I took a course called Pastoral Management, and it was taught by Rev. Charles Grant. Charles told us as a class that in our ministry we would find ourselves tempted by one of three things, “The Gold, the glory or the girls.” I thought that was fairly original but it wasn’t really. A few years back a Wesleyan author by the name of Keith Drury wrote a book called Sex, power and money, and that was no more original than the gold, the glory or the girls.
Luke 4:3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”
1) We Can Be Tempted By our Appetites
This one goes back a long way, to the very first temptation recorded in bible, right before Eve ate her family out of house and home. You remember the story, God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and they had complete freedom to do anything they wanted, except they could not eat from the tree of Knowledge. They could have cut it down and used it for fire wood and been done with temptation once and for all, but they didn’t. And when she was tempted listen to the direction the temptation went.
Genesis 3:6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
Now we aren’t talking about appetite here in the sense of a Big Mac a large order of Fries and a shake. No this is the temptation to satisfy our physical desires, even when we know that it is wrong. Every one of us will be tempted at some time or another through our appetites. It may not be hunger it may be your sexual appetite, it might be an addictive substance, or it might simply be the appetite to have more, whatever the cost.
And those temptations normally are more powerful when we are hungry for whatever it is that Satan is tempting us with. Satan knew that it wouldn’t have done much good to tempt Jesus with bread when he had just gotten up from a feast and so he waited until he had gone without food for forty days.
When I talk to people who have committed adultery they usually say that there was something missing in their marriage, sex, intimacy, acceptance and that is what they were tempted to find elsewhere.
Of course the power of temptation is multiplied because our society has reverted back to the philosophy of ancient Rome that said “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Or perhaps it’s the philosophy of the not so ancient 60’s that said “If it feels good; do it.”
But the question is: Why do we do things when we know they are wrong? Why do we watch movies that we know Christ wouldn’t approve of, why do we listen to music that flies in the face of everything the Bible teaches, why do we cultivate relationships that we know are dangerous? If you were to answer honestly it would be because we enjoy those things and those people. We are seeking to fulfill the appetite of pleasure. Even when we know that to do so is to be disobedient to what God wants in our lives.
What Satan was asking of Jesus seemed relatively harmless; just turn the rocks into bread. What could be wrong with that? Nothing in itself, but Jesus knew that wasn’t what he was supposed to do. And ultimately that’s how we need to view things, is this what God would have me to do? And if we are going to do that than we need to believe that God has the very best at heart for us, and he isn’t just a Grinch intent on taking all the pleasure out of life.
Luke 4:5-7 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
2) We Can Be Tempted By Power
Power, the rest of the temptation that Eve faced was power. Genesis 3:5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
To be just like God, people are still trying to be like God. What Eve was after wasn’t knowledge it was power. Satan was offering Jesus the power of world dominion without the sacrifice of the cross.
People are too willing to pay whatever price they need to in order to achieve the power they crave. They will sacrifice their morals, their ethics, their integrity. James Byrnes former Secretary of State wrote “Power intoxicates men. When a man is intoxicated by alcohol, he can recover, but when intoxicated by power, he seldom recovers.”
Most of the problems in today’s world are caused by a quest for power. Read the papers. What is it that the Israeli’s and Palestinians are fighting over? Land, no they have land they are fighting over power, who will be in charge. Radical Islam is fighting for control, they want the power that comes with being in control. The Taliban wants to be back in control in Afghanistan so they will have power over the people and will be able to demand they do it their way.
We have been undulated with reports of Russell Williams crimes in Ontario but Williams’ crimes weren’t about sex they were about power.
Luke 4:9-11 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.'”
3) We Can Be Tempted By Fame
“Just think Jesus, all you have to do is one little circus trick and everyone will know who you are and they will bow down and worship you. Again, no harm no foul, the angels will protect you. So if you jump off the temple walls, everyone will see that you don’t get hurt.”
This is also the temptation of pride, Madonna made this statement “I won’t be happy till I’m as famous as God.” She’ll never be as famous as God, but I would suspect that she has done some things in the quest for that fame that has dishonoured God and Madonna. Don Johnson may have been thinking of Madonna when he said “Once you become famous, there is nothing left to become but infamous.”
And you’re thinking, Denn that isn’t a problem for me, I know that I’ll never be famous so it’s not a temptation. Sure, but have you ever considered fames little brother, popularity.
When I was in school I was both unpopular and popular, and trust me popular is better, but it’s not worth selling your soul for. Don’t give into the temptation of doing things just to fit in with the crowd. Because when the time comes to pay the price for the compromises that you make the crowd will be nowhere around.
The Gold, the glory and the girls, Sex, money and power or Appetites, power and fame. Call them what you will but time and time again it’s the same three that will cause you to stumble.
3 Strategies of Winning
Use The Book God has given us guidelines for living, they are contained in the bible. Time and time again people choose to consciously disobey his word, and then blame God for the mess they are in.
Three times Satan tempted Jesus and all three times Jesus responded by saying “The Scriptures Say.” And gave a response to the temptation out of the word.
In Psalm 119 David asked Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? And then he answers his own question By obeying your word.
Two verses later he adds to it by saying Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
The bible will only do any good if you know what is in it. It’s no good to wave it around and say, “Somewhere in here it says something that’s helpful” You need it hide it in your heart. You say, “But Denn I’m no good at memorizing scripture.” Just read it, and read it and read it. Make it a part of your day. If you don’t have a bible reading plan you can find one for your computer, you iPhone, your blackberry or you can do it the old fashion way.
Devotional books are wonderful but they are no substitute for reading God’s word. David didn’t say “I have hidden “The Daily Bread” in my heart, or I have hid “The Upper Room” in my heart, or I have hid the latest Christian best seller in my heart. Read the book.
Don’t Underestimate Temptation. Remember what you pray in the Lord’s prayer, Lead me not into temptation. Too many of us are like Mae West who said “I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.” We say we’re resisting but we’re not putting up too much of a fight cause we’re afraid we’ll scare it off completely. But it’s not a game, and it’s not some little pet that you can take and play with and put back. The Bible says the Devil is like a lion, and it means a full-grown nasty beast. Not a cute little cuddly thing.
Story is told about a man who came in from the dessert to visit his cousin in the city. As he made his way toward town he came across a railroad track. He had never seen a train before so he didn’t know what the track was and decided it was just an easy place to walk, and so he did. He didn’t get very far when a train came charging down the track after him. He heard the whistle and turned just as it hit him. Well luckily it didn’t kill him just banged him up real bad. When he got out of the hospital his cousin took him in and the first night decided his country cousin could use a cup of tea and he put the kettle on to boil. Well you know what happened. Buddy’s sitting and the tea kettle starts to whistle, he jumps up grabs a base ball bat, rushes out to the kitchen and beats the tea kettle to pieces. His cousin follows after him and says “What did you do to my kettle?” To which came the response, “Oh sure they are cute when they are little, but let them grow up and they can kill you.”
That’s the reason why in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns us not only to avoid committing adultery but to avoid even thinking about committing adultery.
Jesus’ brother James hit the nail right on the head when he wrote in James 1:14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
Scottish writer Margaret Oliphant Said the same thing, “Temptations come, as a general rule, when they are sought.”
Don’t go looking for temptation and don’t under estimate them. You’ve heard me say it over and over again; “Sin will always take you further than you want to go it will always keep you longer than you want to stay and will always cost you more than you want to pay.”
Claim the Promise Here’s the most important thing I’m going to say today, learn this scripture, memorize it and believe it with all your heart.
1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
You can win, you don’t have to lose. The promise is here in the book, and we don’t debate the book. I couldn’t help myself, or the temptation was too strong, or the devil made me do it are cop-outs. The Bible, the word of God promises us that we can win over temptation. Let’s read it the promise together but this time let’s personalize it 1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in my life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than I can stand. When I am tempted, he will show me a way out so that I can endure.
God has promised to show you a way out, so your part is to look for hat way out.
But remember if you are going to master temptation then first you are going to have to let God master you and what happens then? Listen to the result in Luke Luke 4:14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power.