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The Temptations of the evil one, Part 1

Blog -> Bible



Matthew 4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 

Last Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at our church. Speaking has become more and more of a passion for me. And I love when God gives me a word, I release it, and then (often to my surprise) people actually respond to it. 

Last Sunday's message was based on Jesus' temptations that we can read about in Matthew 4. And I want to share some of the things I have taught over the next few days in this blog. This is Part 1, it'll probably be three parts in the end.

So let's get started: Jesus just got baptized, then He was led to the wilderness, to fast for 40 days. Those 40 days are nearly over. Jesus is hungry and exhausted. And since He is also fully human, He probably thought about the 1000 things He would eat as soon as the fast is over. (That's what I am mostly thinking about when I'm coming towards the end of a fast).

So it's when Jesus is in that condition when the tempter comes and simply says this:

Matthew 4:3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 

So ... what is the devil trying to do? Well, several things:

  • First of all, the devil is trying to question Jesus' identity. He is trying to give Jesus the impression that He has to proof to Satan that He is really who He says He is: The Son of God. Or to put it the other way around: "Jesus, if you don't turn stones into bread, then maybe you are not the Son of God, huh?" The devil is trying to get Jesus to believe that He has to proof something. Obviously, He doesn't. But the devil is trying to create doubts in Jesus' mind.
  • Secondly, and more importantly, the devil is trying to get Jesus to turn against the Father. The devil is basically saying: "You know, as the Son of God, you have power. A lot of power. So ... provide for Yourself. Use your power to meet your own needs."

Now that last point is kind of sad, and kind of funny at the same time. Funny because we know that Satan didn't succeed tempting Jesus this way. But at the same time sad, because this temptation generally works quite well with us. But let's backtrack a little bit. A bit of background:

Jesus has power to turn stones into bread, there's no question about it. But what we have to understand is: It's the Father who gave that power to Jesus! Why did the Father give Him such power? Well, to bring glory to the Father. Jesus as the perfect human being fully understood: Everything I have been given by the Father I am expected to use for my Father. 

Jesus also fully trusts in the Father's provisions. He knows that the need to eat is a legitimate need (The devil did not tempt Jesus to do anyting unlawful at this moment. He didn't tempt Jesus to steal someone else's bread. He didn't tempt Jesus with a brand new Ferrari.) Jesus knew that sooner or later He will have to eat again. So the devil didn't tempt Jesus with anything bad in that sense.

All the devil did was simply this: "Jesus, you don't have to suffer like this for the sake of the Father. Just provide for yourself. It's not unlawful!"

That part might be right. But the problem is: It's not the Father's will for Jesus at this particular moment. In this season of Jesus' life, the Father wants Jesus to fast. So the devil is trying to tempt Jesus to turn against the Father's will for Jesus' life at this particular moment.

Jesus' reply however is absolutely brilliant:

Matthew 4:4 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. 

Every aspect of the devil's temptation is completely disarmed by one simple sentence. A quote from the Old Testament. So what is Jesus basically saying? 

  • First of all, Jesus quotes scripture. The ultimate authority that even the devil has to abide in. Jesus is not sharing His opinion (You know, I think you're wrong!). He's not sharing knowledge He got from someone else ("Devil, you know, the Rabbi I listened to last week said something else.") Jesus quotes scripture to speak Truth to the lies of the enemy.
  • Secondly, Jesus is saying: "You know, you're trying to tempt me with physical food. But that's not real food. True satisfaction doesn't come from stuff. It comes from being obedient to the Father." (Remember what Jesus said to His disciples? John 4:34 Jesus said unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Satisfaction comes from being in obedience to the Father, not from things.
  • Then Jesus is saying: "If satisfaction only comes from obeying God, then I won't do anything that God doesn't tell me to do. So I won't listen to you Satan"
  • "And lastly Satan: My God will provide for all my needs!"

Amazing. One simple quote from the Old Testament, to completely disarm every aspect of the temptation of the enemy.

So the devil tried to tempt Jesus to be independent of the Father, live His own life. The devil wanted Jesus to use the very things that God has given Him (the power and authority to turn stones into bread) to turn against God and God's will for His life. But Jesus didn't give in. And He remained completely dependent on the Father. 

 

How does this temptation apply to us? Well, we are constantly tempted to live indepenent of God, aren't we? Here are a few examples that I hear over and over again:

  • Many people pray for things, and once they have what they pray for, they focus on the gift, rather than the giver. Maybe they pray for a job, and once they have the job, they spend all their time on their job, and they completely neglect to have time with God every day. Or they pray for a family, and once they are married and have children, God takes a back seat in their priorities. They might still go to church, but their relationship with God turns quite shallow. People use what God has given them to turn against God. 
  • Even Ministry can cause us to turn away from God. It's so easy to get so busy helping other people that we simply neglect our own relationship with God. For a while it looks all great and noble. But since we are serving people out of our own strenth, it's only a matter until we burn out. And burning out in ministry can end disastrous, even to the point of turning against God completely.
  • Other people simply make their own decision. When they reach a crossroad in their lives they say "God, guide me!" But if they don't get their answer within 2min of their prayer, they simply say: "God doesn't guide me. So I'll just make my own decision."

Many people fall into such a trap.

 

The solution? Well, simple: Stay with God. Each day!

  • Make your quiet time an absolute priority over everything else
  • Know Jesus' moral teaching
  • Know Jesus' will for your life
  • Make decisions with God, acknowledge Him in all your ways (Prov. 3:5-6)
  • ...

And when you know God, know who He is, know who you are in Christ, know God's will for your life,... then you will be able to identify the lies of the enemy. And then you will be able to say something like Jesus as well: "Devil, this is not God's will for my life. I know my Father will provide for all my needs. I am not going to turn against my Father's will, just because you give me a good looking opportunity here. All I ever do is what my Father tells me to do."

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. 



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