Prep for Ministry - Jesus' Temptation Part 2
Prep for Ministry - Jesus' Temptation Part 2
Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus overcame temptation so he can be the Savior for unfit people like you and me.
Sundar Singh, the famous 20th century missionary in India, was once challenged by some critics for his lack of knowledge of the popular scientific theories of his day. Of course, this was the early 20th century, and in the early 20th century, the scientific ideas that were most popular stemmed from evolutionary theory. Sundar asked these men what it was about science that he was missing. As all good conversationalists, he wanted to understand the attack of his critics. And so now I’m reading from Sundar’s collected works. Sundar asked, What is science? The answer: natural selection and the survival of the fittest. Ah, Sundar replied, But I am more interested in divine selection and the survival of the unfit. As we look one last time at the period of Jesus’ life in which Jesus prepared for his public ministry, it strikes me that Jesus was interested in those same things. The story of Luke 1 – 4 is the story of divine selection. Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding it are meant to show us that Jesus is the Son of God. At his baptism, there’s a visual and audible announcement and pouring out of the Spirit on Jesus to make very clear that this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Now, he doesn’t become the Son of God in that moment at his baptism, but that information that was known only to a few was made known to everyone by the Father. And then the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to face temptation from Satan himself. The point of this trial is to see if Jesus is fit. I’m going to see if Jesus is fit. Can his heart and mind withstand the temptations that turned all of the hearts and minds of the men and women who came before Him? Will Jesus be another flawed, failed leader like all the other sons of God before him, or will he endure? And will he have victory in precisely the places where those and all of us, every one of us in this room have failed? As I reflect on Sundar Singh’s words, I am more interested in the survival of the unfit. It dawned on me this is exactly what Jesus was interested in. It’s why he faced these temptations. He cared about the survival of the unfit. That’s you and me. We’re unfit. Everything he did on this earth from enduring these temptations in the wilderness to suffering on the cross alone. He did it because we are unfit to survive any of it.
And with this in mind, we turn today to the last two temptations that Jesus faced. In the First Temptation, the devil sees that Jesus is hungry, and he suggests that that he should turn stones into bread. And the temptation was for Jesus to admit that the Father had failed to provide for him and then to give himself his own solution: provide for himself. And we face this temptation every time we think we can give ourselves something better than what the Lord can provide for us, when we think we can provide a better life for ourselves than what God’s Word tells us. Every sin, every sin we committed is actually a form of telling God that we know how life works better than He does. That we can do it better. We’re going to look today at the other two temptations and you’ll see that what they have in common with this first temptation is that they are also God oriented. These are sins against the Lord. Sins, sins ultimately are against God. I know that we tend to think of sins as those things we do that affect other people. And of course, our sins do affect other people. There’s no question about that. But what our sins do to other people is secondary to the real problem of sin. Sin is a rebellion against God. And today we’re going to see Jesus overcome these temptations so that he can be the savior for unfit people like you and me. So if you have your Bibles, you can open them to Luke. Chapter 4. We’ll be in verse 5 today. First, we’ll look at the temptations that Jesus faced and we’ll look at how he dealt with those temptations. And then we’ll see when temptation returns. And then lastly, today, I want to talk about failure. Let’s talk about failure. What do we do when we fail to stand up to temptation?
Pick it up with me in verse 5 (paraphrased): ‘And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time and said to him, To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me and I give it to whom I will. If you then will worship me, it will all be yours. And Jesus answered him. It is written. You shall worship the Lord Your God, and him only shall you serve’. So the devil takes Jesus up and he shows him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. It says this is some kind of a vision, that he has a vision. The devil says All these kingdoms have been given to him and that he can then now turn around and give them to whomever he wants. And of course, the first question before us is, is that true? Can he do that? Is that possible? Does the devil actually have the authority he claims to have here? Well, this is one of those half truths that the devil loves to tell. The devil has been given some ability to rule and to wreak havoc in the world. In John chapter 12, Jesus refers to Satan as the ruler of this world. Okay, So there’s some acknowledgement that that that Satan does have some room to maneuver, and you do not have to spend much time here on earth to know that there’s something up with the management, right? Something’s not working. There’s a lot of evil that’s just seemingly running unchecked throughout our world. God has allowed for Satan to have some dominion, some influence on the world. And we can spend a lot of time this morning talking about the extent and the limitations of that. We don’t really have time for that this morning. But suffice it to note that the half-truth here is that Satan does have some room to maneuver in our fallen world, and that authority was given to him. The half lie, however, is that he can give it away. He is posturing himself as one who has ultimate authority and can give that then to whomever he likes. It’s either a lie or the devil himself is mistaken about his own authority. I’m not sure which it is, but either way, the allowance that God has made for the devil to operate in some way within the world in no way gives the devil any authority to or to give his glory away to other people. My kids each have a room in in my house. Let me get more specific. They each get to occupy a room in the house that Rachel and I own. You understand? They would call this their room, and that’s fine. That’s fine. It’s totally fine. They can call it their room. They can decorate it however they like. There’s a lot of sports stuff going on in Sammy’s room, rather dog themed over in Allie’s room. Okay. They have a certain authority to call that room their room. And they can call the shots on what goes on in that room. But let’s not get it twisted. If I showed up one day and one of their best friends had moved into a corner of the room and was now subletting some space within that room, there’s going to be a conversation about that. Right? Now, the first thing I’m going to say is I’m actually rather proud of you because an 11 year old landlord is noteworthy, Right? That’s a good thing. Entrepreneurial. But second, and this really is the issue. They have no actual ownership of that space or authority over the realm of their room. They’ve simply been permitted some secondary authority that is entirely dependent on our willingness to let them have it. That’s the only authority that Satan has in this world. He has been given some limited time and space to act. But the idea that Satan could bestow some of this authority and some of this glory to us. Is what is tempting about this sin. That’s what’s tempting about this sin. Do you want to be in control? Would you want to be in charge of the world around you? Do you want everyone and everything in your life to rotate around you as you command them to do everything that pleases you? All you have to do is remove the authority of God and Him speaking into your life, and then that authority becomes yours. And now you’re in charge. You get to say how the world around you works.
Jesus is being tempted with authority over all the nations of the earth. All he has to do is cast off this misplaced, burdensome authority from God. After all, the spirit drove him into the wilderness, and the Father has not provided for him out there in that wilderness. He hasn’t gotten the things he wants so that he feels full and satiated. And so the world isn’t going exactly the way he wants it to. All Jesus has received from his devotion to the Father is 40 days of hunger at this point. Why should Jesus stick to this arrangement? Why give glory to God at all in that situation? The Devil’s offer seems like such a good one. You can have authority over everything. You can have full reign and all the benefits of a world that revolves around you if you just come and worship me instead of God. This is the temptation. And sinners like us have bought it hard. We’ve bought it hard. We have swallowed this, hook, line and sinker. Now, I understand that most people who reject the gospel, who do not follow Jesus and who have no love for the Lord, would not say that they are worshippers of the devil. I understand that when we think of devil worshippers, we think of Goth and Ouija boards and The Exorcist. I got a friend who likes to do tarot card readings on Facebook and tells people about astrology. That’s the image we get in our minds when we think about worshipping Satan or Satan worship. But look, all you have to do to worship Satan is not worship the one true God, the creator of all things, who is actually in authority over all of creation. If you are guided by your own authority, if you are in pursuit of your own glory, you have accepted this deal from the devil whether you realize you have or not. You are subletting a corner of the world and from someone who does not own it. As Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1, verse 25, people who accept this deal, quote, “exchange the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator”.
Jesus saw this temptation for what it is. It’s an issue of worship and service. See if he went after this deal to get glory and authority, he would be stealing worship from God, the Father. Now, you might be thinking, wait a minute, hold on, Kyle. This is Jesus. All creation was made for him, and through him. Doesn’t he already have all authority and glory? Yes, yes, he does. There is a real irony in this offer because Satan is not all knowing, like God, he doesn’t know the extent of who Jesus is. He probably thinks that this would be very tempting to the Son of God. After all, every son of God who came before Jesus accepted this offer to some degree. Every ruler of the Israelites, everyone who sat in that chair as king of God’s people fell in this way. So why wouldn’t this one? Every one of us has accepted this deal. We are all sinners who at certain points of our lives have sought our own glory based on our own authority, turning away from God to go after those things that we wanted. We played right into this scheme. But here, Jesus, who was the true son of God, representing the humanity that has failed to worship and serve the Lord exclusively. He now acts in his spirit-empowered humanity when he quotes Deuteronomy 6, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him only shall you serve.” Not additionally, not me and God together figuring out how to things work best. But I will worship Him alone. And I will serve Him alone. Jesus won’t compromise His worship of the Father or his service to the Father. He will not go off on a mission to get something for himself. Satan says worship me as a means to the end that you want. And Jesus says, God, the father is the end I want. That’s what I want. Glorifying the Lord is the end I want.
Let’s look at the Second Temptation or the Third Temptation. And he took him to Jerusalem, set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written, he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you. And on their hands, they will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone. And Jesus answered him. “It is said, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” So this last temptation is interesting because of the way the devil argues. He uses scripture. You know Satan knows Scripture too? Does that seem out of character for him? Do you know what’s even more surprising? He does not use this scripture out of context. He actually uses it appropriately. Listen to this section of Psalm 91. He’s quoting Psalm 91: ‘Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge—-evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands. They will bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone.’
This is a great Psalm of God’s protection. It’s a poetic way of conveying the promise that when you have the Lord, nothing can ultimately hurt you. If you have the Lord, you don’t have anything to fear. Yes, believers are going to suffer in this time. There’s no there’s no question about it. We’re in a broken world. We’re going to suffer. But you won’t experience anything outside of the Lord’s control. God has you in the grip of his protective grace for eternity. It’s a very, very encouraging psalm. So go ahead Jesus, you’re the son of God. Throw yourself down from the temple and put God’s protective power on display. Now, I think that the devil doesn’t know whether Jesus is the Son of God. I think he might see him as some powerful, maybe the next King ruler. But I think he’s hoping to trick Jesus into killing himself. If I had to guess as to what he’s thinking here. And if God does come through and He does save the Son, the devil will now have at least begun the process of getting Jesus to listen to his words. So Jesus is going to sin if he jumps, whether he’s saved or not. It’s actually a pretty sly strategy here. And what makes it even more clever is he does it by appealing to scripture that says that God’s people have nothing to fear. He’s using Jesus own Bible against him. So what exactly then, is the sin here? What is the temptation? Because the fact is the Father would save Jesus if he did this. I mean, he loves Jesus. The Father is going to raise Jesus from the dead. The Father absolutely loves Jesus. He is definitely going to save him. So why not just jump and demonstrate right here in the ultimate display of Jesus Divine Sonship? I mean, if he did this, it would send the ultimate fear into the devil’s heart, right? That he was something pretty great. Again, the real temptation here is clear in Jesus’ answer. You get at it when you see his answer. He quotes Deuteronomy 6 again and he says, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test. The context there is ancient Israel and Moses and the people in the wilderness. Moses is speaking to the children of the generation that complained about God all through the wilderness. Remember that? Every time they turn around they were complaining about something going on. And so here he is. This new nation is about to enter into the promised land. And Moses says to them, Don’t be like your fathers. It’s been 40 years. Okay. We’re about to go in now. 40 years ago, they messed this up. Don’t be like your fathers. Like your parents who tested the Lord at Masssah. Masssah was the place where the people complained that they didn’t have enough water to drink. They complained about a lot of things. This was the water one if you want to remember it. But instead of that, instead of trusting in the Lord to provide, they went to Moses and they whined because they didn’t have water. Why did you bring us out here to die? We could have died back in Egypt. Why did you bring us out here to die? The scarcity of the water was supposed to make them trust the Lord more. It’s supposed to call them back into a relationship with the Lord where they said, you know, we trust that God is going to provide for us, even though it doesn’t seem like we have what we need right now, and we know that God is with us. That’s what it was intended to do. But instead, it made them test God. Essentially they said, Moses, if God is really God, then he better give us water. If God is really who He says he is, then he had better give us this water. And so God gave them the water. But the place was called Massah because that means quarreling. The temptation here is to take on a heart attitude of demanding something from the Lord to see if he really is who he says he is. It’s been 40 days for you, Jesus. No Mana. You won’t make bread for yourself because God is supposed to provide. Why don’t you make him prove it? Why don’t you make him prove it? Why don’t you just force God’s hand to make him display his goodness for you? In effect, the challenge to Jesus is to control his Father, to force Him to perform and be the sort of God that Jesus commands Him to be. And now I think you’ll see that the real sin is coming into view, isn’t it? You’ve probably never thrown yourself down from a tower while demanding that God save you. If you had, you probably wouldn’t be here this morning. But I’m sure that you’ve had the thought, God, if you’re really powerful, like you say you are, if you really love me, if you’re really gracious the way you say you are, then you’d better do this for me. You been there? This is another subtle sin because there’s a difference, but not always a clear line between trusting in God’s promises and demanding God to provide what you want based on those promises. It can be a very, very subtle difference. You ever find yourself bargaining with God? If you’ll do this, I’ll do that kind of thing. I’ll be more faithful if you will just do these things that I need you to do. God, Jesus said that that you like to give good gifts to your kids. But where’s my good gift? It’s right there in Scripture. You give good gifts to your children. I’m your child. Where’s, where’s my good gift? God, you said pray for healing, but you didn’t heal my friend. Where’s my healing? How come when I prayed I didn’t get the healing that others have received? When we do this, what we’re saying to the Lord is, I’m not here to serve your purposes. God, you’re here to serve my purposes. It’s an attempt to bring God under our rule. Non-believers love to make arguments like this. Non-believers make arguments like Satan’s argument here all the time. If your God is so great, why is there all this evil in the world? Or why doesn’t why doesn’t he show himself or why doesn’t he just display all this power? So when your heart moves in this direction, what you have really done is put yourself in God’s place. You’re no longer looking to God for guidance. You’re telling God what to do with an attitude of superiority over him. For non believers, this is mocking God. For believers, this is presuming on God. And for both. It’s an affront to God because God is not controlled by anyone. Jesus passes this test by not putting the Lord to the test. In fact, Jesus successfully overcomes all three subtle, distinct attacks from the devil to tempt him, to break his relationship with the father. And that’s what all of these do. All of these are an attempt to put a wedge between Jesus and his father. To put a wedge between humanity and God. And it is worked with every other human being.
Will it work with Jesus? He passes the test, he won’t give himself something the Lord has not provided. He won’t take the glory and worship due only to the Lord, and he won’t demand the Lord display his power for his own benefit. Or if we put that positively: in successfully responding to these temptations, Jesus affirms that the Lord can be trusted to provide, is worthy of all of our praise, and is sovereign over all of his creation, including us. That’s what he affirms when he passes this test. So He did it. It’s done. So the temptation is gone forever, right? And when the devil had ended every temptation he departed from him until an opportune time. An opportune time. Really? This is going to come back? I think we all know that temptation is not a one time event, right? We all know that. It seems like every time we pass one, it’s just another temptation right around the bend. Release from temptation is temporary. This side of Jesus return when Jesus returns. Right? And He reigns forever. And we are with him forever in eternity. We’re not going to have to worry about temptations anymore. But for now, they are one after the other, after the other, after the other. Satan is going to continue to use tactics to get at you. 1st Peter describes the activity of Satan like a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour. Just because we escaped from that lion doesn’t mean that lion won’t be back and that lion’s hunger is going to go away.
Even Jesus will see the attempts of Satan again. Church, I wish I could tell you that once you walk with Jesus long enough that you will stop facing temptation. I wish I could tell you that. It is true that as you grow, you will see more and more victory as God slowly weeds the sin out of your life. You will see more and more victory. And it’s also true that as you grow to become more and more like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in you, that many of the sins that entangled you earlier in your life will start to be repulsive to you. You will start to have more victory over these things. Now you may find that other temptations that weren’t tempting to you before start to crop up because the devil loves to change his tactics. But you will see victory in some ways. The closer you walk with Jesus, the more that your mind is shaped by the Word of God, the less inclined you will be to be involved in those things that pull you away from Jesus and that contradict God’s Word, because you’ll realize that those things are actually stealing joy from you instead of giving joy to you. You start to see the lies that somehow sin against God will provide more joy than God himself. But understand something. Satan is not done with you. His plan for this world where he has some reign is to trip you up. He wants to trip you up. He’s going to work to get you off of Jesus mission. He’s going to try to work to get you on to some other mission, some other probably you-centered mission. You don’t need to be a Satan worshipper to be ineffective for the Lord. You’ll be serving his purposes if you just spend your life providing your own bread, serving your own kingdom, using your faith for your own purposes. And the temptation to do these things is coming and it’s coming at an opportune time. There will be an opportunity for him to get his claws into you.
So what do we do when we fail? Let’s talk about failure. What do we do when we fail? Part of the danger of watching Jesus prepare so well for ministry and seeing him conquer these temptations to sin is that we start to think that God’s message to us is Do Better. Do better. We could read this passage and see Jesus conquer everything and then think that God is saying to us, Well, do you see Jesus? Why aren’t you doing a better job like Jesus? Look at him quoting the Scriptures all the time here. Look at him. Look at him fighting the battle so incredibly well. We could begin to think that God is only pleased with us when we succeed like Jesus, and that he rejects us when we fail to live up to the standard that Jesus has set. What happens when we don’t score 100% on the test this week? And I got to tell you, church, I got a feeling based on the last 44 years of my track record, that I’m probably not going to get an A-plus this week on that test. Church, while I want to challenge you today to walk in step with the Spirit and draw on the power of God’s Word to combat the temptations that you face. It would be a tragedy today if you walk away thinking that what God wants you to do is to just do better. It is so important for you to see that what Jesus did there in the wilderness He did for you. He did this on your behalf. It’s not just an example for you to follow. It is obedience in the place of our disobedience. By remaining free of sin, Jesus made himself the man who could sympathize with our affliction and provide for us righteousness that we could never get on our own, that we could never achieve. He succeeds precisely where we fail, so that at the cross he could take our failure and give us his success. When you put your trust in Jesus, you are saying, Lord, please accept me into your presence, not based on my own victory over sin, but on the basis of Jesus victory.
Listen to these words as we close today. Look at these words from Hebrews 4:14 to 16. “Since then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens. Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are yet without sin. Let us then, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He did this for you. He did this for you. Jesus faced temptation because he knows the temptation that we face. He battled and he won. He came to secure the survival of the unfit. If you have Jesus and you’re still picturing an angry God who’s right on the edge of throwing you out because you still fail to stand up to the temptation, you’ve got Jesus all wrong. You don’t understand what he’s done. Dane Ortlund wrote. He sides with you against your sin, not against you because of your sin. So keep up that two fisted fight against sin. Absolutely, Church, let’s keep up that fight. But when we fail, let’s cling to him. When you fail, repent and remember his grace, his unmerited favor that covers you with confidence. Draw near to the throne of God’s grace. Because Jesus is your victory. Let’s pray together.