And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. (Luk 4:1-13 KJV)
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. (Mat 4:1-11 KJV)
This passage raises questions in some minds as to whether or not there was a possibility of Christ falling in sin. Otherwise they say, “It couldn’t have been a real temptation.” They don’t consider temptation real unless there’s a possibility of sinning. But since Christ was both man and God, and since God can’t sin, there was no real way for Him to fall into sin. Yet, what else would we call the attacks of Satan if not temptations? Perhaps whether something’s a temptation or not has less to do with the object that it’s directed against, and more to do with the object that directs it. So since Satan directed the attacks against Christ for His destruction, we should consider it real temptation.
Though the Spirit of God drove Christ into the wilderness, it was the Devil who tempted Him. This is an important distinction to make because the Scriptures tell us to:
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (Jas 1:13 KJV)
Though God doesn’t tempt us He does test us. We see this in His interaction with Abraham when we read that:
…it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Gen 22:1-2 KJV)
So what’s the difference between the testing of Abraham by God and the tempting of Christ by the Devil? Well, the testing by God was meant to confirm Abraham in his faith and love for God while the tempting by the Devil was meant to bring about sin if at all possible. You see, when Abraham went to sacrifice his son, he was stopped by an angel of God. It was never God’s plan to have Abraham sin, but He was testing Abraham to see where his faith and love rested – whether on God or on Isaac.
In the case of our passage where Christ is tempted of the Devil we see both God and the Devil working through the same means toward different goals. The Devil is trying to get Christ to sin and fail in the redeeming work that He came to accomplish. God is strengthening the ministry of Christ by starting it off with a great victory over Satan. This passage also gives us an example of how the Devil tempts us to sin, as well as the proper response to fend off the great serpent.
We must always remember that temptations to sin come not from God, but rather from Satan as he seeks to cause us to fall. And as we understand who our tempter is, and that he’s God’s Devil, we can be assured that the Spirit of God who dwells in us, is able to overcome this mere creature.
There are times in our lives when God allows temptations to beset us. When we meet with these times of trouble we should always remember that God’s plan for it is to purify us as silver that’s refined by the fire. In testing us, God does not leave us to our own power, but His Spirit empowers us with the ability to overcome the temptation.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1Co 10:13)
When we’re tempted to sin, and we give in to it, it’s not because of God’s lack of love and care for us in our time of need. It’s not because God has withdrawn His Spirit from us so that we are without the power to overcome. Rather, we give in to sin because we love it. As Tim Keller has said, to overcome our love for sin we need an even greater love for God. Look at how the Bible puts it…
… each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Jas 1:14-15)
So we see that there’s a process. Sin starts because we’re enticed by our own desires. The root of the whole problem lies in our heart…we still desire those sins that we’re tempted by.
In this sense, our temptations are different from that of our Lord. Christ never desired to follow Satan; He never had a love for the sins that came before Him as temptations.
Temptation and the Bible
Once you begin to strive more in the discipline of reading Scripture, be warned that the Enemy will seek to sway your trust in it. Satan knows the Word of God and its power quite well. He’s so aware of it that many of his attacks are directed against it. Think of how the very first sin came about. Eve was asked the question, “Did God actually say thus and so?” When we begin to question and doubt God’s Word we begin to doubt the veracity of God Himself. His character is so intertwined with His Word that our perception of the one gives us our perception of the other.
Christ isn’t tempted in the same way that Eve was. He’s not asked, “Did God really say…” Christ had complete and full knowledge of the Scriptures and the Enemy knew that. So instead of getting Christ to doubt God’s Word he tried to get Him to obey it…but obey it out of context.
Today we are faced with similar attacks. On the one side we’re being attacked with the question, “Did God really say…?” from those who put no confidence in the preservation of God’s Word. On the other hand we’re being attacked by those who twist God’s Word to suit their own purposes rather than preaching it rightly. If we only know the little catch-phrases of Christianity…if we know verses, but only out of context…if we don’t understand the Bible as the unified and complete Word of God…then we will fall under these attacks.
We must not only have faith that God made the Bible, but also that He has providentially preserved it; and that the Bible we have now is the Word of God for us. Furthermore, we must not listen to preachers without comparing what they say to the Scriptures as a whole. If we get caught up in the out-of-context quoting of Scripture and don’t take the responsibility of searching the Scriptures as the Bereans did, then our faith will be weakened by the very thing that’s meant to strengthen it.
Like Jesus, we can be victorious when the Enemy attacks us by living according to Scripture and using God’s word against him. When we’re devoted to reading and meditating upon Scripture, as we rely on the Holy Spirit to give us illumination and understanding of the things of God, then we can take that Word and use it in the battle. The Word of God is so important in overcoming the enemy because it’s the only offensive weapon that we have in our artillery….it’s the Sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17). We can certainly defend ourselves with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the breastplate of righteousness….but we can’t overcome the enemy without the Sword! And an enemy that’s not overcome is an enemy that’s not defeated…it’s an enemy that will raise his claws toward our soul again, if we leave him without injury from God’s Word.
We see Christ using Scripture as His sword, and He’s victorious. He doesn’t enter into long debates with the Enemy…He doesn’t try to argue with him regarding the truth of Scripture (Jud 1:9)…He simply wields the Sword of the Spirit like a master swordsman and fells the enemy one blow at a time.
So what’s important for us to take away from this as we face our own spiritual battles? How can we wield the Sword of the Spirit to gain victory over the Enemy? I would suggest a few things:
- Pray that the Holy Spirit would give you understanding in the Scriptures
- Read the Scriptures Daily
- Read them with the intent of being obedient to them
- Meditate on them
- As conflicts come up in your life, think of what the Scripture has to say to you
And as we use the Scriptures, not just as a religious text-book, but as a means of shaping our lives, we will overcome the challenges that we face by the grace of God.
So while on many levels the temptation of Christ is very unique to Him because He’s the Son of God, we also see that we share in the same types of temptations. There are, in fact, no temptations that you will ever face that are so unique that only you have faced them. And we’re promised in Scripture that God Himself will give us the strength to overcome our temptations.
When we’re tempted to sin we have this wonderful promise in Scripture…
… 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. (Heb 4:15-16)
So we’re confident, not in our own power to overcome sin, but in the power of Christ, who has mercy on us in our time of need. It’s Christ who sustains us in the midst of temptation, and it’s in Christ’s image that we’re conformed to as we overcome sin and temptation by His Spirit.
Though the Devil tempts us with our destruction in mind, God allows the temptations to come our way with the purification of our faith in mind. As we’re tempted to sin and overcome it by Christ, our faith in Christ is shored up and purified. It’s only an exercised faith that grows stronger, and God will stop at nothing to ensure that we’re growing in His grace if we’re truly His children.
Take courage in the fact that even the Devil is God’s creature and under His complete control. And though he is at times given permission to buffet us, the goal that God has in mind is our purification, and this is the end that He will accomplish in those who have Christ as their Lord and Savior.
Conquering Our Temptations
The key to our spiritual fight, the key to conquering sin in our lives, is to stop loving it and start loving God in its place. Our Lord tells us that the greatest commandment of all is to…
love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Mat 22:37)
We don’t love God as we should…we don’t love Him as He deserves. And we have to understand how far short we fall so that we can be provoked to strive with all our heart, soul, and mind to love God as we ought.
One of the most effective ways of growing in our love for God is to spend time with Him. Think about how ridiculous it would sound if I said that I loved my wife, and in the same breath told you that I spend only an hour with her all week. I doubt that anyone would believe that I really loved her. You see, it’s impossible to love someone you don’t spend time with.
As we spend time with God in prayer, Scripture, and fellowship with the rest of the Body of Christ, our love for God grows. And as this love grows it finds more satisfaction from God and less satisfaction from the sins that it used to hold so dear. I encourage you to make an effort, by God’s grace, to strive forward in these spiritual disciplines.
So how does the Enemy attack?
The Devil didn’t tempt Christ until He had fasted for 40 days and was physically hungry. Temptations are hard enough, let alone when we’re weak from hunger. And just look at how the Devil tried to take advantage of this with his first temptation – “command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Knowing that Christ was hungry the Devil took full opportunity to attack him at His weakest point.
That’s how spiritual warfare works for us as well. We all have weaknesses and strengths, and we need to understand those weaknesses so that we can be constantly on guard and not taken by surprise in some special temptation. If someone has a weakness for alcohol, they should stay away from bars. If someone has a weakness for stealing money, they shouldn’t be left alone with the cash register. The trouble is that we are so attracted to our sins we’ll get as close as we can to them until we eventually get sucked in.
Christ wasn’t merely tempted to satisfy His hunger, for that’s a good and reasonable thing for us to do. Rather, this temptation reached further and touched upon faith in God’s providence. It’s in God’s providence that we’re nourished and sustained in this world. God does not ordinarily act in miraculous ways, but in providential ways to sustain His creation. Whenever we focus on the miraculous to the neglect of the providential we show a lack of trust in God’s providential care of us.
Consider the blessing of being in a country that has so much access to doctors and medicine, and then rejecting these very same blessings because we’d rather have God do a miraculous work than trust in His providential care. What a sin to presume to tell God how to deal with us rather than trusting in the way that He has chosen to care for us. Jesus told the Pharisees that
…An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign [or a miracle]…(Mat 12:39)
Look at how Christ responds to the temptation for the miraculous. Even though He’s hungry and weak in the flesh, when He’s tempted to make stones into bread, He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” You see, Christ was nourished not only by food for the flesh, but also food for the Spirit, which is to do the will of God. And it doesn’t take the miraculous for us to know the will of God, but rather the Spirit-led reading of Scripture.
What do you hunger more after, the flesh or the Spirit?
If you hunger after the flesh I can guarantee that you won’t be satisfied. Has anyone here eaten their fill and never been hungry again? Has anyone here had a hunger for drugs, and once given over to their appetite stopped craving them? Of course not, that’s how hunger after the flesh works…the appetite just gets bigger and bigger, it’s never satisfied.
If, however, you hunger after the Spirit, you will be satisfied. There’s a fullness that comes from Christ dwelling in your heart that won’t ever diminish. Consider the Scripture:
…with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Php 1:20-21)
Think about that phrase, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain”
That’s something that can only be said about Christ. Just try putting something else in His place and see what you get…
- “to live is food, and to die is gain” – you don’t gain anything from food when you die, so that’s not true.
- “to live is money, and to die is gain” – you certainly don’t gain anything from money when you die.
So we have an obligation to make a decision right here and now. Are we going to hunger after the flesh and feed its always growing appetite, or are we going to hunger after the Spirit and be satisfied with the streams of living water that take away our thirst for ever.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.(Rom 8:5)
Where is your mind set, on the flesh or on the Spirit? Dig deep to see where you really stand in your relationship with Christ. Given the choice…
- When you’re tired do you pray or do you take a nap?
- When you have free time do you read Scripture or watch T.V.?
- Do you get excited about football games and worldly entertainments and at the same time lack excitement and passion in your walk with Christ?
Allow this passage and these questions to probe the true condition of your heart.
If you find that you have neglected your walk with Christ and are satisfied with where that leaves you, be very afraid for it may be that you do not have a love for Christ. And if there is no love of Christ in your life, the wrath of God rests upon you.
If you find that you have neglected your walk with Christ and are stirred to a holy conviction and repentance, be of good courage for the Lord will give you strength by His Spirit if you ask Him. And in being strengthened by His Spirit you will once again be able to say “Abba! Father!” and walk closely with your God.
We all face temptations to walk after the flesh, but if we are Christ’s, His Spirit dwells in us. And it’s this Spirit that enables us to escape every temptation and lead a holy life. Always remember that we don’t walk in the flesh because the Spirit can’t overpower it, but rather because in some ways we still love the flesh.
Latest posts by Larry Bray (see all)
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