TEMPTATION IN THE WILDERNESS
In our last study we saw Jesus baptized in the Jordan River by His cousin, John the baptist. And as Jesus came up out of those waters the Holy Spirit came upon Him and He was empowered for service. Now, as soon as this was completed, we read beginning in verse 12 of Mark chapter 1, "And immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him." Mark 1:12-13.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, He was lead by the Holy Spirit to a place that was even more deserted than this area that John was at. What was the purpose? Mark tells us that Jesus was being tempted, He was going to be assaulted by the devil. And as He was, angels were also ministering to Him.
Why is Mark even mentioning this event in Jesus life? Because I think there are lessons we can learn and apply to our life. We need to remember that within the heart of man, within each of our hearts is the potential to do much evil. And we cant blame God for that. James tells us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." James 1:13-15.
You see, as you start playing with sin in your mind, entertaining those thoughts, they will continue to grow and grow until that sin is manifested in your life. Thus, dont allow sin to grow until it reaches that point, for if you do it will only bring destruction into your life.
Now some may feel that Jesus cant be our example, He is God, He was born without the sin nature, so it isnt fair. Listen to what Hebrews 4:15 says before you close the case on this. We read "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." The point that is being made is that Jesus was tempted, just as we are, and yet He did not succumb to those temptations.
If Jesus wasnt tempted, if these temptations were meaningless, how could He sympathize with our weakness? He couldnt! Can I explain this to you? Not really. It truly is a mystery that I fully cant understand. The Bible says it and I have to believe it. Could Jesus have sinned? The Bible seems to indicate that the temptation was there. All I can say with certainty is that Jesus did not sin! II Corinthians 5:21 plainly points this fact out, when Paul says, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." You see, if Jesus did sin, there would be no hope for us, we would still be dead in our trespasses and sins.
Again I think we can gain some important lessons of what Jesus went through, and so we are going to look at what Luke has to say regarding this event, for he gives us a few more details of these temptations brought upon Jesus by the Devil. So if you would, turn to Luke chapter 4, and we are going to begin looking at verse 1.
1. To often people think that when you come to Christ everything will be perfect. You will have no problems at all. That is not what the Scriptures say, and Im sure you have already found that out for yourselves. In John 16:33 Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Yes, it may be difficult, but if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, He will give us peace as we go through the storms of life, as long as we arent the ones causing the storms!
1. Not to eat for forty days was a miraculous type of fast. Doctors say that after 1 week of not eating you lose your hunger. Then, when those hunger pains come back, you must eat because you are starving to death.
2. What does fasting do for us? It helps us to focus on spiritual things instead of feeding the flesh. Now during this time of fasting, drawing closer to the Father, as Jesus became hungry, the Devil comes and begins to tempt Him.
3. We need to be wise about his actions towards us. Peter tells us "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world." I Peter 5:8-9. Like a hungry lion, Satan will look for opportunities to strike at us. Sometimes it will be when we become lazy in our walk. Other times it is when we become self-confident and we become an easy target for him. We need to stand strong in the faith, keep our eyes on Jesus.
4. Now we are going to see Jesus tempted three times by the Devil, and there really are only three different assaults that the Devil uses upon us. I think if we understand these and see how Jesus stood against them, it will help us when we are tempted. And let me say this, we are all going to be tempted from time-to-time, sometimes more than we like. And how we responded is extremely important.
In I John chapter 2 we see what these three temptations that Satan dangles in front of us are. Beginning in verse 15 we read "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." I John 2:15-17.
What are those temptations that the prince of this world tempts us with? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life! And John wants us to understand the end of these things, they are all passing away. Thus, if you love these things, then they are the Lord of your life, controlling you, and the love of the Father is not in you. But if you seek after God, then you will abide with Him forever.
1. Understand this, the word "if" found in verse 3, and again in verse 9, is not a question, and it is better translated "since you are the Son of God." You see, Satan and his demons know who Jesus is. In fact James 2:19 tells us that the demons believe that there is one God and they tremble at that. When Jesus confronted the demon possessed boy, the demons called Jesus "Lord" because He is!
2. Now what is that first temptation all about? The lust of the flesh. Jesus was hungry, He hadnt eaten in a long time, and so this temptation was very real. So why didnt Jesus just make some bread for Himself out of these stones?
Because Jesus didnt come to do His own will, He came to do the will of His Father who sent Him. Really, Jesus was lead by the Spirit and not the flesh. And Jesus tells Satan that spiritual food is more important than physical food because it is life changing.
When Jesus fed the 5,000 in John chapter 6, the next day the people ran around the Sea of Galilee to catch up with Him. And this is what He said in John 6:26-27, "...Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." In other words, Gods will is more important than our own fleshly desires. Be careful not to let the lust of the flesh overtake you. As Paul said in Romans 6:6, "knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." We must crucify the flesh on a daily basis or it will try to resurrect itself. Dont give it room to grow.
1. Could Satan offer Jesus all the kingdoms of the world? Was this a legitimate temptation? I think so. Jesus didnt say it wasnt and when Adam sinned he forfeited the earth to Satan, who is called the "ruler of this world", "god of this age", "prince of the power of the air". And so this was a very real temptation.
2. The second temptation deals with the lust of the eyes. Satan is showing Jesus all the nations of the world and how they could all be His if He would bow down and worship Satan. He was telling Jesus you dont have to go to the cross, you can have it all now. It was the easy way, no pain, no suffering. But keep in mind who is offering this to Jesus, the father of lies!
When we succumb to the lust of the eyes, when we fall for his temptations, we go farther into darkness and destruction. There are no short cuts to life! Pre-marital sex is one you will most likely be tempted with in the days we are living in. Who are you going to believe about it, the father of lies who says "Go for it!"? Or are you going to listen to Jesus, who knows what is best for your life and tells you to wait till you are married?
You see, Jesus could have taken the short cut, like we do many times, and gave in to Satan, worshiped him. That is what Satan desires, worship, it is what caused this anointed cherub to fall in the first place. In Isaiah 14:12-15 we read "How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit." Satan will do anything he can to get worship, dont fall for his schemes.
3. Jesus was born to die for our sins, He had His focus on His mission and He put to silence Satan with the Word of God. As David said in Psalm 119:9-11, "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!" Fill your mind with the Word of God for Satan will place many short cuts to Hell in your path to cause you to fall. Jesus was focused on the worship of God, to serve the Father, and He had a correct perspective of things.
1. Satan takes Jesus to the top of the wall on the south side of the city of Jerusalem, overlooking the Kidron valley, some 185 to 195 feet below. And this third temptation deals with the pride of life. Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself down, off this wall, and God said that the angels will keep you from going splat on the rocks below.
I find it interesting that Satan quotes Scripture, but not completely. He was quoting Psalm 91:11, but he left out "in all thy ways". In other words God is saying that He will keep you as long as you are walking in His ways, not acting foolishly, like Satan was tempting Jesus with. You see, this appeals to the pride of life, to do something to bring glory to yourself, and that is of the Devil!
2. If you walk in the ways of God, you have nothing to fear. If you are tempting God, not walking in His ways, then you are following after the Devil, and you should be afraid. Some feel you need to do sensational things to draw people to Christ, I disagree. You walk according to the Word of God, in obedience to Him, and God will do great things in you and through you, according to His will.
3. Also, keep this in mind. Jesus never argued with the Devil, beat up the Devil, He never compromised what He believed to appease the Devil, but He stood firm upon the Word of God, which means He knew the Word of God. That should encourage us to do the same for Jesus showed us how we should trust God, serve God, follow after God. And we do that by being obedient to His Word. And the reason we do is found in verse 13.
1. Notice, the temptations were not over. The battle was still on. Satan was just waiting for an opportune time to strike again. That tells me we should not get comfortable in our walk, because the Devil is roaming like a lion seeking whom he may devour.
1. After these temptations, He was ready for His public ministry as He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. James tells us "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience." James 1:2-3. God is building us up, giving us the endurance to finish the race, to persevere through it all. Those difficult times will come upon us, the temptations will come upon us, what are we going to do about it? Dont compromise your faith, stand firm upon the rock of Gods Word, as Jesus did!