We live in a world of temptation, but we have to remain faithful. In this sermon, we will see 5 ways to beat Satan's temptation and stay close to God.
[Peter Eddington] What would it take for Satan to convince you to turn your life over to him and forsake your calling? What could he offer you that would make it all worthwhile? Fame? Power? Notoriety? Wealth? Beauty? What would it be? If you were the devil, what would you say to people to get them to compromise on a godly life and follow you? What are the most powerful pulls on a person? Pride? Self-importance? Are the temptations to pull us away from God any different today than they were 2,000 years ago, or 4,000 years ago?
Are you tempted? Do you get tempted? Are you ever tempted? What would be the most convincing argument to break one of God’s commandments? In fact, what would you offer the angels of heaven to rebel against God? What would it take? How would you successfully recruit 1/3 of all the angels into your ranks? And even greater, what would you offer God Himself to betray His nature? Well, that actually happened. The devil tried to get the Son of God to betray His Father. What could Satan offer even God?
Temptation is a desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. It’s a course of action that attracts or tempts someone. In the sermon today, titled ‘Are You Tempted?’, we’ll look at the most tempting items Satan can present before us, and they are timeless temptations that he even tried on Jesus. Don’t you think then that he’ll also try them on you and me? What can we learn from those most powerful temptations? As we start to prepare for the Passover and Unleavened Bread, this becomes a very timely subject.
Turn with me to Matthew Chapter 4, we’re going to read the first eleven verses because this sets the stage for today’s lesson. Matthew 4, the first eleven verses. Here in Matthew 4, it’s right after Jesus was baptized and there’s a voice from heaven that says, ‘This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17 Matthew 3:17And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
American King James Version×), that was the end of chapter 3.
Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 1 Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
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.
5 Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.
8 Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
10 Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.
11 Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
American King James Version× – Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil – or to be tested by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. That’s kind of one of those understatements, right? I think the Old King James says, ‘ And then He became hungered.’ Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city (which was Jerusalem) , set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
So, the stage is set. Before we analyze this story in more depth, let’s ask: What is temptation? What does it mean to be enticed? Temptation is an enticement.
How many of you have ever been fishing? Not as many as I thought. Surely all of the guys have been fishing at some point? Okay, bear with me just one moment… (holds up a fishing hook with modern ‘bait’ to tempt people) Okay, if you’ve ever strung bait on a hook, like a worm or some salmon eggs, you know what I’m talking about. Now, if this was a worm, you would not necessarily be tempted. If I told you this was a gummy worm, “Hey not bad,” right? I could take a gummy worm off of there. Of course, there’s a hook buried in there and it’s going to get caught in your tongue when you do.
The whole idea of temptation is dangling something in front of someone, right? Satan dangles things in front of us, like we would put a worm in front of a fish to try to get it to come out. Now, if I had put a worm on a hook, I don’t think you’d even really be able to tempt, I don’t think you would really do it, if you knew there was a hook in there, you’d probably say, ‘No, I’m still not that tempted.’ But this is what Satan likes to do. He dangles enticing things before us and He says, ‘Just take it. Eat the candy.’ And when the hook is covered up, the bait lures us away from safety. The moment the fish takes the bait, the moment we take the bait from Satan, he starts reeling us in, and then the fight is on – for the fish’s life, or, for us, our life.
But often we are wise enough not to take the bait. After all, it’s only a gummy worm, right? We say, “No.” We flee temptation. We flee the sin. So what does Satan do? Does he go and fish somewhere else, or does he restring his hook and put something else enticing on it and recast it out to us. You know what he does, don’t you? He keeps recasting the line, putting different pieces of bait on it each time until he’s able to catch you. Now what if, instead of a gummy bear, I put a hundred dollar bill on here? Okay, now, nobody rush the stage. If you look closely it’s a one dollar bill. I don’t have any hundred dollar bills for props. In fact, I guess you’ve heard that the US is thinking of doing away with the hundred dollar bill. In Europe, they’re trying to become a cashless society. So hundreds are going to be hard to come by some day anyway.
But how many of you, with a $100 there, would try to jump up and snatch it off the hook? A little different than a worm or a gummy worm – $100. Now that’s a bit more enticing. What if I upped it to one million dollars? But if you take the million dollars, I’ll require you to do whatever I tell you. That’s the only catch. If I had a million dollars to give, I’d expect you to do my bidding – if I gave it to you.
Okay, so perhaps you would know the ploy, and say the money will not entice you to do whatever I tell you. I wouldn’t be able to get you hooked on the line. What else could Satan dangle before you to get you to take the bait? And it’s not just one thing, because we’re bombarded day in and day out every day of our lives, and we’re inclined to compromise on our relationship with God and to compromise on His commandments, even just a little bit.
Okay, I’ll put this one down for a moment. I’ve got something else here. What else… <audience laughter>…what else could Satan dangle before your eyes? If it wasn’t a million dollars, what would it be? There are distractions that continually entice us away from God. A million dollars is kind of like an unreal temptation. No one’s ever offered me a million dollars to go serve them forever. I bet they never do for you either. But what about gossip? Okay, these lips. If you do a google search for the biggest temptations in the world, ‘gossip’ comes up as number 1 or number 2. Gossip is the biggest temptation.
Mr. Myers was mentioning that we were down in Nashville last week. I spent a bit of time with Mr. Myers. Do you know what he told me…? <audience laughter> Well, it was private. I can’t… I won’t tell you. It was private, I’m not going to tell you. But it was really, really good. It was really, really juicy. In fact, Mr. Kubik – UCG President – was along as well. We had a meeting in the office last week. And do you know what he said? It involved all of you. Now, I’m setting myself up here as someone with a little bit of extra knowledge that you might like to know about. This gossip is very enticing, and you come back to me and you say, “Tell me, what did Mr. Myers say? What was it?” Gossip.
What about pride and vanity? Can you see yourself in that mirror right there? Pride and vanity. Also very enticing. What about women and sex? A big enticement for the male mind. And for women: they’re looking for intimacy from a guy and they’ll compromise. And then we have materialism. This Tonka truck here is 35 years old, I might mention – approximately. I’ve had this one the whole time I’ve been in the US basically. But materialism: the truck, the car, the house – whatever it might be – the big screen TV. And then you’ve got alcohol. Some people turn to alcohol. It’s an enticement. It’s a drug. It’s very compelling and tempting to them. (I might point out that I do not drink this brand. This morning there was one left in the fridge and I told Terri she could pop it open and pour it down the drain. And she did, because I needed a prop and it was not much to pour down the drain.) And then what about wealth. We’ve got some authentic jewelry here. Now, if this was a real diamond, and it was worth millions of dollars, hey, I might not need God anymore. Why would I need to work at the home office? Why even bother coming to church, except when I felt like it? I’d be rich! And so wealth is a big temptation, too, for some people.
The million dollars maybe seems a little unreal. But a lot of these things here, now you’re starting to relate, right? That’s the devil’s ploy. Let’s look at all three of them a little more closely from what we just read in Matthew, chapter 4.
Firstly, it’s weakness at a time of severe hunger.
Matthew 4:3 Matthew 4:3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
American King James Version× – …If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.
Do what will make you feel better? Eat! Turn these stones into some food. Offering food is an interesting age-old tactic by Satan. It even harkens back to the Garden of Eden. Eat of the tree. God cannot be trusted. God has lied to you. You will not surely die! (Genesis 3:4 Genesis 3:4And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die:
American King James Version×) Eat the forbidden fruit, and of course, in this case for Christ, eat the bread. Prove that you are the Son of God. Make bread from stones.
In this temptation to produce bread out there in the wilderness during His temptation, it was kind of like making manna, wasn’t it? It was a temptation to play the role of the Messiah as the Jews would have expected it to be played. A messiah performing miracles like the Lord of old did – providing manna, providing food. Look at Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×, because this ties directly in here and it’s what Jesus actually quoted at this point. The Lord says:
Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version× – So He humbled, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know –what is this, where’d it come from?- that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
It was a temptation of the senses; an appeal to appetite, and in many ways, the most common and most dangerous of Satan’s allurements. Satan was not simply tempting Jesus to eat. The temptation was to have Him eat in a spectacular way, using His divine powers for selfish purposes.
Did he ever tempt you to make you feel better? To do something to make you feel better? In our world today, that’s one of the biggest temptations. If it feels good, do it! As long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else, go ahead. Whatever makes you happy in the moment. Don’t think beyond the moment. Don’t think beyond today. You and I must be especially alert in moments of weakness.
Secondly, we see the devil tempting here. He was tempting God to see if He would do what He says. He says, “ If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down .” ‘Does God love me enough to save me if I do that?’ I’m very important. I’m too big to fail. After all, I am the son of God. If I throw myself down, God will have to save me. Satan had taken Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, overlooking the grand courts and people below. And Satan quoted scripture, parroted back the Bible as we would say today. And there lurked in this appeal from Satan another temptation of the human side of mortal nature – the temptation to perform some dazzling feat – some astounding exploit – which might bring crowds of amazed and attentive onlookers.
We all want to be a rock star. We all want to be famous. We all want to have people look at what we can do. Surely, leaping from the dizzying heights of the temple turret and landing in the courtyard unhurt would be such a feat. This would be public recognition that Jesus was a superior being and did have a message from heaven! Jump! Show everybody. It would be a sign and a wonder – the fame of which would spread like wild fire throughout Judea and cause many to believe – and believe that the Messiah had indeed come. If you’re the son of God, just jump and show everybody. Imagine the fame and the notoriety and the proof that He was the Son of God. A normal person’s chest would swell with pride. By contrast, many of Jesus’ miracles were done in private – away from the crowd. Sometimes He even said, “Tell no one.” Jesus didn’t have the big head. He wasn’t always trying to prove who He was.
This temptation to appear on the pinnacle of the temple and jump down was a temptation to be the Messiah the Jews would have immediately recognized. Some supernatural person. Look at Psalms 91:11 Psalms 91:11For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.
American King James Version×, because this is what Jesus says in response to this temptation. Actually, it’s what, first of all, the devil says. The devil says, “Jump!…”
Psalms 91:11 Psalms 91:11For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.
American King James Version× – For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.
So the devil quotes scripture here, but look at verses 9 and 10. Before God will give His angels charge over you, you’ve got to first do verses 9 and 10.
Psalms 91:9-10 Psalms 91:9-10 9 Because you have made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, your habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall you, neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
American King James Version× – Because you have made the Lord , who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
See, first you’ve got to make God the most important thing in your life. Your spiritual dwelling place has got to be the Lord, then He will put His angels to look after you and not allow harm to come to you. You can’t just jump any old time. So, this one shows a lack of humility if we tempt God in this regard. It’s a lack of humility as to who would be before God, because we’re not too big to fail. Jesus knew that He must not tempt God in that way either. We need God for our survival. We must never test His resolve or His promise to protect us.
Deuteronomy 6:16 Deuteronomy 6:16You shall not tempt the LORD your God, as you tempted him in Massah.
American King James Version× – You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.
You shall not tempt God. You don’t do things that will put you in jeopardy, and you don’t follow enticements or temptations that are going to put your spiritual life in jeopardy. And so all we can do is ask, ‘Am I ever tempting God?’
And then the third ploy here – the devil’s ploy number 3 – was false worship. He says, “ all these things I will give You if you will fall down and worship me .” This is a temptation to have complete power or control over mankind with your own kingdom and throne. This is perhaps the biggest one of the three. If we submit to this temptation, we are falsely told we will have fame, power, notoriety, wealth, and importance. There’s just a small caveat – worship the devil and he becomes your god – just a tiny-eensy little thing. In this third and final ploy, Satan was falling back on one of his fundamental propositions, one which resulted in leading one third of the angels from heaven.
We even hear it today. Businessmen know it. Everyone has a price. Everyone has a price. How much money do you have? I’ll buy it! Material things do matter most to a lot of people. And ultimately you can buy anything in this world for money. You can buy your own island! You can imagine the temptation within the mind of Christ to question whether He really was the son of God. Seeing that everyone else thought He was the son of Joseph. In fact everyone else thought He was illegitimate. The official temple records would have had Joseph as His dad. But everyone knew He was supposedly the only human being not to have a father, a human father, and they brought that up to Him time and time again. You’re illegitimate. You don’t even know who your dad was.
Look at Philippians 2:8 Philippians 2:8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
American King James Version×. Turn over there for a moment. Paul tells us:
Philippians 2:5-8 Philippians 2:5-8 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
American King James Version× – Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus – so here’s the mind we’re supposed to have – who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation – so He came to this earth with no particular kingship – nothing in particular – nothing important, so to speak – taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men – He just came looking like everybody else – nothing special. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
So He came to this earth, shed His glory, and looked like just a regular guy. Jesus really was a man like us. God became a man. He didn’t stand out or look any different from the men around Him. He even had to be pointed out to the murderers who were trying to kill Him, because they couldn’t really pick Him out of a crowd. And then He bled to death like a normal person – like a mortal man – and died. “If you’re the Son of God, get Yourself off of that cross – off of that stake – and resurrect yourself.” Nope, He’s just a man. Surely, it would be comforting to prove He’s also God.
So Satan says, “You look like a man. You’ve shed your divinity. If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. If you’re the Son of God, throw Yourself down off the temple. And all these things I’ll give you, if you’ll fall down and worship me.” So it’s a powerful temptation for a human being.
You or I would probably succumb and say, “Of course I’m the Son of God! Let me show you. I’m going to jump off the temple right now and prove it to you and everyone else watching.” And the crowd would gasp and say, “Miraculous!” But as we know from our Father, as shown in scripture, that is all empty. If we are faithful to God and obedient to every commandment, you and I will inherit all things. Satan does not have that to give. We will inherit all things. We will have all that the Father has to offer. The surest way to lose out on eternal life and the blessings of eternity is to accept Satan’s terms – to take the million dollars off the fishing hook. But like I said, it’s rarely a million dollars. It’s usually something like this that he offers you – something on a list like this is what’s more appealing to most people, because a million dollars just seems a little bit too far out of reach.
Look at Isaiah 14:14 Isaiah 14:14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
American King James Version×. It’s very similar to what we read in Isaiah 14:14 Isaiah 14:14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
American King James Version×. This is Lucifer who became the devil, speaking.
Isaiah 14:14 Isaiah 14:14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
American King James Version× – I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.
Some translations say, “ I will be the Most High . I’m going to take over God’s throne and I’m going to be God.” And that’s what he was trying to offer everyone else. And pride certainly falls into the third temptation the devil offers on Jesus. He says “You can be in charge. You can tell others what to do, and your word will be the final word.” And so we have to ask, “Am I ever temped in any way like this?”
So those are the three temptations that the devil put before Jesus.
Kind of a little side bar note here: Let me relate the story to you of Han van Meegeren. I watched a BBC documentary on PBS last year titled, Fake or Fortune . Experts estimate that over 20%-40% of all art on the world market is a fake. It’s not by whom you would think. And in this fascinating BBC documentary, art experts examined an old painting to try to figure out who actually painted it. Was it a masterful fake? There’s also a Telegraph newspaper article about it from August 5th, 2006 titled, The Forger Who Fooled the World . It was perhaps the greatest art hoax in history. Han van Meegeren was an artist with a grudge. He’s Dutch. And painting in the Netherlands before 1942, critics mercilessly panned his exhibitions. They said there was nothing remarkable about his work. One critic described him as a “gifted technician” who was made a sort of composite facsimile of the renaissance school. “He has every virtue except originality.” This guy who is painting is a loser. So it stung.
He decided to strike back. He painted a work with flourishes of the style of the great Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, and he titled it, The Supper at Emmaus . He made it look like something that Vermeer would have painted. He submitted it to the prominent critic Abraham Bredius. And Bredius took the bait and wrote, “It is a wonderful moment in the life of a lover of art when he finds himself suddenly confronted with a hitherto unknown painting by a great master.” It was kind of like a lost piece that no one had seen before. “And what a picture we have here. I am inclined to say that masterpiece of Johannes Vermeer.” And of course, the art world gasped. The painting was sold for the equivalent of millions of dollars and displayed in the Boijmans Gallery in Rotterdam.
Han van Meegeren planned to expose the forgery at the opening of the gallery’s 400 years of European art, in which his forgery was given a prominent place. He figured his critics would be humiliated, their reputations shattered when he said, “I painted it. I didn’t buy it off the art market. It’s not a Vermeer.” Greed, however, got the better of him and he became tempted by the thought of more cash. Rather than exposing the forgery, and being tempted, he painted more work to look like other Dutch masters – not just Vermeer, but other Dutch masters – saying he had bought them from those famous men and their art galleries. And he started raking in millions of more dollars.
When the Nazi’s swept through Europe, he even managed to sell the Supper at Emmaus to them. And, actually, on the world art market today, there are a bunch of paintings that some think are by Meegeren, not by the classic Dutch painters. This almost proved his undoing when he sold the Supper at Emmaus to the Nazis. After the war, the allied forces were determined to return the art – works collected by the Nazis – and they went through this process trying to return all the art, especially a lot of art that belonged to the Jews. And a receipt led two soldiers from the Allied Art Commission to the studio of van Meegeren, because he had been given money for this one painting they had found. They wanted to know from whom van Meegeren had bought the artwork. Unwilling to divulge the truth, van Meegeren was arrested on charges of treason and faced the death penalty. He was put into prison and was faced with the death penalty.
In prison he had a change of heart. He really didn’t want to die, no matter how many millions he had made, and he confessed. But guess what? No one believed him. Experts testified that the work was indeed an original by the Dutch master Vermeer. The only way to prove his innocence was to produce another fake. And so he did, spending weeks literally painting for his life.
The BBC documentary is fascinating when they look at a painting hanging in a London gallery today that everyone thinks is by Vermeer, it’s signed by Vermeer, but may actually be by Meegeren. The documentary was really good. At the end of the day, today’s art experts are not sure. It’s so well done, even down to the microscopic components of the paint. They analyzed it in mass spectrometers and it perfectly matched Vermeer’s ingredients. In those days, paints were made out of flowers and petals and lead and all kinds of things. The painting today perfectly matches Vermeer, but a lot of people think it’s a fake.
So like van Meegeren, everyone has their price. You have your price. The temptation is always there for some kind of fame or notoriety or power or money, and sometimes it’s as simple enough as seeing a Barbie doll in a pink dress. There are all kinds of things that Satan will put before us.
So what are five quick lessons that we can write down here to take away with us today as we focus on the upcoming Passover and putting temptation behind us – putting enticements behind us. We’re asking, “Are you tempted?”
The first point is: No one is immune from temptation.
Luke 22:31 Luke 22:31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
American King James Version×– turn there for a moment, because Satan the devil will go after you, just as he will everyone else – as he did with the apostle Peter. We are all vulnerable. Nobody gets off the hook. Literally nobody gets off the hook, if you’re not careful.
Luke 22:31-32 Luke 22:31-32 31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brothers.
American King James Version× – And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, the he man sift you as wheat. Wow! But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
So, do you think Peter is the only one Satan has gone to God’s throne and said, ‘Let me have that guy. Let me have that girl.’ It happened to Peter. We know it happened to Job in a big way. There are spiritual battles going on in Heaven all the time. We look at the book of Daniel where we find out about a huge angelic battle going on. To the point where Daniel almost starved to death waiting for an answer from God, but there was a battle going on no one could help him.
1 Corinthians 10:13 1 Corinthians 10:13There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
American King James Version× – No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man – see, temptation is common to everybody – no one is immune – but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it – to get out of it, to resist it, to say no.
If you would, turn to 1 Thessalonians with me, chapter 3. Let’s just read the first five verses. Because the apostle Paul became concerned that the brethren in Thessalonica, after enduring much tribulation, had succumbed to Satan, that they had allowed themselves to be tempted.
1 Thessalonians 3: 1-5 – Therefore, when we could no longer endure it, we thought it good to be left in Athens alone, and sent Timothy, our brother and minister of God, and our fellow laborer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith – so why did he want to have Timothy go and encourage them? – that no one should be shaken by these afflictions – they were going through a difficult time – for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this. Life isn’t always easy. For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and now you know. So the Thessalonians were having a difficult time. For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent Timothy to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.
Paul was afraid he might lose them from the faith. He sent Timothy to go check it out and encourage them. It’s during times of tribulation and difficulty and hardship and hunger, like with Jesus, that Satan tries to get his wedge in and tempt us – when we’re weak. Such a time is always Satan’s moment – when we are emotionally of physically drained, when we are shaken by afflictions as we see here, when we are weary, hungry, vulnerable and least able to resist what he puts before us. No one is immune from temptation. Are you ever tempted? So the first one is no one is immune.
Number 2: Being tempted is not a sin. It becomes a sin when you follow the temptation and entertain a thought. James 1 explains this well – James 1:13 James 1:13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man:
American King James Version×.
James 1:13-16 James 1:13-16 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man:
14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15 Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.
16 Do not err, my beloved brothers.
American King James Version× – 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. He’s saying – for me to paraphrase – “It’s not God who puts a nude woman on a computer screen in front of you – someone else does that.”
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. The temptation starts to bear fruit when you don’t immediately close the browser window. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
So James is saying, “Do not allow temptation to take root. Do not do the things God forbids. And do not choose them over Him, because you are breaking your relationship with Him if you choose temptation. It becomes more important to you than righteousness.
Now, I have my wallet here. How much cash is in it? What if I offered to give you my wallet for what you have in your wallet? It looks pretty fat, doesn’t it? Now I’d try and pick someone here who I think has a lot of money. It’s not Tory… [laughter] But, I wonder if Tory would be willing to give me all the cash in his wallet for the cash I’ve got in here. It looks like there’s quite a bit in there actually, doesn’t it? He might have $25 in his. I might have $100 in here and he’d make out with $75. Or, it might be the other way around, and I’ll make out and take all his cash. Would you be tempted to switch your wallet with mine – for the cash in my wallet? It would be a gamble.
That’s the temptation of sin. Something else looks better that what you have. You think there may be something better in my wallet than what you have, but my wallet is actually empty. I don’t carry any cash. Well, I’ve got a dollar. Honestly, I don’t carry any cash around. It’s all on credit cards now, and you’d be hard pressed to use those before you’d be caught. You’d walk away with nothing if you took my challenge. What could I put in my wallet that would make you want it and give me whatever is in yours? What can Satan offer you from his wallet? How much? What would you give up in the hope of wealth or fame beyond your wildest dreams? Are you tempted? What could entice you and what would cause you to be drawn away and be enticed in by the desire. Once again, is it one of the things on my temptation rod, as I call it here, the six items I’ve been holding up?
Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking those he may devour. He keeps casting his fishing line. He keeps recasting it. He doesn’t give up. He keeps rebaiting his hook. He keeps offering you his wallet for the little possessions you have in this life, and he wants your desire to give birth to sin. Your sin will lead to death. And James says, “ Do not be deceived brethren. ”Remember, being tempted is not a sin. Following through on it is – not closing that browser window. Now you’re in trouble.
Number 3: Use the Holy Spirit and its power to resist temptation. There’s a well-known verse we read during the Passover service from John 14:26 John 14:26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
American King James Version×– we read it every year, especially at the Passover.
John 14:26 John 14:26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
American King James Version× – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
The Holy Spirit will prick your conscience. The Holy Spirit will remind you what you are supposed to be doing. The Holy Spirit will help you remember God’s teachings. It’s not by our own strengths, but by the gift of God’s power working with our human spirit that we then can succeed in resisting temptation. Look at Romans 8:13 Romans 8:13For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
American King James Version×. It’s kind of very similar to the lesson James was telling us.
Romans 8:13 Romans 8:13For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.
American King James Version× – For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
It’s by the Spirit – that’s God’s power working in you – that makes it possible for you to put sin out of your life – repent, be forgiven, and then live. You will live. And then Romans 8:26 Romans 8:26Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
American King James Version×, because God and His Spirit have nothing to do with evil. God has nothing to do with evil. He brings life, not death. In Him, there is no darkness at all. Don’t blame enticement on God. Put temptation to death by the Spirit.
Romans 8:26 Romans 8:26Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
American King James Version× – Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.
How do we overcome our weaknesses? How do we push forward towards the Kingdom of God? Through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. It was given to us at baptism when hands were laid upon us. So put to death temptation. Do not act upon it that you may live. Draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to resist and overcome your weaknesses.
And then kind of related, number 4: God’s word gives us the power to defeat temptation.
How well do you know your bible, the word of God? God does not talk openly to us today. If you hear voices, let me know. We have a place for you… We don’t hear voices from heaven. In the days of old, there were no Bibles. There were no scrolls. There were no scriptures – especially way back 5-6,000 years ago – and God did directly intervene and talk with human beings to help unfold His plan of salvation and to teach nations like Israel His commandments. We don’t hear that today, but what we do have now is this [Bible], and this is God talking to us now. He’s communicating with us. And unlike a voice from heaven, we can study it over and over again and learn from it.
If God spoke to you today from heaven, you’d have to turn your MP3 player on to make sure you got it all so you could go back and study it again. He’s already done that for us here. We can study it over and over again and learn from it in depth. Every time we read a book from the Bible, guess what, we find out that there’s more stuff in there than we thought there was the first time, or the second time, or the third time.. or the hundredth time. There’s always a new gem that we glean from God’s word. 1 John 2:14 1 John 2:14I have written to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God stays in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
American King James Version×is a good passage to make a note of, because this directly relates the word of God to overcoming Satan.
1 John 2:14 1 John 2:14I have written to you, fathers, because you have known him that is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God stays in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
American King James Version× – I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him [Christ] who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.
So that’s the result: the word of God abiding in you and overcoming the wicked one. We overcome the devil. We overcome the wicked one through the word of God abiding in us. Did you notice, in Jesus’ famous temptation, that He quotes the word of God back several times. It was in His heart. Could you do that? How much of it is on the tip of your tongue? As time goes by and as the Holy Spirit works with us, we are able to recall and remember God’s words to us – that we read on our laps in our Bibles.
Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version×– you see, the word of God really is powerful in overcoming the wicked one.
Hebrews 4:12 Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
American King James Version× – For the word of God is living and powerful, so the words we read here are life. They’re alive. They’re living. They’re powerful. and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow – the word of God cuts deep – and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It’s living and powerful.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 1 Thessalonians 2:13For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you received the word of God which you heard of us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually works also in you that believe.
American King James Version× – For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
What we have here is not the word of men. Men wrote it down – men recorded it – but it’s inspired from front to back by God. It’s the word of God and it is truth. As Paul said to the Thessalonians, it effectively works in you when you believe. So make sure you are spiritually prepared by using the word of God in your daily pledge to put sin behind you and as you prepare to be a son or daughter in the family of God. It should be working effectively in you.
And then finally, number 5: Don’t lose sight of your goal of the Kingdom and your salvation. It’s one thing to be led by the Spirit and be studying the word of God, not being tempted, but then don’t lose sight of the goal – your mission. That’s what enables you to keep the big picture – to go beyond what you are being tempted with and realize it’s just very short-sighted. Don’t allow Satan to divert you from your mission.
Hebrews 5:9 Hebrews 5:9And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version×– a final passage. Actually I’ve got two more, sorry, but they’re both in Hebrews.
Hebrews 5:9 Hebrews 5:9And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him;
American King James Version× – And having been perfected, He [Jesus Christ] became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him – Christ was the author – He was the first one, the originator, of salvation for the rest of us – for the rest of us – it says – who obey Him .
So don’t lose sight of that goal of eternal life when we obey Him. The question for us now is, “Will we succeed? Will we resist? Will we obey? Will we wear our crown of righteousness? Satan continues to temp, taunt, and plead for our loyalty. We live in a world of temptation – temptation that seems more real and oppressively rampant than any since the days of Noah.
We are living in very difficult times, but we have to remain faithful.
When do temptations come to us? Is it when we’re sitting on the Mount of Olives like Jesus was? Most of us have never even been to the Mount of Olives. Is that when temptation happens? Is that when Satan tries to get you – if you’re sitting on the Mount of Olives and haven’t eaten in 40 days? Is it when we’re visiting the Temple in Jerusalem one day after the feast? Satan says, “Hey! Come up on top of the temple right now.”? No, it comes to us in our everyday social gatherings – at church events, at weddings, in our politics, in our business relations, at home, on the job, in the grocery store. It happens at school. It happens at college, in our dealings with our friends, in our dealings with our enemies, in our dealings with strangers. It happens in everyday life while we’re checking our email, while we’re checking our texts, while we’re watching movies, while we’re at the store. We don’t have to be on the Mount of Olives starving to death for Satan to go after us.
In our world today, sin looks more enjoyable than God. After all, look what you’re giving up. People like jewelry and wealth. People get addicted to cars and material things, women, vanity, gossip –apparently gossip being the big one.
To summarize, Jesus Christ set the perfect example on how to tackle a temptation – how to say no to Satan and whatever Satan could offer. Here in Hebrews 4:15 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
American King James Version×– just one chapter back from where we were.
Hebrews 4:15 Hebrews 4:15For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
American King James Version× – For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses – we have a High Priest who does sympathize with our weaknesses – but was in all points tempted as we are – He was a human being, too – yet without sin.
The key here is without sin . If you’re tempted, muster the strength from God to say no. Avoid it. Flee from it, and don’t sin. Do not allow the spirit of death to triumph. And of course, we can give another sermon some time on forgiveness and mercy and seeking God’s forgiveness, if we do sin. That’s another whole message. Use the Holy Spirit and the power of it to resist temptation. God’s word gives us the power to defeat temptation. Don’t lose sight of your goal of the Kingdom and eternal life. It’s so much greater than any other temptation that could be offered.
And so I ask, are you tempted? And I pray not. Let’s use the tools given to us to put temptation and the resulting sin out of our lives. Let’s boldly come before the throne of grace and partake of the Passover symbols this year.