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Note on sermon preached 6 June 2010 on Luke 4 v.1-13
This is part two of our look at this famous passage about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. We start with a review of the previous look at this famous passage.
1. The Sequence
Previously we were considering the baptism of Jesus, the day when Jesus was endorsed from heaven with the words “You are my Son, whom I love. With you I am well-pleased”. You might have expected that it would be followed with a dramatic appearance on the world stage, or with the signs and wonders that we read about later. But what we see is the Holy Spirit leading Jesus out into the wilderness, a place of solitude and loneliness, where he experienced cold, heat ,hunger and constant battle with the enemy. God’s ways are not our ways!
2. The Situation
What exactly is happening in this extraordinary encounter?
We saw last time that Jesus is truly God and truly man. He laid aside his divinity and, whilst never ceasing to be God, battled against temptation as man. So this story is a pattern of our own lives, experiencing the attack of the enemy who wants to to cause us to doubt God’s word, to cause us to live for ourselves rather than God.
Every day each of us live our lives in a situation of warfare, when the enemy of our souls does everything he can to cause us to turn away from God. It has been so with every human from Adam to you, and it is so with Jesus. So we should not be surprised at the battle that engages us every day. And whilst we often talk about the attack of the enemy in circumstances and in illness, the main strategy is to get us to disobey our heavenly Father. Is that not your experience every day?
3. The Stakes
What is at stake in this extra-ordinary encounter?
Jesus won our salvation by dying on the cross. But in order to qualify to be the saviour of mankind he had first of all to live a live that was without blemish. That meant being in the forefront of the full range of temptations and pressures that we all face. Jesus had to face it all, and to win, without any recourse to his divine nature.
The onslaught must have been horrific. Just as the first Adam failed, Jesus had to face a re-run of the temptation of Eden. And if he had failed – just one thought or deed out of harmony with His heavenly father – he would no longer have been the sinless son of God. He would not have been the spotless lamb and the opportunity of salvation would have been lost forever. What a moment this was!
4. The Springboard
There is no springboard for fruitful ministry other than alone with God. It is no accident that Jesus starts his ministry alone with God. And it is no surprise that the enemy attacks it for all he is worth.
5. The Strategy
Paul wrote that “we are not unaware of the devil’s schemes” We need to be aware of what the enemy is trying to accomplish in the life of Jesus and in the life of every believer. The strategy is to cause Jesus to act in a way that is contrary to the will of His Father in heaven. – which is what the bible calls “sin”. And that is what the enemy is at work to do every day in our lives. It has been his strategy since Eden and will be until Jesus returns. How does he go about it:
Tactic 1: ”You can’t trust God’s word” – “Did God really say?” has been the tactic of the enemy from the start of human history. The reason is that once we stop believing God we stop acting as he wants us to. Once we stop believing, for example if God as Creator, why should we live as created beings? Why is man not free to follow whatever instincts seem best to him? So jesus is tempted to doubt God’s word to Him “You are my Son” – and to do something dramatic to prove that the word of God is true. For the believer, the only evidence we need is the word of God.
The same evidence comes in the later temptation when Jesus is tempted to throw himself from the temple. “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus needs no other evidence of god’s faithfulness other than the word of His Father – and neither do we.
Tactic 2: “Look after number 1” a second aspect of the temptation of Jesus to turn stones to bread is the temptation to use what God given us in order to meet our own needs, rather than to serve God. When we look at what God has given us, time, energy, talents, money and so on – how are we using it? Do we use what God has given us to serve Him, or to bolster our own position and to feed our own appetites? Similarly when Jesus is tempted to do a spectacular miracle – it would have been for his own purpose and not the purposes of God. We use what we have for God – not our own needs.
Tactic 3: “What is it you want?” The temptation for Jesus to worship Satan seems grotesque. The trouble is that we have a limited concept of what “worship” is all about. We worship whatever we put on the throne of our lives. That means that to worship Satan simply means to dethrone God from the centre of our lives. And the enemy is so desperate for us to do just that that he will offer us pretty much anything we want in order to achieve.
The sober truth is that since Eden Satan has had almost unfettered access to the resources of the world to use as he likes. And he is in a position to offer it to us. Stories in literature abound of people who have sold their soul to the devil in return for wealth, women, power or whatever we want. They pay for it with eternity. And that is the deal that enemy offers today. He will offer you riches, money, sex – anything you want – if only you will topple God from the throne of your life. Deal or not deal? For Jesus the answer is clear: “No Deal”. What’s your answer?
Tactic Four:”Look what people will think” The temptation for Jesus to throw himself from the pinacle of the temple is a temptation to pride. What a shortcut to world domination! There would be no doubt that Jesus was THE man. The temptation to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others – sometimes at the expense of other – is constantly with us.
Tactic Five: “Now look what you’ve done” With every believer (not with Jesus) a part of the battle is how to handle it when we fail. The enemy will pile on guilt as we experience the consequences of our disobedience. Sometimes this can be the hardest part of the battle. Whilst we can never use it to justify failure, we have to remember that Jesus knew we would never live the perfect life, and he did it on our behalf. So we can appeal to 1 John 1 v9 “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”
6. The Solution
How can we respond to these tactices of the evil one?
a) Prayer – Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation” and said to Peter “watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation”.
b) Fasting – victory after victory in the word of God comes as a result of God’s people fasting. It is clear that God intends fasting to characterise the life each Christian and of his church. Does it?
c) The Word of God – when this passage is preached on it is usually rightly a key part of the message that Jesus resisted the enemy’s advances with the word of God,the sword of the Spirit. When dealing with the enemy don’t argue – “quote”. But behind this there is a huge assumption – namely that you are in the word of God,and are able to quote it at will to resist the attacks. Are you?
d) Resist – James said” resist the enemy and he will flee from you. This victory overt the temptation of the enemy to sin are a key point in the life of Jesus. In your life and ministry, you response to the temptations of the enemy are a key point in how your future unfolds. Your private battles do matter.
7. The Sequel
At the end of this long, lonely period of time the enemy leaves Jesus.( 4 v.13) The present crisis is over. And something else happens. Jesus returns to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.(v.14) He has gone from being “full of the holy Spirit”(v 1) to being “in the power of the Holy Spirit. And in that power he drives out demons, proclaims the good news of the kingdom, heals the sick and raises the dead. The wilderness victory leads him into the power of the kingdom. The strong man is bound – and the kingdom of God comes.
We long to see the power of the Spirit released amongst us. Are we prepared for the testing, the resisting, the prayer and the fasting? If we are – there is no reason why we should not see what Jesus saw.