RESISTING TEMPTATION (THREE)

Compromise

 

Again the devil took Him to a very lofty mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and said to Him, “I will give you all these things, if you will fall down and worship me”.  Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan!  For it stands written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone you will serve.”  Then the devil left Him alone, and behold, angels came and gave Him their service.  Matthew 8-11

While studying the three temptations of Christ by Satan in the wilderness, I found this interpretation by William Barclay in his commentary The Gospel of Matthew.  This is what he has to say on the final offer from Satan.

“So the tempter tried his third avenue of attack. It was the world that Jesus came to save, and into his mind there came the picture of the world.  The tempting voice said, ‘Fall down and worship me, and I will give you all the kingdoms of this world.’  Had not God Himself said to His chosen one, ‘Ask of me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession’? (Psalm 2:8)

What the tempter was saying was, ‘Compromise!  Come to terms with me!  Don’t pitch your demands quite so high!  Wink just a little at evil and questionable things—and then people will follow you in their hordes.’  This was the temptation to come to terms with the world, instead of uncompromisingly presenting God’s demands to the world.  It was the temptation to try to advance by retreating, to try to change the world by becoming like the world.  Back came Jesus’ answer:  ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone you will serve.’  (Deuteronomy 6:13)  Jesus was quite certain that we can never defeat evil by compromising with evil.  He laid down the uncompromisingness of the Christian faith.  Christianity cannot stoop to the level of the world; it must lift the world to its own level.  Nothing less will do.

So Jesus made His decision.  He decided that He must never bribe men into following Him (the first temptation); He decided that the way of sensation was not for Him (the second temptation); He decided that there could be no compromise in the message He preached and in the faith He demanded.  That choice inevitably meant the Cross—but the Cross just as inevitably meant the final victory.”

At some time Jesus must have related this very private and personal experience to the disciples and through God’s Word it has been told to us.  Jesus is showing us what to expect from Satan and how to have victory over him.  Everything that Satan offered Jesus already belonged to Jesus and was under His power.  If we place our faith in Jesus, He will give us the power to overcome if we ask it of Him. He is letting us know that he has already won the battle over Satan.

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand under it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

 

RESISTING TEMPTATION (TWO)

Sensationalism

 

Then the devil took Him to the Holy City, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple.  “If you really are the Son of God,” he said to Him, “fling yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will give His angels orders to care for you, and they will lift you upon their hands, lest at any time you should strike your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus said to him, “Again it stands written, ‘You must not try to put the Lord your God to the test.’”  Matthew 4:5-7

William Barclay in his commentary The Gospel of Matthew interprets this passage of scripture as follows. There was a place in the temple where the Royal porch and Solomon’s porch met, and at that corner there was a sheer drop of about 450 feet into the valley below.  Jesus could have jumped from that spot and been safely rescued if his intention was to win followers by demonstrating some sensational act of daring.  No doubt there would have been people who would want to follow someone who could pull that off.  The problem with that kind of followers is that they would expect something even more spectacular to keep their loyalty as time went by.  What is sensational today is old news tomorrow, and a gospel built on that kind of foundation is doomed to failure.

 “You must not put the Lord your God to the test,” said Jesus. Deuteronomy 6:16  We are not to see how far we can go with God by putting ourselves deliberately into a threatening situation, recklessly and needlessly, and then expect God to rescue us from it.  God expects us to take risks in order to be true to Him, but He does not expect us to take risks to enhance our own prestige.  Belief that depends only on signs and wonders is not really faith, it is doubt looking for proof and looking in the wrong place.  God’s power to rescue is not something to be played with or experimented with; it is something to be quietly trusted in our everyday lives.

Jesus refused the way of sensationalism because He knew that it was the way to failure—it still is—and because to long for sensations is not to trust, but to distrust, God.  When some of the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus for a miraculous sign, He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!  But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:39-40

Many in our day are like the Pharisees and the scribes, still asking for proof in order to believe in the saving gospel of Jesus. This is evident in that over the years there have been many who have been in the spotlight for a time using the gospel of Jesus to support their own misguided agenda.  They have come and gone, but the true gospel of Jesus is just as contemporary and powerful as when He first rose from the dead.

 

 

 

 

RESISTING TEMPTATION

Turning Stones into Bread

 

Not long ago, someone asked me why Jesus was tempted of the devil since He is God, and there really isn’t anything the devil can offer Jesus that is not already his?  I had never really thought about it and I found myself wondering the same thing.  Why would Jesus be tempted and why is it included in the scriptures?

We read of Jesus’ first encounter with Satan in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1-4:  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread”.   Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The first thing I noticed is that Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit and that his fasting was a deliberate action on his part.  He could have easily obtained food or left the desert at any time.  His purpose for being in the desert for forty days was to be alone and to face the challenges of Satan.  He knew he had a painful and difficult journey ahead of him; one that would lead to a cruel cross.  After he began his ministry, there were many times that he withdrew from the crowds to be alone and to pray.

According to William Barclay in his commentary of Matthew, the Greek word in this account for tempted is “tested”. In this account of the first temptation in the wilderness, Satan tested Jesus without success by appealing to the needs and desires of the flesh.  Satan tempted Jesus to use his supernatural power selfishly for his own purpose.  And Satan tempts us to sin in the same way by using any gifts God has given us for our own selfish gain or to bring attention to ourselves.  Jesus used the Scriptures to rebuke Satan and that is how we can also have victory.  However, we must study and become familiar enough with God’s Word to be able to resist temptation when we are tested.

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

This would be one of many times that Jesus would be tested and have victory over Satan.  Jesus was challenged all through the days of his ministry on earth by religious leaders and sometimes by his followers.  When Jesus predicted his death and resurrection in Mark 8:31-33, Peter rebuked him.

 He (Jesus) spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan”! He said.  “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”  Mark 8:32-33

  Jesus knew that it was Satan who was behind Peter’s action and once again Jesus proved that he was God, the creator, and that Satan, the created, had no power over him.  And never in the history of mankind has there been a greater testing than what happened to Jesus in Gethsemane before he was arrested and on the cross at Golgotha where he was crucified.  (Luke 22:42-44 and Luke 23:33)

Jesus knew how important it is to be alone with God and to talk with God and listen to what God has to tell us.  If Jesus realized this, having the supernatural power that he has, and the close intimate relationship he has with the Father, it is truly important for us who are weak and sinful to spend time with him every day.