This is why Jesus was tempted: to help you and to save you. So when you’re battling, come to Jesus!
Father’s Day, June 18, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Luke: The Gospel for Everyone
Introduction and offering:
Welcome to our Summer Bible Series—we are working our way through the gospel of Luke. Today we’re in chapter 4—it’s the story of the temptation of Jesus.
How many of you are ever tempted to do the wrong thing? If your hand is not up, you either lack self-awareness or are living in denial! I often say that I can resist anything except temptation! Actually, Oscar Wilde said that—I have no trouble with temptation. I do have a problem with lying! I am tempted every day—as are you. I know you’re thinking, “Pastor Joe, how could a spiritual giant like you be tempted?” We tend to think that if we’re tempted, something must be wrong with us. But as we’ll see in today’s story, temptation comes to the best, most righteous among us!
Here’s the story:
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
We’re going to talk about four things: the who, what, how and why of temptation!
- Who tempted whom?
The obvious answer is: The devil tempted Jesus.
When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, and the Father spoke from heaven, “You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” What follows this amazing experience? Spiritual attack!
Had Jesus done anything to deserve this? No. He was without sin, he had done nothing wrong—in fact, he was coming off this spiritual high—and he was tempted.
We tend to think that if we’re tempted, there must be something wrong with us. Not necessarily. There was nothing wrong with Jesus, yet he was tempted. Temptation comes to all of us, good and bad alike, and it comes when we’re doing well or doing poorly. No human being, no matter how good, or how spiritual, is immune to temptation. It’s the common lot of our humanity.
That’s the whom—but who did the tempting? The devil. I know it’s not fashionable to think there is a devil, a personal force of evil who opposes God and his people. But Jesus believed there was such a being. Jesus was alone in the desert for 40 days. He was alone; so where did this story come from? It must have come from Jesus himself, who told his disciples about this showdown in the desert. This is Jesus’ description of his desert experience—and he clearly portrays it as a very real spiritual battle.
Both Paul and Peter followed the lead of Jesus and stated that we are engaged in a spiritual battle with an adversary bent on our destruction. Paul wrote:
Ephesians 6:10–12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood; we are not just struggling with people, but with spiritual forces of evil. People are not the enemy; they are victims of the enemy.
ILL: Years ago, Laina and I were driving to church and got into a rip-roaring argument. Why does this always seem to happen on the way to church? You’re fighting like cats and dogs, get out of your car at church and plaster on a smile, “Praise the Lord.” Laina and I solved the problem: we drove separate cars to church. So we’re having this argument and I have an epiphany. I pull into a parking lot a few blocks from church, and turned to Laina and said: “You are not my enemy. I am not your enemy. We love each other, but we both have an enemy who would love to destroy us and our marriage, and we need to stop fighting each other, and fight him.” So we prayed, and then I told the devil to go to hell. He’s the only one you can say that to because Jesus said that hell was made for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
People are not the enemy; they are victims of the enemy. Your spouse is not your enemy; your child is not your enemy; your neighbor is not your enemy; your boss is not your enemy. We are engaged in a spiritual battle with our enemy, the devil, who schemes to destroy us. Peter wrote:
1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Peter tells us that our enemy wants to devour us. Eat us alive. So many people poo poo the idea of a devil. They think that anyone with a third grade education should be beyond such superstition. That’s just what the devil would like you to think. Why? If you knew that there was a lion prowling the parking lot, would you be more cautious going to your car? But if you don’t believe there’s a lion out there, you won’t be cautious, you won’t be prepared and you’re more likely to be lunch meat! This is why Peter says, “Be alert!”
You have an enemy looking to devour you. How does he do that? By tempting us. What is temptation? It is an enticement to do wrong. Pastor Tim Keller defines it: Temptation is an exit ramp from the road God has called you to be on.
I like that. I’m on the road, following Jesus, and temptation says, “Over here. This way!” It’s an exit ramp from the road God has called you to be on. Temptation is an enticement to do wrong that’s designed to pull you away from God. And whatever pulls us away from God kills us.
Who tempted whom? The devil tempted Jesus. We are engaged in a spiritual battle.
- What were the temptations?
Let’s take a closer look at the three temptations of Jesus: pleasure, power, and fame.
First: pleasure. The devil tells Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Jesus had been fasting for 40 days—he was hungry. Is there anything wrong with eating bread when you’re hungry? No. In fact, as my friend Janie once said, “When you’re hungry, nothing tastes better than something to eat.” When you’re hungry, food satisfies and brings pleasure—it’s good! So what was the temptation? Here are several possibilities.
First, the devil tempted Jesus to use his power selfishly. Jesus never used his power that way—he only used his power to serve others. He used his power to multiply the loaves and fish to feed thousands of others, but here he refused to use his power to feed himself. Are you ever tempted to use your power selfishly?
Second, the devil tempted Jesus to satisfy a right desire in a wrong way. There is nothing wrong with eating when you’re hungry, but it would have been wrong for Jesus to misuse his power. Are you ever tempted to satisfy a right desire in a wrong manner? This temptation is behind many sins. For example, adultery is trying to satisfy a right desire in a wrong manner.
Third, the devil tempted Jesus to take matters in his own hands and not trust his Father. Later, Jesus told his disciples not to worry about food, because their Father knew what they needed and would provide. He needed to trust God to care for him. Are you ever tempted to take matters into your own hands and not trust God?
Second, power. The devil showed him “all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.””
Jesus was the Messiah, who was promised a kingdom that would never end. God had already promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. So for Jesus, this would a right desire—it was justly his. But this would be the wrong way to get what God had promised. The devil was offering Jesus the crown without the cross. “Just worship me, and it’s all yours—and you won’t have to suffer and die.” The devil was offering a shortcut. Are you ever tempted to take a shortcut? Take the easy way out rather than the hard way that you know is right?
It was also a temptation to worship someone other than God. What do we call that? Idolatry. Any time you give first place to someone or something other than God, that is idolatry.
The temptation to power is huge. Many people have been seduced by power, seduced by the authority and splendor of power. And many have taken shortcuts to get there. Jesus knew power was rightfully his, but refused to take the shortcut. Instead, he chose the cross for your sake and mine.
Third, fame. The devil took him to the highest point of the temple (it was about 150 feet straight down to Kidron valley) and told him to jump off. Then the devil quoted Scripture—Psalm 91, a psalm about the Messiah—that said God would catch him, would not let him strike his foot against a stone. What is this temptation?
First, it is clearly a temptation to test God. “Do it and see if God will catch you.” And Jesus answers that we’re not to test God. We are to trust God, but not test him.
Second, this was a temptation to fame. Imagine Jesus standing on the pinnacle of the temple. A crowd would have gathered. What is he doing up there? And what a spectacle it would be when he leaped into mid-air and was caught by angels and gently set on his feet.
ILL: Anyone remember when Evel Knievel jumped the Snake River Canyon on a motorcycle? This was 1974 by the way. How many of you were not alive in 1974? It was a huge spectacle! This is him on the cover of Sports Illustrated then. He didn’t make it—he lived, but didn’t make it across.
That’s what the devil is proposing. It’s another shortcut. God promised that one day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. That promise comes because first Jesus emptied himself and gave his life on a cross. Because of that, God highly exalted him and gave him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord! Jesus emptied himself; he didn’t promote himself. Jesus died on a cross; he didn’t stage a spectacle to wow the world.
In a moment, we’ll see how Jesus resisted these temptations. He is our example, and we’ll learn from him how we can resist. But in these temptations, the devil was not just trying to ruin Jesus as our example; he was trying to destroy him as our savior. The last two temptations were shortcuts to power and fame. They were ways to avoid the cross, ways to get the glory without the pain, the crown without the cross. This is what was at stake in the desert: our salvation. The battle was fought—the enemy tried to derail our savior, but for your sake, he refused to give in. Jesus fought and overcome temptation so that when you fail, you’re still accepted. He is our example, yes; but he’s more than our example; he is our Savior. When you understand that, it gives you new power to resist.
- How did Jesus resist?
Look at verses 4, 8, and 12. “Jesus answered, ‘It is written…’”
How did Jesus resist temptation? He answered every temptation with God’s word. “It is written.” The verses Jesus quoted were from Deuteronomy 6 and 8—they are listed on your outline. Jesus knew the Scriptures—by heart. He didn’t have to pull out his phone, open his Bible app and do a quick search. He knew it by heart.
Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
Jesus had the Scriptures inside him, hidden in his heart, ready for the battle. Here is why this is important.
The devil’s primary tool is deceit. He lies. Look at Genesis 3, the temptation of Eve.
Genesis 3:1–5 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”
4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
First, the devil questioned God, planting doubt: “Did God really say…?” Then he blatantly lies and contradicts God: “You will not certainly die.” He deceived Eve. His primary tool is deceit, which is why Jesus said he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
So if the devil’s primary tool is deceit, what is the best antidote? Truth. The devil’s native language is lies; God’s native language is truth. We answer the lies with the truth of God’s word. So Jesus answered every temptation with, “It is written,” and quoted Scripture.
Here are two things to do to win the battle against temptation.
First, know your Bible. There is no shortcut here folks—you just have to read the Bible…over and over again. Soak it up. Get it in your heart. Know it so well that in any situation, verses are coming to mind. We have a Bible reading plan—it’s available on our app and our website. It will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice in a year. It takes about 15 minutes a day. I follow that plan every year—and have for years. I just keep reading the Bible over and over, filling my head and heart with God’s word. Doing this one thing could change your life! Just 15 minutes a day! Don’t tell me you don’t have time. On average American adults watch 5 hours and 4 minutes of TV per day! Most of that is not God’s truth, but is more likely to be the enemy’s deception. We fill our heads and hearts with so much garbage. What would happen if you filled your head and heart with God’s word? Try it—I dare you! Know your Bible.
Second, memorize specific verses. Identify your biggest temptations and memorize specific verses for those. Then when you’re tempted, do what Jesus did: “It is written,” and quote your verse. Answer the lie with the truth. Here are couple examples:
If you struggle with sexual temptation, memorize:
Matthew 5:27–28 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
1 Corinthians 6:18–20 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
If you struggle with worry, memorize
Philippians 4:6–7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
You get the idea. Jesus resisted temptation successfully by knowing God’s word and using it to counter the lies of the enemy.
- Why was Jesus tempted?
There are two passages in Hebrews that answer this question. Let’s unpack them.
Hebrews 2:14–18 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Jesus shared our humanity—he was fully human in every way—so that he could break the power of the devil and free us, and so that he could be our merciful and faithful high pries and make atonement for our sins. Simply put, Jesus shared our humanity—including facing temptation—so that he could save us. Save us from sin. Save us from death. And save us from the devil who wants to lead us into sin and death. And notice verse 18:
18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Jesus was tempted so he can help you when you’re tempted. We have help!
ILL: Last week, Laina’s laptop ground to a halt. It’s 7 years old, the hard drive was full, and it would just sit there and spin—it was totally unusable. I tried all kinds of tricks, and nothing worked, so finally, I took it into the Apple store to one of the Geniuses there. Do you know why they call them Geniuses? Because they have done this before and know what they’re doing. “I need help,” I told him. The Genius quickly diagnosed the problem and gave us a couple options—it worked! He’s a Genius! Say this with me: “I need help.”
Jesus can help because he’s a Genius! He’s done this before. He’s faced your temptation and overcome it, so he can help you. Come to Jesus!
Hebrews 4:15–16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
I love this! Jesus has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin—so he can empathize with our weakness. When I struggle with temptation, Jesus doesn’t frown and shake his head. “What is wrong with you?” He knows what’s wrong with me, and wants to help me, not condemn me. Because of this, in my time of need, I can approach God with confidence, knowing that I’ll find mercy and grace to help me.
This is why Jesus was tempted: to help you and to save you. So when you’re battling, don’t go it alone. Come to Jesus! Call on Jesus! One of my best strategies when I’m tempted is simply to pray. I call his name, “Jesus! Help me!” I pray the Jesus prayer a lot: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.” And I know he will. Every time. This is why he was tempted.