Take me straight to the 40/40 challenge

Father’s Day, June 21, 2009

Follow the Leader!

#2 The First Battle

Mark 1:12-13



          Happy Father’s Day! 

          Anybody here ever been tempted?  How did you do?  Maybe you’re like a friend of mine who said, “I can resist anything except temptation.”

Once on Candid Camera, they drilled a 3-inch hole through a high wooden construction fence on a busy street, and then painted a sign over the hole, “Do not look through this hole.”  Those who didn’t see the sign kept walking, but almost everyone who saw it would stop, look both ways, and then look right into the hole.

I can resist anything except temptation!

          Today, we’re going to read the story of Jesus’ temptation, see how he handled it, and learn how to follow the leader when it comes to being tempted.


Offering and announcements:

Happy Father’s Day!  (bottom of middle section)  — events today (auto show, live music, hot dogs) and summer events for men (back of tear-off).

          ********First interruption.********

Time change next Sunday (#1) – 6 PM migrates to 7 PM

          Leadership Summit registration envelopes: last two weeks at $75.


Prayer: Kids Camp starts this week!  141 campers (grades 3-5), and 43 adults.



          Last week we read the story of Jesus’ baptism, which was A Big Moment.  It was the moment he officially inaugurated his mission as the messiah—it was the Kickoff—and God put his stamp of approval on him.  The Holy Spirit descended upon him and God’s voice said, “You are my son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  A Big Moment.  Here is what happens next:

Mark 1:12-13 At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

The Spirit that had just come upon Him to empower Him for His mission now compels Him to go into the wilderness to be tested.  Big Moment…Test.  After every Big Moment comes a Test.  Count on it!  How many of you know what I’m talking about?  You have a Big Moment, a mountain-top experience, a great triumph…and then the Test.

  • You have a great weekend with your kids and you feel like you’re getting the parenting thing down—you’re Good.  Monday morning you get a call from the school and junior is expelled.
  • You have a Big Moment with God at church—God speaks to you, touches you, and you’re feeling spiritually full.  Then on your way home, the car breaks down, and your wife yells at you, and the kids have a fit.  PTL!

After every Big Moment comes a Test.  It came for Jesus.  After His baptism, the Spirit sent Him into the wilderness.  The word “sent” is a very strong Greek word—it literally means “to cast out”.  The NLT says the Spirit “compelled” Him to go into the wilderness.  I know this seems strange, but God wanted Jesus to go into battle.  God wanted Jesus to go to the desert and face the devil.  Why?  Aren’t we taught to pray, “Lead us not into temptation”?  So why would the Spirit compel Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted?  A couple reasons; here’s the first.

          The word “tempted” translates a Greek word that means “to test someone to see what kind of person he is.”  In a good sense, you test someone to approve them, to prove them able.  It is used of God testing us. 

ILL: The driving license tester tests you to prove you, to prove that you have the skills to drive.  He’s not trying to make you sin; he’s trying to approve you for a drivers license.

ILL: Two weeks ago, I completed a course on the New Testament letters taught by Dr. Roger Mohrlang—it was a terrific course.  On the last day, Dr. Mohrlang gave us a final—he described it as the longest final he has ever given: I think it was 186 points—roughly one point per question.  Why would he do that?  Did he want us to fail?  No—he wanted each of us to pass, to succeed.  He was testing our knowledge, to prove that we knew and understood the NT letters. He was testing us—proving us.

This word can be used in a good sense of testing to approve. 

It can also be used in a bad sense: it could mean that you tempt someone to make them fail.  So it is used of the devil—in the wilderness, the devil tempted Jesus to sin, just like he tempts us. 

          So we can think of it this way.  God tests us to approve us.  The devil tempts us to make us sin or fail. 

          After every Big Moment comes a Test.  From God’ point of view, He sent Jesus into the wilderness to prove Him.  But the devil used this opportunity to tempt Jesus, to try to make Him sin.  So what we can learn from this?  Two things: here’s the first.  


          ********Second interruption.********


          Steady…steady.  This is a test!  Stay with me!


1. Follow the leader into the desert.  (The 40/40 Challlenge)

Jesus begins His ministry by spending 40 days in the desert.  Think about that: there was a big public kickoff, and then He disappears for 40 days.  40 days had a lot of significance in Jewish history.

  • Moses went up on the mountain to be with God for 40 days when he received the law.  Exodus 34:28.  40 days alone with God.
  • The 12 spies explored the land for 40 days.  Numbers 13:25.  40 days preparing for battle.
  • The Israelites heard Goliath’s taunts for 40 days before David took him out with a sling and a stone.  1 Samuel 17:16.  40 days of battling the giant.
  • Elijah did battle with the prophets of Baal and then ran for his life for 40 days on a single meal God provided for him. 1 Kings 19:8.  40 days of recovery from battle.

So Jesus goes to the desert for 40 days.  We know that He went there to do battle with the devil, but I don’t think that was all.  We know from the gospels that Jesus often went to the wilderness for another reason; what was it?  To be alone with God!

Mark 1:35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

A solitary place—it’s the same word that is translated “desert” in our text (eremos).  Jesus went there to pray.

Mark 6:31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

A quiet place—the word is eremos again—the desert.  Jesus went there to be alone, to rest.

Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Lonely places—eremos again.  Jesus often withdrew to the desert and prayed.  What was it about the desert that drew Jesus again and again?  It was a solitary place, a quiet place, a lonely place.  Jesus could go and be alone with God.  He could step away from the crowds, the noise, the pressure, and the demands and be with His Father.  He could fast.  He could pray.  He could listen.  He could think about God’s word and His mission.  He could connect with His Father.

          We need to follow the Leader to the desert.  I’m not asking you to spend 40 days alone with God!  When was the last time you had 40 minutes of solitude, alone with God?  This is why we talk so often about PBJ time—daily time with God for Prayer, Bible and Journaling.  That is what these bookmarks are about.  This is our Bible reading plan.  If you follow it, you’ll read through the OT once and the NT twice in a year.  You can do the reading in about 20 minutes a day.  If that’s too much, read half of it and take two years to get done.  Or start with just the NT.  But read the Bible every day, and give God a chance to speak to you.  Ask Him for one thing as you read—one thing for the day—and then write that down in your journal and pray it back to God.  PBJ time.  If you could carve out 40 minutes—just 40 minutes—each day to be alone with God, you would experience a remarkable growth in your relationship with God.  Not sure about that?

ILL: Any Dads have a kid who’s giving you fits?  What would happen if you spent 40 minutes a day with that kid—quality time, just the two of you—every day?  You know what would happen—it would transform your relationship.

ILL: Husbands, has your marriage gotten a little stale?  Has the fizz fizzled?  What would happen if you spent 40 minutes a day alone with your wife—just the two of you—quality time?  You know what would happen—it would transform your relationship.

I’m telling you that the same thing is true in your relationship with God.  Don’t feel close to God?  I challenge you to give Him 40 minutes a day alone—just you and Him—and see what happens.  It will transform your relationship with God. 

          Now, don’t come to me next week and say, “I tried that for a few days, and nothing happened.”  A few days with your kid or wife won’t make a big difference either, but every day for a long time does.  How long?  Why don’t you try it for…40 days! 

ILL: How many of you saw “Fireproof”?  It’s a movie every married couple should watch.  In it, a couple’s marriage is falling apart, and the husband’s dad challenges him to take “the love dare”.  Every day, for 40 days, the husband is given an assignment, a simple act of love to do for his wife.  After a few days…nothing had happened, and he wanted to quit.  After a week…still not much.  But after 40 days, their marriage was transformed.  (By the way, you can get the book, The Love Dare, and try it yourself.)

I’m giving you a 40 day challenge: 40 minutes a day alone with God for 40 days.  I’m betting it will transform your relationship with God.  It’s the 40/40 challenge!

We need to follow the leader into the desert.  We need to find our desert place—a solitary, quiet place where we can be alone with God. 

ILL: Wednesday, I missed my PBJ time in the morning and tried to make it up that night.  I tried to do it with my family while we all watched the end of the Mariner’s game and the 10 o’clock news.  How do you think that worked?

I need to go to the desert.  I need to be alone, away from the TV, my computer, and all the other distractions.  This is the value of the desert—get alone, be quiet, connect with God.  Find your desert place—it will be different for everyone, but it needs to be a place where you can be free from distraction and interruption. 

Before Jesus began His mission, He headed to the desert.  We need to follow the Leader into the desert.  Take the 40/40 challenge: 40 minutes a day for 40 days.  I dare you! 


2. Follow the leader into the battle.  (Pause)

          While Jesus was in the desert, He was tempted by the devil.  He was locked in a mortal battle with the devil.  Matthew gives us more detail than Mark.

Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

These three temptations are probably not the sum total of the devil’s temptation of Jesus.  Luke tells us that Jesus was tempted for forty days.  These are representative temptations; they show how the devil crafted temptations that were unique to Jesus. 

  • He was the Son of God and He was hungry—so the devil suggests, “use your power to turn these stones to bread.”  I’ve never been tempted to turn stones to bread—not once!
  • He was the Son of God and the Scripture says that God will protect Him—so the devil suggests, “throw yourself down from the temple and make God prove it.”  Throwing myself off buildings—never been a big temptation.
  • He was going to make all the kingdoms of the world into the kingdom of God by dying on a cross—so the devil suggests, “here’s a shortcut: just worship me and I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” 

Here’s a thought: the devil tailored his temptations just for Jesus.  Do you think he might do the same for you?  Do you think he might know your weaknesses?  What really tempts you?  Yep.

          Now that might make you feel very alone and very vulnerable—“no one has ever been tempted like this.”  Which leads to a very important point:


          A. You are not alone.

          Even though the devil knows your weakness and tempts you accordingly, you should never think that you’re the only person tempted like this.  I can promise you that lots of other people share your weaknesses, which is why the Bible says:

1 Corinthians 10:13 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 up under it.

You are not alone.  Whatever temptation you are facing, others have faced.  Your temptations are “common to man.”  You should never think, “No one can understand what I’m going through, how hard it is for me.”  Yes they can.  Others have faced what you are facing.  More importantly, Jesus has faced what you are facing.

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

You are not alone.  Jesus has already been where you are, been tempted like you are—and never sinned.  Don’t ever think, “Jesus could never understand how I feel, how tempting this is for me.”  Yes He can.  He has been tempted in every way like you have been.  He knows what it’s like—He gets it.  That’s why you can come to Him for help. 

ILL: Have you ever been tempted and wanted to talk to someone about it, but thought, “He’d never understand.”  You can’t imagine that other person ever having the thoughts you have, feeling the temptation you feel.

But Jesus has.  He understands—so “approach the throne of grace with confidence.”  Come to Jesus and tell him your struggle, and you’ll “receive mercy and find grace to help in your time of need.”

ILL: Some of you have heard me tell the story before of learning to take the lid off and expose my thoughts to God—just let God see what I’m thinking.

          I was driving to a Bible study, and I was mad at a buddy, and I was imagining being a black belt in some martial art and just tearing this guy to pieces.  I’m on my way to tell some high school students about the love of God, and I’m beating this guy up in my head. 

          All of a sudden, I was aware that Jesus was in the car with me, and I tried to cover up my thoughts.  “Oh hi, Jesus.  Praise the Lord.”  I had this picture of my mind being a big kettle boiling with these angry thoughts, and I put the lid on so Jesus couldn’t see.  And Jesus said, “Take the lid off and let me see.”

          And if you’d been in the car with me, you would have seen me reach up with my left hand and take an imaginary lid off the top of my head.  “See what I was just thinking Jesus.  I wanted to beat up my friend.”  And the thoughts were gone.

          I learned a great lesson.  When tempted, don’t try to deal with it on your own.  Go to Jesus.  Show Him, “Look at this temptation.  Look at what I’m thinking, what I want to do.”  Take the lid off and expose your thoughts to God, instead of trying to do it yourself.  And you’ll find help, grace, mercy. 

I’ve learned that the harder I try not to think about something, the more I think about it.  You don’t try to drive out the darkness; you just turn on the light.  Expose it to Jesus.  He won’t chew you out; He’s been there.  He understands.

          Perhaps this is why the Spirit compelled Jesus to go to the desert to be tempted—so that He could help us.  (Here’s that second reason I promised.)  He fought that battle for 40 days so that He could help you fight yours.  God is faithful and will not let you be tempted beyond your ability to endure.  He will make a way of escape—just turn to Him.  Don’t try to do it alone—Jesus, our Leader, has already gone into the wilderness of temptation before you.  He has led the way.  You are not alone. 

          One last idea:


          B. Use God’s Word to resist.

          When the devil tempted Jesus, how did He respond?  “It is written.”  Jesus responded with Scripture, with God’s word, with truth.  He used God’s Word to resist temptation.  The psalmist said,

Psalm 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

This is certainly what Jesus did.  He resisted each temptation with an appropriate verse of Scripture.

  • When the devil tempted Him to misuse His power to make bread, He said, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
  • When the devil misused Scripture to tempt Jesus to test God, He said, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
  • When the devil offered Him everything if He would just worship the devil, He said, “it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

He had the right verse to resist each temptation.  How do you think He knew those verses?  Jesus did the 40/40 challenge!  Seriously, Jesus read the Word, heard the Word, memorized the Word.  So He was ready when the temptation came. 

          The apostle Paul wrote about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6.  He told us that when the devil attacks, we must take our stand; we must put on the whole armor of God and be ready to resist.  All of the armor he lists is defensive except for one piece.  All of it is protective, except for one thing that is a weapon.  What is it?

Ephesians 6:17 Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

This is our weapon that puts the devil to flight: the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit.  This is what we use to resist the devil.


          ********Third interruption.********

“Do you know what this is guys?”

“A tennis racket?”

ILL: No, this is a rungu.  It is a Maasai club.  The Maasai have been using these for centuries, mostly for peaceful purposes, such as herding.  But when needed, it becomes a serious weapon.  Get a close up shot of this.  You wouldn’t want to take one of these on the noggin!  (Chase them off here.)

          I brought back a bunch of these from Kenya as gifts for my buddies—this is a man’s gift!  A weapon!  A club!  Very cool.  I’m making a sheath and carrying this on my motorcycle!  Get too close to me…yaaaaaugh!

This is like God’s word—a rungu that the devil fears and flees.  I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but if you want to win the battle, learn the word.  I would recommend that you find specific verses that address your greatest temptations.  For instance:


Men, if you struggle with sexual temptation or pornography, you might want to memorize: (It is written)

Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do 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.”

If you are tempted by greed, by consumerism, by the constant desire for more, more, more, you might want to memorize: (It is written)

Luke 12:15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

If you are tempted to lose your cool, to get angry and threaten people with rungus, you might want to memorize: (It is written)

Ephesians 4:31-32 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

If you are simply tempted to be your own selfish pig and think only of yourself, you might want to memorize: (It is written)

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

You get the idea.  Identify your weakness (the devil has), and learn what God’s word says about it.  Then resist temptation with God’s rungu, the sword of the Spirit.  It is written!