All of us have been tempted at one point or another. I am relieved to see that Jesus was tempted during His time on earth, because I have temptations pop into my head several times a day. I have found that a review of Jesus’ experience in Matthew 4 can show all of us how to keep temptation from leading us into sin and find the weapons to defeat it.
Lesson 1 – Temptation is not the same as sin.
The Bible says that Jesus was perfect and did not sin, yet was tempted just as any human (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15). What happens to me is that I take the bait of the temptation, and follow through until it becomes sin.
The Bible says I need to “take every thought into captivity” (2 Corinthians 10:5), in the power of Jesus, especially those thoughts in opposition to the way God wants me to live.
Lesson 2 – Temptations are designed just for our weakness.
In Matthew 4, Jesus was tempted three times, three different ways. I believe this reveals the strategy of the tempter, the devil.
Temptation #1 – The Flesh. In the first temptation, Jesus was tempted to feed His hunger by doing a miracle and making bread out of a stone (Matthew 4:3). Jesus had not eaten anything for 40 days, and I’m sure He was craving sustenance. I can imagine that there were stones all around that were shaped like little loaves of bread. All Jesus had to do was speak the word and His hunger would have been satisfied, but He didn’t. Do you realize Jesus never did a miracle for Himself?
How many people in the world succumb to the first temptation, to feed their body with pleasurable sensations? This could be drugs, sex, alcohol, eating disorders, smoking, adrenaline highs, etc.
Satan zeroed in on Jesus’ hunger and created a temptation designed just for Him. What is it your flesh craves? Can you avoid the temptation to feed the pleasures your body desires when the devil throws his fiery darts?
Temptation #2 – Pride. In the second temptation, Jesus was tempted to display His power and majesty by making a big display in the temple square (Matthew 4:6). Satan was hoping Jesus would show off some His power and put on a little flying demonstration in front of a few thousand people. While this would have been an awesome way to kick off His ministry, being a show off was not why Jesus came to earth.
Satan again zeroed in on Jesus’ need to get His ministry off to a big start and created another temptation specially designed to do that. What is it your pride needs? Do you need constant encouragement and acknowledgement? Are you needing to draw a crowd, be the most popular and are always worried about what others may think? Satan has a temptation designed just for that need in your life. Be ready for it when it comes.
Temptation #3 – Power. While most people fall victim to the first two temptations, people with authority fall to the third. Jesus was tempted with IMMEDIATELY becoming king and ruler of all the kingdoms and nations on the earth (Matthew 4:8-9). This specially designed plan was to let Jesus take a short-cut from His pre-determined path. Jesus is going to be king and ruler of all the earth, but not until He returns (Mark 14:62, Revelation 5:12,13, Romans 14:10,11, Matthew 28:18, Isaiah 9:6, Luke 1:32, 33, Romans 14:9, Philippians 2:9-11). By taking a short-cut, Jesus would not have had to be crucified and die on the cross. If He had taken the short-cut, we would still be in our sins and Jesus’ mission would not have been accomplished.
Many good people get corrupted or fall into sin when they get more and more responsibility. Power can come from money or a place of great responsibility, as large as a nation or as small as a household. Power is intoxicating and additive, to the point where a person believes they do not need God.
Lesson 3 - God has given us a weapon. If you notice, Jesus battles the temptations with the same weapon each time, “It is written…” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10). Jesus fought the devil with scripture, even when the devil fought back with scripture of his own. Over and over Jesus showed us the weapon he gave to all of us to defeat the enemy.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
Pastor Jay Merritt