Temptation is something we all face. And each of us has yielded to it at some point. We have dealt with the consequences of our own failures. And we have also suffered some consequences when someone close to us has yielded to temptation. How do we face temptation with greater success? That is possible. And the answers are found in a familiar place!
I am currently compiling a study of Matthew’s Gospel. That will be our next course with the pastors’ training school. In support of that, we are taking our church through Matthew this Spring. The sermon this past Sunday was from Matthew 4. This is Matthew’s record of Jesus being tempted by Satan. You probably know that Jesus is the only One to ever face our enemy without sin. Since this is our only example of success then we should study it.
And our study should reach back to chapter 3. That’s the record of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. A comparison of chapters 3 and 4 provide a stunning contrast of Jesus’ early days of ministry. Notice the following elements:
- Holy Spirit: Baptism – Descends like a dove; Temptation – Drives Jesus to the desert
- Geography: Baptism – Waters of the Jordan River; Temptation – Wilderness wasteland
- Social: Baptism – Large crowd of people; Temptation – Silence of a solo journey
- Voices: Baptism – Affirmed by the Father (This is My Beloved Son…); Temptation – Accosted through the hiss of a slithering snake
- Actions: Baptism – Anointed for ministry; Temptation – Attacked by the enemy
- Identification: Baptism – With sinful men in the waters of baptism; Temptation – With sinful men in the fires of temptation
- Spirit World: Baptism – Heavens opened, the Father spoke, Spirit descended; Temptation – All of hell is loosed on Jesus
Temptation: Unasked Question
I often challenge Bible students over questions they don’t ask. We really ought to read the Scripture through the lens of a question mark. But passages like this one are familiar enough that we settle for a quick read without posing questions the Scripture actually answers. Here is one obvious question:
What COULD have Jesus done to deal with Satan?
This is a question I intended to address in the sermon this past Sunday. I didn’t. Did you ever ask that question? Jesus was fully God and fully Man. As God the Son, Jesus certainly had the ability to:
- Banish Satan to another galaxy
- Take away Satan’s ability to speak
- Judge Satan as the liar he is and send him to eternal punishment
Just a small amount of creative thinking could add to that list. But you get the idea. Considering what Jesus could have done lets us see the enormous value in what He actually did. We can’t face the enemy in ways Jesus could have; only in the way He did. Jesus faced our enemy on terms we understand. He defeated our enemy with the tool at our disposal. What tool? The Word of God. And don’t let that seem like a trite or pat answer. It is profound. Our Savior provided an example for us to follow. And He did it without sinning.
Temptation: Hiding And Winning
I had another forgetful moment in that sermon. It involved this picture and Psalm 119:11. My plan was for this picture to be on the screen during the sermon. That part went well. I was supposed to use the picture and verse to conclude the message. That part didn’t happen. But why I wanted to do it is worth sharing.
People who know me are aware that I love visual aids and object lessons. This picture popped up in one of my image searches. I had an immediate and eye opening reaction to it.
Without thinking I inverted this familiar verse. We might call it a divine moment of dyslexia! I saw the picture and the verse and said out loud:
My heart have I hidden in Your Word that I may not sin against You.
That is the way Jesus won over temptation. And it is the only way we can win.
Soli Deo Gloria!