(Brook Hill UMC – Oct. 25, 2015)
(from the series “God’s Messages – They Ain’t Spam”)
Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV) 1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness 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 shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
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.’ ” (Psalm 91:11-12)
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
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.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:13)
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Every day most of us are bombarded by messages. Billboards urge us to eat All-Day Breakfast at McDonald’s. Yard signs urge us (I saw this sign yesterday) to vote for Bernie Sanders. Television commercials urge us to drink Bud Lite in the new Redskins or Ravens beer cans. My email invites me to buy a Creo Food-Stacking tool from The Daily Grommet. Last night Facebook was trying to sell me a T-shirt that says “Made in Canada – a Long Time Ago.”
In the midst of all these messages God also speaks to us. He speaks to our hearts by His Spirit. He speaks to our minds and hearts by His Word.
God says to us (through the prophet Isaiah): “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” (Is. 45:22)
He says to us (through His Son Jesus): “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24)
In the midst of a thousand voices, we must hear – we must obey – the Word of the Lord.
This morning we look at the topic of temptation, and how to resist it. The scripture we use is Saint Matthew’s account of Jesus being tempted by the devil.
And we’ll look at this subject under three headings:
- The Bible teaches that Satan is real.
- Satan tempted Jesus directly, but usually tempts us indirectly, through our own self-centeredness.
- Knowing scripture can help us resist temptation.
So, here we go!
- THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT SATAN IS REAL.
In this passage, and in more than 50 other scriptures, Satan is identified as a real being.
A 2011 Gallup poll showed that nine in 10 Americans believe in God.
But a Barna Group survey that same year found that only 43% of Americans believe the devil to be a “living entity,” as opposed to a symbol of evil.
But C.S. Lewis believed in Satan. Lewis was an intellectual, a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He is the author of 74 books, including the Chronicles of Narnia and “The Screwtape Letters.”
In his original preface to “The Screwtape Letters”, Lewis warned of:
“…two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.” One error “is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
Lewis concluded that the devils “are equally pleased by both errors…”
And in his 2nd preface to that same book, 20 years later, he wrote:
The commonest question [I am asked] is whether I really “believe in the Devil.” Now, if by “the Devil” you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly “No”. There is no uncreated being except God. God has no opposite. No being could attain a “perfect badness” opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of him left.
The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of [the archangel] Michael.
And (for what it’s worth) Pope Francis believes in the devil. A recent article by a Catholic priest on the CNN website says:
“His tweets and homilies about the devil, Satan, the Accuser, the Evil One, the Father of Lies, the Ancient Serpent, the Tempter, the Seducer, the Great Dragon, the Enemy and just plain “demon” are now legion.
…Francis refers to the devil continually. He does not believe him to be a myth, but a real person…
The Pope has stressed that we must not be naïve… Francis has been warning that whoever wants to follow Jesus must be aware of the reality of the devil. The life of every Christian is a constant battle against evil, just as Jesus during his life had to struggle against the devil and his many temptations.
…Francis wishes to call everyone back to reality. The devil is so frequently active in our lives…, drawing us into negativity, cynicism, despair, meanness of spirit, sadness and nostalgia.
[The Pope says] We must react to the devil… as did Jesus, who replied with the Word of God… one cannot dialogue [with the Dark Prince]; one can only respond with the Word of God that defends us.
(Rev. Thomas Rosica, July 20, 2015)
In reporting on the life of Jesus (in the four letters of Matthew, Mark and Luke and John), the Bible gives us about a dozen places where Satan is identified by name and spoken of as a real being.
So the Bible teaches that Satan is real.
- SATAN TEMPTED JESUS DIRECTLY, BUT USUALLY TEMPTS US INDIRECTLY, THROUGH OUR OWN SELF-CENTEREDNESS.
The Bible says that “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” (James 1:13-14)
So often when we’re tempted, it’s through our own inner desires, our own inner yearnings.
Why do 70% of Christian men and 30% of Christian women say they struggle with Internet pornography?
Why can’t you resist going back to the buffet and getting three or four helpings of those candied yams? That’s not the enemy directly at work – it’s our own desires.
In the scripture we read, Satan directly tempted Jesus.
He said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” It looks like the enemy was trying to get Jesus to even doubt His identity as the Son of God.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from the top of this temple.” The enemy was appealing to Jesus’ vanity and pride, for surely such a miraculous sign would have caused many people to begin following Jesus.
But Satan had never dealt with a man like Jesus. In John 14:30, Jesus told his disciples: “…the prince of this world is coming, and [he has] nothing in me.
But the enemy has something in us! Our lives have been broken by sin, and our self-centeredness and pride often consume us.
Since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, humans have been largely self-focused and self-centered.
Every time I preach at Brook Hill, I want to preach the best sermon ever preached. And I want that sermon to be used by God to help and encourage and teach God’s people.
But if I’m honest, hidden somewhere in the middle of those motives, is the motive of pride. I want people to think well of me. I want to polish my own apple. I want to be seen as a capable preacher, someone worth listening to.
That is pride. At its worst, that is vanity. God, forgive me! Cleanse my heart again! Make me pure in Your eyes.
So Satan tempted Jesus directly, but he usually tempts us indirectly, through our own self-centeredness.
- KNOWING SCRIPTURE CAN HELP US RESIST TEMPTATION.
The Word of God is our sword in the spiritual fight! We should be reading it every day.
We should look for opportunities to study it, to memorize it, to get it our hearts and minds. It is the best weapon in resisting temptation.
(1) For we do not have a high priest [Jesus] 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. (Hebrews 4:15) It’s a comfort to know that Jesus has been there. He faced every temptation that you or I will face.
(2) Because [Jesus] himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18) So Christ is able and willing to help us. When we ask Him, He gives us strength to resist and overcome.
(3) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 – NKJV) As we actively focus on loving the Lord and walking in obedience, we will be able to resist temptation more easily.
(4) For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11–12) God wants to help us and give us victory in our struggles with sin.
(5) Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5–6) Lord, help us to live in synch with Your Spirit! Help us daily to offer our minds to You, to submit to You as our Governor.
(6) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2) As we allow God to remake us, to renew our minds, He will transform us more and more into His likeness.
(7) “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Romans 13:13–14 NKJV) Father, help us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ! Give us spiritual power to live holy lives, lives that please You!
(8) Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31) Lord, help us to remain often in Your Word, to live there, to abide there!
(9) “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) We will not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. The Father gives us the power to overcome the wiles of the enemy.
PRAYER: “Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the power of the evil one…”