Charles Stanley — Lessons Learned in the Temptation of Jesus
All of us have to face temptations of some sort. And probably until the last day of our life, we'll be dealing with something. Doesn't mean that you deal with the same thing all the time, but temptation is just a part of life. Look at this awesome, corrupt, evil, vile society in which we live. But, Adam and Eve had to deal with that, and there was none of this. And every generation has had to deal with it, so we can't blame it on somebody else and something else. Because we have a fallen nature and because we live in a fallen world, temptation is something we have to deal with probably most every day.
Not every day necessarily. And it doesn't mean that you deal with the same temptations all of the time, or maybe as many as you did before you were at this point in life. But it's there. And the issue is this. How do you deal with it? Lot of people will live their whole life and never decide how to deal with temptation. Well, the best place to go, that I know, to find out how to deal with temptation is with the one who conquered it every single time, and that's Jesus. It's not His will that you and I live falling into temptation. It is His will that we live the kind of life that has a defense, a mechanism, a plan that when we are attacked by the devil we know what to do next.
So, that's what this message is all about. And I want you to turn, if you will, to the fourth chapter of Matthew, and those first eleven verses give us an account of Jesus facing temptation. And I want us to see what we can learn from this experience He had in order to protect ourselves from falling. Notice, I didn't say protect ourselves from being tempted, but protect ourselves from falling into temptation when it hits us. So beginning this fourth chapter and I want to start with the first word, because the first word's important. When He says, Then, well what's then?
Well, you turn back in your Bible and find out, well, what happened right before this. What happened right before this is the time in which Jesus was baptized. And in the fourteenth verse, "But John tried to prevent Him saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him," speaking of John, "'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted Him," or baptized Him. "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, And behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'"
So you say, well, what's that got to do with temptation? Look at that word, "Then". That means that what we are about to read what happened right after this. Well, is that important? It is extremely important, and I'll show you why in a moment. So, then beginning in chapter four, verse one, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil". And notice it says that He was led up. He didn't just wander up there. He was led up, and if you'll notice, He says, led up by the Spirit, the Spirit of God, right after He'd had this awesome experience of being baptized, the Spirit of God coming upon Him and God just blessing Him, blessing Him and blessing Him in this experience, then what does God do? He sends Him into the wilderness.
You say, well, that doesn't look very fair. In other words, why didn't He just let Him enjoy the experience? Well, He did enjoy it, but His, watch this, listen carefully, God doesn't do anything without a purpose. God doesn't react and respond; He has a purpose. So, He gave Him this awesome experience to introduce Him at the beginning of His ministry. And so, when He comes upon the scene, John baptizes Him, the beginning of His awesome ministry. And so, the scripture says that then He was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness. He didn't just drift up there, He didn't find Himself up there, He was led, the scripture says, by the Spirit of God into the wilderness, and He says for the very specific purpose. Came off of this big high into the wilderness, the scripture says, to be tempted by the devil. Why in the world would God, allow the devil to tempt His Son?
Probably more than one reason but remember this, one of the primary reasons God allows testing and trial in our life is to prepare us. Prepare us oftentimes for greater testing and greater trial. And so, what Jesus is suffering here, or experiencing is the fact that the Father is now getting Him ready to face the reality of His awesome ministry. And so, forty days of listening to God is what He was doing. Listening and talking to the Father. Lord you know what you... and can you imagine the kind of conversation that went on between Him and God? It was an awesome, awesome time of listening to the Father.
And so now, after end those forty days, Satan shows up. And listen to what he says, "And the tempter came and said to Him," watch this, not since You are, not now that You are, but "if You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread". If You are. Not since You are, but if You are the Son of God. In other words, if You're who You say You are, then You have the power to turn these stones into bread. And what he was saying is, why don't You just use Your power, Your divine supernatural power? The truth is, why don't You misuse it by turning stones into bread? That'd be very impressive. And besides that would be a way of satisfying Your hunger in a miraculous way.
And so Jesus said to him, He didn't get in an argument with him. He said, "It is written," watch this carefully, "it is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God". Now what I want you to see is this. Jesus didn't have to come up with an idea of how to deal with Satan when He was tempted. Forty days He'd been listening to God, preparing for the ministry that God had called Him to do, and so when Satan attacks Him, if You're the Son of God, You're hungry, in fact, You feel like You're just starving. Well, these stones, You have the power to turn them into bread, delicious, scrumptious bread. You know the kind of bread Your mother used to make You. It'd be just like that. And Jesus said to him, "It is written in the Word of God, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God".
Watch this carefully, Jesus had a plan. He had a plan for dealing with temptation and the plan was you go to the Father. You go to the Word of God. What does the Word of God say? Now Jesus already knew this. Paul came along writing to the Corinthians and he put it this way, "No temptation comes at you is taken you but such as is common to man," we all have it, "but God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted above what you are able to bear, but will make a way of escape". That's the promise of God. If you don't know that promise and you get hit with something really hard, you say, well, listen God you knew I couldn't handle that and that was too much for me and you let me be tempted and it's Your fault. No. He says, go to the Word, it is written. What's written? It's written is this: God will not allow one of His children to be tempted or tried more than you are able to bear, depending and trusting in Him. He says, He's put a limit on it.
Now, you say, well, suppose I don't know where to go? Why, watch this. Now if you have a plan, the plan has some parts to it, right? And the first part is, go to the Word of God and find those verses that are verses of protection like a shield when you are tempted. And He said, this is just one of them. He says, he set a limitation and so if I'm tempted, the first thing I need to do is say, well, listen, thank you Father that You've set a limitation on this and I do not have to yield. So, I need some ammunition, I need a defense and my defense is the Word of God. Now, I may say, well, I have a defense. Well, that defense has parts to it and that's verse after verse after verse in the Word of God that makes me realize I do not have to yield. I do not have to surrender to that, and you need to find those verses in the scriptures that apply in a way that appeals to you or what you have to face in life.
You say, well, why don't you give me some verse of scripture that I could use. Well, if I did, what you'd do, you'd just use that one. You've got to find the one that suits you, for example, it may be that you have a problem about being angry towards somebody. Well, get in the Word of God and see what it says about anger. Maybe it's a moral; see what He says about something that's immoral. Or maybe you have a problem with greed; find out what He says about it. In other words, go to the Word of God. That's what Jesus did. Listen, it's evident Jesus just had one plan. And watch this. Jesus didn't get in any arguments with the devil. If you do that, you're going to lose every time.
And so, Jesus said to him, He said very simple, He said, we can't just eat bread alone. In other words, I'm not going to misuse My power to satisfy My hunger. So then says, the Bible says, "Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple". As we said at the top about four hundred and fifty down to the valley floor, and he said to Him, again, if You're the Son of God, now watch this, listen carefully, if you think Satan's going to hit you one time and forget it, this was the Son of God and He defeated Satan one time, Satan comes right back again he says in the same way. "If You're the Son of God, throw Yourself down". And then he quotes this scripture.
Think about how subtle Satan is. Not only did he tempt Him to do something wrong, but he quoted the scripture to defend it. He says, "For it is written, 'He will command His angels concerning You;' and 'on their hands they will bear You up so that You will not strike Your foot against the stone.'" Jesus said to him on the other hand, He says, "You shall not put the Lord Your God to the test". And so, what happens? Satan is buffed again. Here's what God says. Both times, watch this carefully, Jesus did not get in an argument with the devil. Whenever you get into an argument with the devil, you have lost. First of all, you have acknowledged that he has some bit of a foothold. Somehow you've acknowledged that well maybe he's right, or maybe this or maybe that. You can't argue with the devil. When you're tempted, the right response is immediate go into the Word of God.
What does God say? Every time Jesus faced it, here's what He did. He said, It is written. So here he's testing Him again to misuse His power and besides that to say, listen, the best way to get a big crowd, the quickest way for You to have a bunch of great followers, is just, if You'll throw Yourself down, just get up on the temple and put it in a paper, get it in the news, You're going to jump at a certain time, all these people will be out there listening and watching and they'll be so excited and they'll be clapping and watching this happen. You jump down, You land on Your feet, and they'll just go wild. And then when You say I'm the Son of God, I'm the Savior, they'll believe it. No problem. You can avoid the Cross, You can avoid the Cross if you'll just do what I said. Jump off the top of the temple, You'll have a crowd. It'll be all over the world before You know it.
Anything Satan tempts you with, it may look real profitable, promising, real satisfying, if you're first look. But if you'll get under it and look again, you'll find there's a trap, there's a snare, it's full of lies, it's not of God, it will ultimately destroy you. So, he said if You're the Son of God, just jump and You'll have what You need without the Cross. And so, He quotes the scripture of what, God says He'll do and then He quotes him back one. Don't put the Lord thy God to the test. Then, "Again the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.'"
Now, if you take Your route, you'll never get them all. If you take Your route, you can't live that long. But if You'll just fall down and worship me, I will give You the kingdoms of the world. Well, of course, that's another one of Satan's lies. And of course, what did Jesus say? He says, get out of here Satan, for it is written you shall worship the Lord Your God, and serve Him only. Every single time Jesus used the same method of dealing with temptation.
Now, I don't think any of us can improve on that method. And think about this. Here's what you have the privilege of doing. You can build this wall of strength. You can build this resource. You can build this armor before you against temptation. Does that mean it'll never break through? No, but it means if you build into your life the Word of God, if the Word of God is a vital part of your thinking, a vital part of your decision-making, a vital part of your lifestyle, that is the Word of God is a vital part of your life, it's something that you read daily. It's something that you believe from cover to cover. It is a pattern for your life. The promises of God are here. The power of God is here. If you will build the truth of God into your life, you will build a barrier.
I'm not saying that you will never get tempted, naturally you're going to get tempted. I'm not saying that you'll never falter because we still live in these bodies and we live in a corrupt world, but you will have a resource and you will have a defense against the devil that, listen, you will falter fewer and fewer and fewer times. Here's what I'm saying to you. You don't have to live in sin. You don't have to yield to temptation. You say but it's so strong. Sure it's strong. The devil doesn't come along and say, well, I want to get you. No, what he says I want you.
So, temptation doesn't come as simple, plain and easy. It comes as the strength of the devil to defeat you, drag you down in unbelief and weakness until you yield to the devil. You may not believe in him. Remember this, that does not remove him. You don't even have to believe, if you don't believe in God, do you think that affects God? No, it doesn't affect Him. It affects you. So, unbelief doesn't affect God. Unbelief affects the person who is not a believer. And when I think of all the wonderful promises that God has given to us in His Word, how to live a godly life, walk in obedience to Him, and all of us who try to walk an obedient life to Him, for us it's so foolish to try to live without God. There is a pain and suffering and heartache and rejection and all the rest multiplied many times for people who do not know the Lord.
Somebody says, well, I'm going to make it somehow. What's that? What's somehow? No, you've been deceived. The truth is if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you're in trouble. You see there's only one way to live and live it right and that is having trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Until you surrender your life to Jesus and He comes into your life through the Holy Spirit and He builds the defense and He begins to work in your life. And you see, it's not us, it's the Spirit of God within us that responds to temptation as we obey the Lord. So, if you're waiting until one day you feel like you can handle temptation, you'll never be saved. But if you're willing to say to Him, Lord, I've sinned against You, I keep on sinning against You. I don't want this in my life.
I want to ask You to forgive me of my sin. I receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior by faith. I believe when He went to the cross He paid my sin-debt in full and today I just surrender my life to Him. Thank you for this message, Lord, and I pray that You'll teach me how to live this life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Will He do it? Yes, He will. And if you are a believer this morning you now are inexcusable with dealing with temptation. Very simple. Very simple message. Here's what Jesus did, here's what we'll do. But did Jesus succeed? Will we succeed? Yes, because the Spirit of God within us will enable us to walk through all kinds of temptation, heartache, and burdens in life. Does it mean we'll never falter? No, it doesn't mean that. Because we're human. We live in these human bodies of ours, we live in a corrupt, evil, vile world, but we'll be victorious when He is in control of our life. Amen?
Father, how grateful we are for this awesome passage of scripture that's so simple, so plain but so perfectly built for Your children to show us how to walk in victory every day of our life. We love You and we praise You and we bless You and pray that whatever's going on in all of our lives that we will resort to You not our own abilities and talents and skills. Resort to You. Trust You, going to Your Word, and drawing from this awesome spring, this well of truth exactly what we need to meet every issue in life in Jesus Name, amen.