Jack Graham - Desert Storm
And now comes the word of God and it is another chapter in our series, "His Story, Your Story". We're looking at conversations Jesus had with individuals. Great conversions, great conversations, and today a powerful confrontation. Because how could we talk about Jesus going one on one with individuals without considering how our Lord went face to face, one on one with Satan himself in the wilderness. On this Memorial Day weekend we think of those who have given their lives, and we think of so many great battles that have shaped history, American history. Battles that took place early on in the Revolutionary War like the battle of Bunker Hill.
Of course, in the Civil War we will never forget the Gettysburg Battle, the battle at Gettysburg. And then not only the 1st World War but the second one as well, the Battle of Midway and of course the Invasion of Normandy. Most recently we have engaged in other new kinds of battles against terrorism. In 1991 was the battle of Desert Storm, or Operation Desert Storm. And it began a series of battles in the Middle East defending the world against terrorism. And, of course, those wars continue today. Satan is the ultimate terrorist, and this battle between our Lord Jesus Christ and the devil himself took place in the desert. It was a storm in the desert.
And so today's message I'm calling "Desert Storm," because it was a battle in the wilderness, a battle in the desert. And what we're going to learn here today through the life of our Lord and the lips of our Lord and how He spoke with the devil, is that the Christian life is not a playground, it is a battleground. And if you are a believer you are called to the battle. You're commissioned by our Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ to fight the good fight of faith. And that includes trials, tests, yes, temptations. Maybe as a believer and follower of Jesus you are disappointed or even discouraged that you still face temptation.
If you're a new Christian, you may have thought, "Well, now that I'm a Christian, those old battles are done. I'll never fight again, I'll never face temptation again". Well you know that that was "stinkin' thinkin'" right there, as our friend Zig would have said. We all face continual spiritual battles. We have three enemies, the world, the flesh, the devil. The world being the external foe. The world pressures us and sucks the life of us in many ways, sucking us into the system of this world which is anti-God and anti-Christ. Worldly temptations. Temptations that come from the outside in. And then there are internal temptations: the desires of the flesh. These come from within and they are with us even after we become followers, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the Apostle Paul, the greatest Christian who ever lived, fought this spiritual battle.
Romans 7, he talked about "The things that I want to do, I don't do; the things that I must not do are the very things that I do, and the things that I don't want to do I continue to do". He was fighting the civil war within with the flesh, fighting against the spirit, and that's a constant battle in our lives, human desires. Now human desires are natural and normal. God gave us these instincts, these desires, but they are to be used in a God-ordained, a God-blessed way. Temptation is this, here's what temptation is: Temptation is the solicitation or the seduction to fulfill a God-given desire in a God-forbidden way. Jerome, the church father, said, "Your baptism didn't drown the devil"! It's true! We still face the fight every day! And you can respond in one of three ways: You can give in and just say, "I'm never going to overcome these temptations". Or "If it feels good, do it". "I have these desires; I'm going to do what I want to do, say what I want to say".
Give it. You think you'll overcome the temptation by just giving in. Or you could give up. You could just quit in defeat and lay defeated on the ground. But that is no way to respond to temptation. Either way, to give in or to give up. We are to grow through our temptations, because in reality temptations makes us stronger in our faith. There is a quote that I want to give you from A. B. Simpson, who said this: "Temptation exercises our faith and teaches us to pray. It is like a military drill, and a taste of battle to the young soldier. It puts us under fire and prepares us to exercise our weapons and prove their potency. It shows us the recourse of Christ and the preciousness of the promises of God. Every victory, watch this, every victory gives us new confidence in our victorious leader who is Christ and new courage for the next onslaught of the foe".
So God allows Satan to tempt us! God allows us to be tempted by the world, the flesh, the devil to prove us, to test us and prepare us for the spiritual battles that we face in life. Martin Luther said, "One Christian who has been tempted is worth a thousand who haven't"! When we overcome temptation we grow stronger in our faith. Now before we read our text today in Matthew 4, there are three times in the Bible when the devil speaks directly to man. Three times when we hear the voice of the devil. And it's recorded in God's Word. The first time is in the book of Genesis, chapter 3 when the serpent, the devil slithered into the Garden of Eden and tempted Adam and Eve, and they fell. But in the temptation Satan slandered God to man, and here's how he did that. He slandered God to man by saying, "Has God said..."? He questioned God's Word, He distorted God's Word. And then he said, "God knows if you eat of this fruit that you've been forbidden to eat, God knows that you will become as He is God".
The first temptation was not to be ungodly, it was to be godly, to be like God! It was pride personified. And Satan is saying, "God doesn't love you. He's holding out on you. He's keeping the best from you". And so the devil with his words slandered God to man! He does the same thing today. The second time the devil speaks is in the book of Job when the devil is given permission to speak to God, and when he does he brings up God's servant Job. Remember Job? Job was a godly man. He was living in devotion, in a righteous way before God. God had blessed him. And so what did Satan do? Satan said to God, "The only reason that Job serves You is because You give him all these good things. You've blessed him". He said, "Job doesn't serve You for nothing, God. He's given You, You've given him all these things. You take these things away from him and he will deny You".
So in this case it wasn't Satan slandering God to man; it was Satan slandering man to God. Do you see that? He is slandering us before God. But the third time that he speaks is our passage today, and that is in Matthew, chapter 4, he slanders the God-Man. First, God to man, then man to God, and then the God-Man who is the Lord Jesus Christ. The first eleven verses: "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting (this is verse 2) forty days and forty nights (Jesus fasted physically from food) he was hungry". That's the humanity of our Lord. He is God, but also Man, the God-Man. One hundred percent God, one hundred percent Man. Just as much God as if He were not Man at all, and just as much Man as if He were to God at all. The God-Man, Jesus. He's hungry. Enter the tempter in verse 3 who: "came to him and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God'".
The best translation of that word if there, the subjective, is the word "since". Satan knew Jesus and knew Him quite well from the beginning of time. He wasn't introducing himself to the Lord or questioning the deity of Jesus. In fact he is saying, "because you are the Son of God, since you are the Son of God do this". And what did he command Him to do? Or tempt Him to do? "'If you are the Son of God, since you're the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But Jesus answered, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God".' Then the devil took him up to the holy city (That is Jerusalem) and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him '(Since) If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written: "He will command His angels concerning You" and "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone".' Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test".'"
Jesus refused to perform a spiritual "stunt", a miracle to gain the popularity of the masses. He didn't come to be a miracle worker; He came to be the Savior of the world. So He rejected that temptation. So Satan came again in verse 8: "the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of this world and their glory. And he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.'" Note Jesus did not rebuke Satan when Satan said, "I can give you the kingdoms of this world". Fact is, this world belongs to Satan, this world system. He is the god of this age; he's the prince of the power of the air; he's the ruler of this dark domain. And so he has this power to give pieces of the world, if you will. And he offered this to Jesus. "Bypass the cross! Give up your mission! Bow down to me and I'll give you the world and all the kingdoms of this world".
The world, the flesh and the devil. And: "Then Jesus said to him, 'Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve".' Then the devil left him, and behold, (and don't miss the angels here!) the angels came and ministering to Jesus". What a conversation! What a confrontation! There are three kinds or types of temptations that Jesus experienced, that we all experience. The Bible says that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are tempted, but without sin. Remember, it's not a sin to be tempted. Everyone is tempted including Jesus Himself. The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians, chapter 10 and verse 13 that: "There is no temptation that is taken you but that it is common to man... but with the temptation God will make a way of escape".
So we're all tempted. Jesus was tempted at three levels, if you will, or three different kinds of temptations. They are the same. When it says, when we say, when the Bible says, "Jesus was tempted in all points such as we are tempted", it doesn't mean He had the specific temptation. I mean, I don't know that Jesus was ever tempted to smoke weed, for example. But what it is saying? That He was tempted at all points, as we are tempted. Three temptations of Christ. One regarding physical appetite: "Turn these stones into bread. You're hungry. God's not taking care of You! You need to take care of Yourself! Turn the stones to bread! Fulfill Your normal, natural desire"!
Again, here's the temptation, right? To fulfill a God-given desire in a God-forbidden way! It was normal to be hungry. He'd been without food for forty days! He'd been in the desert! So it was normal to want food! But the temptation was to exercise His God-given powers and desires and fulfill it in a God-forbidden way. And these kinds of temptations come at us all the time, these natural desires that we have. And the devil says, "You know, you can't trust God to meet your needs. You can't trust God to send you that wife, that husband, you're looking for. You can't trust God to show His love for you. You can't trust God to take care of you, so take care of yourself. Give in to your physical appetites". So that's the first kind of temptation, the lust of the flesh. And then when he took Him to the pinnacle of the temple and told Him to jump off and the angels would bear Him up.
What was that all about? Jesus was on this mission to save the world, to save you and me. Satan was offering Him an out, an option. Jump off the temple, everybody's going to believe. The crowds are going to follow You. They'll put up posters everywhere: Meet the man who jumped off the building and the angels bore Him up! But that wasn't God's plan for Jesus. He didn't come to earth to be popular with the masses; He came to live and to die, and to rise again on the third day! This was subverting the mission of Christ. And so He rejected it out of hand. He refused! Said, "You shall not test the Lord your God as it is written". Then came the third kind of temptation with spiritual allegiance. So you got physical appetite, right? Turn the stones into bread. You have personal ambition: Jump off the temple. That's pride, that's arrogance, that's living your way instead of God's way.
And thirdly: spiritual allegiance. Who would you worship? When Jesus answered that question, "Who will you worship"? He said, "You worship who you will serve". You see that there in the Scripture? Says, "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve". You serve, listen to this, spiritual principle, ding, ding, ding! You serve whatever or whoever you worship! And Satan could offer all these kingdoms of the world. But you see they were only temporary! They weren't lasting! Jesus came for an everlasting kingdom! When you think about it, temptation at the very core, it's about now or later! Right? Will I obey my flesh? Will I listen to the world? Will I follow the commands of Satan now and get whatever I can get? Whatever pleasure, whatever power, possessions, all that? Can I can have it now! Or I can trust God, knowing that the eternal kingdom that "He who does the will of God abides forever".
And so Jesus responded to each one of these temptations and we must as well. Again, just in case you missed them, here they are: physical appetites, personal ambitions, spiritual allegiance. Who will you worship? Who will you serve? The Scripture tells us, so we must overcome these temptations. So how are we going to do that? What is the way of escape that the Bible talks about? Well, the Bible tells us in the book of James that when we "submit to God and resist the devil that he will flee from us. And when we draw near to God, God will draw near to us".
So three ways that Jesus responded just as the Scriptures tell us here in the book of James. We submit to God, we resist the devil, and we draw near to Him, we draw near to the Lord. Here's how that works. We submit to God. The way to victory is the way of surrender. The word submit there in the book of James is actually a military term. As a soldier would submit to an officer or a commander, to submit. So the way to victory is the way of surrender. That's what soldiers do; they obey the commander-in-chief! This is what Christian soldiers do in spiritual battle; we obey the Commander-in-Chief, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are you living under the authority, under the Lordship of Jesus? Have you surrendered your will, your way to Him? That's the way of escape: to overcome temptation, to live in the victory that is ours in Christ. And whether it's physical appetites or spiritual allegiance, or personal ambitions, it is in Christ and Christ alone that we have authority over the works of the enemy in our life. Use the authority that God has given you. Then He said, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you". He said submit to God, resist the devil, and he'll run from you. The word resist there is another word out of military annals. To resist means really to stand up against the enemy. If an enemy attacks us, we're going to respond and stand up for our freedom, and so many have done that over the years of our history, and in the history of the world.
To resist the enemy is to stand against the enemy, not run from the battle, not in cowardice shrink from the battle, but to stand up in the authority of Christ and resist the devil! You have that right! You have that responsibility! You have the authority of Jesus Christ and His name to resist the devil. So start resisting him, rather than giving up and giving in, resist the enemy! Paul the Apostle Paul said, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against all the strategies, all the wiles of the devil". Take a firm and courageous stand. Too many believers have just given up in the battle. You don't have to be afraid of the devil. I like the saying when temptation comes knocking to your door, just send Jesus to answer it, and you go in Jesus' name and you will have overcoming power.
Thirdly, "Drawn near to God; He'll draw near to you". The closer you draw near to God, the closer you get to God, the farther Satan will be away. That's what Jesus did. He was there in the wilderness, getting close to God, fellowshipping. Denying Himself food and drink in order to get close into fellowship of His Father. Angels ministered with Him. What a picture of what it means to draw near to God! The most important spiritual advice that I could give you is take time every day of your life to draw near to God, to get close to Jesus. Not just spare time, or leftover time, but the best part of your day. Preferably for me it's the morning, to meet God, to read God's Word, to meditate upon the truth of Scripture is so transforming! To pray! To memorize the Scripture!
I've been memorizing scripture since I was a boy, and I promise you, it has prepared me for spiritual battles that I have faced along the way. Do you have some verses memorized to prepare you when the devil comes that you will submit to God's Word when the temptation, when you're in the throes of a temptation? When you're in a struggle? It's too late when you're in the middle of struggle or a temptation, a seduction! You need to get ready right now! Steel your soul, prepare your life! Saturate your life with a word of God which is the weapon that God has given you, "sharper than a two-edged sword".
Sharpen your sword every day! Draw near to God; He'll draw near to you. And one final thing before we say that that's the end of this sermon. And that is let God's people minister to you and serve you. Now I know it says here the angels came and ministered to Jesus. But God sends people into our paths, along with angels, to minister to us in times of temptation and when we face temptations, even if you fail in temptation, you need God's people. Church is not an audience; we are an army! And we should never shoot our own wounded. It's shameful when churches and Christian organizations and schools shame their wounded. The goal of discipline is redemption and restoration.
Somebody goes down in a battle, when somebody's wounded and somebody's hit by the artilleries of hell, that's the time for a soldier to pick them up, and minister healing and hope to them in Jesus' name. Unfortunately many people abandon the church in times of failure because they don't think the church would help them. They think the church would condemn them. So let us be soldiers-in-arms and let us lock arms together to provide accountability with each other in the times of spiritual battle. If we do fail, there's someone there to pick us up and to help us do better the next time. There's someone there to minister God's grace and God's healing through our lives. This is why we need a good church, so that we could be in this together.
Psychologists knows that if you're going to overcome an addiction of some kind, you need accountability. That's why organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous have been successful. It provides accountability. The ultimate accountability should be in God's church where we are accountable to one another. So draw near to God by drawing near to one another and let the angels and the saints of God minister to us. Jesus overcame the devil. The devil fled. And he will flee from you if you will practice the spiritual disciplines and devotions of following Christ, and live in the authority and the victory that He has provided for you. You don't have to be the devil's play thing. You don't have to be a spiritual loser. You can be a victor in Jesus Christ. Amen?