Robert Jeffress - When The Devil Rings The Doorbell - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Most people never realize it, but every one of us is engaged in a cosmic battle with a powerful adversary named Satan. None of us escapes that battle, and if we're not careful, we could become his next casualty. So what can we do to stand strong against Satan's attacks? Today, I'm going to share how Jesus successfully defeated Satan's plan to destroy him, and how we can employ those same tactics in our daily battles. My message is titled: "When The Devil Rings The Doorbell," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One of the strongest evidences for the reality of Satan is the way that he has cleverly caused society to mock him, rather than fear him. Images of a little guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork running around, poking people in the backside. That brings a smile to our face. Even Christians regularly joke about sin and temptation, and, "The devil made me do it". But as one whose vocation requires him to spend a lot of time in the spiritual emergency room, let me assure you, there's nothing humorous about Satan and his attacks. Addictions, the destruction of families, even death are all byproducts of Satan and sin.
I read one time about how an Eskimo kills a wolf. If a wolf is threatening the Eskimo and his family, the Eskimo will take a knife with a long blade and he will take that blade and he will dip it in animal blood. He'll wait for it to dry, and then he'll dip it in a second coat and a third coat and a fourth coat, until that blade is completely concealed, and then he takes the knife and sticks it upright in the frozen snow. The wolf, attracted to the smell of the blood, comes to the knife and begins licking the knife, and as the blood starts to satisfy its thirst, it starts to lick faster and faster and faster, not noticing the sting on its tongue of the sharp knife, and not noticing the moment that the wolf begins to be satisfied by his own warm blood, until the morning dawn finds the wolf dead in the snow.
Make no mistake about it, ladies and gentlemen, sin never satisfies. Sin only causes us to crave more and more and more until we are completely destroyed by our own lusts. But the destructive power of sin, like that knife blade, is often concealed where we can't see it. Satan very cleverly wraps the destructive power of sin in an appealing temptation that Satan custom designs to meet our particular thirst. How do we resist the appealing temptations of Satan that he brings into our life? That's what we're going to talk about this morning. Today we're going to discover from the life of Jesus Christ what to do when the devil rings the doorbell.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Luke 4. We're in a verse-by-verse study of this account of the life of Jesus, and we've come now to Luke 4. Remember what happened in chapter 3. We talked about John the Baptist. He was the forerunner of Christ, prophesied for hundreds of years. His ministry was to make the world aware that Christ was about to come, and remember he had a special baptism, the baptism of repentance. It was a baptism designed for people to confess their sins and to be ready for the Savior. And remember, among the crowd that was being baptized by John, not only were there pharisees and Sadducees, but eventually Jesus Christ appeared on the scene, and when John saw him, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world," and Jesus requested to be baptized by John, and John resisted that. "I can't baptize you. I'm not worthy to do that". But Jesus said he needed to be baptized, not for the forgiveness of sins, but because it was God's plan for his life, a way to show his submission to God.
And remember, when Jesus was baptized, the Bible says the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, and the Heavenly Father boomed out, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". Can you imagine what that must have been like for Jesus? He desired nothing more than the approval of his Heavenly Father, and there God gave it, so that everyone can hear, "This is my Son". It's no coincidence that after that spiritual high watermark, we come to Luke 4:1-2, and we read these words. "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness for 40 days, be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, he became hungry".
What I want you to notice here is the timing of Satan's temptation in Jesus' life. It was after a spiritual high he had just experienced. You know, there are some times that you and I are most vulnerable to the attacks of Satan in our life. I want to mention four of those times. My friend Steve Lawson has noted there are four times every Christian is most vulnerable to temptation.
1. When you have just experienced a great success. You know, mountain climbers will tell you that the most dangerous period of time in an expedition of climbing a mountain is not during the ascent to the summit. Mountain climbers are very careful during that time. The time they are most prone to accident and even death is on the descent. After they've reached the summit and are on the way back down in the mountain, that's when they tend to be more careless and slip, sometimes fall to their death. It's the same way with us. It's after a great success in life that we become careless.
2. When you are tired, you're susceptible to Satan's temptations. Vince Lombardi says, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all". Not only does it make us cowards, it makes us susceptible to Satan's temptations.
3. When you're alone. When you're away on that business trip, when you're far from home, and you think nobody is watching, you are especially vulnerable.
4. When you're waiting on God. When you've asked God to do something in your life, to intervene, to help you, and heaven remains silent, at that time, you're vulnerable to Satan's attack.
Well, you notice really all four of these circumstances applied to Jesus at this time. He had just gone through his baptism and the expression of God's approval. He was no doubt tired after 40 days in the wilderness, and no food. He was alone, no one watching him to see what he did or didn't do, and he was waiting on God. He was waiting for the signal that it was time to begin his ministry. That is when the temptation came, and that leads to a second point. What was the source of Jesus' temptation? Who was responsible for Jesus' temptation? You say, well, pastor, that's easy. Read verse 2. It's very clear that he was tempted by the devil. The devil is the one who was responsible, and yet, when you look in verse 1, we find that it was the Holy Spirit who led him into the wilderness so that he could be tempted by the devil. Satan was the source, but in a sense, God led him into the temptation as well, or this difficult period in his life.
You know, we often say that there is a difference between a test and a temptation. We talk about the positive things about a test and the negative aspects of a temptation, and I want you to stay with me for a few moments, because this is critical to your own spiritual survival, to understand this difference between a test and a temptation. Turn over to James 1 for a moment, and let's look at James' insight into this. In verses 2 to 3, he says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance". A trial is a difficult circumstance, and James says we ought to rejoice in those difficult circumstances, whether they're financial pressure, or whether it is an illness, whether it is a loss of a job, whether it's the breakup of a relationship. He says we can rejoice, we can have the calm assurance that God is in control, knowing that this difficult circumstance can actually strengthen us.
In Genesis 22:1, the Bible says Abraham was tested by God. God tested Abraham. Difficult circumstances can have a way of actually strengthening our relationship with God. That is what a test is designed to do, to strengthen us. Now, verse 13 then talks about a temptation. He says, "But let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself does not tempt anyone". A temptation is an enticement to do evil. God never entices any of us to do evil. Never, never, never. Never say that a temptation to do evil comes from God. That comes from Satan. Here's a good way to remember it. God tests us to strengthen our faith. Satan tempts us to destroy our faith.
Now, is that clear, the difference between a test and a temptation? That's cut and dry, right, pastor? Well, not quite, because here's the problem. Look back at James one, verse 2. See that word translated trial? "Count it all joy when you encounter various trials". Then skip down to verse 13. The word temptation, it's the same Greek word. Same Greek word, peirasmos. Peirasmos. In the first part of James, it's translated trial or test. In the second part of James, it's translated temptation, but it's all the same Greek word. It can come from your own mistake. It can come from somebody else. It can come from Satan himself, but a trial, a difficult circumstance is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Whether this difficult circumstance in your life is a test that strengthens your faith or a temptation that destroys your faith depends on your response to that difficult circumstance. Not only does it depend upon your response, but it also depends upon the perspective of the one doing the testing.
Now, that's what we're saying here in scripture. A difficult circumstance is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Whether it's a test or a temptation depends on how you respond to it. Now, let's go to your life for a moment. Many of you came today facing a difficult circumstance in your life. Some of you are facing a serious illness in your life or the life of somebody you care about. Some of you are facing financial uncertainty. Some of you are going through the breakup of a very important relationship. Some of you are facing the loss of a job. Is that difficult circumstance good or bad? Well, it depends on your response to it, first of all. Let's take financial pressure. Let's say you're under financial pressure. It may be because of wrong decisions you've made. It may be God allowed Satan to bring some catastrophe into your life, but you're under financial pressure.
If you use that pressure to cause you to realign your finances according to God's word, to get out of debt and cut up the credit cards and quit spending more than you earn, well, that financial pressure is actually a good thing. It's strengthening your relationship with God and your ability to follow his word. On the other hand, if that financial pressure causes you to quit tithing or to not pay your income tax like you should, well, that's a bad thing. That's a temptation meant to destroy you. It depends upon your response. It also depends upon the perspective we're talking about. When you're going through this financial pressure, guess what? God is in heaven rooting for you. He's doing more than rooting for you. His son, Jesus, Hebrews 7 says, is next to God the Father, making intercession for you. He's praying for you that you would succeed through this difficult circumstance you're going through. Isn't that a great thought?
Jesus is praying for you right now. He's rooting for you. Satan, on the other hand, is praying, if he prays at all, all that this difficult circumstance would be the end of your faith in God. So whether a difficult situation is a test or temptation depends on our response and the perspective we're talking about. Now, let's come back to Jesus for just a moment. Before we do that, I want to show you one other thing in James 1. Go back to verse 13 for a moment. "Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself does not tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust".
Here is how Satan uses temptation to destroy you. I want you to write down this simple formula for sin that comes from James 1:14, that sin that will destroy your life. Here it is. Corrupt desire plus right bait plus a wrong response equals sin. Go back to verse 14 for a moment. Let me explain this. Each one of us is tempted when we are carried away. The Greek word elkome, to be drawn with an inward power. We are drawn away and we are enticed. That word enticed in Greek is a fishing term that literally means hooked. We are hooked by our own lust.
How many of you have been fishing before? My dad used to take me fishing when I was a little boy, and I still remember the experience, you know, of baiting the hook. We'd have a little bucket of worms there. You'd go by the worms from the bait store and you'd reach down into that greasy bucket, and you'd take one of those slimy worms and you would hook it on the hook. You would bait your hook, and you would throw the hook into the water, and that poor, dumb fish swimming around decided it was lunchtime. It was hungry, and what would it do? It would snap at that wiggly worm, not realizing that right in the middle of that worm was a hook that was concealed that would destroy it.
Now, that is what James says happens to us. We are tempted when we are carried away by this inward desire. You know, we all have a desire for companionship. We have a desire for significance. We have a desire for money to care for ourselves and our family. There's nothing corrupt about that. Those are God-given desires, but because of sin that has come into the world, our desires have been corrupted, when we try to fulfill those desires our way, instead of God's way. So here we all have these corrupt desires, and Satan is a master fisherman. He knows exactly when to drop that bait, and dangle it right in front of us, that appealing temptation, not realizing that in the middle of that appealing bait is a hook that will destroy our lives. And what happens when we're blinded by our own hunger, our own insatiable desire? We snap at the bait, and the wrong, the end response is sin, and ultimately death.
Now, with that background, let's go back to Luke 4 and see how Satan operated and used that same principle in the life of Jesus. Yes, it was true, God led Jesus into the wilderness in order to be tested by Satan. Now, God's purpose was to prove that Jesus was in fact, the Messiah. The fact that he was able to say no to Satan was proof that he was the sinless Lamb of God who could take away the sins of the world. Not only that. God had a purpose for you in that temptation. Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus is a sympathetic high priest who was tested in all things as we are, and yet without sin. He allowed Jesus to go through those experiences so that we can know, when we pray to Jesus, when we have that little talk with Jesus, that we're talking to somebody who understands us, who's been through what we've been through.
God's purpose was good, but Satan had a different purpose. He was tempting Jesus in order to destroy him and disqualify him from being our sin substitute. Most theologians agree that it was impossible for Jesus to sin. We talk about the impeccability of Christ. He is incapable of sinning. God is incapable of sinning. Jesus is God in the flesh. So the truth is, Jesus is incapable of sinning. Well, the natural question comes well, then it wasn't a real test. If he couldn't have sinned, this was no big deal, if he was the Son of God and couldn't sin anyway. I want you to change perspectives for a moment. The fact that Jesus could not have sinned meant that he experienced a level of temptation that you and I will never experience. There is a level of testing in our life, because we do give in, that we'll never experience, but Jesus never gave in, so that means there was a level of Satan's test, an assault upon his life, that you and I can never experience, and that's why we have a sympathetic high priest, who was tested in all points as we are, and yet without sin.
Never forget the testing Jesus experienced was very, very real. How did Satan tempt Jesus? Well, he did so in three areas in which he tempts every one of us, and it all has to do with questioning God. I want you to notice the first temptation, mentioned in verses 3 and 4, was a questioning of God's care. Look at verse 3. "And the devil said to him, 'if you are the Son of God'", now, cross out that word if in your Bible and put the word since. This is a first class condition clause in Greek. It assumes something that is already true. Satan had no question about whether Jesus was the Son of God. That's why he was trying to destroy him. He knew exactly who he was. He was saying, "Since you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread". Jesus, under God's direction, had been fasting for 40 days.
Can you imagine going without food for 40 days? Most of us, not sure we're going to make it to lunch right now without food. I mean, a few hours without nourishment, we think we're going to faint. Jesus had gone 40 days, and so Satan comes to him and says, "Hey, you're God. Why are you going through all of this? Just take one of these stones and turn it into a warm loaf of bread, and I'll provide the butter, and you can have a great time here". It was the temptation that was based on a questioning of God's care. "Jesus, it's obvious God isn't meeting your needs. If he really cared about you, he would care about your nourishment. If you can't depend upon him to take care of your needs, maybe you better start taking care of your needs yourself". There's some of you right now who know what I'm talking about.