There is an old saying that goes Opportunity knocks once, but temptation beats on the door everyday. What a true statement, for we live our lives constantly surrounded by temptations. There is no place on earth that we are able to go and escape temptations.
Jesus is the ultimate leader. We can learn leadership principles from His life by listening to what He says and by watching what He does. One of the greatest tests we will face is the test of temptation. Often we will find ourselves in a wilderness time in our lives that leave us vulnerable to temptation.
After Jesus was baptized, Matthew tells us that he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Today well look at how our Lord faced this time of temptation, and it will show us how we as Christ followers can also prepare for our times in the wilderness.
Jesus told his disciples to Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Mark 14:38. Every Christian knows that victory comes in meeting the test and victory over temptation comes from being constantly prepared for it, which, in turn, comes from constantly relying on the Lord.
It is said that a person traveling in tiger country will not be attacked if he sees the tiger before the tiger sees him. Generally tigers attack from behind in order to surprise their victims, and therefore one of the best defenses against this test of strength is to face it.
1. The Test of Transparency
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. 2 For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. Matthew: 4:1-2 NLT
This is an amazing story, offering unique insight into the nature and character of Jesus. For one thing, its one of the few stories told about an event in the life of Jesus in which there are no eye witnesses. How did Matthew (or any of Jesus disciples) know about the temptation he faced in the desert? The only way they could have known. He told him them about it. At some point during his time of ministry on earth, he told his disciples about the time he spent in the desert wilderness battling temptation in a showdown with Satan.
The temptation story has been called "the most sacred of stories" because in it we see the transparency of our Savior. "Jesus is laying bare his inmost heart and soul." He shared with his followers about the struggles he faced. Another aspect of His transparency is seen as this story reminds us that Jesus was truly human.
Matthews words give evidence that this story wasnt just a legend created by the early church, because it emphasizes the transparency and the humanity expressed by Jesus. There has always been a tendency among some followers of Christ to strip away his humanity and make him completely unreal. Songs are written about him containing lines such as The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes. This is the image some people have of himhe was so divine that he never cried as a child, he never skinned his knee, when he worked as a carpenter he never drove a crooked nail, because He was divine. He just went through life floating around on a little cloud about six feet off the ground. That wasnt the Jesus of scripture...He was 100% human and experienced everything just like you and me as well as being 100% divine. He became one of usfully human as well as fully divine. The fact that he was transparent and honest enough to share with the disciples He was hungry helps us to identify with the great truth that in His humanity He was able to pass the test of overcoming temptation that pointed us to the divine power within his life.
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15
Jesus passed the test of transparency when He openly shared with His disciples that He too experienced temptations. Today were going to look at how we are empowered to overcome our wilderness moments. In overcoming the test of temptation, this story illustrates to us three principles we need to know.
First of all...
2. The Truth about Temptation
A. The test of temptation is inevitable
Even good people are tempted. Even people who walk in the Spirit are tempted. Matthew said... Then Jesus was LED BY THE SPIRIT into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
Did you understand that scripture? He was led by the Spirit. He was doing exactly what God wanted him to do, and still He faced temptation. We have a tendency to think, when we face temptation, that God must have abandoned us or there must be something wrong with us, or else we wouldnt be experiencing temptation in our lives. The truth is this: Every Christ follower will experience temptation. Even Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Leaders will face the test of temptation.
Theres an important distinction I want to make. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it wasnt God who tempted Jesus. God doesnt tempt you to sin; he doesnt try to entice you with evil opportunities. He doesnt set up sting operations.
In our judicial system we have laws against entrapment. When an undercover cop is trying to bust people for buying drugs, he cant walk up to someone and say, Hey you want to buy some drugs? Come on, try it, youll like it. Just think of how good youll feel. All your problems will go away. Come on, dont be scared. There is a very fine line of what they can or cant do or it will be considered entrapment.
Some people think God tempts us to sinthat he puts the cookie on the table and says, Come on, I dare you to eat it. God doesnt do that.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone... James 1:13
Gods purpose is not to tempt us! However, He will use the enemys temptation to teach us lessons and make us stronger.
B. The test of temptation normally follows a time of victory
Right before Jesus went to the desert to be tempted, he was baptized by John the Baptist. It is a moving scene. John declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and after he baptized Jesus, the Spirit came down in the form of dove and a voice spoke from heaven that said...This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.(John 3:17
His baptism story is the Coronation of the King. It was the inauguration of Jesus ministry, and was undoubtedly an exciting time in his life: He was about to begin the work God had called him to do. God even spoke from the heavens to affirm his Son to all who were present. Immediately after this powerful event, Jesus faced his time in the wilderness.
In the Old Testament there is a story about the prophet Elijah who single-handedly faced and defeated 450 prophets of Baal during a time of extended drought. He challenged them to call upon their gods to bring fire upon their altar. They prayed and prayed, but nothing happened. Then Elijah built an altar to the Living God, and he called boldly upon God to consume the altar. The fire of the Lord came down from heaven and consumed the altarand everyone knew that Elijahs God was the Lord. And then Elijah prayed for the rains to come; God answered his prayer and it rained. It was a high point in Elijahs life.
HOWEVER, immediately afterward, Elijah heard that the wicked Queen Jezebel was angry and wanted to kill him, and Elijah panicked and ran for his life. He hid out in the desert and told God I cant take this anymore; please kill me now. (1 Kings 18) Elijah was courageous when he faced 450 prophets of Baal, but he ran like a coward the next day when the Queen made a threat on his life.
Doesnt make sense, does it? But thats what often happens in our lives. After a great victorious experience, we often find ourselves feeling alone in the wilderness.
C. The test of temptation attacks your weakness
Temptation often attacks you where you are most vulnerable. After Jesus had been alone in the desert 40 days and nights without food and water, the tempter came to him and said...
3 During that time the devil came and said to him, If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread. Matthew 4:3 NLT
Why did Satan say this? Because he knew that Jesus was hungry. He knew that the idea of eating food was the most tempting thought he could put in Jesus mind. He wanted Jesus to abuse his power for his own needs, and so he attacked him where he was, at that moment, most vulnerable: he tried to get him to eat. Appeal to the flesh; satisfy the needs of the flesh.
Temptation doesnt hit you where youre strong, it hits you where youre weak. If your business is thriving but your marriage is on the rocks, guess where the tempter will attack. If you have a strong family life, but youre going through some struggles at work, guess where the tempter will attack. Hell find where youre vulnerable, he will look for your weakness and hell go after it.
During the 2002 NFL football season, Jay Fielder, the Dolphin QB was injured and Ray Lucas, the back up, got the call. Do you know what the other teams did? They started blitzing Lucas in order to rush a guy who had not taken many snaps during the season because they knew that was a weakness and in a rushed decision a mistake could made and the opponent could capitalize. Did it work? He had several interceptions in the first three games before they strengthened their defense against the attack.
Thats exactly how the test of temptation presents itself in our lives. The test will hit you where you are the weakest.
D. Yielding to temptation has more to do with a persons character than their circumstance.
To illustrate this point look at the first Adam in Paradise. His circumstances were perfect and yet when there was a test of temptation to satisfy his fleshhe failed. Look at the second Adam, Jesus Christ, he is in the barren desert wilderness, fasted forty days and nights and yet when tempted with satisfying the flesh he resisted. His circumstance could not get worse yet He was victorious. Never let your circumstances be the excuse for yielding to sin.
The next principle we will discover in passing the test of temptation is
3. The Tactics of the Tempter
Many times we lose the battle against temptation because we dont understand the tactics of temptation and how it works in our lives. Temptation is, by its very nature, deceptive.
A. Tactic One: Twist the Truth
Matthew tells us that the devil took Jesus to the holy
city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and then he
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, 6 and said, If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you wont even hurt your foot on a stone Matthew 5:5-6 NLT
Do you see what Satan was doing? He quoted scripture, took a little bit of truth, knowing that Jesus knew it was absolutely true, but he was trying to get him to apply it in a twisted, self-serving way. He was saying, Come on, Jesus. God will take care of you. J ump. And there was an unspoken implication, Or do you really believe God will take care of you. Maybe he wont, if youre not really the Messiah.
Satan knows what buttons to push and hell use whatever twisted truth he can. Hell say things like, You know that God wants you to be happy, right? And you know that youll never be happy as long as youre in this job or married to this person. So God must want you to quit your job or get a divorce...Unless, of course, you believe that God just wants you to be miserable for the rest of your life. Or hell say, God doesnt want your family to do without the necessities of life, and you need your money much more than the Lords work so you cut some corners and forget about your tithe.
The enemy knows that we cant be tempted with the idea of doing something bad just for the sake of doing something bad. But we can all be tempted with the idea of doing something bad in order to feel that we are getting something good.
B. Tactic Two: Promise what is already Provided
Another thing I want you to notice about temptation is that it often promises what God has already provided. Matthew tells us that Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said...
8 Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 I will give it all to you, he said, if you will kneel down and worship me. Matthew 5:8-9 NLT
There is something ridiculous about Satans words, because he was offering to give Jesus that which God had already given him. God had already declared Jesus to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He had declared that all of creation would worship him, every knee would bow and every tongue would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That has been Gods promise to Jesus throughout all eternity. This is his world. In fact, the book of Colossians says that it was Jesus who created the world. This is his world, and yet, Satan offered it to him.
Thats the way this tactic of the Tempter works. He often promises something that he cant really give...something that God has already provided. Temptation will say to you, "Do this and youll be happy. Do this and youll have peace of mind. Do this and youll feel good about yourself." But the devil cant give you happiness, because it isnt the devils to give. He can promise you the world, but he cant give you the world, because it really isnt his to give. Only God can give you happiness. Only God can give you peace of mind. Only God can give you a sense of well-being. He always promises more than he can provide.
C. Temptation never lasts forever but never leaves forever
When Jesus resisted the tempter, the tempter finally went away. Too often we give in to temptation because we think, "I cant fight this forever." You dont have to. The test of temptation doesnt last forever. James said:
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Resisting temptation doesnt make you weaker, it makes you
stronger. We must understand that temptation may be gone today and the
victory is yours today but dont be deceivedit will be back tomorrow.
The tactic of the Tempter is this: He NEVER leaves forever. In Lukes
account of the temptation story, after Jesus resists Satans temptation,
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:12)
When Jesus overcame temptation, it didnt mean he was through with temptation for the rest of his life. He had to deal with it again and again throughout his ministry. Remember the words of Hebrews: He was tempted as we are. Obviously, in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was tempted not to go through with his sacrificial death.
4. The Triumph over Temptation
How did Jesus respond to the test of temptation?
A. He Remembered the Scripture
He responded with the word of God. Every time the devil tempted Jesus, he responded by saying, It is written or the Scriptures say. There is something powerful about the words of scripture that give us strength in overcoming temptation.
David understood this principle. He said in the Psalms...
I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
When it comes to passing the test of temptation, the Leader knows the BIBLE is the first line of defense. The more you know scripture, and use it, the more power youll experience over temptation.
When facing any test of temptation: Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
When tempted to lie: Prov. 6:16-17: There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue
When tempted to yell or insult your children: Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger. (Eph. 6:4)
When tempted with lust: Job 31:1: I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.
The words of scripture give us strength for our times in the wilderness of temptation therefore, we need to make an effort to know the Word of God. Now, you cant memorize the whole Bible, and you dont have to. What I have learned is that when I read the Bible on a daily basis, God speaks to me about what I am going through at that time in my life. I cant tell you the number of times I have faced something during the day that is directly related to what I read earlier that morning in the Bible. You triumph over temptation by remembering and speaking the word of God.
B. He Rebuked Satan
10 Get out of here, Satan, Jesus told him. For the Scriptures say,You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him. 11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
Let me ask you a question. How do you speak to your tempter? Do you hear yourself whining, Oh no. Temptation is so strong and Im so weak. Ill never win this battle. Or do you stand strong and boldly say, Get lost! Theres no way Im going to commit that sin!
You dont have to be fearful in the face of temptation. You can confront it boldly and biblically and you remember, youre not confronting it in your own strength, but in Gods strength.
c. We should Re-affirm our surrender
Finally the last step to our triumph over temptation is to re-affirm your surrender to the Lord.
Jesus said it best when he said you must worship the Lord our God and serve Him only.
Jesus was saying, "Leave me alone, because I belong to God, and I dont belong to you. I worship him, I dont worship you."
Ever heard a little child respond to another with this line, Youre not the boss of me?
Thats how we need to respond to temptation if we are going to experience triumph. We need to say, Youre not my boss. Jesus Christ is my boss. I dont serve you, I serve him.
When you face the test of temptation, reaffirm your surrender to Christ. Remind yourself that you belong to Him, that He is your Lord.
I was fascinated when I read the following research a
number of years in Dennis Waitleys, Empires of the Mind. Waitley
reported that although there are approximately 450,000 words in the
English language, about 80% of our conversations use only about 400
words. The most common words in the English language are. . . "I," "Me,"
"My," and "Mine."
Let us lay aside ourselves as we journey with Jesus over the next few weeks and follow Him and His example.