When Tempted

This is a sermon I recently gave at the Edge Christian Worship Center.  I it is the first of a three part series.

Scripture Reading: James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

As you turn to Matthew chapter 4 verse 1 let me give you a little background information. Jesus is 30 years old, and until recently had been living in Nazareth with His mother, working as a carpenter.

Even in the distant city of Nazareth, news came of one preaching in the wilderness, calling the people to repentance and baptizing the people in the Jordan River. Yes John the Baptizer had begun his ministry in preparing the way for the coming messiah.

When Christ heard the news about John, He closed the carpenter shop, said good bye to His family and started the 45 mile journey to where John was preaching.

In Matthew chapter3 verses 13-17 we have the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer. I really like the way chapter 3 ends with verse 16 and 17 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

There are three important details to be seen in Christ Baptism. Let’s quickly go through them.

  1. Although Christ knew no sin, he gave us who have sinned an example that we should follow. His baptism symbolized His dying to self, His death and his resurrection to come. Colossians 2:11-13 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by circumcision of Christ. 12 Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were  raised with Him though faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the un-circumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him having forgiven you all trespasses.
  2. All heaven rejoices when we come before God requesting baptism.
  3. Finally as the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Christ after his baptism, the Holy Spirit is poured out upon each of us that has surrendered our lives in Baptism. Before baptism, the Holy Spirit can lead you and guide you into all truth. He can point out sin in our life and lead you to a better understanding of scriptures. But for those who surrender their lives and are baptized the Spirit of God is poured out upon that individual. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts and can now begin to use you in the Ministry.

Perhaps someday I should do a whole sermon on baptism and its importance in regard to our Christian experience. It is indeed a wonderful experience to become baptized and a member of God’s family. As the son who ran away from home, the Father welcomes us home and prepares a banquet for us.

But this sermon is not about Baptism, although it plays a part into this sermon. So let’s start by reading together Matthew 4:1-4

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

A few weeks ago I was stopped by a member of another church who quoted this text and then said, “See God does tempt us.”

The following question was asked of him, “Is this consistent with Scripture?” Our scripture reading this morning makes it perfectly clear that God does not temp us. Let’s read it again. James 1:13; Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he Himself tempt anyone.

Those that have come to our Wednesday evening Mid-week service have heard me say how I have gained a much deeper appreciation for the book of Job having studied Revelation. One of the things made very clear in Job is our suffering does not come from God. Satan is the author of all suffering and injustice in this world.

Twice in Job, Satan temps Christ to tempt Job. Each time Christ refuses, but instead allows Satan the opportunity to temp Job. Satan is bound by certain limits by the pre-incarnate Christ but nevertheless Satan is allowed the opportunity to tempt Job.

God uses our trials and temptations as a way to purify us. Perhaps Malachi 3:3 sums it up best when Malachi says. He (Christ) will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness.

The trials and temptations that come our way is God’s way of purging ourselves of self, so that we set aside our humanity and pickup God’s divinity. Not that we can become God, but that God’s character can become our character. That Christ is reflected in us as pure gold reflects the refiner.

Matthew 4:1 states: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Perhaps there is a better way of reading this or understanding what is being said by stating it this way.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and while there He was tempted by the Devil.

For 30 years Christ had been preparing for His ministry on earth. Yet Jesus knew, and His Father knew, that He was not ready for all that would come upon Him in His ministry if He was not properly connected with His Father. Because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Him at His baptism he had access to the throne of God that was not available before. And that is true for all of us that have been baptized.

Let me make this clear. It is not that God will not answer your prayers before you are baptized for He certainly will. He will answer the prayer of any of his earth children that cries out for help in a time of need. It is that God, by way of the Holy Spirit now dwells in you after Baptism. This gives you the ability to minister for Christ to a fallen world. All the power of heaven is now opened to you.

Jesus is making two incredible points. 1. All those that embark upon Ministry and do so without first engaging in a proper season of prayer are doomed to failure. 2. And the second point being made in this passage is no matter how firmly entrenched you are in ministry and are connected to God by prayer and the study of His word you are still subject to temptation.

Those temptations may come at any time. They may come when we are feeling strong and on top of the world. But they are more likely to come when we are beat down by the labor of ministry. When we feel tired or discouraged because the ministry appears to be going nowhere. Look out for Just as Christ was tired and hungry, we to become tired and hungry and subject to temptation.

I got a little ahead of myself, let’s continue with verse 2. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “if You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Did Christ have the power to accomplish such a miracle? Yes, he certainly did! Then why wouldn’t Christ say, “Ok, I can do this. What harm could there be?”

Christ did not come into this world to serve himself but to serve mankind. When Christ left heaven to be born a baby, he left behind his Kingly power and glory and took upon himself the form of sinful man. He suffered the same as any one of us would suffer and as we will see He is tempted as any of us would be. Let’s be perfectly clear. If at any time Christ had picked up His power to be used in a selfish manner he would have failed. The battle would be over. Satan would have been the victor.

Genesis chapter 3 is the tragic story of the fall of Adam and Eve. Let’s review this story for just a moment. Perhaps a better understanding of this story will give us insight into this story.

The serpent and Eve had already started a conversation and in verses 4 and 5 the serpent drives home the point. 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her and he ate.

The tree was desirable to make one wise. Were they not already wise? Had not God given them dominion over the earth, to keep it and dress it? (see Genesis 1:26-28) If then they were already wise and rulers of the earth, what more could they possible need? Yet suddenly they desired to put their needs above God’s desires for them. Suddenly Adam and Eve put themselves before God showing a total disrespect toward God and dishonored the law of God by choosing to do their own will over God’s will.

Now please keep this in mind. All created beings are not robots. Adam and Eve like the angels in heaven were created with a free will. A will free to choose. This freedom of choice had gotten Lucifer (Satan) into trouble when he desired to be greater than the Most High God (see Ezekiel 28:12 -15). He used the same reasoning upon our first parents when tempting them to be like God, in knowing both good and evil.

And now in Matthew chapter 4 he tempted Christ in the same way. He tempted Christ to place His wants and desires above that of His Father who sent him. It is was a simple test for our first parents, a simple test for Jesus and it is a simple test for us.

The great temptation for Christ in all this was to pick up his divinity. To use his divinity for his own good. He was sent to save and to serve. To save fallen humanity by serving them. By serving them, he could restore their physical, spiritual and mental health to its former glory.

Yet for you and me, the greatest test for us as humans is to pick up our humanity. Christ desires to lift us up to his level. The whole plan of salvation is dependent upon us being lifted up out of our fallen condition and restored to our former position and glory.

When we accept Christ as our Saviour we are asking to be restored, but when we listen to temptation and fall, we are placing our humanity above Christ’s desire for our lives.

Jesus answered Satan in verse 4; But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Christ pulled this from Deuteronomy 8:3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

As the children of Israel wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, they were continually faced with the same question. Will I rely upon God allowing Him to supply all my needs or will I place my own wants and desires above his desires for me as a people.

The trails and temptations that were allowed to come upon the children of Israel were humbling. From the time we are born until we die we are told we can do anything we set our heart on to accomplish. Yet the children of Israel could not feed themselves by any effort of their own. They could not supply any water by themselves. They had to develop a relationship in which they became totally depended upon their Heavenly Father to provide for them.

In this life here on earth our wants and desire should become secondary to the word of God. Christ said, “I am the bread of life.” John 6:48 and in Jeremiah 2:13 For My people have committed two evils; They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water and hewn themselves cisterns broken cisterns that can hold no water. John 4:10. Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says of you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water”

Christ went into the wilderness and spent forty days with His Father gaining the strength that no earthly food could prepare Him for. Christ answered temptation with scripture because we are involved in a spiritual war and temporal food will not sustain us in a spiritual battle. Only spiritual food sustains us in a spiritual battle.

Christ choose to lay off his Divinity and become one like us. To be tempted like us and suffer like us, so that He could become our advocate before the court of heaven. If at any time he had allowed his divinity to come forth for His benefit all would be lost.

In the battle of this life, when we pick up our humanity, the battle is lost. We can only be prepared for this battle by drinking the living water given to us by Christ and the spiritual food which is also Christ. We must establish a relationship with our heavenly father as Christ established a relationship with the Heavenly Father. It is only in this way that we will have the power to set our humanity aside and pick up the character of Christ in our lives.

As Christ placed the wants and desires of His Father above His own needs and desires, Jesus is asking us to do the same by setting aside our humanity and establish a relationship with the Father that gives us the strength to do the will of God as Jesus did.

So the next time Satan comes before you with the temptation to place yourself above the desires and wants of God, remember this, God does not tempt us! Let me repeat that. God does not tempt us, instead he allows trials and temptation to come into our lives to refine us. To purify us and then gives us the power to overcome these trails and temptations.

Key to this power is found in Deuteronomy 8:3; So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Christ laid down his divinity and pickup our humanity. He invites us to lay down our humanity and pick up His character, His likeness and place it in our lives. These fiery trials and temptations that are allowed to come our way refine us as fine gold is purified until we reflect his perfect character.

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