Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tempting

Matthew 4:1-11 The Temptation of Jesus in the Desert
Italicized sentences are my thoughts, not from the sermon. All Bible verses are in NIV.
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

The Setting
Spiritual/moral failure is caused by choice not environmental factors. It isn't what is going on around you that cause sin, but what is going on within you.
I actually have my own example of that. How many times have I tried to logon to a computer system and it failed? Then you realize the CAPS LOCK is on. That happened to me (again) about ten minutes ago.
Adam and Jesus are the diametrically opposed examples of choice. Both were tempted, but only Adam succumbed. Yeah, you can argue that Jesus is God, so of course He could resist. Yet in that infinite mystery that I still can't quite get my head around, Jesus was also fully human, and He never failed in his human choices.
Satan will attack at your weak points. If you know what your weaknesses are, then learn God's word (Bible verses) concerning those weaknesses and use them in time of temptation. I've done this a bit. Many more times I've simply hung my head and prayed a simple prayer "Lord, you know I can't handle this, so if I don't get some help here, I will fail." I wish I'd think about praying that before opening that bag of chips…
While the verse states "to be tempted," the Greek word for temptation can also be translated as "tested." The actual word is neutral.
Gen 50:20 "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."
1Cor 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
That latter verse is about trials as much as temptations. I can say there were many times in my life that I simply cried out to God saying "You promised not to give me more than I can bear, and I'm there right now." Sometimes that was the first thing in the morning. He keeps His promises, but there's certainly a difference between bearing a trial and being comfortable with it.
In the second verse we read that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights. That number forty is used often in the Bible during times of trial and testing. Moses was in the desert for forty years before leading his people out of Egypt. The Israelites were in the desert for forty years after doubting God's ability.
Fasting is not really an option for Christians. Jesus said "When you fast…" in Matthew 6:16. He doesn't say if you fast… Fasting, though, means to lay aside your physical wants and needs and focus your full attention on God. That's hard for me when I'm hungry. I don't fast enough. Even my doctor says something similar to that.
I think it is interesting that the Bible specifically says that after Jesus fasted He was hungry. Uh, yeah, I think so…
Ron Hindt said that the temptations were coming, but Jesus was ready. The best defense against temptation is to always be on the lookout, be prepared for attack. Make no mistake; Satan will attack in the area you think you're strongest. "Oh, I would never…" and that's the spot he will chip away at. It's happened to me more times than I can count. Now whenever I'm tempted to say "I would never…" I remember that David was a man after God's own heart, writer of Psalms, leader of God's people and he failed in every area of his life at some point. I am certainly not greater than David.
The Seduction
Pastor Ron tossed a different verse at us for starting this section. Looking at 1 Jn 2:16 - "For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world." He summed it up as Lust of the Flesh, Pride of Life and Lust of the Eyes. These were the temptations Satan used against Jesus. I know all of these, much better than I'd like.
For the first temptation, verses 3 and 4, Jesus is faced with a lust of the flesh. After forty days Jesus was hungry so it was the obvious temptation. As God, Jesus could easily turn the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. Satan uses a technique similar to the one he used with Eve, using a little uncertainty with the words "If you are God." He defeats the temptation with Scripture. This strategy wasn't for Jesus; Jesus could have commanded Satan to leave, but illustrated a technique we can use against Satan. Seek God first.
Verses 5-7 depict a wily Satan using a Bible verse as the bait for Jesus' pride. After all, this is God, and the angels themselves will protect Him. Doing this elevates Jesus above and beyond his manhood, leading him away from His mission as man and donning once again the mantle of God. Not every Bible verse is used for good; taken from context even the words of the Bible can be used for evil. No matter the argument, keep your eyes on God.
Verses 8-10 have a couple interesting bits. Firstly, Jesus never debates the rule of Satan over this world. All by itself, that can explain a lot of things. The other key thing is that Satan offers to Jesus the very goal Jesus will someday obtain. Basically, though, Satan says "Take the shortcut. You don't need to suffer as a man. I can make you a king today! Why wait?" Satan offers a small compromise to a greater goal. The lesson for us is profound: little compromises lead to great ruin. In this case, Satan would also achieve the one thing he seeks for all eternity - sovereign rule in the place of God. When we get a chance we're to read Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 for a glimpse into the heavenly warfare at the beginning of time.
Jesus responds knowing full well that whatever you worship you also serve. He commands that Satan leave. I can imagine the grimace on Satan's face at the words "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only" for this was the very contention that exiled Satan from the heavenly realm (although let's not forget that in Job Satan is still visiting the throne room of God, and I don't really get how that works. That's my limited understanding, not God's fault.)
The Success
The final sentence sums up the entire conflict. "Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him." I imagine that the angels fed Jesus, gave Him drink, perhaps healed His body (though I'm sure Jesus could do that Himself if He wanted). I suspect they also provided heavenly fellowship for the short time Jesus remained in the wilderness before returning and continuing his walk upon the path to the cross.
Luke 4:13 adds an interesting twist, however. "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time." Satan wasn't finished with Jesus. We know Satan tempted Him again in the Garden just before His crucifixion, though again Jesus did not yield.
Satan does that with us. When we think we've defeated him, when we think he left and we have a bit of peace, that's when Satan will return - at an opportune time. Be wary.

I wish that I was a stranger to temptation. It wouldn't be so bad if temptation wasn't so darned tempting! I've hurt people, through my attitude, my ignorance and my neglect. Tempted to put myself first, I did so and often still do. The ones I love know me best of all. They are also the ones I disappoint most often. I'm sorry, my dears, for all the pains I've caused through the years.

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