|THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Series: In His Steps - Part Two
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 8, 2004
Jorge Rodriguez was the meanest, orneriest bandit on the Texas-Mexico border. He would slip across the border - raid the banks of South Texas - and race back across the border into Mexico. No matter what the law tried they couldn’t catch Jorge.
Finally the Texans got fed up with this and decided to put their toughest Texas Ranger on the case. After a few days of searching, the Ranger found the bandit in a dingy, dusty saloon south of the border. The Ranger bolted into the bar - pulled out both guns - and yelled, “Stick ‘em up, Jorge. You’re under arrest. I know you’ve got the money.”
Suddenly a little guy over in the corner butted in. “Wait! Wait! Señor. Jorge does not speak English. He's my amigo. So, I'll translate for you."
The Ranger explained, "This bandit here has stolen at least a million dollars. We want it back NOW. Either he pays up or I'll fill him full of holes. You tell him that!"
So the little guy turns to Jorge and translates everything the Ranger said. And the Ranger - not knowing a word of Spanish - waits for the reply.
Jorge listens. Then responds in Spanish. "Okay, they got me. The money is in a well just south of town. Count four stones down from the top of the well - then pull out the one loose stone. All the money I've stolen is hidden behind the stone."
The little guy turns to the Texas Ranger and translates with a shrug. "Jorge says, `Go ahead you big mouth. Go ahead and shoot 'cause I'm not telling you where the money is." (1)
Oscar Wilde once said, “I can resist everything but temptation.” (2)
Today we’re going on in our look at the early ministry of Jesus and what it means to follow in His footsteps. We want to focus on temptation. Please turn with me to Mark 1:12-15.
Last Sunday when we looked at the first part of this chapter - verses 1-11 - we we're introduced to John the Baptist - a prophetic voice - out in the wilderness by the Jordan River - a messenger calling people to repentance - calling us to turn to God.
Then Jesus is introduced - baptized by John - identified by God as the One who takes away our sins - brings God’s healing to our lives. We were given a choice - the opportunity to turn from living life by our own power and will - struggling along trying to deal with the self-destructiveness of our sin - or to choose to trust Jesus as the Savior - to turn our lives over to God.
Anybody here ever not face temptation? There’s a “Frank and Ernest” cartoon where Frank asks, “How come opportunity knocks once, but temptation beats at my door every day?” (3)
Satan hates it when we choose to follow God - Amen? Choose to trust Jesus - and don’t be surprised - temptation will constantly be at your door. Satan working to put doubts in our minds - to entice us with past sins and weigh us down with guilt - to lure us into self-sufficiency - to distract us with the stuff of this world. To question God - His word - His trustworthiness.
Mark 1:12: Immediately - right after Jesus was baptized and identified as the Savior - following after the plan of God - Immediately the Spirit impelled Him - Jesus - to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.
When the Bible uses the number 40 its significant - usually its a time of preparation and testing. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai receiving God's instructions for the people of Israel. (Exodus 24:18) Elijah spent 40 days and 40 nights at Horeb learning to listen to God and to trust Him. (1 Kings 19:8,15) Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting - a time of testing and preparing for ministry on our behalf.
Don’t miss that. There’s purpose in temptation. Satan’s purpose is to lead us back into self-destructive behavior - sin - behavior that destroys us - destroys others - destroys our relationship with God. But, on the other hand when we resist and gain victory over temptation we’re led closer to God and His purposes for our lives.
Before we get to verse 14 - between verses 13 and 14 - there's a whole year of Jesus' ministry missing. In that one year of time there's the encounter with Nicodemus - the woman at the well - the wedding of Cana. Mark leaves all that out in order to get to His main point which is the message of Jesus - what Mark takes up in verse 14. The Kingdom of God is here. God in His mercy and grace as broken into our lives. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
But before we get there I'd like to have you turn with me to Matthew 4. Matthew records - in detail - what happened in the wilderness when Jesus was tempted by Satan. As we’re dealing with temptations in our own lives - seeking to follow after Jesus - to move closer to God and His purposes for our lives - its important for us to see how Jesus dealt with temptation.
Matthew 4:1: "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry." - same setting as Mark 1:12.
Matthew 4:3: The tempter - Satan - came and said to Him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He - Jesus - answered and said, "It is written, `Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
Out in the wilderness Satan confronts Jesus with three separate temptations. Three temptations - which in order to help us think about all this for ourselves - I’d like to have us think about these as three separate questions.
Here in Matthew 4:3,4 - is the first of these questions. Here it is: WHO WILL YOU OBEY? Turn to the person next to and ask them that question: “Who will you obey?”
When Jesus was baptized - God spoke from heaven saying, "You are my beloved Son." (Mark 1:10,11) - God's declaring - by His own word - His approval and presence with the Son. A declaration of God's working in Jesus to bring the salvation of mankind.
Now - 40 days and nights later - Satan comes and says, "Jesus, we all heard what God said. But look at you. If you are the Son of the Almighty God - Savior of mankind - what are you doing out here in the wilderness? I can hear your stomach growling. Look around you. You've got brains. You can do miracles. Turn the rocks into bread. Satisfy your needs. Can you really trust what God said? "
Jesus answers - quoting from Scripture - in fact its significant that as Jesus answers each of these 3 questions He quotes God’s word. Here - He quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3.
After 40 years in the wilderness - 40 years of testing and preparation - the people of Israel are about to enter the land God promised them. Deuteronomy 8 is a part of Moses' last words to the Hebrew people. "He - God - humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord." Verse 6: "Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him."
Moses is saying, “People of Israel - don't forget how God did exactly what He said He would do. For 40 years you wandered around in the wilderness with nothing to sustain you. God provided for you just like He said He would. He did it to humble you - because you had to learn to trust Him each day to take care of you - to follow His word - to obey Him. Now, when you go into the Promised Land - don't forget to obey God's word. His commands still apply. He still demands obedience."
Bell Data ran an ad in the Financial Times of Canada that said, “This is a full-blown, state-of-the-art, fully integrated, user-friendly, multifunctional, omni-lingual, multi-tasking word and data processing system with advanced graphic generation capabilities.” Any idea what they were describing? A pencil. Why didn’t they just clearly say, “We sell pencils.” (4)
We often hear this. The Bible was written a long time ago to a different culture. Times have changed. It just doesn't fit today. There are a lot of interpretations of the Bible. How do we really know what God actually said? Ever hear any of those? Good questions.
The problem is that most people who ask those questions aren't really interested in the answers. There are answers. But most of the time - asking these questions is really an excuse to avoid taking the word of God as the word of God and having to live in accountability to what God expects of us.
God is very specific - very honest - speaking with direct clarity as to how we’re to live. Homosexuality, sleeping around without being married, adultery, lust, pornography, lying, slander, theft, pride, gossip, murder, back-stabbing, off-color joking, foul language, sticking stuff into our bodies that we’re addicted to - God says - in no uncertain words - that’s sin. When tempted - if for no other reason than God said it - we need to choose to obey God.
Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You. Do not let me wander from Your commandments.” Do you know how the next verse goes - Psalm 119:11? “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”
Of Christians in America - 23% say that they never read their Bibles. Never - not seldom - not sometimes - but never. Only 18% say they read their Bibles daily.
We need to be in the word - digesting the bread of God - reading - disciplined in our study - sharing together around the word of God - studying together - asking questions - challenging each other with God's word - holding each other accountable. The wisdom and truth of God's unchanging word should so saturate us - permeate our hearts - that obedience - knowing what to do and doing it - is our natural response regardless of the temptation.
Who will you obey?
Second question: WHO DO YOU TRUST? Turn to the person next to you and ask them that question: “Who do you trust?”
Matthew 4:5,6: Then Satan took Him - Jesus - into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple - the Temple in Jerusalem - some 450 feet high - overlooking the Kedron Valley - and [Satan] said to Him, "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, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'"
“If you really do trust God's word - step off. God will protect you. He said He would. Or, don't you trust Him?"
Verse 7: Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, `You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
The people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness. They’d come to a place called Massah. Remember that name - Massah. There was no water. The people and animals were thirsty. They were complaining - grumbling - getting ready to stone Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our livestock. Is God with us or not?"
Moses says to them, "Why are you testing God? God said He would take care of you and He has. Why can't you trust Him now? Does He have to prove Himself worthy of your trust again?" Hear that question one more time: “Does God have to prove Himself worthy of your trust again?"
God one more time takes care of His people. God tells Moses to strike a rock. When Moses strikes the rock water comes out for the people to drink. (Exodus 17:1-7)
Deuteronomy 6:16 is the verse from this scene that Jesus quotes. Moses telling the people - when you go into the land God promised you, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah."
We put God to the test when we continually demand that He prove that we can trust Him.
We don't need to step off the roof of the Temple to prove that God will do what He says He'll do. He's already done it time and time again in our lives. We cry out to God to save us - and after He does - we go back to living the way we want. Until the next time we need rescuing.
As Christians - we choose to live life by our own wisdom and will and then when our kids rebel - we ask God to somehow rescue them. When our marriages come apart we cry out to God for healing. When our career becomes a disaster we want God to fix it. We confess the struggle with porn and then go on surfing the net. We vow to turn away from the drugs and yet we’re still hanging around the same people. We step off the roof and demand that God keep us from hitting bottom - again.
Long wooden shoots had been built in the forest to slide tree trunks down the slope to valley and into the river. They were hundreds of yards long - smooth and polished inside. The lumberman used them as well. They would sit on the floor of the shoot or on an axe-handle, and go tobogganing down to save themselves the trouble of walking.
One day a workman caught his foot in a hole in the shoot and couldn’t get it free. At that moment he heard a shout of warning - which meant that a trunk was on its way down. He saw the thing coming. As he still couldn’t free his foot - he hacked it off with an axe and jumped clear just in time. He was crippled for life. But, at least he was alive. (5)
Jesus - in the Sermon on the Mount - said this, “If your right eye makes you stumble tear it out and throw it from you...if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29,30)
His point is not that we should be a bunch of sightless - handless - people. His point is the seriousness of sin. God has delivered us and offers us so infinitely more than the garbage we’re clinging onto. So cut off anything that holds us captive to the destruction of sin.
When we trust Jesus as the Savior - we’re forgiven and freed. We no longer need to seek satisfaction in all those former sins. We’ve been saved and set free by the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ. We don’t need to go back. We don’t need to do that anymore.
If you really trust God - cut it off. Move deeper into your relationship with God in which He is trustworthy to heal us - to restore us - to satisfy all of the real needs of our hearts.
Who do you trust? Third question: WHO DO YOU DESIRE? Ask yourself that question: “Who do I desire?”
Matthew 4:8: Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give you if You fall down and worship me."
All the kingdoms of the world. All the wealth. All the glories of human civilization. The greatest of our achievements. All that we might desire. Satan tells Jesus they're all His for one act of worship. No need for the cross - the beatings - the rejection - the agonizing death. You can achieve it all by worshipping Satan.
Again Jesus quotes Scripture - verse 10: Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" (cf. Exodus 23:20-33; Deuteronomy 6:13) Words that are repeated through out the Bible. Worship God and only God.
Everyday we face the temptation to live by this world's system - to follow Satan's plan for this world - to seek success by our own means - to fantasize that our money - our time - our talents are ours - to imagine that we're the masters of our own fate - to invest in the plans of men rather than the plans of God. To worship ourselves rather than God.
Bob Hope once said, ”It’s a wonderful world. It may destroy itself, but you’ll be able to watch it on TV” (6)
Nothing of this world will ever satisfy the deepest desire of our hearts. Only God can do that.
Who do you desire?
When Jesus was tempted there were 3 crucial questions being asked - questions that - as we seek to follow Jesus - at some point we must answer. Who will you obey? Who will you trust? Who do you desire?
Which brings us to Mark 1:14,15 - and Mark's main point. After His 40 days of testing and preparation in the wilderness Jesus comes "preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; turn from your sin and believe in the Gospel."
You all know what eBay is? This online retail and auction site - where people can auction off just about anything. A few years ago - on eBay - there was a man from Canada auctioning off his soul. He got $20.50 for it.
The coming of Jesus - His preparation for ministry - His death and resurrection - the coming of the Kingdom and the Gospel - prove that we are worth so much more to God than $20.50.
Don’t let Satan tempt you to think otherwise. That you’re not worth it to God. That He won’t keep His word to you. That you can’t trust Him. That He won’t meet your deepest desires.
To know Jesus is to know God's love and grace and mercy in our broken lives. To know God's power and healing and forgiveness. Jesus says - turn to God - believe - the Kingdom of God and all God offers you its right here - receive it from Him. You need nothing else.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.