Vol. IX — No. 11 March 17, 1968
Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
In Christ Jesus, who was tempted as are we, yet without sin, Fellow Redeemed:
Immediately after He had consecrated Himself to the task for which He had come to earth and after He had been endowed with the Spirit for the completion of His assignment, the Lord was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. He was not driven contrary to His own will, but rather without realizing what was in store for Him in the wilderness. The first Adam had been tempted by the devil in Paradise and had succumbed, despite the fact that he had been created with the ability not to sin. The second Adam, mankind’s representative and substitute, had to submit to the same, but more intense, experience. He too had to be tempted. Had He too succumbed, all of us would be but helpless slaves of Satan, doomed to live out our little existence here on earth and then to begin an existence of everlasting torment in hell. But He overcame for us and so has made it possible For us to overcome through Him. We are not excused from temptation. As a matter of fact we cannot escape temptation. But we are not now helpless pawns of Satan, helpless victims of his devices. The victory of our Champion has broken the tyranny of Satan and made it possible For us to rout the old evil foe.
This morning we would examine His temptations and see how they keep on re-occuring in His Body, the Church. Let us learn from this part of our Savior’s working out our salvation that—
For forty days the contest had been raging. When our Lord was weakened by a fast of forty days, Satan launched his final assault. Forty days before the voice of the Father had sounded from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It was now Forty days later, and the beloved Son of the Father was hungry. The Creator of heaven and earth had permitted His Son to lapse into this condition of hunger and weakness. Why did it have to be this way? Why not use your divine power just a bit to satisfy your personal needs? Who would fault You? Why not? “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” The temptation was to rebel against the situation and condition in which the Father had placed Him. The temptation was to use or rather misuse His divine power For His own personal benefit rather than use it only for the accomplishment of His mission. Our Lord grasped the sword of the Spirit, the living Word of God, to defeat the tempter: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” He remained obedient despite the most personally painful and humiliating circumstances.
This same temptation is used by Satan again and again on the Body of Christ, the members of His Church. We are assured that through faith in Christ Jesus we are the sons of God. The almighty God is our Father. With Him nothing is impossible. Yet so frequently His sons, you and I, find ourselves in most painful, humiliating and helpless situations. Think of Job of old. He was a model child of God—a verdict expressed by God Himself. Yet he lost all-his family, his possessions, his health. It was then that he was tempted to despair of his sonship and rebel against his heavenly Father. Satan used his own wife to suggest the rebellion. She urged him to curse God and die.
It can happen and it does happen in Christian families that a child is snatched by the angel of death from the arms of its parents. A mother is taken, leaving young children behind. A father is taken, leaving wife and children without needed support. A husband or a wife is taken in the strength of life, leaving the other alone and lonely. When these things happen, Satan is swift to suggest that God is unjust and unfaithful, for why would He treat His sons and daughters in such a way? That is the temptation to rebel against God For putting a burden upon us when we should be praying for strength to bear whatever burden a loving Father in His wisdom has placed upon us. Our heavenly Father knows what is best for us and does what is best for us. We are to submit, praying as did His Son, ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.” We are to learn and relearn that man does not live by bread alone, but that we are in all situations and circumstances in life sustained by the Word of the Lord.
The second temptation that Satan used against the Lord and that he still uses against us is—
Our Lord had remained an obedient and trusting Son. Satan now tempted Him to demonstrate His trust. He took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and asked Him to demonstrate His trust as the Son of God: “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.” What a short-cut to success such a demonstration of faith in His Father would be! Did not the Jews expect the Messiah to appear at the Sanctuary of the Temple? Was He not to proceed as leader of His people from that point? Prove your faith! Accept the plaudits of the worshipers in the temple area below. Once again our Lord used not His almighty power but rather the power of the Word to withstand Satan’s temptation to presumption. He rebuffed Satan with the words, “It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” God watches over His children, but His children are not to assume that they can put His watchful care to a test. For God wants no one to try Him out.
This is also a favorite temptation of Satan for the sons of God. One form of the temptation is what is called fatalism. Some people piously say that everything is in God’s hands. He controls our life and death. This is all true. But then the deduction is made that if everything is in God’s hands, I need take no caution, I need take no care, for nothing will happen that God has not already decided will happen. That is tempting God. The individual, who is careless on the highways and excuses his carelessness by professing faith in his God, is tempting his God. The individual, who misuses his body by using alcohol or drugs excessively but then piously expresses the thought or hope that God will keep him healthy or restore his health, is tempting his God. God has given us mental faculties. If we fail to use them, he nowhere promises that He will save us from our own foolishness and carelessness. Let no man tempt his God!
Children of God so frequently tempt their God in spiritual matters. They presume upon their God, expecting their God to keep them from sin and unbelief despite the fact that they keep on exposing themselves to it. When a young person keeps on associating with young people who experiment with drinking and drugs, who have as little respect for the law as for their parents, who indulge in sexual liberty and license, how can such a young person expect that his or her God will keep him or her clean? It is presumptuous for a person to pray, “And lead us not into temptation,” and then walk directly in the midst of temptation.
So many people now-a-days are wringing their hands and feebly complaining about the way things are going in the churches. They are afraid that unbelief has or will take over. They are concerned that they may lose their own faith or that there will be no faith at all proclaimed in the churches for their children and grandchildren. But they do nothing! Such hand wringing and feeble protesting is actually presumptuous. It presumes and assumes that God will protect the faith of someone who keeps on disobeying His Word. The Lord Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets!” But so many of these hand-wringers and protestors keep on sitting at the feet of false prophets Sunday after Sunday in Sunday School classes and church services. The Lord exhorts us “to avoid,” “to come out and be separate” from all such who teach otherwise than God’s Word teaches and who set death traps for faith with their false doctrine and toleration of the sane. To disobey these clear injunctions of the Lord and then to believe that some how and in some way things will automatically get better in the churches and one’s personal faith will some how survive is presumptuous. Let each one of us remember: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
The third temptation was—
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” The devil is the prince of this world. In a certain sense the kingdoms of this world were his to give. The Messiah had been promised all power in heaven and on earth, but only after He had walked the path of suffering and death on the cross. Once again Satan was offering a short-cut to glory, the crown without the cross. And all for such a bargain price! Just acknowledge me as Lord. Shift your loyalty from your God and Father to me. This temptation the Lord withstood once again with the sword of the Spirit: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
It seems as though it would be so easy to resist this temptation, does it not? But if you examine the situation in the churches today, you will find that most churches have fallen for this third temptation of Satan. When the churches forget that they are to be “in” the world but not “of” the world, when they become a part of the world, then have they shifted their allegiance from Christ to Satan—despite their loud protestations of faithfulness to Christ. The last Thursday edition of The State (2/29/68) contained an editorial which reported on a recent statement of policy of the General Board of the National Council of Churches. It advocated stopping the bombing of North Vietnam avoiding provocative military actions against Communist China, admitting Red China into the United Nations, promoting greater cooperation between the US and communist countries, recognizing the governments of Cuba and Eastern Germany and removing restrictions on imports from communist countries. All of these items are matters that concern the kingdoms of this world, but are not a concern of the Kingdom of God. Not a single syllable is mentioned about the forgiveness of sin and how our Lord won this blessing for all mankind. There is no talk of faith in Christ, of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, of the task of the Church to preach Christ crucified to this sin-laden world of ours. Why are these things disgarded for all the pronouncements about politics that concern the kingdoms of this world? It is because the National Council of Churches has chosen to shift its allegiance from Christ to Satan. And every member of the affiliated churches who supports these policies and activities is doing the same thing. Christ withstood the temptation to sell out to Satan; the modern churches have fallen for the same temptation. Let us understand what is going on about us!
But let us not think that we are immune to further temptation because we have severed all connections with the NCC. If we in our homes have adopted a scale of values that places greatest importance upon material things at the expense of spiritual things, we have surrendered to Satan. If we consciously or unconsciously train our children to think that reading the great books of the world is more important or of greater value than reading the Bible, if we make our children think that what other people think of them is more important than what their Lord thinks of them, if we train our children in such a way that they tend to think of success in terms of income, nice clothes, automobiles, boats and homes rather than success in terms of faithfulness to the Lord and serving Him—then we are training our children to shift their loyalty to Satan rather than to the Lord. What a tragedy this would be! Let each parent be on his guard!
Our Lord overcame all temptations and broke the power of Satan for us. Let us use His victory and the power of His Word to fight the good fight of faith and overcome unto eternal life. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.