Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for walking in our shoes and enduring the sneaky nature of Satan’s temptations—for us. Thank You for not giving in to any of them and beating the devil back with the power of Your holy Word. Thank You for giving us the power to do likewise, through faith in You and by also employing Your promises to us at every turn of life. Yes, thank You for “delivering us from the evil one.” Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR POWERFUL SAVIOR!
TEXT: Matthew 4: 1-11
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
It’s a pesky word. It’s only two letters long, but it packs a powerful punch. The word is: if. The moment you say: “if” in a conversation, that’s the moment doubt creeps into any discussion. And once the seed of doubt is introduced, believability and confidence are undermined by temptation and it’s fruit: worry. Let’s further examine all this under the heading of:
OUR LORD HAS STOOD UP TO TEMPTATION AND BEATEN IT—FOR US!
The first Sunday in Lent always has the temptation of Christ as the Gospel lesson. It’s easy to see why. Christ’s 40 days of temptation in the wilderness should mirror our 40 day walk of Lent to the foot of the cross. Likewise, for the Christian, temptation should lead to repentance, and Lent is all about repentance.
After Jesus fasted from food for 40 days while engaging in mental preparation for the 3 years of His upcoming public ministry, Satan decides to strike. He comes to Christ with the 1st of 3 temptations. Obviously Jesus is hungry. Our text also states that fact. Christ is in need of physical sustenance. After all, He was true Man, just like us. So, Satan tries to use all that against Him. I’d term this temptation, the temptation of need. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Did you notice how the devil begins? “If.” Satan knows Who Jesus is. He knows a bit about why He has come—to destroy Satan’s power over us. To “de-fang” him, as it were. And yet, the father of lies cannot bring himself to confess Jesus’ Divinity. He always tries to interject doubt into any interchange, including this one. Why? Because once doubt is introduced, unbelief, worry, fear, and the cutting of corners to achieve an end result always ensues. Since Jesus needed food, why not tempt Him and perhaps bring His ministry to an abrupt end by addressing this need? Why not trick Christ to dance to Satan’s tune?
All humans have needs. We need food. We need shelter. We need money to live. We need help when we’re sick. The list of our needy-ness is endless. Satan is quick to capitalize on our needy-ness, too. For by getting us to focus on our needs he’s able to avert our gaze away from blessings. And then doubt comes. Worry comes. Fear over not being able to cope with life comes. All that is antithetical to the Christian faith. All of that assumes God isn’t in charge and doesn’t really take care of us. All of that undermines our confidence in Christ. And when that occurs, we cut corners to meet our own needs. We steal, we take, we plan out underhanded ways to fulfill our needs apart from the tried-and-true of living according to the commandments. And then the devil has us.
But, Jesus beat back this attack by employing the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word. Quoting from Deuteronomy, Jesus says: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It’s His way of saying: “God almighty meets my needs, not you. And total confidence in that fact means I don’t have to worry about bread.” God always finds a way to meet our genuine needs.
The next temptation could be termed: a temptation of pride. Again, attempting to plant the seed of doubt within Jesus, after he’s taken Him to the pinnacle of the temple spire, Satan says: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” And then Satan misuses God’s Word from Psalm 91 about the power and duty of the angels to protect God’s Son.
During His state of humiliation, Jesus didn’t always use His divine power. In fact, those usages—miracles, etc.—were infrequent. Having great power and not using it unless truly necessary is the mark of wisdom and strength. Satan knows nothing of wisdom; he only understands self-centered pride. He knows that humans are proud and arrogant. It’s the fruit of sin that he put in them in Eden. So, since Jesus is true Man, He must also be pride-filled. Why not try to get Jesus to doubt His own Godliness unless and until He proves it to the devil? Play of Christ’s pride and He’ll dance to the devil’s tune! And if Jesus wants to use God’s Word against Satan, why not attempt to use Scripture against Christ in the process? It’s a double-whammy winner!
All humans try to hide their internal weaknesses and inferiority complexes by: name dropping, bragging, and trying to associate with the supposed rich and famous. Showing off is nothing new. We do this because we feel inferior inside and our pride doesn’t like that. The advertising industry is built on catering to human pride. Buy this product and you’ll be important, or perhaps look a bit like that perfect model on TV! Smoke some dope like your classmates and you’ll be accepted. Hook-up with the attractive fellow at work and he’ll make you feel important.
The fact is: our importance as people is all wrapped up in God, not our pride. God loves us in Christ. God died for our souls in Christ. God invested His blood in our lives. God blesses us who are His dear children. As the hymn goes: “Jesus Christ, My Pride and Glory!” But by playing to our pride and causing us to give in to it, God becomes overlooked and shunted aside. That’s the devil’s game. So, once again, Jesus quotes from the truth of Deuteronomy to counter-act Satan’s seed of prideful doubt: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” It’s a reminder that only those who “humble themselves will truly be exalted.”
Now comes the 3rd temptation. It’s a temptation of power. No one likes to feel powerless. Everyone likes to believe they are in charge of their lives. And when we do, our walk, our talk, our whole countenance reflects our sense of power. We walk down the street like we own it!
And where does earthly power come from? What’s the fuel that keeps it revved up? Obviously the answer is: money. Human wealth fuels human pride which in turn fuels that “in control” feeling. And it’s rather irresistible to sin-corrupted man, isn’t it? So, Satan somehow shows Jesus all the wealth, power, and splendor of this world in an instant. “All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.” Did you notice that pesky “if” again? Here Satan uses it in a really sneaky way. He makes it appear that giving homage to the devil is nothing when compared to worldly power and all the “good times” that flow from it. Now you know why the Bible says: “The love of money is the root of all evil.”
Christ already possessed “all authority in heaven and on earth.” He was already the richest Person to ever live or Who would ever live. He possessed the riches of heaven wrapped up in His loving, forgiving heart. So, Satan’s temptation here is really rather desperate, isn’t it? Tempting God with what God already has is a lying fool’s errand.
We Christians often bemoan how powerless we feel. The world mocks us. We’re not “mover’s and shakers” in the business world. We suffer diseases like everyone else. We go through bouts of unhappiness and moments of angst. At times our marriages suffer and we look for emotional comfort outside our nearest and dearest. And invariably we are quick to question God’s goodness and even become angry with Him for not giving us “more” but slow to see Satan’s sly hand behind our failure to appreciate blessings. So, what should you do? Look to Christ! Employ His tool of offensive warfare against the devil! “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Of course, the ultimate tool to hurl Satan away is the Gospel. It is clinging to it, reading it, hearing it, pondering it, marveling over it, and trusting in it. Thank God you’re doing exactly that today! Your presence here this very morning is a mirror image of Christ’s victory in the wilderness. “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Our Lord took temptation on and beat it at every turn. Now He gives us His victory and the ability to stand up to Satan and win. We’re here this morning to celebrate that victory by worshiping our King—with angels in unseen attendance. Amen