November 8, 2020
The Devil Knows Your Weakness. As a follower of Jesus Christ, he knows you have an Achilles’ heel. And he wants to exploit it. He wants to take what God has created for good and turn it into something that will take you out of the game. He wants you to take physical rest and turn it into laziness. He wants you to take the enjoyment of food and turn it into gluttony. He wants you to take self-respect and turn it into conceit; physical pleasure and turn it into sensuality; He wants to take your kindness and turn it into overprotection; your caution into fear; your judgment into criticism, your ambition into greed, and so on. But mostly, the devil, wants to take your faith in God and turn it into dust, so you will live as if God doesn’t really matter.
How do I know this? Well, that’s what he tried to do with Jesus. And if the devil tried to destroy Jesus’ faith, then he will try to destroy yours as well. And the way he will try to do this is through his scheme of temptation. That’s the first thing we see as Jesus begins his ministry as the Messiah in the gospel of Matthew. No sooner does Jesus experience the anointing of the Holy Spirit and the blessing of the Father at His baptism, then we see Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where His faith in the Father is put to the test. And it is through this test in the wilderness that God wants to teach you How to stand your ground when the Devil tries make you fall – How to turn the tables on temptation when the evil one tries to take you out.
So, if you have your Bible with you today, let’s look at Matthew 4:1-11, where we are going to look at three ways the devil tries to make you fall, and three ways Jesus stood His ground against temptation. But before we look at the first temptation, let me say a few words about the devil:
Now most people today have trouble believing there is a real living being called the devil. The idea of a devil seems to fit into the category of fantasy. He’s seen either as a mischievous Halloween character in a red flannel suit or as a hideous caricature of some Hollywood makeup artist. So we tend to dismiss the thought that he might really exist. And even if he was real, we don’t really think he’d give us the time of day.
But that’s where we’re wrong. The Bible tells us he does exist. And he exists as our adversary, who uses deception, confusion, manipulation and temptation to lead us astray and so that he can destroy us.
This term devil means “slanderer or one who trips up” and is most often used of Satan, who is described in Revelation 12:9, as: “The great dragon was hurled down, that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to earth and his angels with him.” His name also means adversary. But not just the adversary of God, but our adversary. That’s why Peter wrote: “Be self-controlledand alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 So if God’s Word is true, then the devil is alive today and his strategy is to deceive us so he can destroy us. And he’s does such a great job of deception today, that most people don’t even believe he exists. And for those who do believe he exists, many refuse to take him seriously. But now as we come to our text, we will see that his threat to us is very real.
So let’s look now at the first way the devil tries to take us down, beginning in verse 1: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:1-3
Here’s the first way you will be tempted: You Will be Tempted to Doubt God We see from the context, that Jesus had been fasting for 40 days, so the deceiver attacks Jesus weakness. He is hungry. So the devil tempts Jesus by sowing doubt about God’s ability to care of Jesus by asking, “If you are the Son of God, the beloved Son of God, then why are You out here in the wilderness starving? Your Father doesn’t want to see you suffer like this. Obviously, He’s not going to provide for you. But that’s ok. Because you’re the Son of God, you’ve got the power to provide for yourself. Use your power. Take matters into your own hands.”
That’s the temptation: Don’t trust in your Father’s will. Go your own way. Take matters into your own hands.
Isn’t this what we are all tempted to do? To fulfill our wants apart from God’s will. All of us have desires that God has built into us, desires that are good – needs in our bodies and cravings in our souls. But God has also created us to look to Him as a good Father who satisfies those desires. That was the point of the garden of Eden, wasn’t it? Satan suggested to Adam and Eve that God was withholding good from them, so he tempted them to fulfill their desires apart from God’s word.
This is the same story behind God’s testing of Israel in the wilderness. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3, the passage Jesus is about to quote from, we read the this: Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deuteronomy 8:2-3
God allowed the Israelites to wander in the desert to see if the Israelites would trust God to meet their needs. But they failed. Rather than trust in God’s provision, they took matters into their own hands. They were told by Moses to take only what manna was needed for the day. “Do not keep any of it till morning.” But some didn’t listen and kept some of it till morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. What had happened? They failed to trust God’s Word and took matters into their own hands.
That’s the same way we fall. The deceiver doesn’t want you to trust God’s Word. He doesn’t want you to believe God will provide for you. He wants you to doubt God’s goodness – stop believing He knows what is best for you – so that you will go your own way and take matters into your own hands. For if he can get you to do that, he can damage your faith in God.
That’s the goal of temptation: to get you to live independently of God. To live independently of God’s will. To disregard His word. He tried this on Jesus, but Jesus didn’t take the bait. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
Jesus stood His ground. He didn’t waiver in His trust of the Father. So we need to ask: what helped Jesus turn the table on this temptation? His relationship with the Father. He believed His Father was good. So rather than take matters into his own hands, Jesus trusted in the all sufficient goodness of His Father to provide for Him. And at that moment the devils’ temptation lost its power over him because he knew the truth about His Father. He would rather trust in what is true about His Father, then deny Him, and take matters into His own hands.
Jesus didn’t fall for to this temptation. But what about you? Do you ever question the goodness of God? Do you ever think you know what’s best for you over what God’s Word says? You see, our world will constantly make you question the goodness of God. The tempter’s voice will tell you, “God doesn’t really care about you.” “He doesn’t want you to suffer.” “He doesn’t want you go without.” “Look, this is good, God would want you to have this.” “God would want you to do this!” “Think what is best for you.” “You deserve this.” “Take matters into your own hands.”
But when you listen to God’s voice, when you know what God’s Word reveals about the character of God, you know there’s never a time when you are not the object of His love. You know that He is always for you. And you know the desires He put in your heart. So you have the same ability as Jesus to deny this temptation. But it comes from knowing who God is and trusting in His Word. So let me ask you: Do you know who God is? Do you trust that He is good and will take care of you? Do you know His Word? Are you in the Word of God daily? Do you know His promises? Because if you are weak in your relationship with God, the devil will tempt you to live apart from God. That’s his first temptation to us all.
Let’s read verses 5 and 6 to discover the next one: Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “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.’” Matthew 4:5-6
Here’s the second way you will be tempted: You Will be Tempted to Test God If the devil can’t get you to doubt God, then he’ll try to get you to test God. However, this temptation is hard for us to understand because we struggle to see what is so enticing about the possibility of Jesus jumping off a tower. However, when we look into this, we see that this was no normal tower; this was the top of the Temple, the place that was intended to be a visible demonstration of God’s presence and protection among His people. It’s here now, where Satan quotes Psalm 91, a song about Gods protection, so as to tempt Jesus to make God prove His faithfulness to Him: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down” Matthew 4:6
Once again, Jesus’ doesn’t fall for this temptation. He quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16, where Israel was given this command: “Do not test the Lord your God as you tested Him at Massah.” Deuteronomy 6:16
This reference to Massah takes us back to Exodus 17, where Israel put God to the test by demanding that He provide them more water, asking “Is the Lord among us or not?” Exodus 17:7. This question revealed their lack of faith in God. What happened was this: Rather than trust in God they took God to task and tried to get God to serve them.
Are we ever tempted to do this? Are we ever tempted to test God – to take God to task and get God to serve us?
The first time I experienced this in ministry was with a young man in our Church in BC. He hated his job because he was surrounded by a bunch of immoral and manipulative people. He kept complaining about his job, telling me, I don’t believe God wants me there. But I told him that maybe he’s the only Jesus they may ever see, that he should stick it out and see what God might do through him. But he quit his job anyway, then complained when God didn’t him a better job.
On another occasion we had a young lady in our church get angry with me for not supporting her divorce. She said something like this: “God wants me to be happy, so I left the person I was unhappy with and now I’m with someone who makes me happy. Doesn’t God want me to be happy?”
See, what happens when we fall for this temptation is this: We question God’s plans for us when they don’t go the way we like. We doubt His love for us when something goes wrong. We ask for signs that He is still with us even though He’s always been faithful to us in the past. We complain saying things like, “God, are You with me or not?” And when we do this we are not living by faith. And that’s exactly what the devil wants.
So how did Jesus stand His ground? Again, Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 5:7 Jesus didn’t play the devil’s game. He did not need to make His Father prove that He loved Him. And neither do we. For God’s Word tells us God has already proven His love for us in this. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 So be careful of this temptation: To make God prove that He loves you, is faithful to you, will protect you, or whatever it is that you want from God to do for you – is one of the devil’s most manipulative ways he uses to destroy your faith. So don’t let the devil make you play games with God. For if you fall for this, your faith will be based only on good experiences and not on a good God who has already proven His love for you. The devil wants you to test God so that when God doesn’t deliver on what you want from Him, you will lose faith. So don’t fall for this deception. Don’t get angry at God when it seems He isn’t answering your prayers the way you want them to be answered. Trust in God’s love for you in Jesus.
One of my favorite Scriptures is Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Jesus didn’t need to make God prove that He would love Him, protect Him or be faithful to Him. He didn’t question His presence with Him. He trusted Him!
So the next time you feel alone, or your health goes south, or something you hoped for didn’t work out, be aware. That’s probably the time when the devil will tempt you to put God to the test. Why? Because he’s trying to destroy your faith. You see, it’s easy to trust God when all is well. But there will be times when you will need to trust in God when nothing is going well. That’s when you need to keep your eyes on Jesus and remember His love for you, and you won’t fall for this temptation.
Ok, so far, we’ve looked at two ways the devil tries to destroy your faith. First, he tries to get you to take matters into your own hands. Second, he tries to get you to take God to task and make Him serve you.
Here now is the final way the devil tries to destroy your faith: You Will be Tempted to Displace God Look verses 8 and 9, Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Here, Satan is getting desperate and seeks to get Jesus to take a short cut to glory. The devil knows that God had anointed Jesus to be King. And the devil knows that God’s plan will not be easy for Jesus. In fact, it will be hard. He knows that God will have Jesus suffer and die before He will be exalted as King. So the goal of this temptation is to take the easy way out. All you’ve have to do is compromise. It doesn’t matter who you worship. Just worship me and you can have it all now.
That’s precisely what Satan whispers in our ears today. He points to all the things in the world – the successes, the accomplishments, the pleasures, and the possessions and he says, “Get them now.” He promised Adam and Eve that they would be like God if they ate the fruit and they believed him. And what did they do. They listen to his voice rather than God’s. They trusted the lie of Satan rather than trust in God.
We are tempted to do the very same thing that Adam and Eve did. We are tempted to assert ourselves in the world while we rob God of His worship. Instead of a simple, humble, difficult obedience to God in this world, in our pride we seek to attain what we want in the way we want to do it. Why suffer, why struggle, take the easy way out?
But again, Jesus saw right through this temptation. He would take the hard way. He would trust in God’s plan. So Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Jesus sees this final temptation for what it is. It is a lie. Jesus has had enough. So he rebukes the devil with God’s Word. He resists the devil by declaring His Worship of God and service to Him. Jesus chose to live a life of humble obedience to the Father rather than sinful submission to Satan.
What about you? Will you continue to worship God if life gets hard? Will you follow Jesus when others walk away? The devil wants you to walk. The adversary wants to destroy your faith. Just displace God and put someone or something else in its place. And what happens for most if we succumb to this temptation is this: We displace God with whatever else might give us the security, comfort or pleasure, we think we need. We don’t like hard. But that’s precisely where you and I will be tempted to walk away.
So how do we stand our ground? What will keep us following Jesus when we’re tempted to take the easy way out? One way is to hold on to your faith in Jesus. That’s what the 12 did when many disciples chose to walk away from Jesus, and Jesus said to them: “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69 Its your faith in Jesus that will keep you from falling. So you have to ask yourself. Do I believe Jesus has the Words of eternal life? Do I really believe Jesus is the Holy One of God? And unless you have this confidence in Jesus, you will be susceptible to taking the easy way out. That’s one way to turn the tables.
Here’s the other way: “Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” What is worship really? It’s living in humble submission to God and seeking to do His will, it’s trusting in God’s plan for your life. As James commands us in James 3:6-8, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you.” That’s what Jesus did. And what happened? Matthew tells us: Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:11
So let me ask you: What’s your Achilles’ heel? Where might the evil one want to destroy your faith in Jesus Christ? What’s your weakness?
Is it taking matters into your own hands? Going your own way?
Is it taking God to task to prove His love for you? Trying to get God to work for you?
Is it taking the easy way out? By displacing worship of God with something else?
This morning, I’ve tried to make you aware of the temptations you will face if you call yourself a Christ follower After all, if the devil tried to take Jesus down through these temptations, what’s to stop him from doing the same with you?
But here’s the good news. If Jesus could stand his ground in the weakness of his humanity – you can too. But you will not be able to do this in your own strength. But with the same kind of faith as Jesus.
For we see here from Jesus:
- Jesus trusted in God’s Word
- Jesus trusted in God’s Love
- Jesus trusted in God’s Plan
And because Jesus trusted in God, Jesus stood His ground, and so can you, if your faith is in Him. For He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world!