Luke 4.1-13; Romans 10.8-13
Temptation is sneaky; I’ve never been tempted to throw myself off the bridge over the river, drown my self in the surf at Bayly’s Beach, or even to grab a gun and go and shoot the leaders of any congregation I’ve served. Temptation is about things we like. So I’d be tempted to eat way too much ice cream or chocolate, but not to eat banana skins and cow pats. Sexual temptation confronts many of us as does the temptation to do really dumb things that are against the law – like I’ve looked at the long straights near here and wondered fast I could our car to go. Often a severe temptation for many sober Christians – but could get you into trouble you can’t control.
Even Jesus was tempted – and not only that once we all read about here.
Notice how it happened in the environment to which He’d been lead – by the Holy Spirit at that. Hot on the heels of the spiritual high of being baptised, and called “my beloved Son in whom I’m well pleased”.
Note where temptation came from. Many will tell you it comes from within us, that our souls are playing with the idea of rebellion, but the Gospel tells us it came from outside – from the Devil – the Enemy, Opponent, Destroyer. It was a triple attempt to spoil Jesus’ ministry right at the beginning. The temptation was NOT a sign of any internal or moral weakness in Jesus. The temptation was in effect to look away from God’s plan and take the easy spectacular route.
Jesus knew the temptations for what they were; but note that each victory was followed by another assault from the Enemy. Jesus didn’t think of these temptations as even remote possibilities – that was not His call.
Jesus repelled each temptation with the Word of God and His own obedience to that Word. You could say His obedient word of testimony defeated the Enemy’s concerted attempts.
Repeating the earlier point, each temptation was to do or reach for something inherently good – bread (He was hungry); power and reputation (then He could achieve whatever He wanted); a Divine sign (that He was special and that nothing could harm Him). It was all for the wrong reason, at the wrong pace, focussed on what Jesus might personally have. It was a programme for a shortcut to what God would do soon enough anyway – claiming something immediate that would fizzle away, whereas God’s purpose final and lasting.
Many in ministry or leadership fall victim to temptation took for themselves that which was only for God to give (if it was in His plan). Often it’s something they had no right reaching for, but thought they sere worth it because they were somehow more special than you or me. But know this, to play with that idea in our heads is to have already surrendered and made ourselves available to the Enemy’s tricks.
God gives us whatever He knows will enable and empower whatever it is He has called to do – His gifts are always plentiful and appropriate and they change us more into His image than anything we might want for ourselves.
In answer to this problem, what Paul writes in His letter to the Romans is about how we stay where we belong with God and become resistant to the while of the Tempter.
Here this carefully:
“if you confess with your lips…and believe in your heart…you will be saved”
Yes but confess what? Believe what?
1. That Jesus is Lord not you, not the preacher or Pastor, not that habit or addiction that you’ve been struggling with, nor the advertisers that tell you that you’re worth it or deserve it, nor the social pressure that says everyone else is doing it, and certainly not that sneaky, slippery character that comes along and tries get you to please yourself. He’s the Enemy, the Opposer, the Destroyer – right? Confess this! Make this your “point of difference”, your team banner.
2. That God raised Him from the dead He is alive! That means He’s present! That means He’s really powerful! And given that He’s been raised to save us and bring us to eternal life – He is motivated by an immense love for us (even at our grubbiest).
Hold that in an impenetrable place in your heart. Not even death can defeat or resist His purpose for your life.
We face temptation (and the Tempter) with faith in Christ, in the God who loves us with an everlasting and unshakeable love. The Tempter is NOT more powerful than the Lord, and hear this carefully he is definitely not more powerful that Lord within. You may know the promise, that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Greater than anything that is in the world.
So when confronted with what we know within us, is not for us, and because of the Word of God, when we’re drawn to something or someone that will stand between us and God, we need to confess verbally and audibly so that we can hear ourselves say it, that Jesus is in this, as in all things, still our Lord. That Jesus is more powerful than anything and that He alone can save us…and…He will.
If you were drowning, you’re not going to be saved by a well-meaning friend who can’t swim, nor by some self-help programme, nor by the one who pushed you in there in the first place – only the one equipped to save can do it.
Know this and know it clearly; when you’re struggling with temptation, the Lord who defeated death and the power of anything to permanently harm you, won’t beat you up, or make you feel stupid, because you were tempted, or even because you’re finding it hard to resist. He will rescue, clean, love, feed and strengthen you with the inner dwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.