Lead Us Not Into Temptation
Matthew 3:13 – 4:11
What do you want more than anything in the world? Would you be willing to sell your soul to the devil to get it? Western history is filled with different dramas, stories, tales about someone who sells their soul to the devil in order to obtain the one thing that they want more than anything in the world. All of these stories that you have seen, heard, read are based on the 16th century German legend Faust. Johann Georg Faust was a scholar, so it goes, who was highly dissatisfied with his life. This dissatisfaction leads him to make a pact with the devil. He will exchange his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Along with the knowledge and the magic that the devil gives Faust, he also helps him seduce a beautiful innocent girl name Gretchen and Faust fathers her illegitimate son, in the story. His plans backfires though when Gretchen, who is now racked with guilt because of her sin, drowns the baby and is then executed for murder. The story ends with Faust being corrupted beyond salvation, he says, and the devil carries him off to hell. I know, happy Sunday, right?
Now hopefully none of us here in the room, or at least we would all agree together that we would never sell our soul to the devil for anything. We are on the same page with that. No one is planning this afternoon to go give Satan a call and make a deal. We are not planning on doing that, we would never do that. But we may have spoken too soon. You see the original Faustian drama took place long before 16th century of Germany. It took place in the very beginning. Where a man and his wife sold their souls to the devil to gain what they wanted more than anything in the world.
In the Garden of Eden Adam sold his soul to the devil. Satan slithered in offering what Adam thought that he wanted and Adam rebelled against his creator in order to gain what he desired. We call this tragic event the Fall. And the Fall didn’t just affect Adam and Eve, but it has corrupted the entire world (Rom 8). The planet itself is broken because of the Fall. Every human being who has ever lived since the beginning of time has fallen prey to temptation. Everyone of us in the room has been tempted by something and have fallen. Every man, woman, and child in the history of the world has rebelled against God, in a sense sold their soul to the devil, to gain what they thought they wanted most. There are none who are righteous, no not one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All, except one.
What we see here in Matthew 4, the first 11 verses is that Jesus succeeded where Adam failed, where we’ve failed. How do we think about, understand temptation in light of the gospel? That indeed has been the question for the summer. How do we think about guilt in light of the gospel? How do we think about joy in light of the gospel? How do we think about temptation? How do we apply the gospel to our lives when we’re tempted? We are all tempted. We’ve all faced temptation in the past. We’ve all given in to temptation in the past. We’ll all face temptation again in the future. Maybe you’re here this morning and there is some element of your life where you are being tempted right now. I don’t know. We are all in different spots this morning. But maybe you are sitting here, and you came to church this morning and there is a struggle going on and you are being tempted and you haven’t decided yet whether you are going to give in. How do we faithfully follow Christ when we’re led into temptation?
Verse 1 of Matthew chapter 4 says that Jesus was led by the Spirit up into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Wow. This is a good reminder for us. Talk about Divine providence. The scripture reading this morning and that exhortation that Pastor Kevin gave. There was no collusion. I had no idea that he was going to say any of that this morning. But it was a good word. It’s a good reminder for us. Jesus taught us to pray “lead us not into temptation,” but sometimes God’s answer to that petition is “no.” Jesus was led into temptation. Isn’t it interesting in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus prays, “Lead us not into temptation.” Immediately following that petition he says, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Maybe your bible says, “Deliver us from evil.” But that is actually not the best translation, the Greek text says, “Deliver us from the evil one.” That is Satan and his kingdom and his ways: death and sin. Isn’t it interesting that the one who prayed, “Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one.” Is the one who is led into temptation in order to deliver us from the evil one. Don’t hear me wrong this morning, God himself does not tempt us, that is what James says and James says it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So James is right, right? If the bible says something but you disagree, you are wrong. We all agree with that. God does not tempt us, but he does allow temptation to come into our lives. God allowed Adam to be tempted by that evil reptile. God signed off on all of Job’s trials. And here the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus. You read in the gospel of Mark and it says the Holy Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.
We must remember, this is why we read part of chapter 3 before reading verse 1 of chapter 4, the context here. We must remember what happened immediately preceding Jesus’ temptation. In chapter 3 of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is baptized. Now, we are all good Christians here, so we’re used to that story maybe too used to the story, but to those standing there on the banks of the river Jordan, and John the Baptizer especially, this was a weird scene. In fact, John tried to deny Jesus, didn’t he? When Jesus came to be baptized John says, “I need to be baptized by you! And do you come to me?” John tries to stop Jesus from being baptized because baptism, after all, is a visual display of repentance. John came preaching repentance because Jesus was coming. Well you don’t need to repent if you don’t sin. Jesus didn’t sin. John was right in a sense, wasn’t he? In fact, Jesus agreed with John’s analysis, but he also says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Good move, right? When Jesus says something, let’s consent. Let’s agree to do that together. If Jesus was going to live our live, in our place, then he would have to be baptized as well. Why? Because we need to be baptized, because we need to repent. If he is going to do it for us, he needs to do everything that is required of us. He needed to acknowledge our need for repentance. When Jesus emerges from the waters, his Father declares, “this is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”
The very next word in the ESV is the adverb “then,” then Jesus was led up by the Spirit. It’s the Greek word Τότε. Tim Keller argues that the word should actually be translated, “thus.” Jesus was baptized in the river thus the Spirit led him to be tempted. The point he’s making is that Christianity has always been a mixture of baptism and temptation; God’s Word is often followed by the devil’s whispers. Brothers and sisters, if this was true of Jesus then it will certainly be true of us as well. Your spiritual peaks sometimes crash into valleys. Tim Keller said, “If someone tries to sell you a Christianity without tears, it’s bad money. It’s counterfeit.” There is no empty tomb without the cross. There is no Heaven without trials, temptation, sin, death, and pain on the way. We are a people who take up a cross. If someone tries to sell you a Christianity without tears, it is bad money, it is counterfeit, don’t believe it. The devil loves the health and wealth gospel.
Jesus knew that he was going to be tempted. He knew he was going to be tempted by the enemy so he prepared himself. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. That preparation was a double-edged sword though. That which made Jesus spiritually strong also made him physically weak. He had spent 40 days and night in prayer, mediation, and fasting, which meant that he was hungry. When I was working on my MDiv, living in Louisville going to SBTS, I took a Personal Spiritual Disciplines class. It was part of the degree we had to take it. Part of that course requirement was that we had to keep a journal off all these different spiritual disciplines that we were doing, so bible reading, prayer, and one of the things we had to do was fast for 24 hours. If you’ve ever fasted before, who has ever fasted in here before? Not to shame those who haven’t because until that time I haven’t, and I will shamefully admitted that I haven’t since either. I got to work on that. If you have ever fasted though, you know that obviously after a while you start to get hungry, don’t you? Your stomach starts to hurt; you get that weird taste in your mouth. You guys know what I am talking about? Those of you who have fasted before. Needless to say, after 24 hours I was ready to eat. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Wow. It is at this point of physical weakness, the point of physical weakness that the serpent pounces.
Now, I need to interject something at this point, don’t fall into the theological faux pas of thinking, “Well this wasn’t hard for Jesus because he’s God.” Yeah he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights but he is God, so it probably wasn’t hard. Hebrews 2:17 says that Jesus is like us in every respect. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus sympathizes with us because he was tempted in every single way like we are, yet he didn’t sin. This day was as difficult for Jesus as it would’ve been for us. In fact, more so because we would have given in. Don’t doubt that you would have given in on this day in the desert. Don’t entertain the thought that this would not have been a temptation for you. Because you have given in every single day of your life, and he never did, not once.
JD Greer, a pastor in NC, says that when Satan comes to tempt Jesus he brings his A-game. You know what the A-game is? That is your best stuff. That is the stuff you are holding onto. You hold onto that for the playoffs. No one can see that until it is go-time. When Satan temps Jesus he is bringing his A-game. Sometimes we foolishly let Dante or Hollywood trick us into thinking Satan is this big scary monster with horns and a tale who wants to turn you into the little girl from the exorcist. That is our vision that is how we imagine Satan. Please do not be that naïve. That’s not Satan’s play. That is JV, Satan is on the Varsity. He is the captain of the Varsity. That’s not his play. Satan is way too smart for that nonsense. Satan knows that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The problem is that the honey is poisoned. Satan begins to prey on Jesus’ physical weakness. He says, listen to what Satan says to Jesus,
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Just like Satan did with Adam and Eve, he tempts Christ to satisfy his physical desires. The tree was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes. Our primeval parents saw the delicious looking fruit and they craved it. They wanted it. But there is a difference isn’t there? Adam and Eve hadn’t been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. Adam and Eve didn’t lack food at all. In fact, Adam and Eve had an entire garden at their disposal. They could have literally eaten any fruit, any vegetables, anything in the world, other than the fruit of this particular tree. Jesus wasn’t in a garden he was in the desert. Jesus hadn’t eaten anything in over a month. But where Adam failed, Jesus succeeds.
Jesus responds to that wicked dragon,
“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Notice what Jesus did? Jesus’ A-game is better than Satan’s A-game. Jesus responds to Satan’s lies by quoting the Bible, Deut 8:3 to be exact. God’s Word is what eternally sustains his people. Hear this, this morning. Because what I am about to say contradicts everything that the world will tell you when you walk out these doors. The message that’s being preached from God’s word this morning is a contradiction to the message that the world preaches to you every other day of the week. There are more important things than your physical desires. Just because you have an urge for something at the moment (food, drink, sex, sleep) doesn't always mean it’s the right thing to do. The world says, if it feels good, do it. The worlds says, if it makes you happy then indulge in it. YOLO. The world is your oyster. That is what Satan is offering Jesus right here. He hadn’t eaten in over a month! Jesus why don’t you just take some of those stones and turn them into bread. Why don’t you use the spiritual power, that spiritual empowerment that you received at your baptism when the spirit descended on you, why don’t you use that for your own gain? Why don’t you indulge Jesus? I know you want to. But overindulging in food or alcohol is sinful. Sex outside of the marriage covenant is wrong. Sleeping when you’re supposed to be working is ungodly. Just because your body is craving something at the moment, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. The enemy will tempt us to believe that if we desire something, then it’s natural that’s how God made us. It’s not my fault God made me this way. Geez, who does that sound like? You gave me the woman! No matter how much you eat, you will be hungry again at some point. Any of you experience that before? You gorge yourself and you are like, “Man, I am never eating again.” Then like 3 hours later, you are like, “Do we have any poptarts?” How does that happen? No matter how much you enjoyed sex, you’ll want it again at some point. Only God’s Word is ever sustaining. That is what Jesus says. He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3.
Jesus wins round 1, you see that? So Satan ups the ante. The devil takes Jesus to the holy city, to the pinnacle of the Temple and he says to him again,
“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, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
Satan is enticing Christ to tempt God. Will the Father really protect you, or is he a liar? This is the same thing that he successfully pulled on Adam and Eve, “did God really say that you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree?” Again Jesus responds with Scripture,
“Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
The ESV uses the word test, I think a better translation would be “you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” The English phrase here in the ESV“put to the test” is the word πειράζω, is actually the same word used in verse 1 which says, “Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” That is the same word that you shall not put the Lord your God to the test. Matthew is using a Greek word play here to say that the devil may be tempting Christ now, but Jesus will not tempt his Father. He doesn’t play the devil’s game. Once again Jesus succeeds where Adam fails. Adam didn’t trust God’s goodness and provision in the garden. Jesus did.
You’ll also notice that this is the second time here that Satan says, “if you are the Son of God.” This is Satan’s A-game. Remember, immediately before Jesus goes into the wilderness to be tempted, at his baptism his Father declares to all present,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. (Matt 3.17)”
There was a verbal, public, theological declaration that this man who just came out of the water is in fact the Son of God. When Jesus is alone, and he is hungry, and he hasn’t eaten in over a month, and he hasn’t seen anybody in over a month, Satan comes to him and says, “Do you think God really meant it?” If you really were his son, would he let you go hungry right now? If you really were his son, would he save you if you jumped? This is Satan’s A-game. He is questioning the very identity of Jesus. Are you really the Son of God? This is exactly what he did to Adam in the garden. Did God really say, “You shall not eat of the fruit?” Can you really trust what he has said? Is he really a good Father? Will he really protect you? Church, we can be tempted with this. It is easy to say, “Satan you shall not put the Lord God to the test.” At the baptism, when everyone is around and the word of God just declared his son. It is easy to say it there. It is not so easy when it has been over a month since that day and you haven’t seen anyone and you haven’t eaten anything and you’re tired and hungry. Did that really happen? Did I really have those feelings of elation? Cause I don’t feel that way right now. We can be tempted in this way. If God really loved you would he allow you to have cancer? If God really loved you, would he really let your child walk away from Christ? If God really loved you, would he really let your dad die like that? How can you say that God loves you when he allowed that miscarriage? If God really loved you he would bring someone to marry and not let you stay single. We hear those whispers, don’t we? But Jesus didn’t tempt his father, he trusted him.
The final temptation is the most difficult of all. The devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain and shows him all of the glory of the kingdoms of the world and there he says to him,
“All these I will give to you, all you have to do is will fall down and worship me.”
All you have to do Jesus is sell your soul to the devil. Satan tempts Jesus with power and authority. This is exactly what he dangled in front of Adam and Eve, again. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The thing is, Adam was created in God’s image. He was already like God. But the devil questioned his identity. Adam wanted the power. You read this and you might be a little confused though. You might say, Jesus is the king of the universe Satan knows that. Why is he offering him the world? The world already belongs to Jesus. That’s true, but the world can only be made new, the resurrection that we read about can only happen if Jesus dies on the cross and raises from the dead. It’s the only way. It’s the only sin could only be paid for. It’s the only way God’s wrath could only be appeased. It’s the only way death could only be defeated. Jesus had to die. This is what Satan is offering Jesus right now, this is his A-game, this is the dangerous, the most dangerous of the temptations. Satan is offering Jesus the world without the cross. “You don’t have to die, I’ll simply give it to you, all you have to do is bend the knee. Bow to me Jesus and it’s all yours.” I know my own heart, and I would have considered that deal. I don’t want to die on the cross. Thank God it wasn’t me out there! Because Jesus doesn’t considered it. In fact, he says:
“Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ”
Jesus quotes Scripture, again and then he tells Satan to scram. Here is what is really cold. Satan has to listen, doesn’t he? He does. He knows that he’s been defeated. Jesus did not want power at the expense of the gospel. Satan tempts us this same way, just like he did Adam and just like he did Jesus. Satanmay tempt you with money or authority all you have to do is compromise on Christian virtue. He tempts us to believe that we can have political power if they back a certain candidate or party and then we will really be in power. Jesus didn’t succumb to Satan’s lies. He knew that God is the all-powerful ruler of the cosmos and he alone deserves to be worshipped.
Brothers and sisters, what Matthew has written for us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a declaration that Jesus is the true and better Adam. Where Adam fell, Jesus succeeded. Adam was tempted in all of these 3 areas and he sinned. Jesus rebuffed the enemy with the Word of God and he lived righteously in our place. Jesus is the true Israel. Jesus came through the waters of baptism like Israel came through the Red Sea. Jesus wandered in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 night like Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. But the difference is that while Israel failed time and time again, Jesus did not. He is the 2nd Adam; he is the true Israel. He is the one who has come to set the world to rights. Matthew $4:1-11 is certainly not a Faustian tale.
So what does this mean for us church? What does this mean for CCC? How do we move from understanding the Word of God to standing under the Word of God? The answer is simple. We must look to Jesus. Jesus did what we never could do. Jesus was tempted and he did not give in. When Satan tempts you to satisfy ungodly fleshy desires, when Satan tempts you to question or distrust your Father, when he tempts you to compromise virtue for power, look to Jesus. Satan did the same thing to Christ and Christ defeated him. The power for you to overcome temptation in your life lies within the gospel of Jesus. Christ defeated temptation for you, so now when you’re tempted, you can have victory through the power of the Holy Spirit. When you are facing temptation, pray. Ask Jesus to keep you from temptation. Fill your mind with God’s Word so that when the devil tempts you, you can answer him with Scripture. Hide God’s Word in your heart that you might not sin against Jesus. Church, when you’re tempted, look to Jesus. Trust in Jesus. Cling to Jesus.
NT Wright has written this,
“The flesh may scream for satisfaction; the world may beckon seductively; the devil himself may offer undreamed-of power; but Israel’s loving God, the one Jesus knew as father, offered the reality of what it meant to be human, to be a true Israelite, to be Messiah.”
That is the path that Jesus took. Jesus is the truest human who ever lived. He is true Israel. He is God’s Messiah. It is only when we are following Jesus that we can live the good life. Only then can we fight the temptation of the flesh, the world, the devil. When you are being tempted, look to Christ.
What about when you fall? What about when that temptation comes and you give in? What about when the Satan brings his A-game and you fail like Adam did? You fail like you have before. Brothers and sisters, you must repent and believe the gospel. That is the answer. There is no 5 step fix, there is no magic wand. You repent and you get up and follow Jesus. Trust Jesus for his finished work on your behalf. Jesus died for every sin that you’ve ever committed. Jesus died for every sin that you’re going to commit. None of them ever catch him off guard. That of course is no license to sin, don’t hear me wrong, but it is grace that picks you up when you’ve fallen. “When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look and see him there, who made an end to all my sin. Because the sinless savior died, my sinful soul is counted free. For God the just is satisfied to look on him to pardon me.” Martin Luther said
“When the Devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: ‘I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and where he is there I shall be also!’”
What is the devil going to say to that? It is true! When he tells you that you are a wicked, no good, lying, thieving, lusting, undeserving Christian, you are like, “Yup, I am. But Jesus still died for my sins. That tomb is still empty and your head is still going to be crushed.” Whether you’re battling temptation at the moment or you’ve fallen, the answer is always the gospel of Jesus. Jesus will help you fight temptation and he will forgive you when you fall into temptation. Jesus can only do this because he was tempted in every way like we are, and yet he never sinned. The gospel is Satan’s Achilles heel. Fight him with the gospel.
I just finished, the other day, reading The Fellowship of the Ring. I know what you are thinking, you are 29 years old and you just finished The Fellowship of the Ring? I have repented of that sin. Some of us mature later than others. In chapter 7 of Book 2 of The Fellowship of the Ring, the Fellowship have left their council now to begin their journey, they’ve made it all the way to Lothlorien where they find themselves with the ancient elves and standing before the Lady Galadriel. In an effort to see which of the party, the Fellowship, are willing to continue on the treacherous journey to destroy the ring, the Lady shows everyone of the party, individually, the thing that they want most in the world. It is the thing they cannot have if they are going to continue to destroy the ring. You understand what I am saying? If there is something they want to go back to the Shire because it is peaceful and quiet, well either they can go back or they can continue to destroy the ring. You can’t have both. They are faced with the thing that they want more than anything in the world in order for them to decide fully and finally, are we going to continue or are we going to turn back? After that meeting, where she reveals those things to them the Fellowship, the company, are resting together and one of the men, his name is Boromir, says something very insightful. I want to read it to you.
“’To me it seemed exceedingly strange,’ said Boromir. ‘Maybe it was only a test, and she thought to read our thoughts for her own good purpose; but almost I should have said that she was tempting us, and offering what she pretended to have power to give.”
Church, Satan tempts you with many things. But he doesn’t have the power or authority to give any of them. He offers satisfaction that never delivers. Eternal satisfaction is found in Christ alone. Satan offers a faux trust, but God will not be tempted. Satan offers phony power, but it is not his to give. Jesus is the king of the world. Look to Jesus. I promise you this, if you want him more than anything in the world, you can have him.