Life begins with Adam and Eve living in the Garden of Eden. They live a perfect life in a good world absent of evil. They enjoy a loving relationship with their Creator.
One day, a serpent appears. He is Satan, the devil. He twists God’s words and tells Adam and Eve a lie to deceive them into thinking that God is not good, and life can be better. All they need to do is eat the fruit which God says not to eat.
Satan’s temptation is a success. He accomplishes his aim of turning the affections of Adam and Eve away from God.
Ever since that fateful day, every child born of Adam’s race falls prey to the trickery and deceit of the devil. Deceit presents temptation which leads to sin. Sin brings destruction, war, poverty, pain, chaos, and ultimately death.
All of Adam’s descendants are deceived, and tempted by the devil, to disobey God. They fight, steal, lie, cheat, and die. They are all helpless. There is only one remedy. People need a Savior.
God promises that He will send a Messiah. Those familiar with God’s promise eagerly await the arrival of the Messiah. He is the only hope.
The first three chapters of Luke’s gospel account give testimony that Jesus of Nazareth is the Savior God promises. Multiple witnesses speak of Jesus as the Messiah, and the fulfillment of prophetic Scripture.
Our eyes turn to Jesus to watch and see if He proves Himself as the Savior of the world!
Jesus is tempted by the devil
Adam and Eve, and their descendants, fail to withstand the temptations of the devil.
The first test of the Savior is crucial. Will He be able to resist the temptations of Satan? Or, will Jesus be like Adam’s race, and fall prey to the devil?
The human Messiah is led by the Holy Spirit of God in the wilderness. There, He spends forty days. He eats nothing, and like all men, he becomes hungry.
For some reason, forty is a significant number to God. It rains forty days during the flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4). Moses spends forty days and forty nights, not eating or drinking on Mount Sinai as God gives him the covenant (Exodus 34:28). The Israelites spy on the promised land for forty days, and their lack of faith results in forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 14:33). Elijah spends forty days and nights without food at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).
What we may know from personal experience, is eating nothing for forty days is no simple feat. We expect Jesus to be hungry. He is a man like us.
Notice how the temptation of Jesus compares to the temptation of Adam and Eve. The Garden of Eden is the opposite of the wilderness. The wilderness offers no comforts. Jesus faces temptation in the midst of life’s difficulty.
It is vital to note that God leads Jesus to the wilderness. Jesus is following God’s Holy Spirit. God knows what awaits His Son. The Father leads Jesus into the wilderness, where He knows the devil is waiting.
Temptation: Lust of the Flesh
We don’t know what happens for the full forty days in the wilderness. What we do know is that Jesus faces three specific temptations.
Jesus is hungry. The devil says, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” The devil is asking Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God. “If You are the Son of God … prove it.”
How does the devil know that Jesus is the Son of God? He is not omnipresent. Is the devil eavesdropping when Gabriel visits Mary? Is he hanging around Bethlehem with the shepherds? Is the devil present at Jesus’ baptism? Is he following Jesus around? How does he choose to follow Jesus? Does God give the devil a heads-up? Is he aware of how long Jesus is in the wilderness not eating?
Jesus proves to His disciples that He is the Son of God, why not prove it to the devil? Jesus makes bread for five thousand hungry people. Why not make bread for one hungry person now?
Satan tempts Adam to eat fruit and Adam is not hungry. Satan tempts Jesus to eat a rock.
When Jesus is hungry at the well in Samaria, He tells His disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work (John 4:34).” Jesus puts His flesh in submission to the will of God. He’d rather starve than disobey.
The devil’s goal is Jesus will be a rebellious Son. Jesus desires to obey and knows that when God wants Him to eat, the Holy Spirit will lead Him to bread. Jesus chooses obedience. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 and says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
Temptation: Lust of the Eyes
The description of the next temptation is remarkable. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. How does Satan show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time? Are past and future kingdoms included? What power does Satan have that allows him to pull off this trick?
Satan tells Jesus a bald-faced lie. He claims that all the kingdoms are his to give. The kingdoms belong to him, or so he thinks.
Remember when Pilate says to Jesus, “Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answers, “You would have no authority over Me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11). God removes and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21).
Satan challenges Jesus to disobey the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). The devil’s motive is to elevate himself above God. Satan covets our worship.
Isaiah describes Satan in his 14th chapter. He writes:
How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! … But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Jesus loves God, the Father. Jesus is a student of the Scripture and knows Satan is lying. Jesus will not bow His knee to anyone but God the Father. Jesus answers Satan again with Scripture. He says, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” (Deuteronomy 6:13).
Temptation: Pride of Life
The devil accomplishes another amazing trick with the third temptation. Somehow, Satan gets Jesus from the wilderness to the center of Jerusalem. He and Jesus stand on the pinnacle of the temple.
The power of the devil is again on display. How does he take Jesus from the wilderness to the temple? It must be real, because how may someone be in danger if it is only a vision?
The devil reveals an impressive knowledge of Scripture. He quotes Psalm 91:11-12. In the Garden of Eden, the devil twists God’s word. Here, he does not misquote the verse and uses the verse correctly in the context of the Psalm.
Satan challenges Jesus to throw Himself down 450 feet from the top of the temple pinnacle to the ground. Survival requires divine intervention.
Satan again tests the Sonship of Jesus, “If You are the Son of God … .” The devil’s logic is that God the Father will not allow the Son to be hurt. The Psalm says, “He will command His angels concerning You to guard You, On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
“Jump, Jesus. Do it. Not to worry. God will send angels to make sure You won’t even stub Your toe. If You are the Son of God, we will see a beautiful display of the love of the Father; calling upon heaven’s angels to spare Your life.”
Jesus calls to mind how the Israelites test God in the wilderness. The Israelites question God’s kindness and put a test before God to prove that He is kind. Jesus replies with Deuteronomy 6:16, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Jesus doesn’t need to jump off the pinnacle to test and see if God will be true to His word. Jesus knows God is good. He doesn’t need a miracle for His faith.
The hard work of studying the Scripture proves fruitful for Jesus. To refute the devil’s quote of Psalm 91 requires a deep understanding of the Bible. Jesus knows the correct interpretation of Psalm 91 must align with the rest of the Scripture. The devil contradicts Deuteronomy 6:16.
At the end of the 40 days, Jesus leaves the wilderness victorious. He does not fall for Satan’s tricks like the first Adam. Jesus walks out of the wilderness without sin.
Who is the Devil?
Luke finishes the passage by saying that when the devil finishes every temptation, he leaves. He’ll be back. The devil will wait for an opportune time to try again to make the Son of God sin.
As we read these 13 verses, and we know them to be true, we need to take a step back and pause. Do we believe we have an enemy? Do we understand the power of our enemy?
We may not have the same temptations, but we face the same enemy.
Satan is powerful, tricky, and the father of lies. His weapon is deceit and temptation. First comes the deceit. Satan knows Scripture. He knows it very well. Scripture is his primary weapon. He knows Scripture, learns it, so that he may twist the truth.
Paul tells us to be alert because Satan seeks to devour weak Christians. A weak Christian doesn’t know the truth of God’s word. Jesus says the truth will set you free.
In Matthew’s account of Jesus and Satan in the wilderness, Matthew calls Satan, “the tempter” (Matthew 4:3). The purpose of deceit is to twist the truth so the temptation is easier to believe, and therefore, the temptation seems like the better choice.
The devil seeks to take our heart affections for God, and redirect them toward the temptation. His motive is that we not worship God, but worship anything but God.
The Tempter Tempts
It is important to understand how the tempter will tempt us. John’s first letter gives us a very helpful verse which categorizes temptation. I am going to read three verses. The middle verse is the one we will speak about, but it is helpful to know what John writes before and after.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)
All that is in the world is passing away. Smartwatches, lamps, automobiles, universities, cheeseburgers, and fishing poles are passing away.
What’s interesting is what John says about the things of the world, and it is in this next statement that we learn about temptation; lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
Lust of the flesh is a temptation appealing to our senses. Lust of the flesh feels, tastes, smells, sounds, and looks visually appealing. Jesus is faced with the lust of the flesh when He is hungry. He does not satisfy the lust of His flesh, but chooses to obey God.
Jesus is tempted with lust of the flesh when He is hungry. There is nothing wrong with bread. There is nothing wrong with a cheeseburger, unless it is the third one. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Drinking wine is permissible. Drinking wine in front of an alcoholic is not profitable. God created sexual relations, but God also gave commands about those relations.
Lust of the eyes is to covet. Jesus is tempted with lust of the eyes when He is shown the kingdoms of the world. Imagine, having all the power so that you may own all the stuff. There is nothing wrong with having a nice car because it is reliable and safe transportation. Having a nice car so we can attract members of the opposite sex or because we want to impress people is lust of the eyes.
Jesus is tempted with the boastful pride of life when the devil tempts Him to have God catch Him as He throws Himself off the temple pinnacle. He’s the Son of God. God is obligated to catch Him if God is true to His Word.
The boastful pride of life is thinking we deserve more than what we have. We think we are great, and we can’t understand why others don’t treat us as we ought to be treated. We get angry when we don’t get the respect we think we deserve. We brag about our speed, intellect, or strength expecting proper respect in response.
Life is a spiritual battle
We need to take a good, hard, honest look at our priorities. As Christians, we say our priorities are in spiritual matters. But, what is we are asked how to be successful in this world. What would we say?
Do we say to be successful, study in school, work hard, be involved in the community, eat right, exercise, and get plenty of rest? Do we see success as being a vice-president of a company, a medal winner in the Olympics, or getting a degree from a prestigious university? What do we tell children?
If we think success is being famous, rich, or recognized as important, then Tom Brady, Matt Damon, Taylor Swift, Mark Zuckerberg, and Kate Middleton are successful people. Are they successful according to the Bible.
I think we can all agree we need not be rich, famous, or powerful to find success. We know in our hearts that finding peace, comfort, joy, and happiness is true success.
The Bible says that Satan’s ultimate goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to destroy our joy in God by redirecting our affections toward everything but God.
True joy, peace, happiness, comfort, and satisfaction will not come from this world. Satan will tempt us every way he can because he knows that true life and happiness is defined by knowing God, loving, God, and obedience to His will.
We need to fight against deceit and temptation. We will not succeed in our fight by trying to get physically then or trying to get ahead in the world.
The Bible tells us how we may find joy. We are to set our minds on the Spirit in our striving against temptation.
Paul tells Timothy:
On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
This verse is speaking about spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are how we set our mind on the Spirit.
Examples of Spiritual Discipline
MAIN IDEA: Set your mind on the Spirit in your striving against temptation.
We need to put off our flesh and put on spiritual thinking and actions. Worldly people set their minds on the things of this world. People desiring to be godly set their minds on the Spirit. The world and seeking to satisfy our lusts is being hostile toward God. Seeking to know God and obey His Spirit is pleasing to God (Romans 8:5-8).
The best way to set our mind on the Spirit is the practice of spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines include things such as daily Bible reading, memorization, prayer, fasting, giving, and so forth. (This sermon from January 1, 2017 talks in more depth about spiritual disciplines. https://redbarnchurch.com/Archives/pursue-godliness/)
I have heard some say that telling people to practice spiritual disciplines is legalism. Hogwash. Show me a scripture that says, don’t pray, study, memorize Scripture, and so forth. It is only legalism when we tell people that spiritual disciplines will gain favor with God. We don’t practice spiritual disciplines to gain favor with God, but to fight the devil. We practice spiritual disciplines to fight for joy and satisfaction.
The Bible assumes we will fast. Jesus said, “When you fast …” (Matthew 6:16).
Scripture commands us to study God’s word.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11)
Blessed is the man who meditates on God’s word both day and night (Psalm 1:1)
Jesus tells us to pray that we are not “lead into temptation” (Luke 11:4).
When Jesus finds the disciples sleeping on the night He is betrayed, He tells them,
"Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation." (Luke 22:46)
Jesus is the victory
This passage in Luke is a sobering view of life’s temptations. It is also a glorious view of our Lord.
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus is a man like us. Jesus fasts, prays, studies God’s word, memorizes God’s word, and fights for His joy. Jesus sets the example for us by showing that joy is found in obedience to God, and not in this world. He proves Himself as a glorious Savior, worthy of our worship and praise.