Praying According to His Will
Praying According to His Will
Seeing A Greater Purpose In Adversity
Martin Luther King
Years ago there was a movie entitled “Bruce Almighty!” It was about a man whom God gave some of His powers, and he used those powers for His own selfish means. It wasn’t until he realized how selfish he was, that his life turned for the good (After much turmoil in between).
If you had God’s powers, what would you do with them? Power and control is a powerful elixir. In our passage today, Jesus is promised the world, but at what cost?
Big Picture: Temptation is an inevitable reality, and a path to personal growth in the Kingdom of Man!
What? Temptation, or better yet “testing” is a way we see where we stand. Athletes do it when they spar, or scrimmage one another. Pilots do it on flight simulators. Standardized tests reflect where you stand amongst your peers.
In the Christian walk, life gives us many twists and turns, and how you handle those events in your life, mark who you ultimately are. It’s not that those decisions (Good or Bad) define you, but pieced together they reflect what is true about you.
Who are you? What is your chosen identity? How do you see yourself? Do you believe that you are truly a child of the king? Or do you see yourself as the sum total of your life’s decisions?
In our passage today, Jesus emulates the wilderness experience of the very people He has come to represent, and to ultimately save.
Israel wandered in the dessert for 40 years, and came through that experience wanting. Even their leader Moses failed the test, and trusted his own strength to deal with the whining of his people, and the stresses of his calling. What does our passage teach us about temptation, and resisting it for the glory of our Father? There are Four Truths that help us understand what temptation is, and how we are to go about resisting it.
From the Head…
Jesus Was Led Into the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1)
It is very interesting to note that it is God (The Holy Spirit) who leads Jesus into the wilderness. God put His Son into a situation that could have had cosmically negative results. Jesus was human, and according to Hebrews 4:15, Jesus “has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
What does that mean? Pretty much what it says; Christ was tempted as we are, and as Israel was in the wilderness, when they failed to trust God, but complained and tested Him. Temptation is not in of itself a sin; it’s a consequence of being human.
Numbers 20:8-12 relays the story of Moses being left out of entering the Promised Land for His sin of unbelief, and not honoring the Lord. The precursors to Christ were godly men, but they were flawed in every way, and eventually fell into temptation one way or another. Jesus was “Led” to this temptation to demonstrate His character, and show His worthiness to be worshipped.
We have many choices in our life, and those choices reflect what is ultimately true about us. Our character is revealed in stress. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
God doesn’t “Test” us to find out, who we are, He does so to show us who we are.
Jesus had just been baptized with a baptism of repentance, and now He was about ready to embark on His ministry. This is a vulnerable time, because of Satan can derail you, He will. It is in these tough times that we are able to withstand the attack of Satan, and demonstrate our true identity in Christ, readying us for the ministry that God has called us to.
Jesus Was Emptied of His Own Physical Strength (Matthew 4:2)
Verse 2 shows us that Jesus was depleted. He hadn’t eaten anything in 40 days, and “He was hungry.” He was weak and vulnerable, especially in regard to the first temptation that Satan attacked Him with. Satan often operates when we are weak. Most of the time when we fall, it is when we are already a bit depressed, tired, and stressed out. This most likely is true, because our Trust Immune System is down.
I don’t want to stay here and belabor the point, but neurology has pin pointed some neurological truths that supports the idea. It turns out, the human brain works in 2 systems; the first is a faster system that is working all the time, and generates feelings, emotions, and quicker actions needed for survival, while the second system is a slower deliberate, cognitive system used to solve problems, reach logical conclusions and give logical verification to beliefs reached through emotional means (System 1). It is when this aspect of the brain (System 2) is stressed and overworked (Tired) that our self-control is weakened, and temptation becomes more acute. One neurologist wrote, “People who are cognitively busy are more likely to make selfish choices, use sexist language and act inappropriately in social situation.”
If Jesus were ever going to fall, this would have been the ripe time for such a disaster.
Jesus Was Tempted Like We Are (Matthew 4:3, 5-6, 8-9)
As we have seen, Jesus was tempted like we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). 1 John 2:15 tells us to “not love the world or 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 desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.” This is often misused to justify separation from people, but what John is giving us, is the basic strategy of Satan, which we ought to be aware of, and stay away from. He blinds men’s eyes through these mechanisms. We see the same basic strategy in the garden in Genesis 3.
How are we tempted?
Matthew 4 and Genesis 3 demonstrate the strategy, while James 1:13-15 and 1 John 2:15-16 define it. Temptation, and ultimately sin is a product of our own flesh, believing the lies of Satan, and being lured by the perceived “Beauty” of a fallen world.
What is that strategy?
Lust of the Flesh
Genesis 3:6a “The woman saw that the tree was good for food”
Matthew 4:3 “Command these stones to become loaves of bread”
The issue is not to trust God for your needs, but satisfy your flesh now. Get all that you can now. “If you’re the son of God” prove it, by meeting all of your own needs. A lot of temptations are like this one. What Satan asked Jesus to do was not inherently sinful. He was hungry, and later He does turn a few loaves into many, but what Satan was asking Jesus to do, is to satisfy normal needs outside of God’s own will.
Lust of the Eyes
Genesis 3:6b “…and it was a delight to the eyes”
Matthew 4:8 “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory”
You can have it all. Look at it, I know you really want it, and if you get it, you will be satisfied
Boastful Pride of Life
Genesis 3:6c “…and that the tree was desirable to make one wise…”
Matthew 4:6 “if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down”
“Prove yourself!” Is the oft command of the accuser (Which is what “Devil” means). You really aren’t that good, make sure everyone knows. We consistently reflect a pride that can’t be outdone by someone else.
It is interesting that Satan attempted to use scripture against Jesus here. He quotes Psalm 91, but Jesus retorts from Deuteronomy 6:16 reminding Satan of the time when the Israelites rebelled in Massah, and failed to trust God, putting Him to the test that He would once again perform a miracle to “Save” them.
Jesus Resisted By Submitting to His Father’s Wisdom (Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10)
Author Oscar Wilde was quoted as saying, “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” A cute saying, but one that has destructive consequences. We are often told that resisting our “natural” urges are bad for you. But this appears to be a flipping of the truth. Not resisting all of our urges, ultimately enslaves us to those urges, sometimes resulting in addictions, and harsher consequences.
Jesus answered all three temptations with scripture. Psalms 119:11 says, “Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.” Knowing God’s word, is a strong repellant to the schemes of Satan and the Lure of the world. Basically He answers Satan’s attacks with three truths from scripture:
a. Satisfaction comes from God alone (Matthew 4:4)
We are ultimately only going to be satisfied in Christ. He alone is the “Fountain of living water” (Jeremiah 2:13; John 7:37-38). We can try (And we will) and fill the desires of the flesh in other things, but they will ring empty. Hunger is a very natural thing to want to curb, but how we curb our hungers demonstrate what our first loves are.
b. Our Identity and trust is in the Lord (Matthew 4:7)
If we truly are children of the king, do we need to prove ourselves to anyone else? Jesus was called to “Prove” Himself through His suffering and subsequent resurrection. That was God’s plan. Putting God to the test reflects a heart that doesn’t really trust God. It has a “Prove It” mentality. God doesn’t owe us any proof, nor do we have to prove to anyone God’s grace in our life through the means of an unbelieving mind.
c. Our Joy is in Christ (Matthew 4:10)
We are created for worship. French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Satan promises what he cannot give, for a price you cannot afford to pay.
…to the Heart
James 4:7 indicates that we are to “Submit ourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The problem is we like our sin. We are like those that handled the ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series. Our sin becomes our “Precious,” driving us to desire it more and more when we can’t have it. And before we know it, we are led to enslavement and destruction.
Christ was able to resist Satan’s devices, because he intimately knows His father! I don’t think the debates regarding whether Jesus could sin or not are helpful. The bible is not clear. But what we do know is, He, like us, are tempted in every way; and I do think that in order to re-right the sins of His people, the temptations had to be real.
The only way we will ultimately triumph over the flesh, the world and the Devil, is in the power of the resurrected Lord. This is why He was tempted “Yet without sin,” and why He went to the cross to pay for our sins, and demonstrate His justice and give us His righteousness (See Romans 3:23-25; 2 Corinthians 5:21).
Our ability to then “Walk worthy” (Ephesians 4:1), is closely related to our understanding of Christ’s work, and our Father’s will, which is discovered progressively as we know His through His word!
We will never be worthy in our own power, but we have been made worthy through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Questions To Ponder
For Further Reading
A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener
The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins
The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris
Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti