Morning. Happy Memorial Day Weekend. David Sorn. Pastor of Renovation Church.
Finishing our “Hooks” series on temptation today.
We are going to look at the third and final temptation that Jesus faces from the devil.
Let’s actually start today by getting right into our passage, and then we’ll start to dissect it, learn about God’s word, and learn what it means for our lives as well
(Matthew 4:8-11) – NIV
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
So Jesus has already refused two temptations the devil has thrown at him, and now here comes one more.
This time the devil takes him to some high mountain and supernaturally shows him all the kingdoms of the world and offers him to him.
This seems to be kind of a confusing offer. We get a little more insight from Luke who also tells the temptation story in his Gospel.
(Luke 4:5-7) – NIV
5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."
So, the devil claims that he has authority over all the kingdoms of the earth and he can hand it out to anyone he wants.
This is actually a good example for a lesson in Bible interpretation.
Sometimes as Christians we just pull verses out and we say, “Look here… verse 6 says the devil has authority over all the kingdoms. It’s true. It’s in the Bible.”
Yet, if you’re going to do good interpretation, you have to pay attention to who’s talking
So, who is talking here? The devil. Who’s the “father of lies” as Jesus calls him. So can we take his word that he has authority over all kingdoms? Not necessarily.
The devil, in his self-delusion, thinks he controls the world. The Bible tells us he has considerable influence (blind the minds of unbelievers, prince of this world), but he does not control all the kingdoms of the world.
God is ultimately in control of that.
Plus, we know the devil is somewhat delusional. Otherwise, why would he be attempting to stop Jesus? If he knew it would be impossible to stop Jesus, why would he try? He thinks he can win. But he can’t.
So we can’t necessarily take him at his every word.
And in his final attempt to tempt the Son of God, he becomes a little less subtle.
He basically says, stop following God and worship me. Choose my way.
But, he’s not completely devoid of subtlety. He throws in a little incentive doesn’t he? I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world
And think about this. He’s tempting Jesus w/ exactly what Jesus wants. This is why Jesus came. He came to gather the nations/the kingdoms to himself.
And the devil says, just worship me, follow me instead, and I’ll give it to you right now! Right now!
These are the type of temptations I like to call: Shiny Shortcuts.
Because to Jesus, this is a temptation to get what he wants RIGHT NOW. To take a shortcut. I mean, he knows that he’s eventually going to get there.
He’s probably familiar with how the world will end. That every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.
But it’s a long, winding, and difficult road to get there. Not to mention, he’s going to have to die a painful death on the cross to get it all started.
So, why not just take the shiny shortcut? Just get everything you want right now?
And so many of our temptations look similar to that.
Maybe it’s the temptation to get ahead at work.
I mean, let’s be honest, there are so many shortcuts to getting ahead at one’s job.
You can lie, you can cheat, you can take credit for things you didn’t do, you can say nice & fake things about the bosses you don’t even like, you can lie on your timecard, you can change some numbers here and there, you can….and the list goes on
And this is true in so many other areas as well…
Maybe you’re in high school or a young adult and you’re dating someone, and it’s the temptation to not wait until you’re married to have sex
Well, I mean, the “shortcut” (having it all right now…not waiting) can certainly look appealing right?
Maybe it’s the temptation to not wait for God and just take things into your own hands. He’s not really answering you right now, so why don’t you just get this thing started and figure it out on your own.
There are A LOT of temptations like these
BUT they’re all just shiny shortcuts. And Shiny Shortcuts look good at first, but they have consequences.
One of the reasons we’re in a recession right now is because a lot of people in the housing and banking industries took a lot of shiny shortcuts. Things that looked great at first and made everyone happy for a few years, but over the longhaul, couldn’t sustain. And you pay for it later.
Fast food is a great example of this. And listen I love fast food as much as the next guy (actually, more than the next guy), but it’s a shortcut. A shortcut that we always pay for later.
Cars can be another great example of this. Sometimes the cars that look the most shiny and amazing on the outside are often the worst cars to actually drive and take care of over the long haul.
But yet, people still buy these kind of cars right? They still make them.
Why? It’s because some guy tells you “how good you would look in that car” and keeps saying things like “what can I do to get you in that car today!”
So you take it on a test drive, and everybody looks at you and how shiny your car is and how fast it goes.
So you buy it!
But 2 years later, after it’s drained your budget, and stops working on the inside because it wasn’t THAT good of a car, it’s too late.
But it all looks SO good at first. So Tasty, So Easy, So Shiny, and a nice quick shortcut.
But shortcuts are seldom right and seldom work out in the end.
Where are you being tempted to take a shortcut? Where are you being tempted to just find pleasure NOW? To find satisfaction NOW? To do it your way NOW?
And is that way working out for you? Will it work out in the end?
Because temptation is like a mirage.
Satan offers things he can’t really deliver OR actually has no intentions of delivering in the first place.
Just like he did with Jesus and the kingdoms.
And you can chase his hollow promises all you want, and we spend most of our lives chasing them (trying to find life somewhere else besides Jesus Christ).
But it’s like chasing after a mirage in a desert. We keep seeing a glimpse of it. “Ah yes, there it is! This will make me happy!”
And guess what, it didn’t. But then we see the mirage again, and even though we never really found what we were looking for the first time, and it was pretty exhausting and life-sapping looking for it, we set out and start chasing after it again. And again. And again.
Temptation is the bait that we keep biting. And the result is a metal hook into our mouth. Every single time we bite.
All the while, our loving God, Jesus Christ is dying for us to follow Him instead. Trust in his love.
Sure, sometimes his road is a little harder.
Sometimes it doesn’t deliver instant emotions and pleasure.
But I can tell you this: The end of the road is much sweeter.
It is a road you will NEVER regret taking when it’s all said and done.
So when those temptations come? What are you doing about it? Are you just going down the same road? Will you continue to do business as usual?
We’ve talked a lot about answering temptation with God’s word (as Jesus does), but I want to give you four more tactics before we close out this series.
They cutely enough all start with R. Resist, Refocus, Run, and Reach out.
Firstly, the Bible tells us to RESIST temptation. Temptation from our flesh, from others, and from spiritual evil
(James 4:7-8) – NIV
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
(1 Peter 5:8-9) -- NIV
8Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
If we are going to become holy for Christ and change this world for Him, we have to engage in battle.
It’s far too easy to just drift through life.
Far too easy. I catch myself sometimes in a drifting phase. All of a sudden I’m not fighting as hard. I’m tempted to gossip, to get angry, to speak ill of someone and instead of praying to fight, resist, I just drift like I’m on autopilot.
It’s easy to get caught up in that, but God wants you to resist. To be a warrior for Christ!
To fight back. And the sword of the spirit, like we’ve said the past two weeks, is the word of God.
Just like Jesus answers the devil by quoting the scripture again this week.
So fight with the Word. When you feel like you’re unlovable, answer with the Word of God. When you feel like taking revenge, answer your hateful thoughts with the Word of God.
Fight back. Know His word. Learn His word. Use His word.
Maybe start reading in the book of Matthew this week.
And resist temptation not only with God’s word but with God’s strength!
Pray! Ask Him for Help. It should be the first thing you do.
I had a friend in college who whenever he felt tempted just whispered Jesus.
He did it so much everyone thought he was taking the Lord’s name in vain.
But it was his way of just asking the Spirit of God to give him strength.
Find a way to resist. Use the Bible. Pray and ask for strength.
But DO SOMETHING. Too many of us are walking into a massive swordfight every day but we’re not even bringing a sword to the battle.
As you face temptation, whether it’s to take a shortcut for pleasure or gain, or anything else, one of the best things you can do is actually to refocus your mind.
Especially right after you’ve started to RESIST
The best place to do this of course is to set your mind and heart on things above (as Colossians says). To focus on God.
It’s to RESIST, and then REFOCUS. Move your mind elsewhere.
Because if you don’t move your mind elsewhere, you’ll often just eventually give in
Let me give you an example. One of the main reasons people fail when they try diets is this: They spend all day thinking about not eating food. And when you spend all day thinking, “Don’t eat food. Don’t eat food. Don’t eat food.” What do you do? You eat food.
And if you spend all day going, “Don’t think about this, don’t think about this, don’t think about this.” What are you going to think about?
I like to run. And Sometimes at the end of a run, I’ll really push it. Maybe really pick it up for the last ½ mile or mile. And often, it’s painful. And I’ve learned that if I just think about the pain, that gets me nowhere. So I do math problems.
And when dealing with temptation, you need to take a similar approach. Eventually, you have to take your mind elsewhere. You have to REFOCUS. It’s a discipline of the mind.
Sometimes, resisting and refocusing isn’t enough. Sometimes you just need to run.
One of the best verses you can memorize on temptation is this:
(1 Corinthians 10:13) – NIV
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
God will ALWAYS provide you a way out.
Meaning. He will never force you into sin. There’s always an option to do the right thing. Every time.
It’s just that sometimes, the only option is to run. It’s to get out there.
Maybe you’re in a relationship right now or involved with someone you shouldn’t be involved with.
You can refocus your mind all you want, but really the answer is to get out there. It’s to run.
Maybe some weekend, you get in a place with a certain group of people, and you know a lot of good isn’t going to come out of it.
Sometimes the answer to temptation is just simply to flee. It’s to run.
It’s HARD to do. REALLY hard. People tend to notice when we run.
But your first responsibility is to obey God not to make sure you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.
We’re actually going to talk more about running next week. This fall, when we started our sermon on the mount series, we passed over a passage on lust, adultery, and divorce. We’re going to be coming back to that next week, and we’ll talk a little bit more about running.
The last “R” to fighting temptation is Reaching Out
One of the easiest and most deadly ways to stay trapped in temptation is to keep silent about it. It’s to not let anyone know about the constant battles you face maybe even every day.
On the flip side, one of the best and most effective tactics to defeat temptation and sin in your life is as James 5:16 says, “confess your sins to each other.”
This is one of the reasons God invented church. It’s why it doesn’t work to just be spiritual on your own and not be involved in a church somehow.
It’s one of the reasons house groups are so important to us at this church
We need each other. We need each other to hold us accountable, to pray for us, to sometimes call us out, to sometimes just be there for us, but we need each other.
And if you’re really struggling with a certain temptation or sin, maybe the thing you need to do is to just reach out to someone and actually confess it.
In the very last verse of the temptation passage in Matthew, it simply reads, “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
And here we see that Jesus successfully resisted the devil. He successfully warded off temptation.
He won the battle and the devil left.
But it was just a battle.
The devil would come again. Temptation would come again.
And in this life, you will win battles, and you will lose battles.
And when you lose, remember that Jesus is well aware of your inability to be perfect. And he came and died for you anyway. Don’t let that be a wedge in your relationship. Keep seeking Him
And when you WIN, when you ward off temptation. Refuse the second temptation to take credit for it.
And realize that one victory is a VICTORY, but it’s also just one victory.
Don’t be like the naïve drug addict who brags of his 3 days of sobriety. Temptation will come again.
And the harsh reality is, some of us have been taking the wrong path for years. The default decision for us is to choose sin and not God’s way.
We just get stuck in habits. For instance, 6 years ago when I lived at Bethel during seminary, I always drove the same way to work (north on 35W).
And when I needed to go some place else (to run an errand or visit someone, etc.), I was notorious for just driving north on 35W, and then going, “WHAT AM I DOING!?”
Breaking out of the habit of falling into temptation is like digging out of a rut.
Some of us have a worn down path of choosing sin, choosing, sin, choosing sin, that to break off and go a different direction is hard because the rut is so far worn down.
But to do so is necessary. HOWEVER, it is only possible by the power and love of God
You can not do this on your own. Don’t even attempt to. The only thing that will happen is you’ll get a few victories, give yourself credit, and then fall right back in
Save yourself the time, and start relying on Him right now.
Because He can help. He can change the way you live. He can renovate your life. He has the power. He can and He WILL if you trust Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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