Matthew 4:1-11

This congregation has had an eventful summer. We sponsored some successful mission trips. We conducted our most successful VBS in years. The ladies held some successful gatherings. The ministry leaders and deacons had a fruitful meeting with the elders. We appointed four new elders. The elders have taken some major steps toward becoming more effective shepherds. A number of people have privately and publicly redirected their lives.

Anytime we as individuals and a congregation grow spiritually, our success costs Satan. Satan jealously guards his kingdom. He does not care who attends church as long as they are in his kingdom. He is extremely evangelistic and extremely deceitful. When we do anything to cost him, he is enraged and counterattacks.

While it has been a summer of growth and spiritual development, it has also been a summer of stress. The stress load has been and is high. Stress is reality for those who dare to lead and live on the front lines in the war against evil. We feel like Satan is saying, "Boys, don't mess with me. It is time you personally learned a lesson and learned it well. When you cause me trouble, it will cost you."

Jesus dared to mess with the devil. He dared to let God work through him to defeat the devil. And it cost Jesus. We must remember two things: (1) because Jesus let God use him, Satan lost. (2) Jesus knew how to fight the devil.

This evening I want you to consider Jesus' wilderness temptations in a different manner. Commonly we study Jesus' wilderness temptations to try to deepen our understanding of the temptations. That is not what I want to do this evening. This evening I want us to focus on how Jesus recognized the deceptions and defeated the temptations.

  1. Let's begin with a very brief review of the wilderness temptations in Matthew 4:1-11.
    1. God's Spirit led Jesus out into the wilderness for the purpose of being personally tempted by the devil.
      1. Jesus prepared for this encounter by fasting forty days and nights.
      2. In my understanding, this was the inauguration of Jesus' ministry.
      3. Everything was at stake.
    2. Because of the fast, Jesus was hungry.
      1. Satan suggested that Jesus turn some of the stones lying around into bread and care for his physical need.
      2. Jesus refused and in refusing quoted Deuteronomy 8:3.
    3. Satan took Jesus to a high place in the temple area.
      1. He suggested that Jesus demonstrate his confidence in God by jumping from the high place.
      2. He even quoted God's promise to take care of him.
      3. Jesus refused and in refusing quoted Deuteronomy 6:16.
    4. Satan then offered Jesus a deal.
      1. "Bow to me and worship me, and I will make you the king of all people."
      2. Jesus refused, and in refusing quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20.
    5. It was then that Satan temporarily broke off contact with Jesus and the angels came and ministered to him.

  2. Obviously, Jesus used scripture to deal with the devil.
    1. However, if all we see is that Jesus quoted three verses when he was tempted, we miss the most powerful truth.
      1. We do not understand how Jesus dealt with the devil unless we understand why Jesus used those verses.
      2. He did not use just any verses he happened to know.
      3. The lesson is not: "Quote scripture, and you can successfully fight temptation."
        1. Satan quoted scripture to create one of his temptations.
        2. Evil can use scripture to clothe its suggestions in the appearance of "rightness."
        3. It is not the fact that scripture is used that temptation is defeated.
        4. It is the fact that scripture is understood that defeats Satan and his temptations.
    2. The first temptation that Matthew lists is the temptation to turn stones into bread.
      1. Jesus rejected the temptation by quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. Read with me Deuteronomy 8:1-5.
        All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.
      2. God used your wilderness experience to humble you.
      3. He used it to test you (the reactions of their hearts were an unknown to God).
        1. The purpose of the testing: "to know what was in your heart."
        2. It was what was in their heart that determined if obedience occurred.
      4. "God used hunger to humble you."
        1. "He wanted you to realize that you could not take care of yourselves."
        2. "He fed you with a food in a way that you could not imagine--manna was totally foreign to your experience."
        3. "The purpose: to teach you that life depended on trusting God."
      5. "Remember your experiences."
        1. "In forty years your clothes did not wear out."
        2. "In all that travel in the dessert, your feet did not swell."
        3. "You know in your heart that God was using discipline just like you use it."
      6. Jesus understood that life was sustained by trusting God, not by turning stones into bread.
    3. The second temptation in Matthew's list was the temptation to jump from the temple and let the angels catch him.
      1. This was to demonstrate his trust in God.
      2. Jesus responded by quoting Deuteronomy 6:16. Read with me Deuteronomy 6:16-19.
        You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you and that you may go in and possess the good land which the Lord swore to give your fathers, by driving out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has spoken.
      3. The incident of Massah is recorded in Exodus 17 beginning in verse 1.
        1. The cloud that God provided them for guidance led them to Rephidim to make camp.
          1. There was no water at Rephidim, and the people were much, much larger than the population of Fort Smith (and they had their livestock).
          2. The people began to quarrel with Moses and demand that he give them water.
        2. Moses asked:
          1. "Why are you quarreling at me?"
          2. "Why are you testing God?"
        3. The people were thirsty and grumbled.
          1. "Why did you bring us out here to kill us, our children, and our livestock?"
          2. It was a dangerous, tense situation.
            1. Moses prayed to God and asked, "What will I do with them?"
            2. "They are about ready to kill me."
        4. The Lord gave these instructions:
          1. "Take the elders and go before the people."
          2. "Take with you the staff that you used in Egypt to strike the Nile River and turn its waters into blood."
          3. "Strike the rock with that staff."
            1. "Water will come out of the rock."
            2. "The people will drink."
        5. Moses did as God instructed, and the people had water.
          1. He named the place Massah (test) and Meribah (quarrel).
      4. How did Israel test God at Massah?
        1. Their words and actions asked, "Is God among us or not?"
        2. They wanted God to prove He was there and could take care of them.
      5. Without jumping, Jesus knew God was there and would take care of him.
    4. Matthew records the third temptation as Satan's bargain: "Bow down and worship me."
      1. Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 6:13 or 10:20. Read with me Deuteronomy 6:13-15 and 10:20,21.
        Deuteronomy 6:13-15 You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth.
        Deuteronomy 10:20,21 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen.
      2. The first commandment of the ten commands was, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:2).
      3. The first principle of relationship with God, ground zero, is that you reverence God and only God. Nothing else receives your worship.
      4. Satan's request was unthinkable.

  3. This is the truth I want you to see clearly:
    1. Jesus understood scripture.
    2. He did not just quote any verse that happened to pop into his thinking.
    3. His answer came from his understanding of the truth, and his understanding of the truth was founded on the context of the scripture.
    4. He knew the true meaning of the scriptures he quoted.

What does it take to deal with the devil? Faith? Certainly! Commitment to God? Certainly! The desire to be a godly person? Certainly! But if you deal with temptation effectively, it takes more. It takes an understanding of scripture.

Aside from the grace of God, we are no match for Satan. He will deceive us every time when he extends temptation if we do not understand scripture. We will never understand scripture unless we also learn the context of scripture.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 3 September 2000

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