When The Teacher Takes A Test
Back in 1996 I met a man who would have a profound influence on my life. Jerrie Barber was the minister at the Berry’s Chapel Church; he taught me more about ministry than any school that I ever attended. One of the things Jerrie did was share bits of wisdom through little sayings that he would repeat to me over and over. One of his classic Barberism’s was “We do not sin because we think about sinning, we sin because we do not think about it enough.”
Thomas Brooks once said the same thing, but a different way. He said that temptation is nothing more than bait on a hook. Satan baits your hook with food, sex, fame, money, power, glory, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, security, comfort, achievement, grade point average or whatever it takes to get you to take the hook. His entire goal is make the hook attractive enough that we take our eyes off the danger and take the bite so that he can reel you in toward death.
The reason that we struggle with sin is the very same reason that a fish bites the hook. We are so consumed with the bait we forget to pay attention to the hook and the consequences. I mean if Satan came to you and said, I want you to experience divorce or gluttony or obesity or a hangover or drug addiction or a devastated family because of gossip or violence or mean-spiritedness or bitterness no one would bite. But because Satan is crafty he finds attractive ways to bait the hook. And because we don’t think about sin enough, where it will lead us, we give in to the temptation and sin.
As we continue through The Story of Jesus we come to Luke 4 and we get this amazing snapshot of temptation. Satan comes to Jesus, and baits the hook continually for forty days. I need you to understand that Jesus was not just tempted three times; Luke says that Jesus was taken out into the wilderness to endure 40 days of temptations.
While Jesus was on this earth He was fully human and fully God, but He never used His divinity for His own benefit. When He performed a miracle it was to feed other people, not Himself; to heal other people, not Himself; to alleviate the suffering of other people, not His own. He blessed others through miracles, while He lived humbly and suffered like we suffer. He grew tired like we grow tired. He was hungry, felt pain, and endured temptation just like us.
The Hebrew writer says in Hebrews 2:17-18 For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could die in their place to take away their sins. And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself suffered and was tempted.
When God became a man He didn’t cheat and use His divinity to make His life easier. He identifies with us, He was not immune and removed. He was involved and sympathetic. He’s been there. He understands.
The text that was read for us this morning set’s the stage; And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. (Luke 4:1-2) This is His story, and it’s all His story. For forty days He is alone in the wilderness. He fasts and He is doing battle with Satan. Some people think this is a nod to the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. Jesus is proving to be the true and better Israel.
We also see that Jesus picks up where Adam leaves off. It’s not an accident that Luke 3 ends with the genealogy from Jesus back to Adam. Adam enjoyed a paradise, not a wilderness. He got to feast, he wasn’t hungry. He sinned and rebelled against God. When Satan came to him and tempted him, he yielded to that temptation. As a result, he was thrown out of the garden into the wilderness. Jesus picks up where Adam leaves off, in the wilderness. And He goes back to the battlefield where Adam failed.
The Gospel writes just pick these three temptations, because they are a microcosm of the same three areas that we are all tempted in according to 1 John 2.
Temptation One: Lust of the flesh. (Read Luke 4:2-4)
Could Jesus have turned stones into bread? Why yes! I mean He’s about to turn water into wine. If He can make water into wine, He can make stones into bread. Jesus is hungry. It’s not a sin to eat bread if you are hungry. The temptation here is not over hunger or bread, the temptation is over what is more important in Jesus’ life, the flesh or the spirit.
Satan is calling Him to meet a physical desire or urge. We all understand that many of our temptations are based on appetites and pleasures that are not necessarily evil in and of themselves. Food, drink, rest, intimacy can be gifts that God gives if used in a way that brings Him glory. But they also can lead to gluttony, drunkenness, addiction, and perversion. We live in a world that worships comfort and pleasure as their gods and we pursue them at all cost.
While Satan is tempting Jesus with the lust of the flesh, there is a secondary and more subtle attack on Jesus’ identity. Did you pick up what Satan said in verse 3? If you are the Son of God. Satan uses this line twice. Your life comes out of your identity. Who you think you are determines what decisions you make and how you live your life.
If you think you’re a victim? You’ll live as a victim. If you think you’re without sin, then you will never enjoy the peace that comes with forgiveness. If you think you are damaged goods, you will never enjoy the gift of redemption. Mark Driscoll says that “Identity determines biography. Who you are determines how you live.”
In Christ you have a new identity. You’re a new creation. But Satan shows up and says, Are you really forgiven? Don’t you remember the horrible things you did? Are you sure God can forgive you? Are you sure that He loves you? If He loved you then why are your struggling? You sure that God adopted you into His family? They why do you struggle feeling alone? Are you sure you’re saved and loved and redeemed and cleansed and forgiven? If that was true, wouldn’t your life look a little better than it does right now?
God promises that in Christ, you get a new identity. And from that identity you live a new biography. God loves us, saves us, forgives us, gives us His righteousness, adopts us, cares for us, prepares a place for us. We just need to live up to what we’ve already attained. But if you forget your identity, you’ll destroy your biography.
Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, It is written. We don’t place enough emphasis on memorizing scripture. When Satan comes at you, you need to know your Bible. If you don’t, you have lost your spiritual authority. Ephesians and Hebrews say the Word of God is living and active, and made for battle. When the battle of temptation rages in your life and your hook is being baited Scripture is your only hope. We see that Satan wasn’t done, he re-baits the hook.
Temptation Two: Lust of the Eyes (Read Luke 4:5-8)
Satan comes to Jesus and says, I thought the Father loved you. I thought your Father was a King. I thought He owned the cattle on a thousand hills. You should be eating good food, not starving. You should be living in a big house, not a wilderness. You should have a bunch of servants, not left to tend to yourself.
We’ve all been lied to. It’s not bad to have a job, make money, live in a house, and drive a car. But it is wrong to worship those things or go into enormous debt to be a slave to them. Satan offers Jesus glory, fame, and power without the cross. He tells Jesus that He doesn’t need to be abandoned, betrayed, beaten, arrested, murdered, crucified, or buried. Jesus you can have a crown without a cross and a kingdom without a tomb. You just need to want those things more than you want God.
No one here today would claim to worship Satan. But let me reframe your definition of sin. We sin when we worship something other than God. Worship is not just what we do on Sunday; it’s what we do throughout the course of the week. What you look at is an act of worship. What you say is an act of worship. What you do is an act of worship. Every time you take your debit card out of your wallet or purse that’s a worship act. It’s for or against the glory of God. What you drink, what you eat, that is for or against the glory of God. It’s all worship act.
When Satan approached Jesus, he says, put me in a position of prominence. He’s not asking Jesus to become an atheist or to deny the Father. Just worship the Father and something else. Honor Him and me. Just divide you loyalty and interest a bit. That was the Children of Israel’s greatest sin.
Some of us here this morning know how hard it is to struggle with this. You love Jesus and money. You love Jesus and food. You love Jesus and anger. You love Jesus and drugs. You love Jesus and gossiping. You love Jesus and comfort. This is a worship issue. I’ll make you comfortable, successful, powerful. I’ll fill your stomach. I’ll give you all the pleasures that your mind could even conceive of. Just worship God and…
Jesus responds again by quoting Deuteronomy. This time He quotes chapter 6:13: The Scriptures say:" Worship the Lord your God and serve only him. Satan doesn’t leave, he baits the hook again.
Temptation Three: Pride of Life (Read Luke 4:9-12)
This time Satan says, I notice you like the Scriptures; I study them myself. You quote Deuteronomy a lot but have you ever noticed the Psalms. In Psalms 91 God says that He will protect those who are His faithful servants. Let’s see if He tells the truth.
Jesus goes back to Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6, The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God. Jesus acknowledges that Satan quoted the verse, but He also acknowledges that he misapplied it. If you read Psalm 91 God is not telling us to test Him and make Him prove to you who He is. What the passage teaches is that if you faithfully serve Him, He will lovingly help you in your time of need.
Jesus knows the Scriptures. He knows that Satan is not in charge. We don’t show up and perform for Satan. We don’t answer to him, we don’t follow his orders, we don’t try to appease his demands, and we don’t get to judge God.
The truth is that God doesn’t need to prove He’s God. He is God whether we believe Him or not. God doesn’t need to appeal to anyone. He’s the highest authority. That’s Satan’s problem; not that he’s unconvinced, it’s that he’s unwilling to worship God as God.
It’s Not Over (Read Luke 4:13)
I imagine that Jesus is exhausted. He has been without food for forty days and forty nights. He is all alone. Satan often hits us when we are hungry, isolated, and tired. Every one of us are weakened spiritually when we are weakened physically. When you’re physically hungry or tired it makes a difference in your spiritual life. Many of our sins are committed when we are hungry or tired or stressed out.
Jesus doesn’t know how much longer this is going to go on. For all He knows He’s got 40 more days to go. There are times when we are being hit over and over that we wonder if Satan will ever give us a break. While Satan does leave, don’t think that he’s done. Forty days, constant, ongoing, painful, real conflict, battle, temptation was just one event in The Story of Jesus. The hook is baited over and over and over with every temptation.
Some of you have been told two lies. The first is that sin isn’t fun or enjoyable. Sex, money, fame, power, glory, nice clothes, someone to adore you, yeah, it’s not really that great. The truth is, it is. Hebrews 11:25 says that sin is pleasurable … for a season. If it wasn't fun or enjoyable then we would never throw our lives away to have it. I mean no one is ruining their lives over Brussels Sprouts.
The second lie we are told is that if you tell Satan to leave you alone he will. I know James 4:7, resist the devil and he will flee from you. I believe that, but I also know that he doesn’t go away for long. He doesn’t just leave Jesus. It’s not like, oh, I heard Deuteronomy, now I got to go. He will be back, he will re-bait the hook.
This morning let me encourage you to not believe the lie that Jesus doesn’t understand, that He can’t relate. Don’t buy into the trap that your circumstances are unusual and you cannot talk to Him about this. Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed thinking that He will never understand. He’s been there. He’s felt that. He’s seen that. He’s resisted that. He’s there to help you because you need Him. When it says that He endured every temptation, believe that. Whatever your temptation is, Jesus faced it.
This morning some of you are between temptations, and some of you are fighting the dragon as we speak. For some of you it seems like a season of peace. Life’s got a little momentum, if things are going pretty good now is time to prepare yourself for the next battle. Rest assured that he’ll be back at an opportune time.
One of the most devastating parts of my job is seeing people who day after day bite the hook and get reeled off. They disappear out of our relationship and community and church. Satan just drags them away and destroys them, devours them.
Some of you this morning are here but the only thing you can hear is Satan whispering in your ear: You have gone too far. You have done too much. You have committed the unforgivable transgression. Your temptation is so strong and your faith is so weak. Your life course is already set. Your past is unforgivable. Your future is unhopeful. You’re beyond the grace of God. You really should rejoice that others get to hear this, but this isn’t for you.
Don’t allow your enemy to take away your freedom and joy that is found in Christ. Satan’s a liar, but the truth will set you free. And freedom comes to those who are devoted exclusively to God, who say no to temptation, who refuse to try to get the bait off the hook and are content with God.