1. The Introduction (verse 1)
2. The Temptations (verses 2-10)
- To Prioritize your Flesh
- To Scrutinize your God
- To Compromise your Worship
3. The Conclusion (verse 11)
Right now, at this very moment, hundreds of millions of people across this world have their eyes fixed upon their television sets watching the grandest sporting event of the year: the Super Bowl. This last week, the sports pages abounded in discussing this great match-up. They have analyzed the coaches, the quarterbacks, running backs, line backers, and special teams. The sports writers have sought to figure out which team is better in each of these areas. They have discussed how each offensive line will match-up against each defensive line. All of this in an effort to see who will have the upper hand in the game. Will it be the St. Louis Rams or the New England Patriots. The NFL season all boils down to this. You take the best team from the NFC and match them against the best team from the AFC. The best of one league vs. the best of another league. One will come out victorious.
Right now, we have an opportunity look into the most incredible match-up of all time. We are going to witness a battle, not between football teams, but between world forces. We are going to witness the battle between good and evil. We shall see the best of good, Jesus Christ, verses the best of evil, the devil. This match-up is found in Matthew 4. In these verses tonight, we will look at the temptation of Jesus Christ by the tempter (4:3; 1 Thess. 3:5), Satan himself. The devil will reach deep into his bag of tricks in efforts to entice Jesus Christ to sin. Temptation will come, one after another, after another. We will watch Jesus, the Son of God, gain victory after victory after victory. Throughout this passage, it will give us an incredible opportunity to witness Jesus' victory over temptation.
I thought that it might be best for us this evening to be given the application right up front, because it ought to govern our understanding of this passage. Our application comes from Hebrews 2:18, "since [Jesus] Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted." This is a wonderful promise that we can often forget. In the hour of our temptation, we are not helpless. In our time of greatest need, we are not left to fend for ourselves. It is not as if God has sent us into the world with a pat on the back and a few well wishes. No! At the time of temptation, we have One Who "is able to come to the aid."
Some have a tendency to look at these temptations as simply a moral example which Jesus left for us to follow. There is truth to this, for the life of Jesus is a model for us to follow. However, the main application of these verses is to demonstrate that Jesus was victorious in His temptation by the devil, Himself. Thus, He is able to help us in our temptation.
I have been reading Chronicles of Narnia with my daughter each night, just before we go to bed. In the first story, Susan is given a horn, which she is to blow whenever she is in great danger. When she blows the horn, Father Christmas assures here that "help of some kind" would come to her. All Christians have such a horn. When we are tempted, we can take our horn and blow it. In so doing, we will summon Jesus Christ to come to our aid. This is the great application of the text this evening. It was because He was victorious in His temptation that he is able to come to our aid.
(1). Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (4) But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" (5) Then the devil *took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, (6) and *said to Him, "If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON [their] HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" (7) Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" (8) Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain, and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; (9) and he said to Him, "All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me." (10) Then Jesus *said to him, "Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" (11) Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and [began] to minister to Him.
Our outline tonight is very simple. There are three temptations (found in verses 2-10) with a verse introducing the subject (verse 1) and a verse concluding the subject (verse 11). In any good writing class, you are taught the three point paper. In any good speech class, you are taught the three point speech. In each of these types of communication, you are taught to introduce the subject, give three clear points in discussing your subject, and conclude your subject. Such is our text this evening.
1. The Introduction (verse 1)
2. The Temptations (verses 2-10)
3. The Conclusion (verse 11)
I am not trying to be cute with my points. I'm merely letting
Matthew dictate the structure of my message. Let's look at ...
1. The Introduction (verse 1)
In this verse, Matthew will simply set the context. Last week, we saw the baptism of Jesus. It was a glorious time. The heavens opened. The Spirit came down and anointed Jesus for the ministry. The voice of the Father came, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." The Messiah was anointed for the ministry. His first task, as the Messiah, was to conquer temptation.
Verse 1, "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
Jesus' temptation was no accident. This was a sovereign appointment for Jesus. It was on His calendar. It was on His day timer. It was the Spirit who led Him in this temptation. This is the same Spirit who came upon Mary at the conception of Jesus (1:20). This is the same Spirit who anointed Jesus for the ministry (3:16). Now, this same Spirit leads Jesus to be tempted by the devil.
This shouldn't surprise us. God sent Moses away to Midian for 40 years before he would come back and deliver Egypt. Though David was anointed as king, it was some 20 years later, that he actually obtained the throne. So with Jesus. Though just anointed as the Messiah (in Matthew 3), His ministry would not begin with public proclamation (as we shall see in our next section). Rather, His ministry would begin with a time of solitude, fasting, praying, and temptation. for forty days and forty nights (as it says in verse 2). Luke tells us that He was tempted for the duration of these forty days (Luke 4:2).
Jesus' time in the wilderness was a time of strengthening. In the Army, young men are often initiated into service by spending their first six weeks at bootcamp. It is a time in which the men are broken down: away with all of the niceties of life; away with all the leisure; and away with "mama's tender hug." Bootcamp is a time in which the men are built up. They live life on a scheduled regimen to teach the men to submit: Up early; bed made; quick breakfast; drills all morning; quick lunch; drills all afternoon ; quick dinner; study in the evening; finally, to bed late. This cycle is then repeated. The purpose of this is to build these men into strong men, who will quickly and effectively obey the commands of their superior officers, so that they might be effective soldiers. I have personally seen wild and reckless men transformed by their time in bootcamp.
For Jesus, this was a difficult time for Him. It was sort of like bootcamp for Him. It lasted 40 days -- almost six weeks. Forty days of constant barrage by Satan, Himself. It was a time of strengthening. As John Calvin said, "after a fast of forty days, he might come forth as a new man, or rather a heavenly man, to the discharge of his office." John Calvin was picking up on the truth of Hebrews 5:8, where it says that Jesus "learned obedience [i.e. experientially] from these things which He suffered." This temptation process was part of His learning experience.
Though the temptation was 40 days, Matthew simply records for us the highlights, if you will. Going back to the Super Bowl analogy, we have here the highlight films of the best plays. Nobody actually saw this, but this is what Jesus chose to reveal to the disciples. May I also point out that Satan hates this highlight film. There are certain sports highlights that are played over and over and over again. It is often to the glory of one player, but to the shame of another player. This situation is no different. As we look at these temptations, we will see Jesus come through them victorious, while Satan is humbly defeated.
Let's look at ...
2. The Temptations (verses 2-10)
Temptation #1: To Prioritize your Flesh (verses 2-4)
(2) And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (4) But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"
We find Satan attacking Jesus in the area of His vulnerability. This temptation came after 40 days of fasting. Jesus was obviously hungry. In effect, Satan told Jesus, "You are hungry. Satisfy your hunger, right now!"
We see in verse 4 what the temptation was when Jesus replied, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'"
By quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus, in effect, reveals to us what this temptation was all about. It was all about priorities. Satan wanted Jesus to prioritize His flesh at this moment. Satan wanted Jesus to satisfy the physical desires that He was experiencing. But Jesus simply said, "My food is to do the will of the Him who sent Me" (John 4:34). This temptation was all about timing. There was nothing wrong with Jesus' hunger. There was nothing wrong with Jesus turning stones into bread. What was wrong was the timing. It was not yet time for Him to satisfy His hunger. Jesus was to continue in His fast. When the time of His fast was complete, then He would eat. Indeed, we see angels providing for Him in verse 11, when all of His temptations were finished. The word used to describe the angels, "ministering" to Him is the same word that was used in Acts 6:2 to describe the serving of food. Perhaps the angels brought to Jesus the necessary food to sustain Him. In the days of Moses, God sent Manna from the sky. In the days of Elijah, God sent ravens and angels to feed him. So also did the angels, at the end of his temptation, care for Jesus.
When Jesus said, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD," Jesus was simply affirming the priority of this moment to trust God's word of provision, rather than following the hunger pangs that His body experienced. Jesus had physical desires in His body to satisfy His hunger. But, Jesus also knew, with His mind, that the time of His testing was not yet complete.
Let me say, by way of application, that this is always the battle in temptation. It is the battle between your desires and your knowledge. It is always the battle between your body and your mind. This is the battle. You know what you should or shouldn't do, but your body is trying to get you to do something else.
When you have eaten enough, and know that your are fully satisfied, your body will often say, "How about a little bit more desert? Huh?" The battle has begun. It is between you and your body. You need to tell your body to be quiet and obey your mind. When you have set aside time for Bible reading, meditation, and prayer (whether in the morning, afternoon, or evening), the battle has begun. You remember that there is another project that is pressing upon you to finish. Or, you discover that there is a show on television that you would really like to watch. The battle is between your bodily desires, and what you know is right. You need to tell your body that it is more profitable and more enjoyable at this hour to read and pray, than it is to be entertained or to accomplish some task you have set out for yourself.
Perhaps there are other spiritual priorities that you have established in your life, which are often neglected because of the desire of the flesh. I am speaking of things like family worship, church attendance, discipleship meetings, or listening to sermons. These priorities can get squeezed out because of your physical desires. This is, what John calls, "the lust of the flesh" (1 John 2:16).
Remember, Satan attacked Jesus in His area of weakness. Likewise, your temptations will come in your area of weakness. As the great football coaches and players pour over hours and hours of film in attempts to discover the weaknesses of their opponent, so will Satan seek to exploit your greatest weakness. It would do you good to understand yourself and your particular weaknesses. For you to know this is the first step in conquering the temptation, when it comes.
In a war, one side will scout out the enemy and will attack at the greatest area of weakness. In this current war that we are having with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it would have been ridiculous for us to have embarked upon a ground-war immediately with them. Their strength is the ground war. To attack immediately on the ground, would simply be to play to their strength. Likewise, you need to know that temptation will attack at your point of vulnerability.
At such times, when you are tempted to prioritize your flesh, you need to call to your faithful high priest who is able to come to your aid. When Jesus was tempted, He said, "I won't prioritize my flesh." He is able to help us in such times.
Let's turn our attention to ...
Temptation #2: To Scrutinize your God (verses 5-7)
(5) Then the devil *took Him into the holy city; and he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, (6) and *said to Him, "If You are the Son of God throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON [their] HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" (7) Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'"
Jesus was transported to Jerusalem, which is the holy city. The devil took Him to the holy place, which is the temple. He placed Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple, which most commentators say is the South-east corner of the temple. This was a place, perhaps as much as 150 feet above the base of the temple mount complex. Furthermore, there was a valley, which continued another 550 down. Josephus said that from this point, "one could scarcely look down without dizziness" (quoted by Albert Barnes, Barnes on the New Testament: Matthew - Mark, p. 34). At any rate, it is a high place from, which it would prove fatal if you jumped. You would hit after 150 feet and proceed to role down the Kidron Valley. You have been there: perhaps at the top of a tall building; perhaps at the top of a cliff; or perhaps at the top of some canyon. If you are anything like me, you don't like being there.
Satan attempted to get Jesus to leap, because Psalm 91, verses 11,12 promise that God "WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU." If this was a general statement true in the Bible of the Psalmist (or anyone else who would trust God), it would definitely be true for the Messiah! This is why Satan said, "If You are the Son of God!" Satan is seeking to attack the person and position of Jesus, the Son of God. Satan told Him, "Jesus, are you really the Son of God? ... I don't think so. ... Why don't you prove it to me? ... Huh? ... Right now. ... Jump! ... Doesn't the Bible say that God will protect you? ... Take a leap of faith! ... And prove yourself to be the Son of God. ... If you do, think of the following that you will have!"
When Jesus was upon the cross, He heard the same accusations against Him. At the time of His death, there were those who mocked Him, "If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:40). "Prove Yourself now, Jesus! Prove that you really are this person who you claim to be." It was certainly within the power of Jesus to come down from the cross. He had said earlier that He could appeal to His Father and have more than twelve legions on angels at His disposal (Matt. 26:53).
Certainly, it was also within His power to have commanded this legion of angels to come and preserve His life if He leaped from this high place. What a wonderful sight this would have been. Jesus, on top of the temple, doing a swan dive, only to be scooped up just shortly before He touches the ground by a legion of angels He commanded. It would have been an awesome display of His greatness and His power. But just as it would have been wrong for Jesus to come down from the cross -- He was accomplishing our redemption, and just as it would have been wrong for Jesus to turn the stone into bread -- He was prioritizing spiritual matters at that moment, so it would have been wrong for Jesus to presume upon the Father's care for Him. Even with great results, such presumption would have been wrong. You don't step out in front of a car, expecting God to stop the car and save your life. This is wrongly testing God.
The issue here is forcing God to prove Himself NOW! Satan wanted Jesus to scrutinize God. This is exactly why Jesus responded with Deuteronomy 6:16, "It is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" The Israelites put the LORD to the test when they were brought out to the wilderness and immediately began to complain at the provision of God for their needs. I have always been amazed that the Israelites were redeemed from slavery in Egypt through miraculous signs and wonders. Plagues which happened, precisely as Moses foretold. Plagues which promptly began when Moses said they would. Plagues which promptly ended when Moses said they would. Then they escape through the sea in the wilderness. They are all happy, signing the song of victory, that they were brought safely through the waters and that the Egyptians were drowned. And immediately, they begin to grumble and complain (Ex. 15) that the water was bitter, so God purified the water. Then they complained of not having food to eat, so God provided the Manna (Ex. 16). Later, "the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water that we may drink.'" (Ex. 17:2). Moses said, "Why do you test the LORD?" (Ex. 17:3). The Israelites tested the LORD by demanding water from Moses in proof that God was really among them (Ex. 17:7), rather than trusting that the LORD would provide for them.
God has provided for Rock Valley Bible Church in great ways. Rockford Christian High School will be a wonderful place for us to meet. May we never grumble about this facility and so test God in this matter. The facility is more than adequate for our needs.
We, too, are often guilty of presuming. Testing God to prove Himself. We test God when parents neglect to discipline their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but presume upon God to provide them with obedient, joyful, and believing children. We test God when we neglect our needed exercise and care for our bodies, but presume upon God to give health. We test God when we don't work hard at our jobs (or looking for jobs), but presume upon God to provide wealth for us. We test God when we pray for something to occur and demand a visible sign from God to direct us and guide us.
At such times when you are tempted to test God by presuming upon Him, you need to call to your faithful high priest who is able to come to your aid. When Jesus was tempted, He said, "I won't scrutinize my God." He is able to help us in such times.
Let's now look at ...
Temptation #3: To Compromise your Worship (verses 8-10)
(8) Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain, and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; (9) and he said to Him, "All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me." (10) Then Jesus *said to him, "Begone, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'"
Once again, we see Jesus being transported to another location. This time, He is taken to "a very high mountain." Jesus is presented with a spectacular, supernatural, multi-media presentation of all the glitz and the glamour that the world has to offer. This is a sales presentations, if ever there was a sales presentation.
Jesus was shown "all the kingdoms." Jesus was shown "all the glory of the kingdoms." He was shown the best the world has to offer: the greatest buildings, the greatest beauties, the greatest achievements, the greatest discoveries, the greatest technologies, all the wealth and power, all the splendor. You think of the best that man has done, and it was paraded before Jesus. Then, Satan lies through his teeth, ... "All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me." What an invention from the "father of lies" (John 8:44). At this point, I believe Satan to be really desperate! It's like His last "Hail Mary" pass in the football game.
Think about this for a few moments. Even a child can understand that Satan has no authority to make such promises. Jesus created all of these wonders. Jesus knows all about the glory they have to offer. Jesus knows full well that they aren't Satan's to give. This is like trying to sell somebody a bridge! The worlds aren't Satan's to give.
The condition of Satan's offer is simple worship of him. The temptation here for Jesus is to compromise His worship to achieve a quicker end to what he rightfully deserves. Satan is telling Jesus, "You can have the kingdoms of the world without paying a price for them." Satan says, "You can have them now, just bow to me!" But listen, church family, the ends never justifies the means.
With regards to this, I thought of the two brothers, Lyle and Erik Menendez, lived with their parents in a mansion in Beverly Hills, California, who wanted their inheritance. They wanted it now. So they murdered their parents on August 20, 1989 in attempts to obtain it. This is what Satan was seeking to get Jesus to do. "Take the easy road, Jesus. Get the kingdoms, now! You don't have to wait! Just worship me!" For Jesus to bow and worship the devil would have been a worse sin than that of the Menendez brothers -- the Creator bowing to the created.
I love Jesus' response. I love that Jesus doesn't try to reason with the devil. Jesus doesn't say, "Listen Satan, I know that what you have promised isn't true. I created it all, and it is Mine. It isn't yours to give. In fact, you need to worship Me, not the other way around." Jesus doesn't reason with the devil. He simply quotes the Scripture and obeys God rather than Satan. He quotes from Deut. 6:13, "YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY."
I think of all the great reasoning power that Jesus had at His disposal, He could have run circles around Satan with his "offer." Jesus could have discoursed for hours on this topic of worship to God. For that matter, Jesus could have reasoned with Satan to combat these other temptations as well. But Jesus simply quoted the Scripture in response to each temptation. Jesus quotes three times from Deuteronomy, probably because He was in the wilderness and meditating upon Israel in the wilderness, which is the entire context of Deuteronomy.
This should greatly encouragement to you. Jesus' path through temptation is there for us to follow. The tools Jesus used to gain victory are in our tool bag. The ingredients we need are in our pantry. The tools are contained within this book we call the Bible. The words translated, "it is written," in each of Jesus' response is gegraptai (gegraptai), which is in the perfect tense. It might be translated, "It stands written." That which was written long ago, continued to have its effect in the time of Jesus, and continues through today. To neglect your Bibles in the midst of temptation would cause you to be guilty of the second temptation -- to scrutinize your God. You would test Him. The Bible was good enough for Jesus to use, but it isn't good enough for you? It is important for us to know our Bibles, that we might turn to the truth we need when the temptation comes. "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee" (Psalm 119:11).
A temptation comes upon you, say an image on the television screen. You think, "I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?" (Job 31:1). Something terrible happens, you must think, "Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). You are in a great financial crunch. You must think, "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). Some people to lure you to do something evil. You must think, "My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent" (Prov. 1:10). Something in your life begins to consume you. You must think, like Jesus, "YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY."
Be careful here, the Bible isn't sufficient for overcoming temptation. Jesus is sufficient in the hour of temptation. Ultimately, what will help you, is not your own fortitude, or your knowledge of the Bible, though these are the stones upon which you must walk to gain the victory over sin. Ultimately, what will help you, is the aid of Jesus, who gained the victory over sin. This is the truth of Hebrews 2:18 we started with this evening as our application. "Since [Jesus] Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."
Jesus is sufficient in our temptation. Hebrews 4:15 says, "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." This tells us that Jesus has been tempted in every way and to every extent that we ever have.
This is illustrated by a new "reality TV show" which my wife and I recently watched. It is called, "The Chamber." In this show, contestants are placed in a chair, which resides in "The Chamber." This chamber can either be cold or hot. When the chamber is hot, the contestants are exposed to various difficulties: hot flames, hot air, and bad smells. When the chamber is cold, the contestants are exposed to other difficulties: cold mists, cold air, and cold water in the face. Additionally, the chair in this chamber can rotate so that the contestant is upside down. If this weren't enough, sometimes a shock is sent through the legs of the contestant. During this entire time, the contestant has his/her vital signs monitored. If a safety threshold is reached for more than 20 seconds, the chamber is shut down and the trial is over. Also, the contestant is required to answer trivia questions. If he/she gets two wrong in a row, the chamber also shuts down. With the passing of time, the chamber proceeds to another level of difficulty and the intensity of the heat or cold increases. The particular contestants that we watched made it through level three or four on a scale of seven.
This is the picture of our temptation. The pressure continues to mount and mount and mount. As soon as we cave in to the temptation, the temptation is removed (i.e. the chamber shuts down), because we are satisfied in our sin. You might picture Jesus as continuing through level seven. His temptation was greater than any that we have ever faced, simply because he never caved into the pressure. Thus, He is truly able to help us in our time of need.
So, the question comes, "how do we call Jesus to come to our aid?" I spoke at the beginning of this sermon about Susan's horn that she could blow to get help. What is the horn that we blow? How do we dial 911? You might be surprised with this. Turn to Hebrews 4:15-16. There, we will find that our horn, which we can blow, is intimacy with Jesus Christ. Let's look at the next verse, "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).
Notice that it is the intimacy of "Drawing near," which is our horn. Drawing near to Jesus will summon Jesus to help us. It isn't the prayer of desperation that will summon Jesus to come to your help. It isn't as if you can live your life however you want, and in whatever way you want, and when the trouble comes, you simply offer up a quick prayer to God and Jesus comes right away to help you out of your dilemma. It isn't as if Jesus will come and help you as Johnny on the spot.
Solomon gives us a great picture of the desperate prayer being ignored in Proverbs 1. In this chapter Solomon personifies wisdom, who continues to call out and stretch out her hand (verse 24), yet is met with those who refuse to pay attention to the counsel and thus, neglect it (verse 25). Wisdom says, "I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, when your dread comes like a storm, And your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, When distress [and] anguish come on you" (verses 26-27). Here is the refusal, "they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they shall not find me, because they hated knowledge, And did not choose the fear of the LORD" (verses 28-29). This is the cry of desperation, which raises to God's deaf ear. You reap what you sow. If you constantly sow to the flesh, there will be no help in the time of temptation. If you sow intimacy with God (i.e. drawing near), help will abound in temptation.
Listen again to Hebrews 4:16, "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need." It is our intimacy with Jesus that will be the avenue of His help. This closeness to Him isn't developed overnight. It isn't as if you can simply say, "Hey, tomorrow I going to have intimacy with Jesus." Marriages take lifetimes to know great intimacy. So with our relationship with Jesus. It needs to be cultivated. It needs work. It means that we pour over His word and labor in prayer. It is a long term deal.
I believe that this is the secret to men like George Müller and Hudson Taylor. They developed such an intimacy with Jesus that they could be extremely bold in their prayers. In their temptation, Jesus must have come to their aid often.
I read a story this week of a shining new brick building that was built in a quaint little village north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was ... "designed to be the new city hall. It also housed the police and fire departments. It was a small building, but the people loved it. In a matter of just a few months, however, the building began to show some obvious cracks. The windows would not close all the way. Before too many weeks, the doors were ajar and would not shut. The floor buckled. Finally, the sidewalk in front of the building cracked. In a period of less than a year, the building had to be condemned. A careful, expensive investigation was made, and it was found that deep below the surface they had built too near some mining work. The mining had weakened the foundational area, so that slowly but surely, this building was cracking, shifting, sinking, dropping, and breaking into pieces because of a flaw underneath" (quoted by Charles Swindoll, Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back, p. 102).
What destroyed the building, was lack of a solid foundation. No, it wasn't destroyed right away. It was destroyed over a period of time. Such will be the end of those who neglect intimacy with Jesus Christ. Those who are far from Him, will stumble in the hour of temptation. Listen again to Hebrews 4:16. Is this not what this verse says? Do you not need to meet the condition of "drawing near" before the help will come? "Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need."
... is found in verse 11, "the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. Jesus was victorious. The devil fled. Angels began to minister to Him.
Let me finish by paraphrasing from Charles Spurgeon (from Morning and Evening, Feb. 20, pm), who described the testings of the devil to be like throwing sparks, attempting to create a fire. He said that Jesus was like a lake of water, which Satan attempted to set aflame by throwing his sparks upon it. Each time, the sparks fizzled. (It was impossible for Jesus to sin -- He is God). Yet, Satan continued to try. Jesus was like a lake. We are like dry kindling, which is doused in gasoline. When Satan throws his sparks, we are likely to ignite. Oh for the mercy and grace to help in time of need!
We ought to expect temptations to come. We simply need to be ready for them. How? We need to draw near to Jesus now! His victory is our victory. Thanks be to God!
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on
February 3, 2002 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc.