This morning, we’re going to be talking about Overcoming Temptations. What is a temptation? A temptation is a desire or thought to do something contrary to God’s will. The Greek word for temptation means to either tempt or test. So, a temptation tests whether we will be obedient to God. If we resist or overcome the temptation, we pass the test. If we give in to temptation, we fail the test and sin. Sin has negative consequences in our lives. Sin interferes with our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
How can we overcome the temptations that we are prone to give in to? The message series that we’re in is entitled Following Jesus. We want to learn how to overcome temptations by following Jesus’ example. Last Sunday, we saw how Jesus underwent two baptisms, water baptism and Spirit baptism. To follow Jesus’ example as believers, we need to receive those same two baptisms as well. These two baptisms prepare and strengthen us to face difficult temptations. We’re going to see how this worked out in Jesus’ life this morning. Let’s look at a wonderful promise from God’s Word about temptation.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
First of all, we all have temptations. Your temptations are no different or more powerful than the ones we all face. The promise is that God creates a protective zone around you. This protection ensures that you will not receive a temptation that is too strong for you. God will always provide an escape hatch for you to escape and resist that temptation. We can never say, the devil made me do it, I had no choice.
Temptations have and will test all of us throughout our lives. But we can overcome them with God’s Word and God’s Spirit. The result will be that rather then temptations destroying us, they will make us stronger. The devil’s aim in temptation is to weaken our relationship with God. When we successfully overcome temptation, they strength our relationship with God. Our story this morning begins in …
Luke 4:1-2 (ESV) 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. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.
After Jesus Spirit baptism, He was now full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit in a new and powerful way. He was led by the Spirit to be tempted, that is tested, in the wilderness. The one tempted Him there was the devil or Satan, our adversary. Jesus underwent a voluntary forty day fast in His warfare with Satan. At the end of the forty days, when He was the weakest and hungriest, the temptations begin. Satan always schemes to tempt us when we are at the weakest and most vulnerable. So, let’s learn how Satan tempts and how we can overcome him by following Jesus’ example. In order to overcome temptations you must …
Luke 4:3 (ESV) The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
The devil tempted Jesus three times in this encounter. In two of these times, the devil started with the phrase “if you are the Son of God.” The devil as saying, if you really are who you say you are, then use your supernatural power. Use that power to meet your physical need for food. This first temptation came when Jesus was hungry and weak after fasting for 40 days. Jesus was being tempted to use His miracle power to meet His own needs.
And most importantly, Jesus’ purpose on earth was only to carry out God’s mission. He only did and said the things that the Father instructed Him to do and say. To give in to this temptation from the devil would have broken His relationship with the Father through sin. How did Jesus counter this temptation in His weakened state?
Luke 4:4 (ESV) And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
The first and most important practice of Jesus was to overcome temptation with the word of God. In this case, the quotation is from God speaking to Israel concerning their wanderings in the wilderness in Deuteronomy 8:3. God fed them with the supernatural manna, so that they would know that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Jesus’ first loyalty was to only follow the guidance of His father and do His will. God would take care of His needs, He did not need to follow the devil’s advice. Matthew tells us that at the end of His temptations, angels came and ministered to Jesus. God took care of His needs as He put God’s kingdom first.
How can we follow Jesus’ example in overcoming temptation? The first key is by knowing and using God’s Word, which shows us God’s will. God’s Word, the Bible, helps us to discern temptation as being contrary to God’s will. The entire passage that Jesus referred to shows us the importance of listening to the voice of God and following Him.
What kinds of temptations are similar to this temptation that Jesus faced? This would include all physical needs, pleasures and desires that exist. Some of these are only wrong when sought to an excess, like eating. Others, like drugs, are wrong at any level. Not only do we need to know God’s Word, but we also must learn to listen to od’s Spirit.
The Spirit of God can help us to hear God’s voice and to distinguish it from the temptations of the devil. Remember that the ultimate aim of the devil is to destroy your relationship with God by giving into temptation. The more that you learn to follow God’s leading, the more you will overcome the temptations of the flesh. Seek God’s kingdom first, not your needs or desires.
Luke 4:5 (ESV) And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,
Next the devil took Jesus up to a high place and gave Him a vision of all the kingdoms in the entire world. These kingdoms represented all the people and power in the entire earth. Then the temptation came.
Luke 4:6-7 (ESV) and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
The devil offered Jesus rulership over all these kingdoms if Jesus would worship Him. Jesus would one day rule and reign over all the kingdoms of the world. But God’s path to that final victory would only come by Jesus fulfilling His mission to die and rise again. Satan was offering Jesus a shortcut to ultimate authority.
How could Satan offer this to Jesus? Because he is the ruler of the people of the earth who are not believers. And there are more unbelievers than believers. How did Jesus respond? Again with Scripture.
Luke 4:8 (ESV) And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”
Scripture tells us that we are to worship only the Creator, not anything or anyone else. Whatever you worship, you become like and serve. Jesus was committed to serving His Father and following His plan for His life. Ultimately Jesus will rule the world and the devil and His followers will be removed. But that could never happen if Jesus took matters into His own hands and worshipped Satan. We must worship God alone, not anything else.
The sin behind this temptation is pride. The desire to have power, prestige or popularity at any cost. The temptation was for Jesus to receive power from Satan after He worshipped Him.
Pride is behind many temptations of our day. Some people will go to any extent to achieve popularity with friends, real or virtual. Others will pursue wealth or power to impress other people. In effect worshipping money to use it to gain the things they desire. Jesus’ response to the devil was that our worship and ambition in life should only be to worship and serve God.
Be careful who you follow, who you imitate, who you hang around with. You might not call it worship, but whatever we live for is what we worship. Worship God alone, not anything else.
Luke 4:9 (ESV) And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
In this third temptation, Satan tempted Jesus to try to force God into doing something. Jesus was tempted to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, which would result in His death, unless God intervened. This test would in essence, seek to force God work a miracle in an artificial situation. God was not telling Jesus to jump, Satan was. In fact, Satan goes on to quote Scriptures to show that God would protect Him if he jumped.
Luke 4:10-11 (ESV) for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
These Scriptures speak of God’s protecting power for the believer. Here we see, as in the garden of Eden, that Satan knows Scripture, but twists it’s meaning to his own ends. In today’s world, it would be as Satan tempted you to run in front of a car on the freeway and trust God to protect you. These types of temptations from Satan are designed to steal, kill and destroy. For the third time, Jesus overcomes the temptation by quoting and following Scripture.
Luke 4:12 (ESV) And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
This quote speaks of the time when the Israelites put the Lord to the test at Massah. They were thirsty and so they commanded the Lord to give them water to prove that He was with them. Satan’s temptation of Jesus was the same type. If Jesus jumped and died, it would show that God was not real. Following Satan’s suggestion would be testing or trying to force God to do something that Jesus wanted and was wrong.
Luke 4:13 (ESV) And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Although this is the only time in the Gospels that gives us insight into Jesus’ temptations, this verse indicates that Jesus was tempted by Satan throughout His ministry. Jesus overcame temptation by following God and not testing Him.
In what ways are we tempted to put God to the test today? We test God when we attempt to force God to do what we want. We say or pray, if you care about me God this situation will turn out in a certain way.
You can tell if you were testing God when you blame God if your prayers are not answered. This often happens when people pray for someone to be healed. If they are not, sometimes people will blame God or even lose their faith in God.
Does God heal? Absolutely. Does He promise to heal every time? No. If He did, we would all live forever physically and that has not been promised. Bottom line is that we are to follow Jesus, not command Him to follow our instructions. When you are following Jesus, you won’t be testing God.
How can we overcome persistent temptations in our lives? We learn from Jesus that the way to overcome temptations is by speaking the word of God that applies. In order to do that, you need to know God’s Word and have the discernment of the Spirit.
You need to overcome temptations by seeking God’s kingdom first, not your needs You need to overcome temptations to worship anything but God alone. We need to overcome temptations by following God, not testing Him. As we grow stronger in overcoming temptations, we’ll experience increased blessing of the Lord in our lives.