He Was Tempted for Me
Lord Jesus, thank You for going to battle for me and all other sinners. Teach me to recognize the Devil's temptations, to avoid tempting situations, to flee when they do arise, and to withstand them. I am weak and easily fall, but I know I can do all things through You who strengthens me. Strengthen me today as we praise and worship You. Amen.
God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham trusted God and proceeded to follow His command. Through this test, God strengthened Abraham's faith. God's testing is far different from the Devil's tempting. God tests to strengthen. The Devil tempts to destroy.
Our greatest need is to deal with the guilt of our sin and its consequence. Our greatest gift is the forgiveness of our sins. God spared no expense in order to give us this great gift. Therefore, we ought not doubt that He will give us lesser gifts as well. God provides for us and protects us so that nothing can separate us from our Savior.
Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ " Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ " Jesus said to him, "It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ " Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ " Then the devil left Him, and behold! angels came and ministered to Him.
In Christ Jesus who was tempted like we are, for us so that we might withstand the temptations when they come, dear fellow-redeemed:
He is described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14 et. al.). King David is upheld by God Himself as being a faithful child of God and a great man of faith. But he committed adultery with Bathsheba, another man’s wife; and he committed the murder of her husband. David may not have directly murdered Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, but the crime was truly his.
King Solomon so wisely prayed asking for wisdom and the ability to rule well instead of asking for riches and fame (1 Kings 3:1ff) and God blessed him with the greatest wisdom known AND riches and fame. But Solomon went after heathen wives, built temples to their false gods, and himself fell away from faith for a time.
Peter said, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be…if I have to DIE with You, I will NOT DENY YOU, Jesus!” (Mark 14:29,31). But within hours, Peter had denied his Lord three times.
All three of these men and so many other examples—both from Scripture and from our own experiences—testify to the fact that despite the best of intentions, people fall into sin. Even those we would consider to be men and women of great faith, people faithful to their Lord whom God Himself commends, bold confessors of Christ…yes, even these stumble and fall into sin, and at times very open sin.
That night in which Peter denied his Savior three times was a night filled with temptation. Peter was not the only one tempted. The other disciples were also tempted and they too fled and forsook Jesus. And Jesus was tempted too. Surely, Satan was working to his utmost to lead our Savior into sin. We learn from the writer to the Hebrews (Hebrews 4:15) and the Gospel accounts that JESUS WAS TEMPTED LIKE WE ARE. This morning we will consider the temptation of Jesus as well as how the Devil continues to tempt us. I. Temptation is an unavoidable part of life – Expect it! II. Temptation is the subtle tool of Satan – Guard against it! III. Temptation is ongoing challenge of sinners – Overcome it!
Temptation was an important part of Jesus’ work as our Savior. Matthew writes in our text,"Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” [v.1] The Holy Spirit was the one who led Jesus out into the wilderness following His baptism for the express purpose of being tempted! We might think, "That seems like the opposite of what God would do. Jesus is to be our Savior, holy, and pure. Why would He go into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil? Shouldn’t He be avoiding temptation?" The answer lies in the role that Jesus was playing. Jesus had been baptized by John, not because He needed that baptism to forgive sins, but to fulfill all righteousness for us (Matthew 3:15). Jesus’ baptism was part of what was necessary for Jesus to be our substitute and serve as our Savior. His baptism ushered Jesus into His public ministry and part of that ministry was as Paul wrote to the Galatians, to be “…born under the Law to redeem [us] who were under the Law” (Galatians 4:4-5). Jesus came to be our substitute. He placed Himself under the Law to take our place, to fulfill the Law for us because we are so utterly helpless in doing so.
As our Savior under the Law, Jesus needed to be tempted just as we are. But Jesus also needed to withstand the temptation and remain sinless so that He could be our substitute and offer a perfect life in sacrificial ransom for us. Temptation was necessary and totally unavoidable for Jesus because He came into this sinful world to be the sinners’ substitute. He could not avoid that temptation. It is reality in the world to which He came, and it was necessary for His work of redemption.
As we go through this life as followers of our Savior and children of our Heavenly Father, we will face temptation and attacks. These are unavoidable and we have three enemies from which they may come: the Devil, the sinful world around us, and our own flesh.
The world in which we live is opposed to Christ and everything for which He stands, everything He says, and anyone who follows Him. Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world the world would love its own. Yet, because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). If you know that someone hates you, is opposed to you, its unavoidable that they will do things to try to harm you. They will speak and work against you, attack you. "The world" refers not to any one individual or one aspect of the world, but rather to all the sinfulness of the world, the whole sinful state in which we live, and the worldview that is all around us. This "world" is opposed to Christ and therefore, is opposed to us because we are His people. It is unavoidable, we NEED TO EXPECT that the world will laugh at us, the world is going to tempt us to not follow Jesus but follow its way instead because, "it’s so much more inviting, so much more reasonable, so much more logical" to our sinful flesh. Expect the world to be opposed. Expect the world to lay temptations and spiritual death traps everywhere you go. The world HATES YOU! The world is AGAINST YOU and AGAINST YOUR LORD!! Expect nothing but opposition.
The Devil is behind all of this, working also in the world to make it our enemy. Peter describes the Devil as a “roaring lion walking about seeking whom He may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). One of the gravest mistakes people can make on this earth is to downplay the Devil and his role and his opposition toward our souls. He seethes with rage and hatred for God. His one goal is to see each of you in hell as well as everybody else. He will do whatever He can to try to accomplish that goal. He is a roaring lion seeking prey. You are that prey! If this is true (and it is because God says so) can we expect the Devil to leave us alone!? Can we expect that he will not seek to tempt us with every manner of temptation that he thinks could be effective? NO! He WILL do it! It is unavoidable! Expect it!
Then, as a final blow, we ourselves are often our own worst enemies. Our sinful flesh is just as wicked as the world around us and is easily enticed by the Devil and his temptations. As Paul said, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, nothing good dwells” (Romans 7:18). So while the world is tempting and the Devil is working against us, we too (in our flesh) are yearning to go their way. Thus, there WILL BE temptation, we need to expect it.
We dare not and cannot afford to be blinded to the danger that we face. It is a real, spiritual being—the Devil—who seeks our destruction. The temptations will be there. The fact that temptations come is not the problem, rather it is a matter of how we stand against them. The first step is to recognize our enemies, their power, their strength, and the danger they pose. The second defense is to know that the tools the Devil uses are very subtle.
On this occasion, the Devil tempted Jesus three times. In each of those temptations we find an example of how he will seek to tempt us. The Devil is very crafty. He will not tempt us with things we have no trouble avoiding because those aren’t temptations. Rather, he will look for an opportunity when we are vulnerable and he will use subtlety that plays to our weaknesses and seek to exploit the situation for his purposes. In this way, the Devil approached Jesus with the first temptation.
“And when [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” [vv. 2-4]
The temptation to make the stones into bread would not have been a temptation to Jesus if He were not hungry. But the Devil knew that Jesus was 40 days without food. Bread would have looked and tasted very good at that point. So, seeking to exploit the situation, the Devil comes tempting Jesus, "You’re hungry, Jesus. If you really are the Son of God, prove it to me and you can prove it and solve your hunger all at the same time by changing these stones into bread!" If we could somehow have the power to change rock into bread, which one of us could withstand the temptation to "make bread" if we had gone well over a month without food?
The essential temptation of the Devil in this instance was to have Jesus look at the physical needs of his body, the desires of the physical nature and ignore or dismiss the more important things of the soul. The Devil won’t tempt us by challenging us to change stones into bread because there’s no true temptation there. However, the Devil does also tempt us with the material needs and desires of the flesh. He would like to have us become so consumed with providing bread (material things) for our lives that we would neglect the more needful things of the soul. Again, hear what Jesus said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” [vv. 4] Yes, we need food, clothing, a place to live and all the other earthly necessities, but that is not where our true life is. The temptation is to make the needs and the and desired earthly goals and possessions overshadow the more important spiritual matters. Jesus said elsewhere, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Far more important are the matters of the heart, of the soul, the Word of God.
We need to guard against the temptations to make the earthly things more important. To do so would be to trade the living bread of our Savior for the worthless stone of this earth. As we come into tax season, there might be a temptation to "cheat just a little" for some who are struggling to make the ends meet. This would be, in a way, making bread out of stone, but also contradicting God’s Word and falling into temptation. There might be temptations to give up a little more time that we could spend with the priorities of life and serving our Savior so we can "get a little further ahead" in our lives. Each of us can examine our own lives and know what earthly things tempt us away from our Savior. It’s a subtle tool of Satan, guard against it.
The second temptation was that the Devil took Jesus up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:‘ He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ " Jesus said to him, "It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” [vv.5-7]
The Devil knows Scripture very well and he quoted it to Jesus—"You see, Jesus, God says He will send His angels to care for you, so jump down! Show God that You trust Him." Jesus came back and said "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." The Devil is a subtle master at twisting God’s Word trying to use God’s Word in a warped fashion and so lead us into sin. For Jesus, this would have meant unnecessarily throwing Himself into danger. God makes no such promise that when we foolishly handle our lives that He will protect us. But when we trust God in the day to day things, He will send His angels to guard and keep watch over us.
At the heart of this second temptation is the twisting of God’s Word to allow something in our lives that God doesn’t really allow. Or to comfort our consciences when they really ought to be accused. The Devil continues to use this tool with us as well. He used it with Eve when he said, "Did God really say??? No, He didn’t mean that. He knows that in the day you eat of the fruit you will be like Him that’s why He doesn’t want you to eat the fruit!" (cf. Genesis 3:1ff) So Eve was tempted, and fell into sin.
One of the phrases commonly used in our day to excuse sin is, "God wants me to be happy…doesn’t He?" I’m doing this and pursuing this path in my life because, "Well! God wants me to be happy and this makes me happy, so this must be right!" It is the subtle tool of the Devil. There is not a passage in all of Scripture in which God says, "I want you to be happy" even if that happiness involves sin. There is not one word of God that says "I want you to be happy" if you are ignoring His Word or going down a path that is sinful. There is not one word of God in Scripture that this life in this vale of tears is going to be tear free and that we will be happy in a worldly sense. Yes, God does promise a blessed happiness—happiness and joy in the Lord, happiness in the completion and fulfillment of salvation, joy in peace with God, and happiness also in earthly things that correspond with the will of God. The Devil uses his tools, wanting us to twist God’s Word to allow and follow sin.
The third temptation of the Devil was when He took Jesus “on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” [vv.8-10]
The Devil’s final temptation on this occasion was to tempt Jesus with the power and authority of the earth and the things of the world and offer it to Him through idolatry—fall down and worship me. If the Devil were to appear to us in a recognizable form and he said, "worship me" we would likely not be tempted. We would never dream of worshipping Satan, though many do fall into that awful trap. Yet, we are daily tempted toward idolatry.
The Devil approaches us more subtly, not asking us to worship him, but other idols. He approaches us with other things we might exalt in our lives so that they become more important than God. As a result the time and energy we are expending and the love that we have may be given to God, in part, but there is much more for the other thing. The "thing" could be money and prosperity. It can be people. Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of Me. He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). It can be ANYTHING because no matter what we would place above God, if we fear, love, and trust in ANYTHING more than Him, it is an idol and the temptation to do so is a subtle tool of the Devil.
There are other certainly more specific examples that can be given of the Devil’s tools. These are just three examples. The Devil continued to tempt Jesus throughout His life. Luke reports that when the Devil left Jesus in the wilderness it was only until the next opportune time for temptation (cf. Luke 4:13). As we examine our own lives and consider how the Devil can work, we will find ample evidence that the tools of Satan are alive and well and we need to guard against them.
Given the unavoidable nature of temptation and the danger that lies behind them, we could throw our hands up in despair and say, "It’s no use!" We also learn from Jesus that when He was tempted in every way like we are, He didn’t sin. EVERY time He defeated the Devil with the power of God’s Word. One little word can fell Satan. He IS a roaring lion but the Word of God snaps his mouth shut and he whimpers like a little kitten. The world is out there trying to destroy us, but the Word of God shuts it down. Our flesh wants to pull us into sin, but the Word of God drowns that Old Man and the New Man in Christ rises up.
We ARE ABLE to overcome temptation. We might not think so: "This is my personality, I can’t fight the temptation to let go of my temper and be angry all the time. I can’t help being ____________." I can’t find the temptation of sexual allurements. God made me this way. I can’t fight the temptation to cheat in school. I don’t have the gifts to get all the answers right and I have to get an A. I can’t fight the temptation to (insert here your own personal weakness)." YES, YOU CAN FIGHT IT and YOU CAN OVERCOME IT! We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (cf. Philippians 4:13). The Word of God conquers all temptation.
The first step in the solution is to AVOID tempting situations. Don’t foolishly run into temptation. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations. AVOID the temptation. This will get rid of some temptations, but they are unavoidable so they will rise up. If you see temptation then run; but then there are also situations and times when the temptation is there and you weren’t able to avoid it, and you couldn’t run away from it, then withstand it, defeat it, and avoid falling into sin as Jesus did. A large task? YES! God’s Word and our Savior equip us to do so.
Jesus used God’s Word to defeat Satan. The angels also came and ministered to Him after Satan left [v.11] In the tempting hours of Gethsemane, an angel came and strengthened Jesus (Luke 22:43). God promises to do the same for us. Paul says, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” (Ephesians 6:13-16).
There is not a single temptation that cannot be withstood when we use God’s Word. Our weaknesses arise in that we don’t always use God’s Word against temptation, nor do we always flee temptation as we should. Then when we see our tempted Savior we rejoice to know that He was tempted for us and that He died on the cross to take those failures away from us.
In our Savior we find the example of what we ourselves will face. He also gives us the example of how to withstand the temptations and defeat the Devil. Then when Jesus took His sinless life to the cross and offered it up for us there, He paid the penalty for all the times when we do fall into sin having been tempted by it.
Surely, in our tempted Savior we have our greatest gift. "God did not spare His Son but delivered Him up for us all. How shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). He WILL give us all things needful to stand against temptation and overcome it! Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt