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Luke 4:1-13


"Temptation, God and the Devil"

Luke 4:1-13




1. David was ahead of me in graduate school. We overlapped for only a single semester so I didn’t get to know him as well as I wish I had. He became a pastor in northern California, not far from Santa Cruz. He contracted terminal cancer which led to a protracted and painful death, leaving a young wife and children behind. During the final year of his struggle he reported an appearance and conversation with Satan. The way he told it, the devil offered him a deal - - life and health for his soul. If he would pledge allegiance to Satan he could live a long healthy life. If not, he would die a soon and miserable death.

Dave said it was not an easy decision. He wanted to live, but he chose to decline the offer and die.


2. What would you do if you faced such a difficult test? The truth is that life is loaded with tests and temptations. More during some chapters of our biographies and less during others, they never completely go away.


3. Even Jesus was tempted. It came shortly after his public baptism, that glorious day when God broke the silence of heaven and publicly declared Jesus to be his Son with whom he was greatly pleased. From this emotional high Jesus went into forty of the most difficult days in his life.

Jesus spent almost six weeks without food in the Judean Wilderness. It is a 425 square mile desert between the Dead Sea and Jerusalem. To this day it is mostly uninhabited - - a desolate place with large hills, deep ravines, dry crusty soil, minimal vegetation, and dangers galore.

Luke 4:1-13 tells us about what happened there. It is a very private story which only Jesus himself could have revealed, otherwise none of us could ever have known. Satan appeared to Jesus and repeatedly tested him with a series of temptations. We know the details of the last three temptations of Jesus.


4. In every test, the devil was trying to get Jesus to doubt and deny he was the actual Son of God. He kept telling Jesus, "If you are the Son of God . . . . " do this or that. Satan’s evil strategies were simple but extremely clever.


Temptation #1 = Self-satisfaction Luke 4:3-4

1. Satan said: "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." It was the temptation to self-satisfaction. Jesus was hungry - - he hadn’t eaten for more than a month. Bread sounded good. He needed bread.


2. Like many temptations, there is a difference between the surface and what lies underneath. On the surface it sounded like a simple suggestion for Jesus to use his supernatural powers to change a limestone rock into a similar size loaf of bread to eat.

But, there was more to it than that.


3. Satan wanted Jesus to use his supernatural powers for himself rather than for others. He wanted Jesus to become a materialist who used his resources to provide for himself what ever he wanted whenever he wanted it. Satan tempted Jesus to say that his physical needs were greater and more important than his spiritual needs


4. None of us faces the same temptation. None of us is capable of changing a rock into a loaf of bread or into anything else. Only Jesus had that supernatural ability. But we are all tempted to use our resources for ourselves. In fact, we often convince ourselves that we will be satisfied and happy when we get what we want - - sometimes it is food, other times it is clothes, a house, a car or some other possession.

Because we live in a materialistic society, many of us pursue this temptation with a passion.

HARPER’S magazine (1/97) reported a survey that 82% of Americans believe that "most of us buy and consume far more than we need."

We know we already have more than we need and yet we cannot resist the temptation to buy more.

A UN report says that the combined wealth of the world’s 358 billionaires equals the total income of the world’s 2.3 billion poorest people. Those 358 wealthy people have as much money as 45% of the world’s population earns.


5. II Corinthians 8:9 says that "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." Satan tempted Jesus to use his power and resources for himself rather than for others. Having not eaten for 40 days, it was a tempting thing to do.


6. Jesus refused. He answered: "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone."(Luke 4:4). He never denied his hunger. But Jesus insisted that he would not use his power for his personal benefit and refused to make materialism most important. Life’s meaning and satisfaction is not based on what we eat, what we wear, where we live or what we own. We are first and foremost spiritual beings - - - our life and meaning comes from God, not from things.


7. Satan gave up on that one and moved to temptation #2, "Compromise."


Temptation #2 = Compromise Luke 4:5-8

1. "The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’" (Luke 4:5-7)


2. This second temptation was far more tempting. It was an opportunity to answer the greatest human criticism of God. For centuries right up until today, believers and unbelievers alike have said, "If there really is a good God, why is there so much evil and suffering in this world?" The answer is that sin and Satan have brought untold evil and pain to our earth, but the answer is often not very satisfying for those who are in misery.


3. Here was Jesus’ grand opportunity to make a difference for good. Satan offered Jesus the rule of the world. Jesus could skip the cross and go directly to the throne of the world. He could immediately stop all injustice, eliminate all poverty, and outlaw all sin, pain and suffering. It would be a wonderful and unselfish thing to do.


4. However, such great good came with a very high price. In order to become king of the world, Jesus was first required to worship Satan. In other words, if Jesus acknowledged the absolute superiority of Satan he could accomplish the greatest good in history.

It is a classic example of the end justifying the means. It was a powerful call for compromise. It must have been tempting!


5. What would you do? If you could buy an end to all human suffering, secure universal cures for painful terminal diseases, eliminate all child abuse, stop all government corruption, stop all wars, and halt all crime - - - would you do it for the price of worshipping Satan? Even though it was giving in to awful evil, you could accomplish enormous good. I think any good person would be tempted to say yes.


6. Jesus said no. Realizing that his decision would allow sin and suffering to continue for a very long time, Jesus answered "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’" (Luke 4:8).

Jesus insisted that there is only one God. There is only one right way. God is God. Right is right. He must never compromise with evil. To give allegiance to Satan is a guaranteed path to worse sin and eventual destruction. Jesus knew that compromise one day would bring greater disaster another day. The end does not always justify the means and in this case the end would be worse than the beginning.


7. How brilliant! How insightful. How deep Jesus’ understanding. How marvelous that he did right even when it may have appeared to be the wrong thing to do.


8. Then there is us. What is our price for doing wrong? For what would we compromise with evil? For some, it is money, for others it is recognition, some would sell their souls for sex or for health.

Far better that we learn from Jesus - - - evil is evil, wrong is wrong, right is right, God must be first and Satan is never to be given an inch, much less worship. Say "no’ to every temptation to compromise, even if it seems good at the time.


9. Jesus resisted the temptation to compromise.

Satan tried a third time - - - tempting Jesus with popularity.


Temptation #3 = Popularity Luke 4:9-12

1. Luke 4:9-12

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written:

"'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;

they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot

against a stone.’"
Jesus answered, "It says: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"

2. This was a brilliant temptation, going right to the heart of many human instincts. We all have a deep desire to be acknowledged and accepted by others. Popularity is a powerful temptation.


3. Satan took Jesus to the high point in Jerusalem. It was the portico of the Temple which extended above the Kidron Valley. Between the height of the temple and the depth of the valley it was about 450 feet from the portico to the valley floor.


4. Satan invited Jesus to stand on the edge until a crowd gathered to see what was going to happen. At just the right moment Jesus could jump from the portico and free fall 45 stories toward the crowd below. As the people gasped with expectation of his crushing death, angels would come and catch him at the last second. Then Jesus would stand on his feet for everyone to see and the crowd would be mesmerized by the spectacular sensationalism of this display of supernatural power.


What would everyone think? They would be dazzled, delighted and enthralled. Jesus would instantly become the most popular man in Jerusalem. Everyone would want to meet him, touch him - - -and follow him. The whole population would have declared him to be the Messiah from heaven.

No hassles from his religious critics. No threats from Roman authorities. No doubts from cranky and critical relatives. Jesus would be the "Man of the Year". Everyone would admire and love him.


5. What would you do for popularity? If you could have a guaranteed stunt that would make you the most popular and sought after person in America, would you do it? Wouldn’t it be great to be more famous than any politician, musician or professional athlete? Wouldn’t it be fun to have the entire population trying to make you happy?


6. Jesus was tempted. After all, it had been a long time since he experienced popularity. Once upon a time as the eternal Son of God in heaven, every angel worshipped him - - -but that was years before. Here on earth he was a nobody.

Besides, Jesus had just spent 40 lonely days out in a desert. Satan provided his first conversation in a long time. He was lonely. Popularity would feel very good.


7. Jesus was tempted, but he said "no."

Jesus knew it was his decision to make - - - the Devil had said "throw yourself down from here." Apparently Satan couldn’t push him over. Satan’s power was only to suggest!

Quoting a third time from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, Jesus answered: "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"

8. Jesus’ answer is a little difficult to understand.

The usual reason for a test is doubt.

No one runs a DNA test for paternity unless there is doubt about who the parent is.

No one runs soil tests unless you are unsure of the composition of the dirt.

No one tests gold or silver unless you are unsure of its purity.

The only reason to test God is if there is doubt he can be trusted.

Jesus refused to put God to the test to determine if he was capable of saving him when he jumped or if he would save him when he jumped.

In other words, Jesus refused to set-up God.


9. This same old temptation still works on many of us today. Personally, I want people to like me. I don’t like criticism and I don’t want enemies. Popularity is very appealing. But at what price?


10. Today the temptation whispered in our ears may sound different:

If God loves you, he’ll get you the man or woman you want.

If God really cares about you, he’ll give you the promotion at work

If God counts you as important, he’ll make you popular with all the right people.

If God loves you, he’ll get you the votes to win the office.


Those who believe in God and totally trust him respond with Jesus and say: "I refuse to put God to the test! I know God loves me. I know God cares for me. I know God counts me as important. I don’t need a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband, promotion, popularity or public office to prove God cares. I’m not going to put God to the test."


1. There is so much for us to learn from Jesus’ desert temptations:

We learn that the best answers to temptation come from the Bible.
Every time Jesus faced a different temptation he quoted from the Bible. Most of us couldn’t easily do that. What we should learn is that reading the Bible until we are familiar with it is probably the best preventative to sin that is available. We may not be able to quote every line, but we should be familiar enough that we can easily find in the Bible the answer we need.

We learn that it’s important to be full of the Holy Spirit. That’s the first description of Jesus in Luke 4:1. To be full of the Holy Spirit is to be wide open and completely controlled by the Spirit of God. If you are unsure, ask God to fill you with his Spirit.

We learn to take the long term view. Jesus was willing to suffer in the short term to get the best in the long term. He refused to sacrifice ultimate good on the altar of immediate satisfaction.

We learn that it isn’t always over when it seems to be over. Luke 4:13 finishes the story saying that "when the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time."
Jesus resisted evil. He won big time! But Satan would be back to try again. And it’s like that with us. Resisting sin and doing good is a wonderful victory, but don’t let your guard down - - - temptation always returns at the opportune time.

2. So what’s your temptation? Money? Greed? Sex? Pride? Popularity? Self-pity?

If Satan wanted to do you in, how would he tempt you to destroy you?


3. And, what are you going to do when that temptation comes?

Don’t do it! Don’t give in! Quote the Bible. Let the Holy Spirit control you. Do good. Resist evil. Be like Jesus!


4/26/98 Wooddale Church. ęCopyright, Leith Anderson, 1998.


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