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The Temptation of Christ

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Did you know that you were attacked today?
Did you know that you have an enemy?
Did you realize that he is hunting you?
There is a dark, ancient evil that is watching us, plotting, strategizing, patiently waiting for his opportunity to go in for the kill.
We are under CONSTANT attack, but we often don’t realize what’s happening until it’s too late.
Christ’s temptation in the wilderness provides for us a picture…a pattern for how the enemy tempts us.
Certainly, the temptations for Jesus were unique to Him and His deity and position as the Son of God, but there is much applicational wisdom that we can glean from this narrative to aid us in our own temptations.
And when we come to understand the enemy’s strategy, we can begin to recognize his attacks and escape the snare of sin in our lives.
1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
We have all probably read this verse and heard it in church many times, and while the way of escape might be specific to the particular temptations situation, I believe that Jesus demonstrates for us a way of escape that is universal in nature - no matter what temptation we face, if we employ the strategy used here by Jesus, we will escape our temptations.
You might have heard about the little boy who was caught by his mother eating the cookies he was told were for after dinner. His explanation was this: “I just climbed up to smell them, and my tooth got caught.”
We see the humor here, but honestly this is often our mindset when it comes to sin. Instead of saying “no!” to sin, we leave the door open with a “maybe”.
We simply don’t take sin seriously enough..and then we pay a high price.
As we study this passage, please remember that our purpose is not to focus on Satan as much as it is to focus on our Savior. We need to be aware of Satan’s strategies, but we need to primarily keep our attention on Christ - turn your eyes upon Jesus - and learn how we might defend ourselves when the enemy comes upon us in our weakness and entices us with his lies.
We will see that Jesus’ temptation was really a series of offers to EXCHANGE something of eternal value for something of immediate but temporary pleasure.
and we will break the passage into these main divisions:
The Temptation of Christ
I. Stones For Sustenance
II. Exultation For Escape
III. Risk For Reward
We will see that Satan tempted Jesus with the same themes that he tempts us with today.
And we will see that Jesus gives us a perfect example of how to escape the devil’s strongest temptations.
Let us allow the Spirit to do His work through His Word tonight, and be encouraged that we really do have a way of escape.


Luke 4:1 NKJV
1 Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
We need to understand the context here…how did Jesus end up on a fasting excursion in the wilderness?
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer in the previous chapter.
read Luke 3:21-22
Luke 3:21–22 NKJV
21 When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. 22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
The Father had spoken from heaven as an inauguration of Jesus’ ministry, and the Holy Spirit had taken the form of a dove and alighted on Jesus as a symbol of power on His ministry. So we see the Holy Trinity of the Godhead present in this scene. (one God, three distinct Persons)
And now the Son is being led by the Spirit and walking in obedience to the Father (more on that later) into the wilderness.
There are also some Old Testament themes present in this text:
Israel was also led by God in the desert.
Jesus’ 40 days represent Israel’s 40 years of desert wanderings, as well as Moses’ forty days of fasting on the mountain (Deut. 9:9 ).
Deuteronomy 9:9 NKJV
9 When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.
God also called Israel His son: Ex. 4:22
Exodus 4:22 NKJV
22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn.
Yet Jesus succeeded where Israel failed.

I. Stones For Sustenance

Luke 4:2–3 NKJV
2 being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
v.2 Jesus tempted by Satan for 40 days
no food eaten
physically weak, headache, nauseous, exhausted, cracked lips, bloodshot eyes
key word - “afterward” - The devil waits until we are at our weakest:
also - Jesus was not sitting in an air-conditioned hotel room…He was in the wilderness, with the sun beating down on Him all day and only rocks, gravel, and sand for His comfort.
v.3 “If you are the Son of God...” - Questioning the word of God (Luke 3:22
Luke 3:22 NKJV
22 And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”
“Has God indeed said...” (Genesis 3:1)
Genesis 3:1 (NKJV)
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
Satan’s tactics have not changed in 6,000 years!
Satan will often “re-brand” God’s Word to sound similar, but different from what God actually said - God didn’t say to not eat from trees…only from ONE tree.
KFC re-branding example
Doesn’t totally oppose Scripture - just questions it a little
“IF you really are the Son of God...”
“ Stones to bread” - Jesus was almost starving, physically famished for fresh, warm, bread.
It would have been easy for the Creator, the One who fed thousands with just a small lunch, to make Himself a meal
Satan played on the idea that that Jesus somehow felt the need to live up to the “hype” of being called the Son of God - after all, that’s exactly what he wanted to be and exactly what he would have done!
Isaiah 14:12–14 NKJV
12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! 13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
If you are really who God says you are, prove it! Show off! Take care of you! You do you! You got this!
Turning stone into a loaf of bread is not sinful (He did turn water into wine, after all)
Satan didn't ask Jesus to commit a horrible crime..or to break God’s law.
But he was asking Jesus to stop trusting His Father, and to stop being led by the Spirit - it was the Spirit who led Jesus into the wilderness where He knew there would be no food...the Spirit was leading, the Father was directing Jesus’ steps, and neither had provided physical food yet.
For Jesus to make the bread out of stones would be to act apart from the go rogue and act as a free agent from God!
It would have been to live as if the Father was not enough.
We are also tempted to live apart from the Father.
This is the lie of autonomy, which states that we are each individually fully capable enough and powerful enough to sustain ourselves.
How often humanity has fallen for this lie of autonomy…
But Jesus remains obedient:
Luke 4:4 NKJV
4 But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”
v. 4 “It is written” - Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, could have spoken a NEW revelation to defeat the devil...He could have spoken His own words, but instead He turned back to the Pentateuch - to Deuteronomy! - and He did that to leave us an example...a strategy to win against temptation.
“It is Written!” - This was not the words of some legend or myth...not something inscribed in a cave somewhere in a forgotten dialect...not the ramblings of some monk in a monastery...It is the Word of God!
Present tense
Here and now
to us
for us
and in God’s power!
Hebrews 4:12 NKJV
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God is transcendent truth - it will not fade away…it is not a passing fad or a cultural phenomenon.
God’s Word withstands the test of time. It transcends all other words and works - it is timeless and eternal and cannot be changed…IT IS WRITTEN!
Ephesians 6:17 NKJV
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
It is also important to understand that the verses quoted by Jesus are not a simple incantation or a spell. Satan was not defeated because Jesus slapped a Bible verse on a bumper sticker and drove away…Satan is defeated when the Scriptures are PROPERLY APPROPRIATED.
I believe in the power of the written Word of God, but if we have only a shallow understanding of Scripture, we will fail to parry the attacks of the enemy.
Biblical literacy is sorely missing in many Christian’s lives.
So why do we fail to defend ourselves and end up falling to temptation?…I believe that one of the biggest reasons is that we don’t know our Bibles as well as we need to….or as well as we think we do!
The verse that Jesus quoted here (Deut. 8:3) was the appropriate verse for the specific temptation that Satan was offering.
And like a master swordsman, Jesus wielded the Sword of the Spirit, and with perfect precision parried the devil’s attacks and thrust him backward!
Notice that Satan does not repeat the same temptation twice here in this passage…he is defeated and quickly moves to a different attack strategy…but don’t forget that he was defeated!
One other application from this temptation is seen in how Satan distracts us from what is truly important in this life.
Our enemy tries to get us to turn “stones” into “bread” - not literally like in Jesus’ case…we lack the supernatural power to do that…but in the matters of life’s priorities, Satan constantly bombards us with lesser things.
These lesser things might not be sinful in and of themselves…but they lack any significant values…they are the temporary diversions of this life that Satan uses to draw our attention away from that which is of eternal value.
We become fascinated with the latest tech, film, or hobby and neglect the weightier matters that pertain to the souls of the people around us and beside us.
Satan says, “Turn the stones of temporary trivia into the bread of eternal eminence.”
The Temptation of Christ
I. Stones For Sustenance

II. Exultation For Escape

Luke 4:5–7 NKJV
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
Now it says that the devil was “taking Him”…but remember Who is leading Jesus in this wilderness experience?…the Holy Spirit! and Who is Jesus always obeying?…the Father!
Why is Jesus agreeing to go with Satan?…the Father and the Spirit have granted and lead Him to.
This is likely a vision given by Satan - there does not exist a mountain that one can see all the kingdoms of the earth at once, and so Satan is able to flash these kingdoms before Jesus’ eyes…and what did Jesus see?
Jesus saw thrones, palaces, complete authority
What nation ruled Israel at this time? - Rome! You can be sure that Jesus saw the Roman Emperor in his palace, surrounded by his armies and all the glittering gold of his throne room…here was the opportunity to overthrow the scourge of Israel - to be given the command of the current world power, to set His people free!…what a temptation!
The devil’s offer was legitimate: Satan is the ruler of this world:
1 Corinthians 2:6 NKJV
6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
2 Corinthians 4:4 NKJV
4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
Ephesians 2:2 NKJV
2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
John 12:31 NKJV
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.
John 14:30 NKJV
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.
John 16:11 NKJV
11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Yes, Satan has a temporary and subservient dominion over planet earth
But it is always underneath the ultimate authority of God
So, Satan can give his authority to whomever he wishes - based on the verses we just looked at, coupled with the fact that Jesus does not refute him on that point.
Satan does the same thing to us -
he likes to offer us power and authority…he only asks that we worship something other than God
he will entice us with control, with prestige...”You better make sure everyone knows how important you are!”
he lures our hearts into believing that we can set up our own kingdoms here on earth…and we become kings and queens in our palaces and our pride blinds us to the truth that we are nothing without Jesus.
On the left - natural man:
unsaved person’s heart
ego on the throne
Christ on the outside
Life interests are scattered and lack true purpose
life filled with sin, fear, and worry
a self-made king always has to protect his own name and fortune
On the right - carnal man:
saved, but carnal Christian’s heart
Ego is on the throne
Christ on the inside, but pushed to the edge and is being ignored
Life interests are scattered and lack true purpose
like the unsaved person, life is filled with selfish priorities, fear, and sin
In the middle - the spiritual man
Christ is on the throne
Ego (self) is at His feet, ready to serve
Life interests are now directed by Christ, so they are orderly and filled with new meaning and purpose
Life filled with peace, power, joy, and purpose!
The devil tempts us (and our sin nature goes right along with this) to sit ourselves on the throne of our hearts and take charge of our lives
It’s a control battle for us - who’s in charge of your life?
Satan’s temptation here to Jesus is to worship him…to EXULT him in exchange for ESCAPE from the cross.
Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), and he believes his own lies - he really believed that he could get Jesus to fall down and worship him.
But once again, the Sword of the Spirit flashes it’s blade and with one stroke it shatters the enemy’s attack:
Luke 4:8 NKJV
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
Jesus comes back to Scripture
Yes - the kingdoms of this world could have been used to promote His own kingdom.
Yes - He could have overthrown Rome and freed His people
But - the road to Jesus’ throne must pass through the cross.
To worship Satan would have been to deny His deity (which He cannot do), and His kingdom would have never come to pass.
And if that were true, our salvation would never have happened.
Jesus chose to trust the Father and the promised word that He would indeed rule the earth with a rod of iron:
Psalm 2:9 NKJV
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’ ”
1 Timothy 6:15 NKJV
which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords,
Jesus looked forward to this time (as we do now) when He would be enthroned here on earth to rule all the kingdoms of the world.
Satan’s offer was only a cheap substitute for the real thing...
Just like his offers to us - cheap substitutes of the real truth.
Who sits on the throne of your life?…have you been enticed with the cheap, empty substitutes that this world and its prince offer every day?
You can tell what you worship by what you are willing to sacrifice for…if you are willing to sacrifice your time, relationships, resources to a thing or a person, you are worshipping that thing or that person.
Or has Christ been seated on your heart’s throne, ruling and reigning your life as we anticipate His return?
This leads us to the question:
What are you worshipping?
The Temptation of Christ
I. Stones For Sustenance
II. Exultation For Escape

III. Risk For Reward

Luke 4:9–11 NKJV
9 Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
From the top of that second temple down to the floor of the Kidron Valley would have been a drop of approximately 400 feet.
Think about seeing this spectacle: a man appears on the top of the temple, waving his arms to get everyone’s attention, and then as everyone is watching, he leaps off!…and disappears down into the valley on the other side of the wall.
the crowd rushes over to see the body, but instead they see the same man walking up towards them, unharmed and smiling.
What do you think would have been the reaction?
Like the temptation to form bread from stones, Satan once again questions Jesus’ deity, but this time instead of physical food, it is for public prestige on the menu.
“Let’s get this party started!”
Satan was enticing Jesus to make a public display of His deity - much like the Pharisees would do later - “Show us a sign!”
Jesus had shown them signs when he healed people right in front of them, but their minds were blinded by their hard hearts and even by the enemy.
Luke 4:10–11 NKJV
10 For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you,’ 11 and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Notice that Satan uses Jesus’ phrase, “It is written..”
Does Satan have the Bible memorized? - yes he does. (this has been a challenge for me personally - could the devil know more Scripture than me?…I don’t want that!)
Satan is quoting from Psalm 91:11-12
Psalm 91:11–12 NKJV
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Looks like the devil would have won the memory drill! He got the words right, but he is completely wrong on context!
It is so ironic that that the fallen angel himself chooses a passage that describes angels protecting Jesus while he is the one trying to attack Jesus.
Can we use this verse to take all the risks that we want?…I mean, this is God’s promise and God always keeps His promises, so why not?
Let’s empty our bank accounts spend all we want because God will take care of us!
Let’s take physical risks and go wild because God will keep us safe!
The prosperity gospel thrives on these kinds of verses taken out of context:
If you invest in the kingdom, God will replenish you 30, or 60, or 100 fold!
Send your money and watch God open the windows of heaven!
God wants to prosper you - to make you healthy and wealthy!
You just need more faith (also a major credit card)
But like we stated, Satan is taking these verses out of context.
Let’s take a look at the surrounding verse to see the context, and we will see just how off base the devil is:
Psalm 91:9 NKJV
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
This person has already decided that no matter what happens, God is enough.
They have put their total trust in the Lord.
Psalm 91:10–12 NKJV
No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Now we see that there is a prerequisite for this kind of protection.
How does one receive this blessing of protection?
By making the Lord our refuge - walking in obedience to Him and following His clear teaching in Scripture
By acknowledging and worshipping God as the Most High God - the opposite of what Satan was tempting Jesus to do
By making God our dwelling place - our source of strength, our companion, our closest friend by walking in the Spirit and living the life God has asked.
All of this is diametrically opposed to Satan’s worldview!!!
BY the way, this passage has a certain SPIRITUAL point of view - these are not necessarily promises of protection from physical harm.
Always be cautious when someone says, “the Bible says_____”.
Acts 17:11 NKJV
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
We want to be like those at the Berean church - they went home after hearing Paul so that they could search the Scriptures to see if the things Paul was teaching were true…and God’s Word commended them for it - they were more noble - let’s be noble Christians, use wisdom and make sure that what we hear is right!
Satan will try to wield the Sword of the Spirit, but he will only be effective if those he attacks don’t know their Bibles.
Luke 4:12 NKJV
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
Jesus reminds Satan that God is not to be tested - we are not to assume upon God something that He has not promised.
Here, Jesus gives not only the final blow to Satan, but He also gives us a very important principle for interpreting the Bible:
Always interpret the difficult passages with the clearly understood passages.
We will come across a verse or a passage that is difficult to understand…the text is unclear…it doesn’t seem to have one main meaning…it could mean a couple different things…we can sometimes eliminate what it doesn’t mean and that is just as important as knowing what it does mean!
Could Psalm 91:10-11 be a license to live a wild, carefree lifestyle?…Hmmm, let’s see…that’s like saying, “Is it ok to test God’s love and care for us?”…well, remember Deut. 6:16?…it states very clearly that:
Deuteronomy 6:16 NKJV
16 “You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.
For Jesus to throw Himself off the temple and fall 400 feet would have been foolish.
God expects us to live in His wisdom - to pay attention to that self-preservation instinct that He programmed inside us!
Satan also tempts us to take risks and to promote ourselves so that others will look up to us - to make a name for ourselves - to boast about our accomplishments.
Satan’s scheme is foiled…he has been beaten and he knows it.
Let’s take a moment and review the three principles that Jesus used in this temptation:
Deuteronomy 8:3 (NKJV)
3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 6:13 (NKJV)
13 You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.
Deuteronomy 6:16 (NKJV)
16You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.
These verses are not just answers that Jesus gave the devil and that’s the only time we think about the truth they hold.
What are the principles that we can glean from Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptations:
1. We should live in God’s Word
2. We should give God Worship
3. We should live by God’s Wisdom
Luke 4:13 NKJV
13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
This was not the last time that Jesus was tempted!
Satan constantly buffeted Jesus throughout His ministry! (think of the many demons that Jesus cast out - these are the servants of Satan that were attacking Jesus and His people.)
Notice that phrase, “an opportune time” - Satan is very intelligent and he is a schemer - he waits for an opportune time to tempt us
Have you noticed that temptation seems to come in waves? (almost like we are in a war)…For me, temptation comes at certain times throughout my day, week, and month. It’s not always the same thing either - and it’s not always in the same locations or situations…that because we are being hunted.
Job 1:7 NKJV
7 And the Lord said to Satan, “From where do you come?” So Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.”
1 Peter 5:8 NKJV
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Satan is prowling around right now on the earth…at this very moment.
This is not some red suited, horned little devil with a goatee…this is a fallen angel of light:
2 Corinthians 11:14 NKJV
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
Let’s end with this one:
2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV
11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Paul was not ignorant, and neither are we!
The Bible explains to us his devices.
Lastly, do you know Jesus?
Have you placed your faith in Jesus?
Do you know that Jesus died on a cross, shedding His blood as a payment for our sins?
Did you know that He was buried for three days in a tomb?
Did you know that He came back to life?
Did you know that He offers you the gift of eternal life if you will believe in Him?
Will you believe in Jesus right now?
John 14:6 NKJV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
What have you done with Jesus?
Jesus is the one and only way to eternal life - believe on Him today!
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