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The Test of Temptation

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Matthew 4:1–11 NIV
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do 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 splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
INTRO: Jesus is our ultimate example.
· We can learn the principles of Christian living from His life by listening to what He says and by watching what He does.
· One of the greatest tests a believer will face is the test of temptation.
· After Jesus was baptized, Matthew tells us that he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
· Today we’ll look at how our Lord, our Example, faced this time of temptation, and it will show us how we as believers can also prepare for and pass the Test of Temptation.
I know I am supposed to be talking about being an outwardly focused church, but I go here because I have a theory...
I believe that the reason we are so focused on ourselves (so inwardly focused), and so disconnected from the world outside of these walls, is because we have never learned to approach this life as Jesus approached it.
We will buy book after book to try and approach this life the way some author, or preacher , or actor, or singer approaches it, but we fail to simply look at the example God set for us through the earthly life of His Son, Jesus the Christ!
The example of Christ IS THE ANSWER for most, NO! ALL of our problems in this life!
And the answer for how we should deal with temptation exists in the way that JESUS handled temptation.
Jesus told his disciples to...
Mark 14:38 NIV
38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
· Victory comes in meeting the test, and victory over temptation comes from being constantly prepared for it, which, in turn, comes from constantly relying on the Lord.
ILLUS.: It is said that a person traveling in tiger country will not be attacked if he sees the tiger before the tiger sees him.
· Generally tigers attack from behind in order to surprise their victims, and therefore one of the best defenses against this TEST of STRENGTH is to face it.
Don’t know about you, but I, personally, DO NOT want to test this theory!
· Jesus’ time of testing, the way He faced it, should prove invaluable to every Christian as we do our best to live the Christian life.

1. There is TRANSPARENCY in this story.

What do I mean?
Matthew 4:1–2 NIV
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
This is an amazing story, offering unique insight into the nature and character of Jesus.
· For one thing, it’s one of the few stories told about an event in the life of Jesus in which there are no eye witnesses.
· How did Matthew (or any of Jesus’ disciples) know about the temptation he faced in the desert?
· There’s only way they could have known.
· He told him them about it.
· At some point during his time of ministry on earth, he told his disciples about the time he spent in the desert, battling temptation in a showdown with the devil.
· The temptation story has been called "the most sacred of stories" because in it we see the transparency of our Savior.
· "Jesus is laying bare his inmost heart and soul."
· He shared with his followers about the struggles he faced.
· Be honest and transparent with those you wish to influence for Christ. Another aspect of His transparency is seen as this story reminds us that Jesus was truly human. Matthew says, (v. 2) “After fasting 40 days and nights, he was hungry.”
· This story wasn’t just a legend created by the early church, because it emphasizes the transparency and the humanity expressed by Jesus.
· There has always been a tendency among some followers of Christ to strip away his humanity and make him completely unreal.
· Songs are written about him containing lines such as “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.”
· This is the image some people have of him—he was so divine that he never cried as a child, he never skinned his knee, when he worked as a carpenter he never drove a crooked nail, because He was divine.
· He just went through life floating around on a little cloud about six feet off the ground.
· That wasn’t the Jesus of scripture...
· He was 100% human and experienced everything just like you and me as well as being 100% divine.
· He became one of us—fully human as well as fully divine.
· The fact that he was transparent and honest enough to share with the disciples “He was hungry” helps us to identify with the great truth that in His humanity He was able to pass the test that pointed us to the divine power within his life.
Because Jesus was the ultimate example we can learn from His transparency regarding His humanity.
· We can learn that we will also struggle and face these temptations and tests every day.
· Listen to these words from...
Hebrews 4:15 NIV
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
· Jesus passed the test of transparency when He openly shared with His disciples that HE TOO experienced temptations.
· Resisting temptation is a part of the Christian life.

2. THE TEST OF TEMPTATION IS INEVITABLE

Even good people are tempted. Even people who walk in the Spirit are tempted.
Matthew 4:1 NIV
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
· Did you understand that scripture?
· He was led by the Spirit.
· He was doing exactly what God wanted him to do, and still He faced temptation.
· We have a tendency to think, when we face temptation, that God must have abandoned us or there must be something wrong with us, or else we wouldn’t be experiencing temptation in our lives.
· The truth is this: EVERY CHRISTIAN WILL EXPERIENCE TEMPTATION.
· Even Spirit-filled and Spirit-led Christians will face the test of temptation.
· There’s an important distinction I want to make.
· The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it wasn’t God who tempted Jesus.
· God doesn’t tempt you to sin; he doesn’t try to entice you with evil opportunities.
ILLUS.: In our judicial system we have laws against entrapment.
· When an undercover cop is trying to bust people for buying drugs, he can’t walk up to someone and say, “Hey you want to buy some drugs? Come on, try it, you’ll like it. Just think of how good you’ll feel. All your problems will go away. Come on, don’t be scared.”
· A cop can’t do that, because it would be considered entrapment.
· Some people think God tempts us to sin—that he puts the cookie on the table and says, “Come on, I dare you to eat it.”
· God doesn’t do that.
Temptation is inevitable, but it doesn’t COME FROM GOD. The Bible says...
James 1:13 NIV
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
God’s purpose is not to tempt us!
· He will allow this temptation to take place, and it will test us.
· However, God will give us power over temptation.

3. THE TEST OF TEMPTATION NORMALLY FOLLOWS A TIME OF VICTORY

· Temptation often follows a victory or “mountain top” experience in our lives.
· Right before Jesus went to the desert to be tempted, he was baptized by John the Baptist.
· It is a moving scene.
· John declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and after he baptized Jesus, the Spirit came down in the form of dove...
Matthew 3:17 NIV
17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
His baptism story is the “Coronation of the King.”
· It was the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry, and was undoubtedly an exciting time in his life: He was about to begin the work God had called him to do.
· God even spoke from the heavens to affirm his Son to all who were present.
· Immediately after this powerful event, Jesus faced his duel with the Devil.
In the Old Testament there is a story about the prophet Elijah who single-handedly faced and defeated 450 prophets of Baal during a time of extended drought.
· He challenged them to call upon their gods to bring fire upon their altar.
· They prayed and prayed, but nothing happened.
· Then Elijah built an altar to the Living God, and he called boldly upon God to consume the altar.
· The fire of the Lord came down from heaven and consumed the altar—and everyone knew that Elijah’s God was the Lord.
· And then Elijah prayed for the rains to come; God answered his prayer and it rained.
· It was a high point in Elijah’s life.
HOWEVER, immediately afterward, Elijah heard that the wicked Queen Jezebel was angry and wanted to kill him, and Elijah panicked and ran for his life.
· He hid out in the desert and told God “I can’t take this anymore; please kill me now.” (1 Kings 18)
· Elijah was courageous when he faced 450 prophets of Baal, but he ran like a coward the next day when the Queen made a threat on his life.
Doesn’t make sense, does it?
· But that’s what often happens in our lives.
· After a great victorious experience, believers often find themselves alone in the desert.

4. THE TEST OF TEMPTATION ATTACKS YOUR WEAKNESS

Temptation often attacks you where you are most vulnerable, your place of weakness.
· After Jesus had been alone in the desert 40 days and nights without food and water,...
Matthew 4:3 NIV
3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Why did Satan say this?
· Because he knew that Jesus was hungry.
· He knew that the idea of eating food was the most tempting thought he could put in Jesus’ mind.
· He wanted Jesus to abuse his power for his own needs, and so he attacked him where he was, at that moment, most vulnerable: he tried to get him to eat.
· He will try to appeal to the flesh; he will tempt you to satisfy the needs of the flesh.
Here’s a fact for every Christian’s life: Temptation doesn’t hit you where you’re strong, it hits you where you’re weak.
· If your business is thriving but your marriage is on the rocks, guess where the tempter will attack.
· If you have a strong family life, but you’re going through some struggles at work, guess where the tempter will attack.
· He’ll find where you’re vulnerable, he will look for your weakness and he’ll go after it.
In 2002, during the NFL football season, Jay Fielder, the Dolphin QB was injured and Ray Lucas, the back up, got the call.
· Do you know what the other teams did?
· They started blitzing Lucas in order to rush a guy who had not taken many snaps during the season because they knew that was a weakness, and in a rushed decision a mistake could made and the opponent could capitalize.
· Did it work?
· There were several interceptions in the first three games before the team strengthened their defense against the attack.
That’s exactly how the test of temptation presents itself in the lives of believers.
· The test will hit you where you are the weakest.
· ALSO IF THE ENEMY CAN NOT DEFEAT YOU HE WILL DEFEAT SOMEONE YOU LOVE SO THEIR DEFEAT WILL DEFEAT YOU.
Does that mean we have to throw in the towel and give in to temptation?
· No. It means a true believer will rise to the occasion, and face the test of temptation in God’s strength.
· Jesus was at the point of starvation, and he didn’t give in.

5. YIELDING TO TEMPTATION HAS MORE TO DO WITH A PERSON’S CHARACTER THAN WITH THEIR CIRCUMSTANCE!

To illustrate this point look at the first Adam in Paradise.
· His circumstances were perfect and yet when there was a test of temptation to satisfy his flesh…he failed.
· Look at the second Adam, Jesus Christ, he is in the barren desert wilderness, fasted forty days and nights and yet when tempted with satisfying the flesh he resisted.
· His circumstance could not get worse yet He was victorious.
· NEVER LET YOUR CIRCUMSTANCE BE A RATIONALIZATION FOR YOUR SIN IN YIELDING TO TEMPTATION.
To experience power and victory in each test, the first principle a believer MUST KNOW is THE TRUTH ABOUT TEMPTATION:
• It is inevitable!
• It normally comes after a major victory in our life.
• It often attacks us where we are weakest.
• Yielding to temptation has more to do with a person’s character than with their circumstance.
CLOSE: I issue a warning to you all today; Satan will not stand by idly while we grow this church!
· He will fight it, and he will try to use any of us he can, and he will start with the leaders, and move on to any one he can use in some way.
· Ready yourselves for the attacks of the evil one.
· Prepare you hearts for the temptation to come.
There is victory when we yield in our weakness and allow His strength to take over.
If we are going to be outwardly focused we must first know how to handle the attacks of the enemy that will take us out of the mission, distract us, and cause us to sit in our pew-chairs if we prove incapable of overcoming temptation.

How are you handling the temptation in your life?

Let us pray...
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