TITLE: Getting Ready for the Temptation Truck SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:1-13
Speaking of temptation, a New York City woman succeeded in weaving an irresistible web of temptation.
No, it isn't what you think.
She learned that city residents, many of whom have pets, had no place to bury their pet when it died. They couldn't bury it in the sidewalk for obvious reasons, and they weren't allowed to bury it in the park.
So this woman let it be known that for $25 she would take care of the deceased Fido or Fluffy.
How did she manage that? Did she take the dead pets to New Jersey for burial?
No! She went to thrift shops and bought old suitcases for a couple of dollars. Then she filled the suitcase with dead pets and took a ride on the subway. She would set the suitcase down and pretend to be looking somewhere else and thinking about other things. Within a stop or two, an obliging thief would notice the suitcase and the distracted woman and would steal her suitcase.
Just imagine the surprise that the thief got when he opened the suitcase!
Just before his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. Luke says that after Jesus was baptized:
"the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon (Jesus) like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (3:21-22)
Now let me give you a little test. What did the voice from heaven say to Jesus?
That's right! The voice from heaven said:
"You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Now let me ask another question. Luke says that a voice from heaven said those words. Who was the voice? Who was speaking? Who can tell me the answer?
That's right! The voice from heaven was God's voice. So it was God the Father saying to Jesus:
"You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
Words like that spoken from father to son constitute a blessing –– a great blessing –– a blessing that nobody but the father can confer on the son. I wonder how many men are walking around today with an empty space in their hearts because they have never heard that kind of approval from their fathers –– they have never received that blessing from their fathers.
Many of us are like that. There are men who are fifty years old and sixty years old and seventy years old who still have an ache in their hearts because their father never said, "I'm proud of you!" or "I love you!" Fathers, don't do that to your sons. Say the words! Confer the blessing! It won't kill you! It will help your son more than anything else you can do for him.
Some fathers seem afraid to tell their sons that they are proud of them. I'm not sure why. Maybe they're afraid of breaking the spell. Maybe they're afraid that their son will quit trying if he receives a word of approval. Let me assure you fathers that that is not the case. A pat on the back usually makes a son run faster –– work harder.
Be an encourager for your son –– not a discourager. If you are a discourager, you probably learned it from your father. Don't pass it on! Break the habit! Become an encourager! Hug your son! Tell him that you love him! Pat him on the back! Tell him that you're proud of him! Learn from God the Father, who told his Son, "You are my Son, the Beloved; WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED." Give your son that blessing!
God the Father gave his Son that blessing, in part, to prepare him for a very tough time. Jesus was about to undergo forty days of temptation in the wilderness –– forty days without food ––forty days in blistering daytime heat and shivering nighttime cold –– forty lonely days –– forty days during which his only company would be the devil. The Father knew that the Son needed that blessing to help him through those tough days. And so the Father said, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
But the devil must have been listening when God said, "You are my Son." When he heard that, the devil thought, "I can use that! I can make that work for myself. I can turn those words against Jesus."
And the devil tried! He did his best! In fact, he tried twice. The devil introduced two of his three temptations with the words, "IF you are the Son of God!" I'll ask one more question. What was the devil's first word to Jesus? (Wait for the response.)
That's right! The devil's first word to Jesus was IF. "IF you are the Son of God." He said it twice. "IF you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." "IF you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here."
That word IF is a challenge word, isn't it. The devil was saying, "I have heard a rumor that you are the Son of God. IF you REALLY ARE the Son of God, prove it! IF you REALLY ARE the Son of God, use your powers! IF you REALLY ARE the Son of God, do something spectacular! Don't just sit there! Do something!"
That's a powerful temptation, isn't it! When I was studying this text, I came across a comment by a scholar –– William Hendriksen. Hendricksen wrote a commentary on the Gospel of Luke. Listen to what he has to say about this temptation. He says:
"What man is there who, when asked to prove a point..., does not feel as if he should immediately comply, instead of first asking himself, 'What right has my prompter to ask me to prove it?'"
Isn't that the truth! Let me repeat that:
"What man is there who, when asked to prove a point..., does not feel as if he should immediately comply?"
You wives know that's the truth, don't you. If someone wants your husband to jump through a hoop, all he has to say is, "IF YOU ARE (whatever), jump through this hoop." The next thing you know, your husband will be breaking his neck trying to jump through that hoop.
But the IF challenge traps women too. When someone says, "IF you are a good mother," don't you really want to prove that you're a good mother? Or, "IF you are my friend!" Or the big one, "IF you really love me!"
"IF you really love me!" You know where that one is going, don't you! Do you know how to answer? The right answer is, "If YOU really loved ME, you wouldn't talk to me like that. If YOU really loved ME, you wouldn't put me under that kind of pressure."
Or even better, "Hit the road, Jack!"
But we are always tempted to accept the IF challenge, and it often gets us in trouble.
But Jesus didn't accept the IF challenge. He didn't jump through the hoop. The devil said, "IF YOU ARE the Son of God," but Jesus replied, "IT IS WRITTEN."
And then Jesus quoted a verse of scripture to counter the devil. The devil said, "IF you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." But Jesus replied, "IT IS WRITTEN, 'One does not live by bread alone" –– a verse from Deuteronomy.
Jesus responded that way to all three temptations. In each case, he quoted a verse of scripture to counter the temptation. He used scripture to defeat the devil.
That can work for us too. We can use scripture to defeat temptation –– but we need to read the Bible –– study the Bible –– discuss the Bible with friends. Then, when the crunch comes, we will know what to say and what to do.
When the crunch comes, we won't have time to say, "Let me get back with you. I need to go home and find out what the Bible says." When the crunch comes, we will find ourselves standing there with whatever is in our heads and in our hearts. A great deal depends on whether we are ready or not.
Jesus was ready. He replied, "IT IS WRITTEN!" His knowledge of the scriptures helped him to avoid a bad decision. We can be ready too, but we need to be serious about our spiritual preparation.
How can we get ready for those times when the devil whispers in our ear? How can we get ready for the times when the road forks and our choice will make all the difference? There are many ways, but let me boil them down to four. If you will do these four things, you will be ready for that day when you glance up and see the Temptation Truck bearing down on you.
1. The first thing is to spend time with Jesus. What I am talking about is prayer time –– devotional time. Set a time each day to read a page of a daily devotional book –– we have some in the foyer. Then take a few moments to pray –– to center your thoughts –– to put yourself in Jesus' hands. So the first step is to spend some time with Jesus.
2. The second thing is to spend some time with the Bible. Start with the Gospel of Luke. Read a chapter a day –– or a story a day. Let those words soak into your heart during the day. You won't necessarily remember what you read, but when you glance up and see the Temptation Truck bearing down on you, the verse you need will be there. So first, spend some time with Jesus. Then spend some time with the Bible.
3. And then, third, spend some time with Christian friends. Develop Christian friendships. Attend a regular Bible study group or prayer group or sing in the choir. You will help the other members of the group in their personal struggles, and they will help you with yours.
4. So spend some time with Jesus. Spend some time with the Bible. Spend some time with Christian friends. And then do one more thing. Give your life to Jesus. Say, "Here I am! Lead me where you will, and I will follow." Ask him, "Help me with the decisions that I will make today –– help me through the temptations that I will face today –– help me to do your will." Make Jesus Lord of your life.
If you will do those four things, you will be ready when the big test comes –– when the Temptation Truck bears down on you –– when your life is at stake. Do those four things, and Jesus will help you stay on the narrow but rock-solid pathway.