There are few things that stir up affections in my heart for Jesus like hearing new Christians – or any Christians – make public professions of their faith through baptism. I think of some of my friends, though, who were brand new Christians and were a little confused about what that meant. They hear the Good News that theyʼve been made new creatures, that they have new hearts, that they have been washed and justified. And they think this means they will no longer struggle or face temptation. But anybody whoʼs been a Christian for a week can tell you thatʼs not true. The question is not whether we will face temptation. The question is, how will we respond to temptation?
I read a quote this week that said, “All men are tempted. There is no man that lives that can’t be broken down, provided it is the right temptation, put in the right spot.” Is this a true statement? Has there ever been a man who could resist even the most well placed temptations? Well, letʼs turn to Luke 4:1-2:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
First, lets discuss exactly where we find ourselves in Lukeʼs gospel. A little earlier, in chapter three, John the Baptist is preaching about Jesus and baptizing others, and Jesus Himself comes to be baptized by him. John has been baptizing a lot of people, but when Jesus is baptized something different happens. The Holy Spirit descends on Him in bodily form like a dove; and a voice comes from the Heavens saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” So here we have God declaring Jesus to be more than just a mere prophet, more than just a Messiah; Jesus is the very Son of God.
After telling us about this declaration from God, and before telling us what the baptized Son of God will do, Like gives us a genealogy, telling us about Jesusʼ ancestry. The genealogy goes all the way back to Adam. So here we have the Lord Jesus, who is not only the divine Son of God, but He is also a descendant of Adam, the very first man. Jesus is unique. Jesus is the God-man.
So, who better to look at to learn how we should respond to temptation? As we look at these two verses, we are going to look at three things we should remember when we face temptation.
I. God Allows and Uses Temptation As Part of His Plan (1-2a)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
So following Jesus’ baptism, where he was declared the Son of God with whom the Father was well pleased, you might expect that the Spirit of God would lead Jesus to dethrone the evil King Herod, or maybe send him directly to begin his ministry of preaching and doing signs and miracles. But thatʼs not where the Holy Spirit leads Him. Instead the Holy Spirit leads Him to the desert. The Holy Spirit leads Him to the very place where the devil will tempt Him.
Now surely the sovereign, all-knowing Holy Spirit knows that He is leading Jesus to the very place where Satan will tempt Him – in the same way that the Holy Spirit knew in Acts 20, that He was leading Paul to Jerusalem, and that Paul would be persecuted and imprisoned there. He tells Paul of the danger that is before Him, yet constrains Paul to go that He may preach the Gospel. This situation is no different. The Holy Spirit knows that Jesus will be confronted and challenged by the devil, yet He leads Him there anyway.
Why would the Holy Spirit send Jesus to the desert where he will be tempted? In light of Godʼs declaration that Jesus is God-pleasing and the Son of God, and Lukeʼs genealogy that shows Jesus to be the son of Adam as well, this temptation sets the scene for Jesus to prove that He is who He was just proclaimed to be. This conflict in the wilderness gives Jesus the stage to show Himself to be the God-man.
Itʼs almost like the way many responded to the Miami Heat this season. Lebron James is the MVP of the league, but his team canʼt win the championship. He leaves the Cleveland Cavaliers, and teams up with two other great players. And when they team up they throw huge celebrations, boasting that, because of all the talent they have, they will win 5, 6, 7 – maybe even more – championships as a team. So everyone has listened to their boasting, theyʼve heard all the hype about this super team. Now when the season starts they have to show up and prove themselves. Are you this amazing dream team that youʼve proclaimed yourself to be? And the media watched and scrutinized their every move to see if they were the historic team everyone hoped.
Well in similar fashion, the stage has been set for Jesus to show Himself to be the Son of God. Will he please God?
We can think about Adam in the garden. He was made in the image of God, to reflect Godʼs glory in a unique way. But then the tempter, the serpent comes to Eve and deceives them both. They disobey God, believing the lies of the serpent over the truth of God. Adam did not prove to be who God made him to be. We see Israel in the wilderness failing to obey God. We see this over and over throughout the Scriptures. God makes man to glorify Him, but man fails and disobeys God.
So will the second Adam be able to do what the first could not do? Will Jesus be able to do what Israel could not do? The devil does come and tempt Jesus for forty days. And Jesus does prove to be who He was proclaimed to be. Jesus shows Himself to be the Son of God who came to save us from our sins and who is our sinless high priest. And the Holy Spirit sent Him there to do just that.
Now, I donʼt want my point to be misunderstood to mean that God Himself tempted Jesus to do evil. That is untrue. But it is very clear in the Bible that us being tempted to do evil does not fall outside of Godʼs sovereignty. Itʼs not something that slipped under the radar. There is nobody and nothing in all of creation that is outside of His jurisdiction. God is completely sovereign. There is nothing in the world that can happen without the permission of our sovereign God. This temptation happens by permission of God. God allowed it and intended to use it for His glory through Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, James makes very clear that when we are being tempted we are not being tempted by God. But do know that God is allowing that temptation and He intends to use it for His glory. God is grieved by the fact that there are evil forces in the world that try to contend with His power and derail you from the path of righteousness. But do know that those tempters answer to your Father in Heaven. And He will use even them for His glory.
Now I know there are many of us who sometimes have narrow ideas of how we glorify God in the world. We think that God is only glorified in public obedience such as sharing the Gospel with our neighbors, or feeding the homeless, or preaching. I want you to know that this is not the only kind of obedience that matters. Both public and private obedience matter very much. There does not have to be an audience in order for you to glorify the God of the Universe.
When we are in private, and we are being tempted to sin, God is glorified by our obedience. God is glorified when we resist the seductive lies of the enemy, to follow the commands of our good God. It magnifies His goodness, and his trustworthiness, and His power to save sinners. So brothers and sisters, every time God allows you to be tempted, the stage is being set for you to glorify God by believing Him over the lies of the enemy.
God does have a purpose in allowing us to be tempted. In this case God shows Jesus to be the sinless Son of God, who can resist the temptation of the devil.
II.Weakness Is Not An Excuse To Give In To Temptation
He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
As the Lord Jesus is tempted, He is in a weak and vulnerable state. The text is clear that Jesus has been fasting for 40 days. At the end of those 40 days Jesus was hungry – which seems kind of obvious; think about denying yourself food for 40 whole days.
We often like to think of Jesus as superman, but He was not superman. He was the God-man. There is a difference. Jesus was a real man. So he was not immune to fatigue, or weakness, or hunger. In this case, Satan tempts Jesus in a vulnerable moment as He is hungry. And he attacks Jesus specifically in areas that play to his current physical weakness.
He tempts Jesus with a more immediate reign, with food, with things that he could rightfully possess. He tempts Jesus with things that could be rightfully His, yet Jesus denies Himself. Jesus shows Himself here, to be the son of man who came not to be served, but to serve.
Brothers and sisters, we should not be foolish enough to think that Satan will not attack us in our times of weakness. I read a quote this week that said, “Opportunity only comes knocking once, but temptation lays on the doorbell.” Temptation does not leave easily. Temptation will remain and wear you down. Like the villains in horror movies who chase the victims until they eventually trip or get too tired to run any more. And Satan is not going to take it easy on you in times of weakness. Satan is our enemy!
This would be like an army observing weaknesses in their enemies, and deciding to lay off of them. Well, no, thatʼs not how it works. When armed forces see a weakness, that is the perfect time for them to attack because the possibility of success is higher. Well in a similar way, the world, the flesh, and the devil will not lay off of their lies in times of weakness. In reality, they will only attack you more.
So how was Jesus able to resist the temptation of the devil in His time of weakness? Itʼs true that the devil never had a chance to lead Jesus into sin, but how did Jesus defeat Him? Well, if we looked at the passage below, we would see that Jesus did what Adam did not do. Jesus believed the Word of God, over the Word of Satan. And Jesus submitted His will to the will of the Father. In times of temptation, we shouldnʼt try to resist by mere willpower. Because the truth is none of us are strong enough.
Resisting temptation in times of weakness begins way before the temptation itself. Resisting the temptation you will face next week begins this week. What are you taking in? What are you filling yourself with? How are you feeding your faith? Jesus was weak. But though Jesus had an empty stomach, He was full of the Spirit. We should seek, as Ephesians encourages, to be filled with – and possessed by – the Spirit of God. We should have our faces in His Word, where He gives and sustains our faith in HIs promises. And we should do this alongside our brothers and sisters in the faith.
There are times in our own lives when we feel weak for various reasons. We may be tired, or emotionally drained, or sick, or maybe weʼre so convinced of our strength that weʼre weak without knowing it. But no matter what the weakness is, itʼs not an excuse to give in. During these vulnerable moments the offers of the tempter may seem more attractive, but God’s Word is still true, and Satan’s seduction is still a lie.
When youʼre tempted to sexual immorality remind yourself that God said, “You are not your own, you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.” And when youʼre tempted to be prideful and selfish remind yourself that God said, “Donʼt just look our for yourself but for the interests of others.” In times of weakness we should, like Jesus, cling to the Word of God and obey Him.
III. The Tempter Has Already Been Defeated
Reading this passage we could lean towards being discouraged, thinking, “Man, Jesus is so holy I wish I could be like Him,” or, “Man, Iʼm more like the first Adam than the second. I am more like Jonah than Jesus.” Brothers and sisters, that is true of every Christian and non-Christian. We are all more like Jonah than Jesus.
But the thing about the obedience of Jesus that we read about here is that Jesus was not just another man. Jesus was not just another one of us who happened to be the obedient one. No, Jesus was the new Adam who came to represent us anew. The obedience of Jesus not only pleases God in that moment, but Jesus obeys for us that we could be pleasing to God. Jesus does what we couldnʼt do. He passes the tests that Adam could not pass and that Israel could not pass – and that no man before or after Him could pass. Jesus obeys where none of us could. Jesus defeats the enemies none of us could defeat. And this particular defeat, in the desert, was pointing to the victorious defeat of Satan that will happen at the end of Lukeʼs gospel.
Even though Jonah was too bitter to even preach to His enemies, the Lord Jesus came to earth and died for His enemies. On the cross Jesus paid for every single time that we have given in to temptation. Every single time. For the believer, there is not one sin of ours that Jesus did not pay for. And Jesus rose from the grave, defeating sin, death, and the devil. The devil is defeated. And if we would turn from our sins and put our faith in Christ we can receive all the rewards that he earned. Seeing the obedience of Jesus should not discourage us, it should encourage us.
This week when you are tempted to sin, remember that your enemy has already been defeated by your Lord. You donʼt have to give in to your sin. The tempter has already lost. Your chains have been broken. Walk in the freedom purchased for you at the cross. Donʼt yield to the demands of a defeated enemy. Jesus died and rose, that we would be able to resist the tempter, and look like Him. We are indwelled with the very same Spirit and we wield the very same weapon.
When we are tempted, letʼs remember that God allows and uses temptation, that weakness is not an excuse to give in to temptation, and that the tempter has already been defeated.
The writer of Hebrews looks at this temptation and finds great encouragement there:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
The Lord Jesus can sympathize with us. He has been tempted as we are tempted, but He never ever gave in making Him the perfect high priest. So we can approach His throne with confidence, pleading for mercy and grace. Letʼs go to Him now.