The concept of temptations is not as simple as you might think. One the one hand, we are tempted to think that if something is not attractive to you, it will not be a temptation. For instance, I do not like potatoes at all, therefore, I am never tempted to eat them. But on the other hand, spiritually speaking, we know that we often can relate to the Apostle Paul who said that we find ourselves doing what we do not want to do and not doing what we want to do (Rom. 7:15). While we do not want to gossip, we find ourselves talking out of turn way too often.
Temptations are a complicated matter. Maybe that is why when I come to Matthew 4, I have always been intrigued by the temptations of Jesus Christ. Maybe in understanding how He overcame temptation, I can find a sense of clarity in a world in which temptations just do not make sense to me. We are tempted as He was because we are told that He was tempted as we are (Heb. 4:15). Yesterday, I investigated the temptations of Jesus to see what we might deal with in our life.
Much of my thinking on this topic has come as a result of reading Russell Moore's book, Tempted and Tried. If you have never read this book, I would highly recommend that you read it. His knowledge and giftedness in writing has helped me understand this issue much more clearly.
#1: A Temptation of Consumption
When Satan tempts Jesus to turn the rocks into bread, it was more than just a temptation of simple meal preparation. Jesus had been with the Father, praying in the desert for 40 days without food. He was hungry. And Satan is trying to get Him to question the fatherhood of God in His life. Will He trust the Father to provide for Him or will He go out and seek provisions Himself?
On the other side of this temptation, Jesus is going to say that we should not worry about our life, what we will eat or drink or clothes we will wear (Matt. 6:25). He says that we should just trust God to take care of us. Jesus can say this because He lived it.
I spent some time in my sermon talking about the different areas of consumption that we might struggle with. For some it is food; others it is sex. For some it is addictions like smoking or drinking; and others it is toys and possessions. The issue is whether or not we think we are going to find our hope and satisfaction in the consummation of things instead of trusting the Father to provide what we really need in life.
#2: A Temptation of Security
After Jesus quotes Scripture to say no to not trusting the Father, Satan changes tactics. He quotes Scripture himself and tells Jesus that if He were to jump from the top of the temple, the Father would have no option but to save Him miraculously. The heart of this temptation is found in Satan wanting Jesus to question whether the Father would protect Him. Satan wanted Jesus to demand of the Father the miraculous to prove His care. This would be the equivalent of treating the Father like a divine bell-hop.
For many of us, our security comes in the form of money or relationships. We think God doesn't care for us because He has not given us a good job or close friends. And we stare into the heavens and tell Him that if He would do these things for us, we would follow Him. We want the security of Him proving to us that He cares for us through tangible things in this life.
Does the Father care? Of course. That's why the cross is so important. Jesus denies His own self-protection because He was looking for the protection of His people. And because of that, our security in Christ is rock-solid secure.
#3: A Temptation of Status
Satan goes for the jugular in the last one. He takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world. And then Satan promises to give them all to Jesus if He would just bow down and worship Satan. The interesting part of this temptation is that Satan is promising to give to Jesus what Jesus knows He will one day own. The Kingdom. But Satan is willing to give it to Him now. Why? Because Satan wants Him to have it without going through the agony of the cross.
Satan doesn't mind if we live Christianly with our neighbors as long as we do not preach the cross. He loves the morality of Christianity without the cross. The glory without the cross is an empty gospel! Satan knows that. But so did Jesus. He says no and it provides for us the foundation on which we can resist these temptations as well. I just pray that I do . . . and that you do.