Matthew 4:1-11 Escaping Temptation
Every temptation is a test of your love for God. Escaping temptation is proof of your love for Him.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, HCSB)
I believe this is the central reason for Jesus’ temptation and I have discovered that in my own life, it is the central test of my temptations as well. “How much do I love my God?” I want you to see that every temptation is a test of my love for God.1 You will be tempted. The question is: “How are you going to respond?”
PREPARATION FOR TEMPTATION
Everyone needs to be prepared for temptation. Temptation will happen to everyone. The word “tempt” as used in this passage is the translation of the Greek word peirazein. It carries the basic meaning “to test.” 2
Therefore, since each temptation is a test, we should be prepared for it. The Holy Spirit prepared Jesus for temptation and He will prepare us for temptation. How? He gives us the power to escape temptation.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, HCSB)
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” (Matthew 4:1, HCSB)
The Holy Spirit would never send you into battle with Satan without a way to defeat Him. This does not mean the Holy Spirit causes the temptation. Instead, He helps you THROUGH the temptation.
The Bible does talk about three types of temptation from which we should retreat: idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14), sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22), and greed (1 Timothy 6:10-11). The primary reason is because each of these temptations can turn into gods we worship. So there are temptations from which we should retreat. However, there are temptations which we must escape from by overcoming them.
Jesus went through temptation. He had spent time with God for 40 days and 40 nights. After this intense time with God – this mountaintop experience, He was hungry. This gave the chance for Him to be tempted.
“After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2, HCSB)
There are all kinds of weaknesses which can be used to tempt us and test us.
“For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.” (Hebrews 2:18, HCSB)
Because was tested and suffered, He knows what we are going through. He became like us that He might relate to us, and be strength for us in time of temptation.
“The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works.” (1 John 3:8, HCSB)
Jesus had a purpose in going through these tests. He was revealed to destroy the Devil’s works. As a result, He can help us when the devil tries to destroy us. Let’s explore the three temptation tests which everyone goes through in life.
THREE TEMPTATION TESTS EVERYONE GOES THROUGH IN LIFE
Let’s look at three temptation tests everyone will go through in life.
TEST #1 – Do I love God with all of my strength?
The first test was the test of His strength. Does Jesus love God with all of His strength? You and I will encounter this test. Satan will question whether we love God with all of our strength.
“Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”” (Matthew 4:3, HCSB)
That moment, when Jesus was most vulnerable, the devil challenged him to turn the stones into bread.3 The devil will come to you when you are vulnerable. Martin Luther is known to have said the following: “The Devil is easy to invite as a guest, but hard to get rid of.” In this case, the devil invited Himself.
“But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”” (Matthew 4:4, HCSB)
What did Jesus quote here?
“He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3, HCSB)
The lesson of going hungry was to learn humility. Satan tempted Jesus with pride. He said: “If you are the Son of God.” The wording in the original language means that Satan does not guess that Jesus is the Son of God. Satan acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God. Satan was testing Jesus’ humility. How human would Jesus be? Would Jesus claim His divine nature and change the stone to bread to fulfill His human needs? It is said later that Jesus lived out that life of humility as an example to us:
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.” (Philippians 2:5–6, HCSB)
He did not use the title of Son of God as a way to promote Himself. He still served God through humility in His human form. We can learn the same lesson.
Satan does the same thing in your life and mine when he comes to us and says, “If you are a child of God, where’s the Father’s provision? Why are those bills piling up? Why is there a lack in your life physically or materially?”
He comes to us and whispers in our ears, “Do something in your own power. Exercise your faith. Make it happen now.” But God would have us be patient. We are His children. And He promises He will meet our needs as we pray for our daily bread. Most of us want to reach the Promised Land without ever going through the wilderness. We want to get there immediately, but the Father says, “No. There’s a time of preparation. Wait. Don’t panic. I will provide.”
ILLUSTRATION: LIKE A SECOND
Like the man who prayed, “Lord, is it true that to You a million years is like a second?”
“Yes,” the Lord answered.
“Wow. Is it also true that a million dollars is like a penny?”
“Well, Father, could I have a penny?”
“Sure. Just a second.”4
The answer to the first test is PATIENCE.
TEST #2 – Do I love God with all of my soul?
The second test was the test of His soul. Will you love God with all of your soul? Will you trust God’s protection? Will you trust God with what He has planned for you, or will you trust someone else.
“Then the Devil took Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He will give His angels orders concerning you, and they will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”” (Matthew 4:5–6, HCSB)
“For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways. They will support you with their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11–12, HCSB)
Notice that Satan purposely misquotes Scripture. Since Jesus quoted Scripture, Satan uses it as weapon as well. This is why we need to be well-versed in Scripture. Satan can mislead us with the Word of God. He does it by omitting and misquoting the Word of God. He does it here to Jesus. This is why Jesus says: “It is ALSO written.” Jesus tells Satan to stop taking verses out of context.
Why did Satan take this verse from Psalm 91 out of context? He wanted to appeal to the human nature of PROMOTION. Satan knew that everyone was looking for a Messiah. He was tempting Jesus to be the popular people’s Messiah without the need to follow God’s plan for a Messiah. In essence, Satan was tempting Jesus to look to men for applause and not God. Jesus would continue to have this temptation – promotion. We see it in the Gospel of John:
““I do not accept glory from men,” (John 5:41, HCSB)
We all want to be accepted by others. We all like to get personal gratification from other people. It is a very common temptation.
Paul struggled with this temptation:
“For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10, HCSB)
So Jesus answered Satan that it takes FAITH, not self-promotion.
“Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”” (Matthew 4:7, HCSB)
Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy again:
“Do not test the Lord your God as you tested Him at Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16, HCSB)
Jesus was saying two things:
Don’t take Scripture out of context and don’t test God. Don’t say, “I wonder how far I can go and not get hurt. I wonder how much I can be like the world without really being in the world.” Don’t do it. Don’t jump off the temple to prove your spirituality, your liberty, or your maturity. We may not be magically whisked to the top of a cliff, “but we are frequently tempted to question God’s helpfulness when things go awry,” and we forget God’s grace is available.5 We need to have FAITH.
The answer to the second test is FAITH.
TEST #3 – Do I love God with all of my heart?
The third test is the test of whether we love God with all of our heart. This is the test of worship.
“Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”” (Matthew 4:8–9, HCSB)
Satan tempted Jesus with giving Him all kinds of assets. He would give Him all the kingdoms if Jesus would worship another power – Satanic power. The test here is PRAISE. We are tempted to compromise our beliefs and PRAISE the world’s value. What power do we worship and obey?
“Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”” (Matthew 4:10, HCSB)
The answer to the third test is LOYALTY. Jesus stated that you serve who you worship. You serve to whom you are loyal.
THREE WAYS TO ESCAPE TEMPTATION
Memorize Scripture and use it when needed.
This helps us love the Lord with all of our strength.
In each case, the weapon Jesus used against Satan was the Word of God. Most Christians don’t like to hear the “Bible memory” message, but it is so important in defeating temptation. How did Jesus defeat Satan in the wilderness? By quoting the Word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, 6:13, 6:5). Also realize that the quotes go backwards. This is why I think that His central point was to love God – this was the reason Jesus was being tempted by Satan. God anointed You at the baptism. Let’s see if love Him now. Job encountered the same tactic. Satan told God: Yeah, Job loves you because you gave him everything. Take that away and he will curse you to your face. So every temptation test is a test of our love for God. One of the ways we show that is by memorizing Scripture. If Jesus relied on Bible memory, do you think it might be good for us as well? 8
Many Christians are under the mistaken impression that by simply quoting Scripture, Satan is going to run away. But Satan himself can quote Scripture. So can the demons. The power lies in submission to the Word, not in recitation of it. Satan flees when he hears us say, “I will do it,” not, “I can quote it.”9
This helps us love the Lord with all of our soul.
We like to rebuke one another. However, Jesus shows us that we need to rebuke Satan. The other time that Jesus rebuked Satan was through Peter, when Peter wanted to change God’s plan for Jesus. At the end of that period, when Jesus relied on verses from Deuteronomy to resist the devil’s advances, the Bible says the devil “departed from Him.” He will also depart from any believer who submits to the Word of God in resisting temptation.10
Martin Luther famously said:
“Almost every night when I wake up the devil is there and wants to dispute with me. I have come to this conclusion: When the argument that the Christian is without the law and above the law doesn’t help, I instantly chase him away with a fart.”11
Go to the presence of God
This helps us love the Lord with all of our heart.
“Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.” (Matthew 4:11, HCSB)
Remember the Holy Spirit? He never left Jesus. He kept guiding Jesus. Angels came and served Jesus. Jesus spent time in prayers of comfort. However the presence of God never left Him. The presence of God will never leave you.
Every temptation is a test of your love for God. Overcoming temptation is proof of your love for Him.
1 G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007), 18. Since Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy during these tests, some scholars believe that these temptations are linked to the command in Deuteronomy 6:5. While other scholars dispute this connection, I believe it is quite possible that Jesus was being tempted and tested about His love for God.
2 Myron S. Augsburger and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Matthew, vol. 24, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 18.
3 Jim Reapsome, 10 Minutes a Day with Jesus: Growing in Your Love for the Savior (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008).
4 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 21–22.
5 PulpitFiction Podcast Episode 53: “Grace from Snake Mountain or Lent 1A.” http://www.pulpitfiction.us/2/post/2014/03/ep-53-grace-from-snake-mountain-or-lent-1a.html Internet. Accessed 6 March 2014.
6 David Jeremiah, Sanctuary: Finding Moments of Refuge in the Presence of God (Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2002), 273.
7 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 19.
8 David Jeremiah, Family Factor: Study Guide (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003), 96.
9 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 23.
10 David Jeremiah, Facing the Giants in Your Life: Study Guide (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 61.
11 Martin Luther, Table Talk, 469. As quoted on http://souldevice.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/from-farts-to-faith-interesting-surprizing-and-amazing-quotes-from-martin-luther/. Accessed 7 March 2014.
My Devotion is another sermon I preached from this text. You can find that sermon here.