Matthew 4:1-11 My Devotion
The magazine Discipleship Journal asked its readers to rank the areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them. The results came back in this order:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness and Sexual lust
The respondents also noted that temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone else (52 percent).1
We are six weeks away from Easter. I spoke to you last week about not lifting Jesus up like we should. It’s all about the way I show my devotion to Jesus. Here, we are discover about my devotion to Jesus. There are three words I want you to remember about this sermon: Listening. Obeying. Serving. Repeat these words. These are the keys to my devotion and your devotion to Jesus. Here in this passage, we see that the Spirit sent Jesus into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit sent Jesus.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.” (Matthew 4:1, HCSB)
Jon Courson notes: It is often true that after the blessings come the battles. On the heels of His baptism, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where He would encounter the enemy.2
Notice that the purpose of the leading of the Spirit is to be tempted, more properly tested. God allows tests in our lives to test our devotion to Him. He allows the Devil to come and tempt us. God is not tempted, nor does He tempt. But He allows temptation. The Devil does it because he an adversary, an opponent. The Devil wants to see you fail. God allows it to see you succeed. This was the reason why Jesus was tempted.
“After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2, HCSB)
One might immediately say that Jesus could not be tempted and tested because He was God’s Son. But Jesus was equally human. As a result, He experienced every emotion, every hunger, and every difficulty you and I would experience.
Notice here that because Jesus was led by the Spirit in into the wilderness, He took the time to prepare. He spent time fasting. Why was this important? Because Jesus knew that in order for Him to do what God wanted Him to do, He had to seek God.
You know you come to a point in your life and you know that the Spirit is leading you, so you focus on praying about it. Fasting is a practice of prayer, where you deny yourself physical pleasure – in this case, food, in order to focus on the spiritual. You deny yourself so that you can pray. Fasting intensifies your prayer life.
Kings asked their people to pray for the nation. Esther asked her friends before she went before the king to ask for the deliverance of her people the Jews. Jesus fasted and prayed before He healed someone. If you know you have an important decision or journey to make, fasting is an appropriate form of prayer.
So Jesus is being sent by the Spirit to fast in the wilderness. The Spirit knows that Jesus is going to be tested. The Spirit knows that Jesus is going to be tempted. The test is about Jesus’ love. The temptation is to deny that love. There were three tests in which Jesus was tested, and it is these same three tests in which I will be tested.
I look at these tests as tests of love or devotion to God. What you see is that the three tests intensify. To use a weak comparison, Jesus is going to elementary school, then middle school, then high school. The “grade levels” of these tests build on each other. So let’s start with the first level of devotion:
THREE LEVELS OF DEVOTION FOR WHICH I WILL BE TESTED
“Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”” (Matthew 4:3, HCSB)
Barbara, five, had disobeyed me and was sent to her room. After a few minutes, I went in to talk with her about what she had done. Teary-eyed, she asked, “Why do we do wrong things, Mommy?”
“Sometimes the Devil tells us to do something wrong, and we listen to him,” I said. “We need to listen to God instead.”
“But God doesn’t talk loud enough!” she wailed.3
The actual construction of this sentence in the Greek is “Since,” not “if.” Satan knew that Jesus was; that was never in dispute. Satan’s purpose was to try to get him to use his divine power in the wrong way, defeating God’s ultimate plan of salvation.4 Jesus’ response tells us that this was a test of listening to God.
“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)
The Devil will tempt me to live my life without listening to God. The Devil wanted Jesus to act independently from His Father. That’s why he said: “If You are the Son of God.” If You are God’s Son, then stop listening to Your Father. Do it all by yourself Jesus. You don’t need the help of your Father. You can sustain Yourself. It’s the same lie Satan tells us today.
Because Satan knows that if I stop listening to God, then it is much easier for him to control me. Satan will do anything he can to distract me. When it comes to listening to God, Satan will do his hardest to stop me. The reason is because if I listen to God, I am more likely going to want to obey Him and then serve Him. So if Satan can stop me from listening to God, then he has most of his battle won.
Satan stopped Eve from listening. Satan stopped David from listening. He stopped Saul from listening. One of Satan’s greatest temptations and weapons is to stop a Christian from listening to God.
Listening to God is like food for the soul. The Word of God is the bread of life. I live on God’s Word. I read and listen to what God tells me and I feed on His Word. Without God’s Word, I starve.5
“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)
The second level of devotion to God is when I obey Him. James tells us:
“But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22, HCSB)
Here, Satan is testing Jesus’ obedience. In this case, Satan uses Scripture to test Jesus. He purposely misquotes this Scripture as Jesus properly pointed out.
“Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”” (Matthew 4:7, HCSB)
Notice that Satan purposely misquotes Scripture. Since Jesus quoted Scripture, Satan uses it as a 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.6
Satan will stop you from listening to the Word of God. Satan will also tempt you to stop you from obeying the Word of God. Sometimes, Satan reminds you of verses out of context. He tries to tell you that Scripture isn’t relevant. Satan tries to tell you that God’s ways that describe in the Bible are false or incomplete. “You weren’t born that way.” “You don’t have to follow that old book.”
The third level of devotion is serving.
“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)
Here, Satan tested Jesus’ devotion about Whom He would serve. Who you worship is who you serve. Satan tempted Jesus by asking for His worship, not His service.7 Satan had said nothing about service, but Jesus knew that whatever we worship, we will serve. Worship and service must go together.8
Incidentally, this time of testing is a clear reflection of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness. In fact, biblical scholars note that Israel had faced each of Jesus’ trials during its wilderness wanderings (Exodus 16, 17, and 32). Not only the temptations, but also Jesus’ responses come from Israel’s time in the desert (Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:13). Jesus’ early life had recapitulated Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (Matthew 2:13–15, 19–21). Now he relived their time in the desert, with one fundamental difference, according to Matthew: while Israel had failed the tests, Jesus passed them.9
The Devil, known as the Tempter, came to Jesus during a time of fasting. He tested Jesus in three different areas of devotion. He tested his hearing, his heart, and his hands. These are the same areas in which Satan will tempt me. He will tempt me to listen to him instead of God. Satan will tempt me to obey him instead of God. Satan will also tempt me to serve him instead of God. Each of these areas of devotion shows an intensity of love which I show to God.10
These three tests of devotion apply to areas of my life. In marriage, the first test of my devotion is listening, then obeying and then serving. If I am having a problem in my marriage, it is probably because I have stopped listening, or obeying or serving. The same is true at work or school. If I am doing poorly, then I need to go back and ask: “Am I listening?” “Am I obeying?” or “Am I serving?”
In the church, you can test a person’s devotion by these same tests as well. “Are they listening?” “Are they obeying?” and “Are they serving?” You can’t serve without obeying. You can’t obey without listening.
Henry Nouwin once stated: “I cannot continuously say no to this or no to that unless there is something ten times more attractive to choose. Saying no to my lust, my greed, my needs, and the world’s powers takes an enormous amount of energy. The only hope is to find something so obviously real and attractive that I can devote all my energies to saying yes. One such thing I can say yes to is when I come in touch with the fact that I am loved. Once I have found that in my total brokenness I am still loved, I become free from the compulsion of doing successful things.”11
Remember that every temptation is a test of your love for God. Overcoming temptation is proof of your love for Him.
1 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 726.
2 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 20.
3 Jo M. Guerrero, Christian Reader (September–October 1996). In Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 453.
4 Wayne E. Ward, “Matthew,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 591.
5 Jim Erwin, “Listen, Obey, Serve” Matthew 4:1-11, Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), Logos Bible Software Notes, 25 February 2015, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2015/02/25/listen-obey-serve/, accessed on 3 March 2017.
6 Jim Erwin, “Escaping Temptation” Matthew 4:1-11, Sermon, Internet, 11 March 2014, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2014/03/11/matthew-41-11-escaping-temptation/, accessed on 3 March 2017.
7 David Jeremiah, Sanctuary: Finding Moments of Refuge in the Presence of God (Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2002), 273.
8 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 19.
9 Timothy A. Beach-Verhey, “Theological Perspective on Matthew 4:1–11,” in Feasting on the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 1–28, ed. Cynthia A. Jarvis and E. Elizabeth Johnson, First Edition., vol. 1, A Feasting on the Word Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013), 50.
10 Jim Erwin, “Listen, Obey, Serve” Matthew 4:1-11, Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), Logos Bible Software Notes, 25 February 2015, Internet, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2015/02/25/listen-obey-serve/, accessed on 3 March 2017.
11 Henri Nouwen, “Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying His Word,” Leadership (Winter 1982). Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 458.
Temptations of Christ (San Marco) by anonimus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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