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COLUM: Victory in Jesus: How the word provides protection from temptation and sin

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By Steve Gettinger

This week’s column is based upon Matthew 4:1-11: “Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’’ Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
How many times have we given in to temptation and then excused our sin by saying, “I’m only human.” or “the devil made me do it”? Are we really helpless against temptation? Let’s spend some time looking at how Jesus handled the tempter and temptation.
In the first temptation, Jesus had not eaten anything for 40 days and he was hungry. The fact that Jesus was hungry shows us that he was in a state of humiliation or humanity, that he was not using his divinity or his divine godly powers to help him out of the temptations he was facing.
The devil says to Jesus: “If you are the son of God, turn these stones in to bread.”
Notice how the devil began his temptation of Jesus by challenging Jesus’ status as God the son.
I find it interesting that the devil’s first temptation to Jesus was about food, because that was the first thing he used to tempt Adam and Eve in the Garden. God set aside one tree and told Adam and Eve to not eat its fruit. All Adam and Eve had to do was leave it alone. Think about it. Adam and Eve had all they needed. They had all the food they needed at their fingertips. They were living in a garden paradise made by God. God only asked them to avoid the fruit of one tree. Never the less, they listened to the serpent and went through all the extra work of picking and eating the forbidden fruit.
In the second temptation, the devil tries to get Jesus to prove that he trusts in God’s protection by jumping off the high part of the temple, in effect, commanding God to rescue him. The devil was tempting Jesus to commit the sin of presumption, which is forcing God to act in a situation of illegitimate need.
What about us? Are we patient in times of trouble, fear, or despair? Do we trust that God knows best? Or do we say, “Lord, prove yourself or we won’t believe!”
In the third temptation the devil offered Jesus the kingdoms of this world with all their authority and glory. This was an appeal to human desire for riches, power and status. The devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and said, “It’s all yours, if you worship me. Why go to the cross and suffer for others? You can have authority and glory now without the suffering of the cross!” The devil was trying to get Jesus to bypass the suffering of the cross, and settle for earthly glory. But Jesus knew that real lasting glory come in doing the will of God the father. The devil did a similar thing to Eve. He told her that by eating the forbidden fruit “she would be like God,” but Eve found out too late that the devil was a liar and a deceiver.
The devil is really not interested in forbidden fruit or changing stones into bread. He is interested in twisting and distorting God’s word to drive a wedge between us and God. If he can do it, the battle is over and the devil wins. The devil loves to get us to question God and his word. For example, the devil said to Eve: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’”
The devil says to people today:
•Did God actually say, “You shall not bear false witness and lie?”
•Did God actually say, “You shall not commit adultery?”
•Did God actually say, “You shall not steal?”
All these tempting questions and more have their foundation in one basic question: Did God actually say, “You shall have no gods before me?”
Before we commit any other sin, we must first remove God from his number one position as the supreme ruler on the throne of our lives.
So let me ask you, “What is the devil tempting you with to get you to give up your faith in Jesus?”
Your answer and response to that question can effect where you will spend eternity.
How did Jesus respond to the three temptations from the devil? Did he use divine authority and command Satan to leave? Did he use his divine power and blast the devil into the abyss? Did he do a miracle? The answer to all of these questions is no! He turned to, “It is written!” Jesus used the powerful word of God against the devil and temptation. To the temptation for bread, Jesus says, “It is written, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
To the temptation of testing God by presumption, he replies, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
To the temptation of worshiping the devil for worldly glory and authority, He answers, “It is written, worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Do you see it? Jesus overcame every one of Satan’s attacks using the same weapon available to you and me — God’s all-sufficient and powerful word! Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. God’s word is a sword given to us to fight and defeat the devil. Put your trust in God and his word, because in it is the victory.
The next time you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar of sin, don’t run and hide from God like Adam and Eve did. Instead, come to your heavenly father with a broken and contrite heart so that you may receive the forgiveness of all your sins.