Tempting By The Devil
1. The scripture passage we are given for today tells us that after Jesus was baptized and before going into his public preaching activities in Galilee, he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Today through this passage we will ponder the tempting the Lord experienced and we want to put into perspective the temptations that we must overcome by taking part in the Lord's own victory.
A Human Is Not Someone Who Lives By Bread Alone
2. To begin, let's read from verses one to four. "Then, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and returned home from the Jordan River. Then he was led by the 'Spirit' through the wilderness and for forty days he was tempted by the devil. During that time, without eating a thing, when the period of time ended, he felt hungry. Then the devil said to Jesus, 'Since you are the son of God, why not command this stone to turn to bread?' Jesus replied, 'It is written, Man does not live by bread alone,' (4:1-4).
3. I have experienced a great number of temptations to now. But, I've never experienced the temptation to command a stone to turn itself to bread. Because even if I were to order it, I know that the stone wouldn't turn to bread. This wouldn't be a temptation for somebody without the power to do it. But, suppose I did have that power. If that authority were granted to me from God the Father and I exercised that authority, I could change the stone into bread. And suppose I were so very hungry the same as Jesus was. Then the devil comes and tempts me, "Why not command this stone to turn to bread?" Can you visualize this scene? Don't you think it's kind of a foolish scene? Satan comes on purpose to ask for something so trivial. Since the devil is so demonic, shouldn't he ask for something more on the evil side of things? In this text "stone" is singular. It is probably also a single [bite] of bread in the text too. Is it so evil to try to meet one's need with no more than a biscuit when one is hungry? He wasn't saying since you're hungry make like a thief and rob some money. He wasn't even saying why not make a lot of dough and load up the profits from it.
4. Yet, folks, the Bible is telling us that this is a temptation of the devil. The temptations of the devil are not just invitations to major sins. Satanic traps are set even in invitations to [commit] small acts where we might think, "Where's the wrong in that?" Anyone would think it was normal to fulfill a need. But, even in things that seem normal there might be a trap from the devil.
5. In this case, what might the problem be? Let's listen in on Jesus' reply [to the devil]. The Lord quotes some words from Deuteronomy and replied that 'It is written, Man does not live by bread alone.' This is to say that there is within the little invitation of Satan a temptation to make us think that "Man is able to live by bread alone." The words from Deuteronomy the Lord quoted continue like this, "Man lives by every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord," (Deuteronomy 8:3). Anyone who thinks "I can live by bread alone" is no longer "living by every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord." When many people get some specific needs of theirs met, they stop their serious look into God's word. When they have met the specific needs of their neighbors, they have stopped saying, "You live by the word of God." Isn't that just the way people are? [Get what you need and forget God. Help somebody else and take the credit.]
6. When I first came to the pastorate here at Osaka Nozomi Church, the church was a small flock of hardly twenty of us -- mostly dear elderly women -- and we borrowed a place at the funeral home to hold church services. We did not have the means to meet the specific needs we each had, neither did we have the sufficiency to supply the needs of the people who had come to the church. But, what we did have was people with great energy for and a desire to look into the word of God and who tried to live by it. People assembled here who honestly believed that "Human beings do not live by bread alone."
7. More than ten years have passed since then. A meeting place has been built. The number of people is more than before and even the size of the budget is bigger. As I said earlier, when we can't turn a rock into bread or as long as our needs are still unmet, there is not really any temptation either. Temptation comes after. We're getting to be a church where some of our requirements and needs are being met. The church is along the way where we can help people in their needs. There is nothing wrong with that. But, we mustn't forget that that's where our temptation also is. Can we still claim like we used to that "Human beings do not live by bread alone?" Can we continue to be the flock we were, a flock that seeks the word of God and honestly believes that we don't live by bread alone?
Worship The Lord Your God And Only Serve Him
8. Let's read next from verse five to eight. "Moreover, Satan drew Jesus high up and showed him all the nations of the world in an instant. Then the devil said, 'I will give you all authority and prosperity over these nations; for, as it is given to me to oversee, I can give it to whomever wants it. Therefore, if you worship me, it will all become yours.' Jesus answered, 'It is written, Worship the Lord your God and only serve Him,.'" (4:5-8).
9. This is the second temptation. At least this seems easier to understand than the first temptation of "make the rock into bread." That's because in the history of humankind there have been as many people as there are stars who would love to get their hands on power and prosperity and would sell their souls to Satan to have it.
10. But, when you carefully consider this, you will realize that this is not so simple a temptation as that. To begin with, Christ never sought for power over nations or prosperity in order to satisfy his own individual wishes. Whenever a person seeks for power and prosperity for their own self-interest and personal benefit, it is easy to see the temptation of Satan in that. But, why not do it when good things will come out of it? Why not do it so that he would have power and prosperity to realize the kingdom of God?
11. I think we should look at the church specifically. If a situation arose wherein the church acquired power over the nations and prosperity, wouldn't you expect the church to think the temptation of Satan was in that? What about if the local leaders in our community were converted and became baptized christians and joined the church? What if prominent politicians or people in leadership in their respective fields, or well-known and highly influential people became baptized christians and joined the church? We would definitely be happy over that. Our happiness would be in that these individual human beings made by God had turned to him. But, at the same time the church would not [only] be happy over that, but it would be happy that the power to influence and be in control would be added to the church. Or, doesn't the church rejoice when a big giver joins and the church grows financially and it has gotten prosperous? We'd expect to think the temptation of the devil would be right there in that.
12. When something like that has happened, no one would think that they themselves were worshipping Satan. But, before you know it, you get pulled completely apart from the word of God of "Worship the Lord your God and only serve Him." Without realizing it you start to be neglectful in matters pertaining to your soul and faith, in worshipping God alone as [the one] God. Then more than ever before, other things which might give us more power and prosperity seem to take on more importance. When that happens, a person has bowed his or her knee to the devil and doesn't even know it. This could happen to us even as individual believers or as a church.
Thou Shalt Not Test The Lord Your God
13. Finally let's read to the end from verses nine to thirteen. "Then, Satan brought Jesus to Jerusalem and stood him on the highest point on the roof of the temple and said, 'Since you are the son of God, why not jump off from here. I say that because it is written in the scriptures as follows, God has commanded the angels on your behalf and they are empowered to guard you closely. And So that your foot does not hit upon a stop, the angels will support you by the hand.' Jesus answered, 'It says, Thou shalt not test the Lord your God.' The devil finished all his tempting and departed from Jesus until the hour comes," (4:9-13).
14. Heights make me dizzy. I dislike it when I basically feel sick. I am not brave either. So, I'm envious of courageous people. I am easily impressed when I hear stories of people who've done things at risk to their lives and I'm more impressed when I hear that God miraculously assisted such a person. And I'm not the only one like this either. We've all heard tell testimonies of faith about people with great resolve and reliance on God whom God has miraculously assisted. People are glad to listen to stories like that. We are moved by them emotionally. And we might think, "Wow, I want to be like that. I sure do."
15. But, be advised. The Bible says that just might be where you'll find a temptation from the devil. Satan looked for a life risking act from Jesus where he would have to trust in God the Father as God's son. The devil even backed up the correctness of his request by quoting the scriptures. If Jesus jumped off, wouldn't that act prove his unwavering trust in God the Father and be proof of the reality of God the Father who would act in response to such trust? Wouldn't that be praiseworthy and commendable? But the Lord refused the request of Satan, saying this, "It says, Thou shalt not test the Lord your God." In other words, it was an invitation to an act of testing God.
16. At first glance the resolution of faith to risk one's life and the act to do so seem just to be our testing of God. This kind of thing happens. But when it does you might be missing something. That something would be obedience to God. Trust in God needs to be expressed in our obedience to God. But, it is only the person who seeks for the will of God who can be obedient to God. The person who is unconcerned with God's will will jump off the temple roof even though God never asked it. That's not an act of faith, but only an act of testing God. We had better be careful in cases especially when we are impressed and touched by faith related actions that other people do. Because God is not the only one who is looking for similar such acts from us. Because it may just be a temptation from the devil.
17. Jesus didn't do such a thing as jump off the temple roof as per Satan's request. Because the main thing for the Lord was that he obey God his Father. The time when Jesus displayed forth his true trust in his Father was not when he was on the temple roof, but more so when he was on the cross. After the Lord said, "O my father, I entrust my spirit into your hands," (Luke 23:46), he drew his last breath and died. The Lord did not yield to Satan's tempting even at the end.
18. While we seek for the Lord's assistance we too must get the victory over Satan's tempting us. For that reason, we must carefully discern what the devil's temptations might be.