Encounters With Christ – Wilderness Survival

Grace For The Journey

Some human being who encounters Christ,

But about a supernatural being

Who encounters Christ – or maybe

Better, how Christ encounters him . . .

Christ’s encounter with the devil,

His encounter with Satan in the wilderness.

This account of Jesus in the wilderness teaches us a great deal about how we can survive times where we find ourselves in a wilderness of sorts, a difficult time of testing, a season of struggle, or a period of doubt and uncertainty.  As we think about this, it is important that we have a healthy theology, in this case, a healthy theology of suffering.  We need to understand that Christians are not exempt from suffering.  This world in which we live is fallen.  It is sin-cursed.  This is why we have deadly catastrophes, plagues, tornados . . . and cancer.  Our world has been devastated by sin, but . . .

Jesus shows us the way to trust in God

In the midst of a sin-wrecked world and

In circumstances that we have no control over

– When faced with shocking news or an

Unfortunate and unexpected turn of events.

This passage, which describes the temptation of Christ, is supremely practical in that it helps each and every Christian during times of trials, and suffering, times of difficulty, and darkness – especially darkness – especially those times when you feel like the devil himself has come into your world, climbed into your car, moved into your house, come alongside you as an uninvited guest to tempt you to turn away from the God you love and the Christ you serve.  Wilderness survival.

This passage offers reinforcement-reminders for when we battle the enemy, when we encounter the one who encountered Christ.  We will look at three things to remember when battling temptation and trials of any kind . . .

I. Remember The Nature Of The Son.

Remember who Christ is, that He is not merely some religious teacher, prophet, or Jewish rabbi.  He is those things, but He is more than those things.  In order to really appreciate what the Bible records about the temptation of Christ, it is important to recall what immediately precedes the teaching in the very passage before.  What we have as we look in Matthew’s Gospel is the passage on Christ’s baptism immediately before the accounting of Christ in the wilderness.  If you go look back into the end of chapter 3 you read about Christ’s baptism.  And especially in the last couple verses, verses 16 and 17, we read about how after Christ was baptized that there was the breaking open of the heavens, the sky splits and the Spirit of God descends like a dove upon Jesus, and then verse 17, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

And then look at the very next verse, verse 1 of chapter 4, “Then” … “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It almost carries the sense of “Therefore.”  Then – immediately after this statement of God the Father, immediately after God parts the heavens and says, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” – then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

I stress this close connection between the last verse of chapter 3 and the first verse of chapter 4 because, what do you think Satan’s first words are to Jesus?  The Father has just said, “This is My beloved Son,” and the very first words out of the devil’s mouth are in verse 3 and what does Satan ask? “If You are the Son of God,”  If . . . Not since . . . not because . . . but if.  Satan wants to instill doubt in the mind of Jesus.  Satan wants Jesus to doubt the truth of God’s Word.  That is what the devil did all the way back in Genesis 3.  Remember how Satan tempted Eve?  By causing her to question God’s Word.  He challenged Eve, “Did God really say you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Did God really say that? Are you sure?”

Satan is relentless in his efforts to keep us from believing in God and trusting in Christ.  I really think one of the reasons some say they do not believe in a literal devil is because they have got the wrong idea of him, the wrong picture of the devil in their minds.  They picture him as the silly red mask that comes with the halloween costume. A silly kind of creature who does not really say much and just walks around sticking people with a plastic pitchfork.  The Bible describes Satan as a thief, a liar, a deceiver, a slanderer, the adversary, the one who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  His ultimate aim is to instill doubt in our minds about the truth of God.  He tries his level best to get us to turn away from Christ, to doubt His goodness, to doubt His nature as the One True God who takes on flesh.  

“If You are the Son of God” . . . Jesus IS the Son of God.  It is so important that we get this truth, that we understand this truth.  

  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we have nothing but a dead, cold religion.  
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then it is entirely up to us to get in a position of favor with the One True God.  
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we will have to be sinless.
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then we will have to keep all the commands of the Bible perfectly, consistently, and entirely.
  • If Jesus is not the Son of God, then because we have failed at that we will have to atone for our sins, we will have to die for our sins, dying a kind of death that actually satisfies the wrath of our Creator, a kind of death that actually atones for all of our sin.

And we ca not do that because we are finite and God is infinite.  Because God is infinite our sins require an infinite payment, no amount of works on our part could ever satisfy His righteous demands.

If Christ is not

The Son of God,

We are in trouble.

But of course, Christ is the Son of God.  The nature of the Son is divine.  In Christ, deity takes on humanity.  God the Son is perfectly good, infinitely good, infinitely righteous, and infinitely holy.  He is perfect in all His ways.  He perfectly trusts God and trusts His Word.

Think about this for a moment.  The first temptation is a temptation to distrust the Father’s care.  Knowing Jesus is hungry after 40 days of fasting the tempter comes to Christ in verse 3 and says, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”  And Jesus replies in verse 4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,’” and that Scripture Jesus is quoting is from Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 3.  The context of Deuteronomy 8 is . . . God’s people in the wilderness.  And God says to His people wandering in the wilderness, “Trust Me. I will care for you.  I will provide for you.  I will give you what you need – food, water, shelter, clothing – I will give you whatever you need.  Trust Me.”

Christian, listen to me: whatever you are facing right now, whatever it is that Satan is trying to use against you, have the wisdom to see that Satan is trying to get you to doubt the Father’s care for you.  That is what Satan does.  He does his level best to get you to question God, to doubt God, to be angry at God.  Satan does not want you walking in faith and victory.  He wants you to wallow in defeat.

Trust God to know your every need

And to provide for you accordingly.

Trust God in your wilderness to

Know what He is doing in your life.

 He is at work.  He always does the right thing.  Live by that truth this week.

Remember the nature of the Son of God.  God the Son is stronger and mightier than the devil.  God the Son defeated the devil.  God the Son is victorious over the devil.

Secondly, when you find yourself in the wilderness of trial and temptation this week . . .

II. Remember the Nearness of the Spirit.

This passage begins with a statement that is easy to miss on the first reading. Verse 1 of Chapter 4, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Mark’s Gospel is even more direct.  Mark 1:12 says, “The Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”  Here is an important truth . . . God tempts no man. The Bible teaches that very clearly.  James 1:13, for example says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”  God does not tempt you to sin.  God does not do that.  

What God will do, from time to time,

Is to walk with you through

The wilderness of trial and temptation.

Satan does the tempting.  

Satan wants you to stumble,

God wants you to stand.

Satan will do his best to get you

To turn away from Christ,

While God will be there

To help you through

The trial and difficulty

So that your trust in God

Grows greater and so

You become stronger.

And God is right there with you the entire time.  The Spirit of God was right there with the Son of God during those 40 days in the wilderness.  The Spirit of God is always with you in your wilderness.  He is the God who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.  He has said, “I am with you always.”  Remember the closeness, the nearness of the Spirit.

This is so important because . . .

If we really believe that the Spirit

Is with us in times of trial and temptation,

Then we will be more likely to trust Him

During times of trial and temptation.

Satan wants you to question that God really cares or that He is really there for you. When you go through suffering, Satan wants you to think this way, “Well, God must be really angry at me.  God must not love me.  God does not care for me.  If there really were a God, He would not want me to suffer.”

You look at these three temptations of Satan here in the wilderness.  You will see that behind these temptations is Satan’s trying to keep Jesus from suffering, to question God’s allowing that suffering.  Satan is trying to get Jesus to take the easy route – To not  be hungry; to change the stones to bread.  In the second temptation Satan is trying to get Jesus save Himself from injury … to assume upon God in keeping Him from suffering injury.  The third temptation is like an act of desperation on Satan’s part.  Satan does not want Jesus to go to the cross and accomplish victory over everything so he is saying, “Just bow down to me . . . You need not suffer . . . Bow down to me and I will give you everything!”

Suffering is part of the Christian experience.  Job’s friends were wrong. They were saying, “Look Job, the problem is you’re not living right.  Don’t you know that God would not allow you to go through all this nonsense of sickness, catastrophe, and loss of family if it were not for something you were doing wrong?  God doesn’t want you to go through the wilderness of suffering, the wilderness of trial and temptation.”

Job’s friends were wrong. God often allows suffering when He knows it is for our good, for the good of our family, and for the good of His glory.  His own Son was perfectly obedient in all that He did, and yet God allowed Him to suffer.  God loved Him.  God allows people He loves – and often those who love Him most – to suffer.  Remember that when you are tempted to think that you only suffer because you are not living right. Jesus was living right and Jesus suffered.

God often bring us through the wilderness, refining us through difficulties and trials and temptations.  That is how we grow stronger in our faith and grow more deeply in our love for Him and our trust in Him.  That is how we endure greater times of suffering.  We remember the nearness of the Spirit, the same Spirit with our Lord in His wilderness is with us in ours.

Wilderness Survival. Survival Training 101.  Remember the nature of the Son, remember the nearness of the Spirit. Thirdly . . .

III. Remember the Need for the Scriptures.

This point is very obvious isn’t it?  Jesus is tempted three times by Satan and every single time Jesus responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  Three times without exception, verses 4, 7, and 10, Jesus says, “It is written.” 

How does Jesus get through the

Wilderness of trial and temptation?

By quoting the very Word of God Himself.  

The Bible is not just some book, not even

Just some great book, not even just

Some great book of literature.

The Bible is God’s Word, His very Word.

If you believe that, really believe that the Bible is God’s Word, then you will be hungry to hear from Him.  Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” 

How is reading the Bible like eating food?  I eat food when I am hungry.  I need to eat or I will starve.  Each of us has a deep-seeded hunger for spiritual things.  We are spiritually hungry.  And the only thing that will satisfy our spiritual hunger is the Word of God, the Bible.  You can try to satisfy your deeply emotional and spiritual hunger with other “foods,” – replacement foods, additives that lack nutrition or worse are bad for your spiritual health, junk foods like pornography, wasted hours watching television, surfing the internet, and taking in hours of food substitutes like Facebook or Instagram.

Real sustenance, real food, real nutrition comes from the Word of God.  Satan wants to keep you from it.  Satan tells you, “Look, what’s the big deal here?!  Just a little of this or a little of that, why there’s really nothing wrong with this or that.”  And if he can get us to stop reading our Bibles, stop attending worship, stop listening to Christian music, stop meditating upon Scripture, stop memorizing Scripture, he will be happy because . . .

He knows if he can keep

Us from the Word of the Lord,

He is more likely to keep

Us from the Lord of the Word.

Every single time Jesus was tempted He responded to the temptation with the Word. Jesus quoted the Word of God, the Bible, the Scripture.

We can learn from Him.  He is perfectly good, consistently good, and entirely good.  Yet, Jesus still needed the Scriptures.  If Jesus needed the Scriptures, how much more do we need the Scriptures?  In fact, it is especially during the dark days of depression and the thorny paths of the wilderness when we are most in need of the Word of God.

And if we live a life saturated with the Word,

Ten it just comes out to help us during those times.

This was the way of our Lord; something like 10% of all the words of Jesus in the New Testament are either direct quotations or allusions to the Old Testament Scripture. Jesus lived and breathed the Word. The psalmist said in Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”  The Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:16 wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.” 

There was a sign up in a locker room  that said, “Trust your training.”  Every athlete knows the helpfulness of that statement … because whatever athletic event you are engaged in . . . an individual event or a team sport . . . towards the end it, your body feels like it is just going to stop.  And your mind tells you to stop.  And everything in you says to stop.  But that sign was a reminder to all athletes that all the weeks have gone into preparation and training will pay off in the end, they will have provided what you need to keep moving or keep playing.

The Bible refers to the Christian life as a race.  What wisdom God gave the New Testament writers to draw upon athletic event metaphors.  There are times when we go through immense difficulty, trials, temptations in the race of life.  There are times when it seems that Satan is laughing at us, and craftily whispering in our ears, “Stop.  Give it up.  You will never make it.  You are no good.”  It is especially at those times Christians are wise to “Trust their training,” and draw upon the reservoir of strength and stamina that comes from the storehouse of Scripture.  Read the Word of God and live the Word of God.

Jesus Christ passes the test and comes through the wilderness as the one and only Son of God.  Satan had said, “IF you are the Son of God,” and Jesus demonstrates that He IS the Son of God.

And because He has accomplished everything necessary for eternal life, if you are “in Him,” then you are covered by the righteousness of the Son of God.  You are accepted by God and approved by God not on the basis of your religious performance, but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness.  This is the knowledge that Satan wants to keep you from getting.  Satan wants you to think of Jesus as merely a good man, a nice man, a good teacher who teaches good things.

Satan doesn’t want you to have this kind of power – to live in this kind of victory – to know that because of your faith in Jesus Christ that, while you are weaker and more sinful than you ever before believed, through Christ you are more loved and accepted than you ever dared hope.  If you are “in Christ,” you are loved, approved, accepted, for eternity.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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