Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 4:1-13 – Overcoming Temptation

Grace For The Journey

We are preaching our way through the Gospel of Luke and we come to a pivotal passage today where our Lord Jesus Christ faces 40 days of trial and testing in the wilderness of Judea.  Most of us are familiar with this passage and know that Satan appears before Jesus and tempts Him three times, each time beginning the temptation with the words, “If You are the Son of God,” or, “If You will worship me.”  It is important that we remember where we were last time as context helps us understand what is happening in today’s passage.  Last time in chapter 3 we studied the baptism of Jesus and we recall from verse 22 that when Jesus came up out of the water He heard the Heavenly Father say, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”  What we have now in chapter 4 is a challenge to those very words.  Satan is challenging the divine sonship of Jesus.  What Satan aims to do in this passage is to get Jesus to doubt whether the Father really meant what He said when He said, “You are My beloved Son.”  His whole modus operandi is to get Jesus to doubt His unique role as Son of God and that the Father really loves Him and will provide for Him.  That is why Satan prefaces his temptations with, “If you really are the Son of God.”Immediately preceding our text, the last few words of chapter 3, we have the tail-end of the genealogy of Jesus which Luke traces all the way back to Adam who, like Jesus, was a unique “son of God,” but unlike Jesus, Adam failed his test.  So now the “second Adam,” our Lord Jesus, is being tested.  The serpent who assaulted the first Adam in the Garden now assaults the second Adam in the wilderness, and the second Adam passes the test.  The Bible states in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  We may say that . . .

The first Adam

Failed the temptation,

Bringing sin to mankind,

The Second Adam, Christ Jesus,

Passed the temptation,

Bringing salvation to mankind.

As I was reflecting on this topic of “Overcoming Temptation,” it occurred to me that we could have just as easily entitled our message, “Overcoming Idolatry.”  Because when we give into temptation we are saying, “No” to God and “Yes” to something else in God’s place.  Think about it. 

  • If we give in to the temptation of greed, we do so because money, power, or possessions have taken God’s place. 
  • If we give in to the temptation of lust and commit adultery in either thought or action, we do so because our lustful desire replaces the desire for God. 
  • If we give in to the temptation to gorge ourselves on food not because we need the nutrition but because we just love the taste of something in our mouths, then we have placed that something else before God and have fallen – at least for a moment – into the sin of idolatry.

This is important for us to grasp as we study the temptation of Christ because, as the Son of God, Jesus will show that He will have nothing to stand between Himself and His Heavenly Father.  If the Father had said, “You are My Son, whom I love,” then Jesus’ actions in the Judean Wilderness reply back, “You are My Father, whom I love.”

What I want to do in our study today is keep our focus on Jesus, noting how He overcame His temptation with the obvious secondary question of how then we are to overcome our temptation.  If He is our Master, then we will learn from His actions and emulate His ways.  And the very first thing that leaps off the page and into our eyes is the phrase in verse 1, “Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

This shows us the first way to overcome temptation . . .

I. Be Filled With The Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a favorite emphasis of Luke’s.  We know from having studied Luke’s book of Acts that Luke made much of the Holy Spirit in Acts and wrote of people being filled with the Spirit . . .

  • Stephen was a man “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 7:55)
  • Barnabas was “full of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 11:24)
  • Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:9)
  • In chapter 1 of Luke, John the Baptist will be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:15)
  • Elizabeth was “filled with the Spirit.” (Luke 1:41).”
  • Zacharias was “filled with the Spirit.” (Luke 1:67).” 
  • Mary was overshadowed by the Spirit, and gave birth to Jesus who grew and became “strong in the Spirit” (Luke 2:40).
  • During His baptism, descending upon Him in the form of a dove, is “the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 3:22)
  • The Holy Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1))
  • Following what happens in the temptation, we read that Jesus returns to Galilee in “the power of the Spirit.” (Luke 4:14)

All of these occurrences are not accidental . . . 

Luke is showing us that if we expect

To be of any use to our Lord and

If we expect to have any victory

In this world then we had better

Be filled with the Spirit. 

And before we can be

Filled with the Spirit,

We must receive the Spirit.

We receive the Spirit when we become Christians.  We must be saved.  When we are, God indwells our bodies, our temples, by way of the Holy Spirit.  He immediately and entirely enters in and takes up residence.  He stays here with us, living within us. 

To be filled with the Spirit means that we

Regularly, continually, throughout each day,

Submit ourselves to His complete control. 

We yield our lives to Him, our passions

To Him, our desires to Him. 

To the degree we do this

We are being filled with the Spirit.

God is number one in our lives.

This is how Jesus overcomes the tempter’s first test.  After 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, having eaten nothing and afterward being hungry, the devil says to Him in verse 3, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  Jesus could have done that, but He does not.  He replies, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Jesus fasts 40 days and refuses to give in to temptation to turn stones to bread to show . . .

That He will be

Enslaved by nothing,

But God.

He is filled with the Spirit and His life is focused on loving His Father, living for Him, and honoring Him.  He would say later in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me.”

This is to be our response as well.  When we are tempted to sin we will not give in to that temptation if we are filled with the Spirit.  If you are filled with the Spirit your mind, your heart, and your affections are consumed with God.  When you are yielding to the Spirit, you cannot think an unholy thought and a holy thought at the same time.  You cannot sin when you are filled with the Spirit.  So “say no” to the tempter and “say yes” to the Spirit.  Say, “Holy Spirit, I yield to You.  Fill me.  Take control.  I surrender myself to You.” 

This is the same thing Paul had in mind when he wrote in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”  Do not allow your body to be enslaved by anything other than God.  Be filled with the Spirit. 

Number two . . .

II. Be Faithful Through Suffering.

It is important for us to stress that Christ really did suffer.  If we are not careful in our thinking we may accidentally slip into a heresy of thinking that somehow because Jesus was not only human, but also divine, that He did not really feel temptation as we feel it.  The thought has probably entered most of our minds at one point or another in our Christian experience.  The writer of Hebrew says in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Perhaps we reason, “Well, because He is both human and divine, somehow it was easier for Him to resist temptation.”  As though when the devil says, “If you really are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread” and Jesus replies stoically, “I am not even hungry.  I am the Son of God.  I can do anything.  40 days is nothing.  I’m just getting started!” 

There is a reason Luke takes the care to record with precision in verse 2 that after the 40 days were ended, “He was hungry.”  Had we been there, He would have looked painfully emaciated.  I mean, starving for food.  He felt real hunger.  It was precisely because He was both man and God that He suffered the temptation in a far greater way.  You and I are clearly not divine.  For us to give in to temptation is nothing.  We are sinners.  Temptation comes knocking and it does not take long for it to knock us over.  But because Jesus is also God, He suffers a temptation far greater than ours.   Sin comes knocking at Jesus and it knocks, knocks, and knocks and He feels every single blow in a way you and I can only imagine.

His sinlessness did not immunize Him against the effects of sin, either during His life or on the cross.  In fact, He tasted our temptations with a sensitivity none of us has known precisely because He resisted them.  Whatever your experiences of temptation or suffering, Christ’s was deeper because His humanity was sinless.  The good news here is that because Christ suffered temptation, He knows what we are going through!  This is the point of the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  When we cry out to God because of our temptation, Jesus Christ knows what it is like.  He knows.  He has been there and done it.

To appreciate this, imagine for a moment that Jesus gave in to this first temptation of the devil’s and He turns the stones into bread.  He could have done that.  But then how would He have ever been taken seriously later in His ministry?  I mean, when He starts preaching the Sermon on the Mount and He says in Matthew 6, “Don’t worry about food.  Your heavenly Father loves you and will take care of you.”  His disciples would be like, “Easy for You to say, Jesus!  When You were in the wilderness You changed rocks into sandwiches!  Easy for You to say.”  No.  He knows what it is like to walk in your shoes.  He really did suffer.  When you suffer this week, He is there, with You, reaching out to You from the shadows of your suffering and saying, “It is okay.  I am with you.  I know what that is like.  It’s going to be okay.”

Then the devil takes Jesus and shows Him, perhaps in a vision, all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  He says, “I will give You authority over all this if You will worship me.”  Of course, Jesus knew that whatever authority Satan had, it was a temporary authority God allowed Him to have as the “ruler of this world (John 12:31, etc.), the “prince of the power of the air “(Ephesians 2:2).  Satan says, “I will give You their glory if You will worship me.  Jesus, You want glory?  I will give You glory!  And Jesus, You will not even need to suffer for it.  I will give it to You right now!  You cannot possibly think Your Heavenly Father loves You, can You?  Look at what You are going through, here!  You are starving to death!  Come on, just say the word and all this will be yours!”  I wonder how many of us may have jumped at the chance to be so powerful, exchanging the glory of God for the glory of the world.  But Jesus is faithful through suffering.  He says, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only shall you serve.”

It is important to see here that Satan is trying to . . .

Offer Jesus a shortcut to glory.

He was tempting Jesus to get a crown without the cross.  He was tempting Him to forego suffering.  Had he succeeded, there would have been no hope for our salvation.  This is why Satan works so hard at it.  He is trying to get Jesus to avoid suffering and, because we are Christ’s followers, Satan tempts us the same way.

The devil tries to get us to doubt the Father’s love for us.  He says to us, “If God really loved you; you would be driving a better car.  If God really loved you, you would have gotten that promotion.  If God really loved you, you would have been healed of that disease.”  How will you reply to him?  The devil tries to get us to forego suffering.  “You don’t need all that suffering business,” he says.  “I am offering a life of ease and indulgence.”  But Jesus warns us in Matthew 16:24-25 that, just as it was true for Him, there is no crown without the cross, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”

Satan promises the easy way.  He tells you that you really do not need to suffer.  He wants us to think that Jesus did not really mean for you to “take up your cross” and “lose your life” and all that.  That is far too costly!  You impatiently watch a missions video or listen to somebody sharing about missions and the devil whispers into your ear, “God does not really expect you to fly to Asia and share the love of Jesus Christ with the 70 million orphaned children there.  Look at how much good can be done here and just see how God is blessing!  God does not really expect you to share the Gospel among the 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa living with HIV.  No, that is for others to do.  He is got you here to enjoy the niceties and comforts of your predictable income, your house, your recreational activities, your food and your gadgets.  Do not risk your life going to some crazy foreign country!  Let the fanatics do that.  You’re okay.”  And if you have a heart of wisdom, may you reply to those temptations of Satan the same way our Lord did when, through Peter’s offer of glory without suffering, Jesus heard him and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”

 The devil then takes Jesus to Jerusalem and to the highest point of the temple and says, “If you really are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.  After all,” says Satan, “The Bible says in Psalm 91 that Your Father will send His angels to protect You.”  And Jesus replies in verse 12, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”  That is, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  In essence, Jesus says, “Just because God promises His protection, I have no guarantee from Him that if I act foolishly, He is going to bless Me.”  It is like reading in Mark 16 that believers will be able “to take up serpents” and then saying, “Well, let’s just bring a bunch of snakes into our worship service and see what happens!”  How often God must look down from heaven and just shake His head.  We are to never put God to the test.  That God promises to love and care for us give us no green light to act like fools.

Someone says, “Well, I would never be so foolish as to handle snakes or throw myself down from a building to test God.”  No.  But maybe you would test God by “throwing yourself” into other things, what Kent Hughes refers to as, “willful swan dives” into situations without first seeking God.  Hughes illustrates how doing so puts the Lord to the test.  He says, for example, “Diving into a marital relationship that does not have the approval of God’s Word; misapplying Scripture with disastrous consequences, then crying out for God to catch us before we hit bottom; rationalizing a head-strong plunge by saying, ‘If this works, God will receive great glory.  Just think of the souls that will be saved.  God you have to be in this – You just have to!’”  Hughes adds, “True, (God) specializes in picking up the pieces, but we must not test Him through rationalized disobedience.”

The third mark . . .

III. Be Familiar With The Scriptures.

It is of no small importance that when Jesus is tempted these three times by Satan that every single time He responds to the temptation by quoting Scripture.  In fact, no other words of Jesus’ are recorded here except His quoting Scripture.  Three time He says, “It is written.”  Even the devil realizes this and so, after the first two temptations, the devil tries it out himself in the third temptation, misinterpreting Psalm 91 as a grounds for putting God to the test.  You see it is not enough to quote Scripture.  The devil can quote it.  We must rightly divide it, rightly interpret it.  This is one reason we place such emphasis upon the Scriptures here at First Baptist, Butler.  We recognize the sufficiency of Scripture to answer our every question.  We see how familiar was our Lord with the Scriptures and we seek to follow Him.   

In the words of the hymn-writer . . .

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said—

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

Jesus used the Scriptures to battle the devil and so must we if we are His followers.   The Apostle Paul agrees.  He says in Ephesians 6:17 that in order to “stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil,” we must “take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”  We cannot take up the sword of the Word if we do not know how to use it.  What good is a sword to a soldier in battle if he does not know how to take it up?

So we must learn the Bible.  Take it up!  Read it daily.  At times, read it slowly.   Memorize it as did our Lord that we might use it to fight against sin.  May we say with the Psalmist in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.”  Vance Havner says, “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”

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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