Ed Alexander - Temptation - July 24, 2005

Last week, I talked a little bit about baptism. This week, I’d like to take up where we left off last week. We find this in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Immediately after being baptized, it says that the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. He was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. We  don’t know all the temptations that occurred during those 40 days and 40 nights. A lot of the numbers that we read of in the Scripture aren’t accidental. It was no accident that it was 40 days and 40 nights.

Forty has a special significance in the Bible. Four and 40 mean the complete picture. There are 4 sides to a square. There are 4 directions. Forty seems to be 4 emphasized in the Bible and that speaks of a complete experience. The children of Israel were 40 years in the wilderness. Moses was 40 days on the mount. It rained 40 days and 40 nights. Elijah was 40 days and 40 nights in the mount. It was 40 days and 40 nights that Jesus was in the desert being tempted. That is to us a type that Jesus was tempted in all things, like we read in the 4th chapter of Hebrews, He was tempted in all things like we are.


Did you ever notice that when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, in the 6th chapter of Matthew, one of the things that He taught them to pray was, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil?" The Spanish says, "Don’t put us into evil." Maybe I’ll just read some verses from the 1st chapter of James. James 1:12-16, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. Let no man say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted of God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.” Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, his own desire.

There are 2 parts to temptation. Part of it is our desire, and part of it is someone else encouraging us. We can only be tempted by the things that we like. For example, where I grew up, in northern California, along the Klamath River, in the Fall after the salmon would spawn, they would die, and they would wash up on the river bank. During that season, if you had dogs, it always smelled like dead fish because the dogs would go down and roll in the dead salmon. Now, I never rolled in the dead salmon. I could walk right by a dead salmon and I usually tried to walk around them, because that was no temptation to me. That is because rolling in dead salmon doesn’t appeal to human nature. But for a dog it is a real temptation. If you have cats and you have a patch of catnip, a cat just can’t go by without stopping to roll in it. But I can walk right by it. I don’t need to roll in it. Why? This is no temptation to me. This is not a temptation to human nature. But now if you had a piece of dark chocolate, and you offered it to me, and I was on a diet, that would be a temptation. I love chocolate. So if somebody offers me chocolate, that’s very tempting. We are tempted when we are first attracted by our own desire. The word ‘lust’ means ‘desire out of control.’


When Jesus was born, He was born of parents. He was born of Mary and of the Spirit of God. So by birth, He had both the divine Spirit of God and the human spirit. He inherited both. We don’t. We only inherit the human spirit. We’re born of human parents. So, when He went into the wilderness, God didn’t tempt Him. We just read that God cannot be tempted with evil. Neither does He tempt any man. But it was necessary that Jesus be tempted. That was very necessary because Jesus had the nature of man and would be working among men. So He had to be tempted. He was tempted with the things that were human in Him. Rolling in dead fish would have been no temptation to Jesus. And the things that appeal to you and me are no temptation to God. God is not tempted. God is not tempted with the desires of the human heart. But Jesus was. If Jesus had chosen by Himself to take himself into the mountain, and to take on the Devil, with just the feeling, "I’m the Son of God and I can lick him," God would not have been in it. We don’t know what would have happened. But Jesus was led of the Spirit, and we’re always safe when we’re led by the Spirit.

Now Jesus was not tempted by the Spirit. The Spirit of God can’t be tempted with anything that’s evil, or wrong. The Spirit of God led Jesus to where He could be tempted. Do you know why that was? That was so that He would understand you and me. That’s what the writer to the Hebrews said, Hebrews 4:14-16, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, yet was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. So, then the writer said, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace," that when we’re faced with temptation, we can find grace and strength to help us to conquer.


I realized something the other day that I had never noticed before. When we were reading in Revelation, I just noticed that the promises given in Revelation are to the overcomers, not to the overcome. I shouldn’t say that there are no promises to those who are overcome. There are, but they are not what we would want. The promises of God are to the overcomers. To those who conquer through the grace of God, and that’s what we get when we go to the same source that Jesus went to. It says in the 5th chapter of Hebrews, it says in verses 7-9, speaking of Jesus, “Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” Any time we are tempted, and that means when we are encouraged by our self, or by others, or by the Devil, or by the world, to do what is appealing to us naturally, but we know it’s wrong, any time that we are tempted, we have the power to say "No," and that power is available through the Gospel, through the Spirit. We don’t have the power in ourselves.


Adam and Eve were the first humans. They were told by God, and we really don’t know exactly why, but we know to a certain degree why. They were told that of all the trees in the Garden, there was one that they were not to partake of. That was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It seems that everything went well at first. Actually God told that to Adam, and after Eve was created, Adam relayed the message to Eve, "We are not to partake of that." It seems that for a while they just accepted that. Then the Devil came on the scene. He was talking to Eve, and I suppose it was like we do sometimes, talking within ourselves, I wonder, "Did God really mean what He said? Surely, what harm is it? Surely God didn’t mean that we would die." So she looked at it. It says that she saw that it was good for food. Finally she said, "Surely it wouldn’t hurt to just take a little bit." So she gave some to Adam, and then you know the rest of the story. Not very often, in the beginning, does the Devil tempt us with things that are really awful to people. The Devil begins by tempting us with things that seem okay. And then when we are committed, then there’s no end to what we will go to. But the Devil doesn’t start out that way. He doesn’t start out by telling us to jump into the garbage bin. Nobody jumps into the garbage bin.


When the prodigal son left home, the Devil didn’t tempt him with the husks that the swine ate. That was no temptation to him when he left home. But there came a time when he was tempted by them, because of the things that he had allowed in his life. That’s what happens with us that little by little, we become seared with our own actions. There is only one safe answer, and that is what Jesus said. The Devil started out, and he said something very reasonable. He said to Jesus, after 40 days of fasting, he said, "If you’re really the Son of God, just turn these stones into bread." What would have been more appealing than a nice fresh hot loaf of bread after not eating for 40 days and 40 nights! And, what’s the harm in it? There is nothing wrong with bread. The problem was that the Devil was encouraging Him to use His God-given power to the satisfaction of His own flesh. Jesus knew that that was not right. He just simply said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." A very simple answer. It was a simple answer that He only had because He knew the Scripture. If He had not known the Scripture, He would not have had that answer. There is a wonderful safety for us in knowing the Scripture. When we are tempted, when we are faced with a decision, and we know what the Scripture says, it is a wonderful thing just to know, this is what the Scripture says.


So the Devil says to Him, "Well, okay." So the Devil took Him into a high mountain and he said, "If you will fall down and worship me, all of the power and majesty of these kingdoms will be yours." That’s quite a view. I have never been in that high a mountain. I’ve been in some that are fairly high but I’ve never been on one where I could see all the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus said to him again, "Thou shalt serve the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." You know what the Devil was saying? The Devil was saying, "If you will do what I am encouraging you to do, everything that you’ve ever wanted will be yours." You know what, the Devil is a liar. The Scripture says that the Devil was a liar from the beginning, and he is still a liar, and that was a lie, because that is not his to give. The Scripture is very clear that it is God that overrules in the kingdoms of men. We read that in many different places that God overrules in the kingdoms of men. The Devil didn’t have that power. You know what, the Devil never had to fulfill his promises.


I sometimes think back, quite a few years ago now, some of the kids I ran around with when I was in my teens, some of our dreams, some of our ambitions. One in particular who was a little younger than I am, it seemed like everything in the world in general just fascinated him. Everything looked so big and so attractive. I was a few years older, and went into the work. A few years later, he married. She seemed like a very nice girl, and they got things that were very lovely. And he got sick. His illness affected his mind to a certain degree. They had 2 children, and after a while, she left him. Now he didn’t have his health, and wife, and he was blind, and he married again. That one didn’t work out, and he married a third time, and a few years ago, he died. He died in his forties. There is a song, I don’t very often quote a song. There was a song that was popular when I was a kid. It says, "I looked at life from both sides and now, through up and down, and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all." I think of those words so often. It’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all. You know what, we don’t know life. Life is only what we learn as we go along. And there aren’t very many of life’s illusions that come to pass, and if they do, most end up in disappointment, and that is because the Devil is not required to fulfill his promises in life. Fortunately, Jesus knew that.


Then the Devil took Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple, and he told Him, "If You throw Yourself, cast Yourself down from here, it is written, 'He will give His angels charge concerning You, and they will bear You up lest at any time You should dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus just answered, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." I have never been taken up onto the pinnacle of the temple, but we all are tempted with the same temptation. That is, that we can take our own life in our own hands and do whatever we want with it, our own way, so to speak, and God in His mercy will deliver us. There was no guarantee for Jesus, and there is no guarantee for us that there is any salvation outside the will of God. And that was not within the will of God that Jesus should cast Himself down. Now if it had been God’s will that He cast Himself off, that would have been different. God would have stood behind Him. But it was not God who asked Him to do it, so there was no guarantee that God would send His angels, even though He was God’s own Son. We have no guarantee of mercy or of salvation, or even the help of God outside of His will. The Devil would love to tell us, to convince us that we can do whatever we want, that we can take our life into our own hands, and risk it in whatever way we want, and God will still step in and save us. But don’t go there. It’s a lie. Jesus just said, the answer to that was, "Don’t tempt God." Don’t tempt God.


There is a difference between temptation and testing. God proves us. God tests us. The Devil, our fellow man, and often, our own nature tempt us. Temptation is the encouragement to do evil. Testing is the opportunity to do well, to do what’s right. In our English Bible, it says that God tempted Abraham when he sent him up into the mountain. But in most translations of the Bible it doesn’t use the word ‘tempt,’ it uses the word ‘prove.’ God proved Abraham when He asked him to give up his son. God didn’t ask Abraham to do anything evil, or wrong. He was asking him to do what was right. But it cost. All through our life, God will test us, but He always gives us the opportunity to do well. I just appreciated these thoughts, and I am so grateful that we can go to Jesus, and He understands us fully because He has been there. He also overcame and because of that, He can help us to overcome.