Tempted and Tried (3): Introduction to Temptation (3)
Intro – Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades, sharing many adventures. But age took its toll and eventually limited them to simple activities. One day, while playing cards, one looked at the other and said, "Now don’t get mad at me. I know we’ve been friends for a long time, but I can’t think of your name! I’ve thought and thought, but I can’t remember it. Please tell me what your name is." Her friend glared at her – for 2 long minutes. Finally she said, "How soon do you need to know?"
I tell you that story because it illustrates why we have difficulty with temptation. It’s because we forget who we are. Every temptation creates an identity crisis. This is because we want the benefits of being a Christian, but we don’t always want the identity. We want to be a Christian on Sunday, but we’d just as soon be one of the boys during the week. We’d just as soon be part of the gossip society during the week. We’re easy pickings because we have a mixed identity. The tests that come into our lives are intended by Satan to confuse our identity, but they are intended by God to further establish our identity as one of His own. Who wins? That’s up to us!
We’re taking a bird’s eye view of temptation from Luke 4. We’ve seen God’s part – He actively allows, administers and accompanies every temptation. They are intended as tests by Him – bounded opportunities for us to. Then we saw Satan’s part – to make the temptation look as enticing as possible, while behind the scenes viciously and persistently plotting our downfall. So, today, the question is, how do we line up with God’s testing purposes intended for our good rather than Satan’s tempting purposes intended for our demise? What is My Part?
III. My Part – Find My Identity in God
Simple. My part is to act like who I am in Christ. My part is to refuse the identity crisis of Satan in favor of further establishing my identity as God’s son or daughter. Sounds easy. It’s not; it is perhaps the hardest thing in the Christian life. Given that every sin is the result of an identity crisis, and consider that there is a lot of sin, and you see how tough this is.
Temptation was about identity from the start. Remember? God put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and told them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28). Who was to have dominion? Adam and Eve. Over what? Every living thing that moves. Then we come to Gen 3:1: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” What is the point? The point is that the serpent, while crafty, is still a living thing under man’s dominion. But the opposite happens! The serpent asks the questions, and Eve answers, becoming subordinate. The serpent takes the lead, usurps authority, so right off the bat, everything is upside-down. She’s in the image of God, not him. She has dominion, not him. But she gave it up the moment she answered. To put it bluntly, he persuaded her to see herself as an animal instead of the image-bearing ruler for God that she was. Before she ever sinned, Eve already had an identity crisis. At the very beginning –the key question was: Who are you? Eve didn’t even see it and most of the time, neither do we. Temptation is about – Who are you?
So, who are we? Jesus says we are the light of the world. Matt 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” To counter temptation, we must remember who we are. Paul reminds us in Rom 8:17 that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Do you see? Those who are true heirs of God live like heirs of God. They don’t take the easy way. Paul says in Eph 4:22-24 that real believers know “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Be who you are, not who you were. When the enemy gets us focused on pleasing self, we have an identity crisis. Or if he can get us thinking ourselves irrelevant, unimportant, self-loathing – identity crisis! That is not who we are in Christ. In him we are redeemed, forgiven, adopted, sealed. Every temptation makes us question in some way, Who am I?
A frustrated executive called maintenance one day when his computer failed. He asked to for Ahmed (A H M E D) who he knew managed the department. Shortly a man came on the line and said, “Hello, Ed speaking. How can I help you?" The exec replied, “Sorry. I was looking for Ahmed.” The man replied, “This is Ahmed. How can I help you?” “I thought you said your name was Ed?” said the caller. The guy replied, “It is. But whenever I say ‘Ahmed,’ people think I’m saying, ‘I’m Ed.’ So I figured it’s easier to just be Ed.” Easy way out. Change identity. Just what we do when we give in to temptation. When the enticing pictures pop up on the screen, it’s just easier to be the old me than to fight the temptation and ace the test. Far easier to harbor the bitterness than seek or give forgiveness. Better to think myself unworthy than to act positively. We’d rather change identities than change behavior. Rather be the old me than fight to be holy as our Father is holy.
The youthful Prince of Wales got good advice from his father, King George V. During the roaring 20’s, he told his son, “No one has ever had the chance like you to mix with all kinds of people but you must never forget your position or who you are.” Tragically, the Prince forgot. He forgot long enough to take up with a twice divorced American named Wallis Simpson. When he became King Edward VIII in 1936, he thought he could marry her and still have the throne, but it was not to be. When his plans became public, there was a huge backlash due to Wallis’s past. He lost the throne because he forgot who he was. If we are to overcome temptation and grow as God intends, we must be always alert – never forgetting who we are. This passage shows us two ways to do that, beautifully modeled by Jesus Himself – two imperatives to winning over temptation.
A. Be Filled with the Spirit
The first imperative to winning over temptation is to be Spirit-filled. That is emphasized in Luke 4:1, "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Both Matthew and Mark also mention this ministry of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life associated with His temptation. So what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
We often associate the filling of the Holy Spirit with mighty deeds and think it cannot be for us. In the Old Testament, the HS came upon men like Gideon, David, Samson, Saul, and the prophets resulting in great deeds and prophecies. In the New Testament, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit prior to speaking in multiple languages on the day of Pentecost, demonstrating that the gospel was now available directly to everyone, not mediated through a nation, Israel, which had proven to be quite unfaithful. Peter, John, Paul, Stephen, and others were filled with the Spirit prior to preaching great sermons. So the link between being filled with the spirit and accomplishing great things is a biblical link. However, that is not the full story. The Holy Spirit is available to NT believers at all times.
In OT times, the Holy Spirit came and went at will. He did not reside permanently with people. But even in the OT God prophesies in Ezekiel 36:27, "And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” This looks forward to a time when the Holy Spirit would not just come and go, but would take up permanent residence in the heart of true believers. This is one of the promises that attaches to the New Covenant of God under which we live today.
And, God is fulfilling this promise. Every believer receives and is indwelt by the Holy Spirit from the moment that they open their heart to Christ. The Bible says in I Cor 12:13, "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” This indicates that all believers are initiated into, or become part of the body of Christ, the church, by being baptized in the Holy Spirit. This same truth is indicated in the second half of the verse where we are told that “all were made to drink of one Spirit.” This references John 7:38. Look, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Jesus was looking forward to a time when the Holy Spirit would be given to "whoever” believed in Him. That time came after He had been glorified -- that is, had died, been resurrected, and ascended back to heaven. It happened first at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2, and has been true of every believer since.
Paul summarizes succinctly in Romans 8:9, "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” You simply cannot be a true Christian and not have the Holy Spirit. It is impossible. The Holy Spirit is not a second blessing. He is a first blessing! There is no need to wait or pray for him. The apostles did so in Acts 1 because the new church age had not yet begun. They awaited the initiation of this process. But since the dramatic arrival of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2 at Pentecost, every believer has received as much of the Holy Spirit as he will ever have at the moment of salvation. Every believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit and sealed by the Holy Spirit. So, what about the filling of the Holy Spirit? Does every believer have that? And the answer is – not necessarily. There is a distinct difference between the baptism or indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
The clearest indication of this difference is found in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” This verse clearly sets apart the filling of the Spirit as a unique part of the Christian experience. Be filled with the Spirit is a command. We are never commanded to be baptized, or indwelt, or sealed by the Holy Spirit. Those are automatic. They come with the salvation package. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is different. Not automatic! We decide whether or not we are filled with the Spirit. And the fact that Paul uses the present tense indicates we have to persist in this. Will we be filled with the spirit, or will we be filled with self? Think of it this way. We have all of the Holy Spirit that we will ever get. All of Him is available to us 100% of the time. The question is, how much of us does He have? To be filled with the Spirit is to be giving ourself to Him 100% just like He's giving Himself to us 100%. The filling of the Spirit isn’t about me getting more of Him – it’s about Him getting more of me!
What does Spirit filling mean? Notice that it is contrasted with being drunk. What happens when we are drunk? Well, we are taken over by that influence -- we can't talk right, can't walk right, can't think straight. We have been invaded by and controlled by an outside influence. Paul is saying, don’t let that influence be wine. Instead, give yourself to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Do that continually. Literally the phrase is translated, "Be continually being filled by the Holy Spirit." See, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit one moment, and the next moment see a billboard that appeals to the lust in our heart, or hear an item of gossip that appeals to our desire to violate the privacy of others and now we have a decision to make. Will we be filled with the Spirit and continue to be controlled by Him, or will we begin to massage this temptation and allow it to take control? Jesus never ceased to be filled with the Spirit, and He urges us to do the same.
Spirit-filling is not just for crisis situations. It is for everyday life. Look at Exod 31:1, “The LORD said to Moses, 2 “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4 to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5 in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” Bezalel was filled with the Spirit to perform manual labor. Spirit-filling is for every aspect of life. There is nothing too mundane for His control.
To be Spirit-filled is to let God live through us. He’s our identity! Can you see why that would make a difference of temptation? When we are used to submitting every decision and every action to God’s control, we’re a lot more likely to see temptation as the test God means for our growth, than the trap Satan intends for our downfall. We won't find ourselves in places we shouldn't be looking at things that we shouldn't see and contemplating actions we shouldn't be contemplating. Living a Spirit-filled life helps us see through the temptation to its poisonous end. The Holy Spirit is the first great gift that God has given to help us keep finding our identity in God.
B. Be Filled with the Word
This is the 2nd key to finding our identity in the Father. Notice how Jesus met temptation. V. 4, “And Jesus answered him, “It is written.” V. 8, “And Jesus answered him, “It is written.” V. 12, “ And Jesus answered him, “It is said.” It is written; it is written; it is said. What is he doing? He is quoting the Word of God to counteract the temptation of Satan. So, when did you last quote Scripture to counter the temptations of Satan? When did you last counter his temptation to skip work by quoting, “Thou shalt not steal” ? When did you last counter his temptation to watch pornography by quoting Phil 4:8? When? It’s fascinating here that here is Jesus, the second person of the Godhead – appealing to Scripture rather than his own unique supreme authority. This uniquely substantiates the authority of God's Word. Jesus quotes from what Moses wrote. Great as he was, Moses could not begin to compare to the person of Christ. Yet Jesus appeals to those words to defeat his enemy. Why? Because He knew that it was not mere words of men. He knew the truth of what Peter would write later in II Peter 1:20-21, "no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Jesus knew that these words ultimately had been superintended by the Holy Spirit. Thus, in his humanity, He knew them, and he knew how to use them.
So, beloved, if the Son of God appealed to Scripture to counter temptation, do we suppose we can be successful without knowing the Word? Surely not! It is interesting that all three quotations that Jesus uses come from the book of Deuteronomy. Is it possible that He had been meditating on that section of Scripture just prior to this temptation? We don't know that for sure, but we know for sure that he knew the Word. So must we.
In fact, a little secret. To be Spirit filled is basically the same as to be filled with the Word of God. You say, "How do you know that?" Well, look with me in Ephesians 5:18 and following, " And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Now, look at the results) 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Now turn to Col 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, (now, watch the results) teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” You see that the results of being filled with the Spirit are virtually the same as letting the Word of God dwell in us richly? Paul wrote these letters at almost the same exact time. It is clear that he saw being Spirit-filled as synonymous with being absorbed in God’s Word. You really can't have one without the other. And both are key to Jesus’ success in meeting Satan head-on. We must be filled with the Spirit, and filled with the Word.
Notice that Paul urges that the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. What does richly mean? What does rich mean? It means you have a lot, right? Do you have a lot of the Word? Does the Spirit have a lot of you? Are you moving forward in both areas? We won’t hit perfection in this life, but let’s be moving forward together, Beloved. Let’s long for the Word and get it into ourselves. And let’s encourage each other to be controlled by the Spirit of God, not by selfish desires.
Conc – Handley Page was a pioneer in aviation. One day on a lengthy flight over water, he heard the sickening sound of gnawing which told him that somehow a rodent had gotten on board and was gnawing away on the fragile wires and mechanisms that controlled his plane. He was considering what he could do to when it occurred to him that he had heard that rats cannot survive at high altitudes. He immediately pulled back on the stick and drove the plane higher until he has having trouble breathing himself. But it worked. Before long the gnawing stopped, and when he reached his destination, he found the rat lying dead behind the cockpit.
Want to find the devil lying dead behind the cockpit when he gnaws away at your life with his glamorous temptations? Then you will have to fly high. We must avoid the identity crisis. We must live like the child of God that we are, not like the child of self and Satan that we were! The choice is ours. Let’s be Spirit-filled. Let’s be filled with the Word. Let’s fly high, like the person we are meant to be. Let’s pray.