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Jesus in the Wilderness

Lessons from the Wilderness  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Though Jesus was the Son of God, he was tested by the Father and tempted by the devil. Because He stood, we may stand our own times of testing and temptation.

Notes & Transcripts
This is a 2-part message of about 30 mins each
BEGIN 1st Part
INTRO: All of us will pass through times of adversity. What is God doing in it all? We can learn a lot from the life of Jesus. Let’s read about his time of trial in the wilderness ...
Have congregation turn to
FRAME: As you are turning to , it might help to know that Jesus has not really begun his public ministry yet. We know about his unusual birth, but we know almost nothing else. In fact, we know more about John the Baptist’s ministry than Jesus’. John is out in the country baptizing people who repent of their sins and calling them to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah. Then Jesus shows up to be baptized. As He is coming up out of the water, we pick up with Matthew’s account ...
Read aloud
Matthew 3:17–4:11 NASB95
and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “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. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, He will command His angels concerning You’; and On their hands they will bear You up, So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ ” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
TRANS: I am not going to analyze this passage in detail. Though there’s a lot to learn from the specific temptations Satan brings at Jesus, I want to take a wider angle look at adversity in the wilderness. I also want you to know that you do not have to take detailed notes as I am talking. There is a logic and flow to what I am saying, of course, but your work is not to try to capture my outline on paper. There is not a test at the end of this lecture … except life.
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Try to listen for the larger point of what I’m saying in several different ways. I usually try to emphasize only one important truth in each message, though sometimes I slip up and teach two. What I want for you is to hear from the Lord as you reflect on His Word today. If anything stands out to you, write it down — in my words or yours. That’s what I want you to meditate on. Perhaps, that’s what the Lord is bringing to your attention.
Let’s start by looking directly back at the passage and ask a couple of questions. Does God the Father love His Son? “Yes.” How do you know? You see it expressly stated in . Does God the Father lead His Son into a time of adversity? “Hmmm,” you say. What does say?
Matthew 4:1 NASB95
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
KEY: Just because you are a beloved son or daughter of God does not mean you will live free from adversity or trial.
In fact, you should expect adversity for several reasons ...
because you share in the life of Jesus, your life will probably look a lot like His
because Jesus said you will experience tribulation in the world (see )
John 16:33 NASB95
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
because God disciplines those He loves through hardship (see ) — that is God will lead you into adversity as a part of His training
Hebrews 12:7 NASB95
It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
because you live in a fallen world where things like death, weeds, labor pains, and serpents are guaranteed
God loves you and will lead you into difficulty. These are not mutually exclusive thoughts. Yet, this is the very point of attack for us when we enter into trial, is it not? We begin to wonder how we have offended God or whether He really loves us. This is a principle tactic of Satan. Let’s see it in Matthew.
What’s the last thing God the Father says about his Son? It’s in . What’s the first thing Satan says to Jesus? It’s in . Let’s combine those verses.
,
Matthew 3:17–4:3 NASB95
and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “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. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Satan came in and called into question the very thing God has just affirmed — this is the what he did in the garden. “Has God indeed said …? Are you really the beloved Son? Prove it.”
Satan came in and called into question the very thing God has just affirmed — this is the what he did in the garden. “Has God indeed said …? Are you really the beloved Son? Prove it.”
We should expect the same from Satan. When we pass through suffering, Satan will tempt us to doubt what God has said: “Maybe God hates us. Maybe he has forgotten about us. Maybe I’m not the beloved son but the kid on probation.”
Satan calls Jesus’ identity into question. “Are you really the beloved Son? Prove it.”
It may
Notice, also, that it’s when Jesus is at his lowest — after 40 days of hunger, thirst, loneliness, no shelter, wild beasts — that Satan comes to him. (We know from and probably that Jesus was tempted throughout the 40 days.)
KEY: Temptation will come our way when we are suffering (enticing us to take the easy way out when we are vulnerable)Satan appeals to Jesus’ legitimate desire for food — “There’s a faster, easier way to deal with this burden, one that lies within your control.
Satan calls Jesus’ identity into question. “Are you really the beloved Son? Prove it.”
Satan appeals to Jesus’ need for food — “There’s a faster, easier way to deal with this burden, one that lies within your control.
That’s the thing we see in the Bible. Temptation is not primarily an appeal to “have fun” — rather, Temptation whispers its powerful appeal to us when we’re vulnerable: “There’s an easy way out that lies within your control.”
ILLUS: The man who knows his job is insecure finds out at the end of the day that he lost a huge contract. His kids don’t even see him when he walks in the door because they’re in their rooms with their phones. His wife says “Hello”, he remembers that she had asked him to stop by the store on his way home to pick up a gift card for a party that their youngest daughter to. This isn’t the first time he’s forgotten something like this in the past month, and it didn’t go so well with his wife. She’s been growing less and less patient with his imperfections lately.
He goes back into his bedroom to get out of his work clothes. When he takes his phone out of his pocket, he knows what he could do. He could step into the bathroom and access a familiar porn channel. No one would have to know. No one would really be hurt by it, and he could get away from it all for a time.
TRANS: That’s the way temptation works. Satan comes to us in our suffering, when we are vulnerable. He says, “You’re feeling terrible right now. Here’s a way out of the trouble that’ll make you feel better. You may not be able to solve all the problems, but you can escape for a bit.”
For some, we might respond to the stress of adversity with anger and aggression. We cannot control the larger circumstances but we can control the people in our immediate sphere through harsh words or badgering.
Others might respond in withdrawal (more natural than anger for me) … that might mean isolation from people or it might mean hours in front of the TV.
For some, it might be the stupifying effects of alcohol or drugs.
ILLUS: For me, it has often been WORK (!), which is a sin that conveniently makes me look really good. I cannot control the stress of being a single dad — not knowing how to make meals or counsel my girls or envision a future without Katie. So I just work/piddle at projects around the house. I oil the doors, and fix the old computer, and bake bread. I’ve gotten really good at baking bread. None of these is wrong — some are necessary or constructive — but I string together one project after another in order to avoid stopping and laying down. I’m trying to escape my pain by never stopping but doing things I can control/fix one after another. I can’t tell you how many times my girls have said to me late at night, “Dad, go to bed.”
So here’s the dilemma:
God will lead us into times of adversity, and
Satan will exploit our vulnerabilities with his temptations.
So what’s the solution to this dilemma? How did Jesus stand up to this kind of challenge? How did He not cave in? Let’s look again at the text. What did Jesus do?
How did Jesus stand up to this kind of offer? How did He not cave in? Let’s look again at the text. What did Jesus do?
BEGIN 2nd Part of Message
He answered Satan with Scripture. But there’s more to it than that. He answered Satan with passages from and . Both of these passages form part of Moses’ address to Israel at the end of their wilderness wanderings, just before they crossed the Jordan to begin the conquest of Canaan.
It is probable (though hardly prove-able) that Jesus was meditating on these passages during his own time in the wilderness. What was the wilderness for in Israel’s history? How might this help Jesus understand why the Spirit had “impelled Him to go out into the wilderness” ()?
When I read this in the past, I think I saw that Jesus quoted the Bible to Satan. My take-away was, “Memorize Bible verses, so that you can quote them when you are tempted.” This is truly not a bad idea; however, there’s probably more to it. It’s not that Jesus quoted random passages from Deuteronomy to rebuff Satan (like it’s mosquito repellent or DEET. You know, “Quote DEET-eronomy! It will repel Satan.”) Rather, Jesus understood the meaning of the wilderness wandering in Israel’s history because it was revealed in Deuteronomy.
KEY: Jesus understood the ways of God in the wilderness because He was meditating on it.
He didn’t just quote random verses from Deuteronomy. He believed what was written there. This is extremely important for us, and it will comprise our meditations throughout the rest of our conference. What did Jesus believe about Israel’s time in the wilderness? How might it have helped Him? How might it help us?
We will be looking at , in particular, because the first passage Jesus quotes is found there and because that chapter, in particular, answers the question, “Why did God lead Israel through the extreme adversity of the wilderness?”
I want us to come away with a deep understanding of the purposes of God in taking us through trials. If we meditate on the Word of God, we gain better understanding of the nature and ways of God, and this will help us immensely in our low times. Can I give you a very personal illustration?
ILLUS: Katie’s last journal is filled with her reflections on the end of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Throughout the entire journal, she knew she would die, unless God intervened with a miracle. Many days, she did not even feel good enough to get out of bed. We had moved a desk right next to her bedside, so that she could sit there when she felt well enough, but she rarely did. Even so, day after day, she faithfully meditated on the Word.
At the end of her own wilderness wandering, she was reading Deuteronomy, Moses’ final address to Israel at the end of their wilderness wanderings.
TRANS: This is what I want for you and me, to be saturated in the Scriptures, so that we understand the nature and ways of God, so that when Satan comes and offers us an easy way out, we are alarmed and respond, “Away from me! That is not right!”
But more than anything I want you to understand a simple fact we often overlook when we analyze Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness:
KEY: Jesus stood!
Jesus stood! Jesus won! Jesus did what Adam could not do — the Messiah did what man could not do. He followed God into the wilderness, endured all the deprivation, experienced all the weakness, felt the force of Satan’s enticements … and stood!
Jesus did what Adam could not do — the Messiah did what no man could do. He followed God into the wilderness, endured all the deprivation, experienced all the weakness, felt the full force of Satan’s enticements … and stood!
Our great hope lies in Jesus. He was smart enough and strong enough and righteous enough to stand. Our hope does not lie in his example, per se, but in Himself. Because he stood, we can stand in him. We can share in his victory because we share in his life. He is our hope.
Jesus is worthy of all our admiration and worship, so let’s worship him accordingly by standing to sing “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”:
Invite everyone who is able to stand and sing “All Hail” a capella (invite those who do not know it to listen). Do not
2. Ye chosen seed of Israel's race, Ye ransomed from the fall, Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all. Hail Him Who saves you by His grace, And crown Him Lord of all.
1. All hail the power of Jesus' name!
3. Let every kindred, every tribe On this terrestrial ball To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all. To Him all majesty ascribe, And crown Him Lord of all.
Let angels prostrate fall;
Let angels prostrate fall;
4. O that with yonder sacred throng We at His feet may fall We'll join the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all. We'll join the everlasting song, And crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.
2. Ye chosen seed of Israel's race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Hail Him Who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all.
3. Let every kindred, every tribe
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all.
To Him all majesty ascribe,
And crown Him Lord of all.
4. O that with yonder sacred throng
We at His feet may fall
We'll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all.
We'll join the everlasting song,
And crown Him Lord of all.
Invite everyone to be seated.
Jesus stood. Because we share in his life, we, too, may stand in temptation. God will lead us into the wilderness of adversity. We will be tempted by Satan with easy ways out. By God’s grace, we will stand as Jesus did, believing what Jesus did.
Our quest over the next several sessions will be to discover what Jesus believed about God’s purposes for Israel in the wilderness as they are taught in .
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