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Sermon48-10February08-Matt4(1-11)-PowerOverTemptation

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Power Over Temptation                  Jesus' example will help us find power over temptation in our own lives.
Matt 4:1-11                                                                         1991 words
After Jesus was baptised, Matthew tells us that he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil {διάβολος - diabolos, accusing falsely; devil (34), malicious gossips (3)}.                                                            Today we'll look at how Jesus faced this time of temptation, and it will show us how we can face temptation. We'll see how Jesus had power over temptation, and his example will help us find power over temptation in our own lives. It’s an amazing story, because it gives us an insight into the nature and character of Jesus. For one thing, it's one of the few stories told about an event in the life of Jesus in which there are no eye witnesses. So at some point, Jesus must have told his disciples about the time he spent in the desert, battling temptation and about the struggles he faced. It’s also a story that reminds us that Jesus was human. (v. 2) After fasting 40 days and nights, he was hungry.                    This wasn't just a story created by the early church to emphasize the humanity of Jesus.  There has always been a tendency among some Christians to ignore his humanity and have him walking two feet above contradiction. Songs have been written about him with words like "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes." This is the image some people have of him—that he was so divine that he never cried as a child, he never skinned his knee, when he worked as a carpenter he never drove a crooked nail, because he was divine. He just went through life floating around on a little cloud about six feet off the ground. That wasn't Jesus. He wasn't like that. He was human just like you and me; he was tempted, and he had power over temptation. It gives us hope, because we’re human, we are tempted, and we can have power over temptation just as he had. Today we're going to look at how to do that. In dealing with temptation, this story shows us that there are three things you need to do. First of all... 1. Expect temptation. Temptation is inevitable. Look at what Matthew says... (v. 1) Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Did you get that? He was led by the Spirit. He was doing exactly what God wanted him to do, and still he faced temptation. We have a tendency to think, when we face temptation, that God must have abandoned us or there must be something wrong with us, or else we wouldn't be experiencing temptation in our lives. But that's not true. Even good people experience temptation. Even people whose lives are led by the Holy Spirit experience temptation. There's an important distinction to make here. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it wasn't God who tempted Jesus. Some people think that God tempts us with sin—that he puts the biscuit on the table and says, "Come on, I dare you to eat it." God doesn't do that. Temptation is inevitable, but it doesn't come from God. The Bible says... When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone...(James 1:13) God's purpose is not to tempt us, but to give us power over temptation. Another thing that’s significant to note is that temptation often follows a "peak" experience in our lives. After John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the Messiah, the next event in his life was a time of temptation in the desert.  It wasn’t the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where crowds gathered to shout "Hosanna" in his presence. It wasn't the feeding of the 5,000, and it wasn't the raising of Lazarus from the dead. It was 40 lonely days and nights in the desert without food and water.                                                                                  Immediately after his coronation as King, Jesus faced a time of temptation. Life is like that - a peak experience in life is often followed by a time of temptation, or a time of struggle. When things are going good for us, we have a tendency to think "I've arrived. This is it. Everything’s going to be OK from now on." It doesn't work that way in anyone's life. When you succeed in a big way, you can expect a time of testing to follow soon afterward. Another thing to realize about temptation is that it often attacks you where you are most vulnerable. After Jesus had been alone in the desert 40 days and nights without food and water, the tempter came to him and said, (v. 3) "If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Why did Satan say this? Because he knew that Jesus was hungry. He knew that the idea of eating food was the most tempting thought he could put in Jesus' mind. He wanted Jesus to abuse his power for his own needs, and so he attacked him where he was, at that moment, most vulnerable: he tried to get him to eat. Temptation doesn't hit you where you're strong; it hits you where you're weak. If your business is thriving but your marriage is on the rocks, guess where the tempter will attack. If you have a strong family life, but you're going through some struggles at work, guess where the tempter will attack. He'll find where you're vulnerable, and he'll go after it. Does that mean we have to throw in the towel and give in to temptation? No. It means we have to rise to the occasion, and face temptation in God's strength. Jesus was at the point of starvation, and he didn't give in. To experience power over temptation, the first thing you need to do is learn to expect it. It happens to everyone; it frequently comes after a major victory in life; and it often hits us where we are weakest. Expect it. Secondly, 2. Understand it. Many times we lose the battle against temptation because we don't understand how temptation works in our lives. Temptation is, by its very nature, deceptive. It often presents itself to us in a type of twisted logic.  Matthew tells us that the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, and then he said, (v. 6) "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down." Then, notice what Satan did next. He quoted Scripture at Jesus. He said, (v. 6) "For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Do you see what Satan was doing? He quoted Scripture but he was trying to get Jesus to apply it in a twisted, self-serving way. He was saying, "Come on, Jesus. God will take care of you. Jump." And there was an unspoken implication, "Or do you really believe God will take care of you? Maybe he won't, if you're not really the Messiah." Satan knows what buttons to push. And he'll use whatever twisted logic he can. Very few people can be tempted with the idea of doing something bad just for the sake of doing something bad. But we can all be tempted with the idea of doing something bad in order to get something good. Satan tempted Jesus to jump from the temple in order to prove to the world that he was God's anointed Messiah. He tried to get him to do something wrong in order to accomplish something good...but Jesus understood temptation well enough to see through Satan's twisted logic. Another thing about temptation is that it often offers something that it can't really give...something that only God can give. Temptation will say to you, "Do this and you'll be happy. Do this and you'll have peace of mind. Do this and you'll feel good about yourself." But the devil can't give you happiness, because it isn't the devil's to give. He can promise you the world, but he can't give you the world, because it’s not his to give. Only God can give you happiness. Only God can give you peace of mind. Only God can give you a sense of well-being. Temptation promises more than it can deliver. Too often we give in to temptation because we think, I can't fight this any longer. But remember that it doesn't last forever and resisting temptation doesn't make you weaker, it makes you stronger. Having said that, temptation doesn't leave forever, either. In Luke's account he says,                                                                                                  The devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity (Luke 4:13)  When Jesus overcame temptation, it didn't mean he was through with temptation for the rest of his life. He had to deal with it again and again throughout his ministry.Temptation doesn't last forever, but it doesn't leave forever. You'll never get to a point where you no longer have to deal with temptation. In dealing with temptation, we need to expect it, we need to understand it, and thirdly, we need to... 3. Attack it. How did Jesus respond to temptation? He responded with the Word of God. Every time the devil tempted Jesus, he responded by saying, "It is written." There is something about the words of Scripture that give us strength in overcoming temptation. King David understood this principle. He says this in the Psalms, I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11) In attacking temptation, the Word of God is your first line of defense. The more you know Scripture, and use it, the more power you'll experience over temptation. Therefore, we need to make an effort to know the Word. Now, you can't memorize the whole Bible, and you don't have to. What I have learned is that when I read the Bible, God speaks to me about what I am going through at that time in my life. I can't tell you the number of times I have faced something during the day that is directly related to what I read the next day or soon after in the Bible. Also, you need to confront temptation. When Satan tempted Jesus to bow down and worship him, Jesus said, (v. 10) Away from me, Satan! He did not run from him, he confronted him, and told him, basically, to get lost. It’s the same for you and me. You can confront it boldly, because you're not confronting it in your own strength, but in God's strength. In the second part of verse 10 Jesus re-affirmed his commitment to God. Jesus was saying, "Get lost, because I belong to God, and I don't belong to you. I worship him, I don't worship you."  When my children were little, they would sometimes try and boss each other and I would often hear one of them say, "You're not the boss of me." Only Dad can tell me what to do." That's how we need to respond to temptation. We need to say, "You're not my boss. Jesus is my boss. I don't serve you, I serve him." When you face temptation, reaffirm your commitment to God. Remind yourself that you belong to him, that he is your Lord. CONCLUSION Let me sum it up by saying that temptation is a fact of life; expect it. Temptation is insidious, so make sure you understand it. Most of all, remember that temptation isn't all powerful, so attack it - not in your own strength, but in God's strength. Attack it with the Word of God; confront it and tell it to get lost; and re-affirm your commitment to the Lordship of Jesus.                                                                                                         Jesus experienced power over temptation, and you can too, if you follow his example. Let’s pray: H/F We have all been subject to temptation in one form or another and instinctively we know it’s wrong but we do it anyway. Help us to see that there’s another way – that we can follow the example of Jesus to deal with it. So next time we are tempted and we can expect to be, grant us the grace to understand what’s happening and to not run from it but confront it in your strength and by doing so re-affirm our commitment to you by reminding ourselves that we belong to you; that you are Lord of our lives. Amen

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