Close your eyes for a moment, and try to imagine the very first time you heard the word “temptation”. For many of us, we heard it as children, or at least as teenagers. I remember clinging to the words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 throughout my young teen and older teen years. Whether substances, bad choices in general, or decisions with how to relate to the opposite sex, I heard these words: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
I knew there would always be a way out, and words to say, to escape having to choose the “wrong thing”. But as we see in the temptations of Jesus, “REAL temptation” is a much bigger deal than choosing A or B.
Jesus was “led up by the Spirit” to be tempted by the devil. There are all sorts of questions at this phrase, most of them too large for us to even know how to ask. But it seems like God wanted Jesus to experience the temptations he was going to face throughout His ministry…right up front. To make a statement to Satan, the forces of evil, and possibly even Himself…that when these temptations arrive throughout his journey – He has already decided and proclaimed how He will be responding. Maybe that same purpose is found in why this story has been written down for us to read as well. That we will decide this morning, how we will respond ahead of time. Because if it hasn’t yet, temptation will come. It’s the same reason in youth ministry, we recommend talking with your children and teenagers about topics like sex, and substances. Because you want them to know AHEAD OF TIME how they will respond, not wonder in the moment what decisions they should be making.
It’s important to note, Jesus was tempted when he was “famished”. We also face REAL temptation whenever we hunger, and our world tells us to hunger/builds hungers within us pretty much 24/7. Hunger is being discontent or unsatisfied with what we have. Sometimes it can be a good thing…reminding us to eat, or compelling us to take a move forward toward a fuller life. But many times, it’s simply selling us the belief that we would be “more content” if we acquired whatever is being offered.
If we were content…most of our temptations wouldn’t be as difficult a choice. Jesus knew this, and was constantly painting a picture of His followers as peace-filled, not serving anxiety, and those who held even possessions with a loose hand.
But not so for us today. We are a hungry people. Hungry in all of the same ways Jesus was tempted here.
One of the primary ways, is this: Bread – actual hunger. Remember, it wasn’t “40 Days of being Tempted in the Wilderness”. It was 40 days & nights of fasting, and then AFTERWARD, he was HUNGRY. To not rely on God for our “daily bread” is a regular temptation in the life of a Christian. Jesus knew this would be a major part of our struggle, so much that even though He talked about it several times, He also made it a part of teaching us how we should pray. That we ask God to provide for our daily bread…and live a life that reflects that kind of contented “coming before God.”
We know from experience in a broken world, where 3.1 million children under age 5 die each year from poor nutrition…that trusting God to provide our daily bread is not an economic transaction mindset. It’s not that we enter into an economic relationship with God saying, “God, since I trust you with providing my daily bread, I’m guaranteed to receive this many calories to intake every 24 hours.”
But Jesus does not respond here with a promise that God will provide for His every need. He responds with scripture that highlights something even more important – the Word of God. He reminds Satan there’s a hunger that goes beyond a grumble in the stomach…it’s the grumble in our souls. We want our days and lives to be a part of something larger. That grumble isn’t going to be satiated by anything this world has to offer.
We give in to that temptation all the time. We realize we haven’t spent much time in prayer or Bible reading this past week…because life’s just gotten too busy. But then you look at how much we’ve spent online, or watching TV, sports, movies, or other choices we’ve made. We’ve proclaimed that there are other things that bring greater satisfaction than time with God himself.
We buy into the promise from Satan, that this inanimate object that offers very little, can be transformed into something that brings us satisfaction enough to choose IT over the very presence and Word of God. We need to confess, and turn back to God.
The early church knew we would need such seasons of confession and repentance. Which is why they built in this season of “Lent” as we prepare to celebrate Easter together. Take a moment to think about it: What are the “stones” in your life? What has Satan offered you, promising it can be transformed into something satisfying. Something that brings contentment, and fulfillment, but in all honesty it’s actually robbing you of something you need more than anything else? Are you willing to put down the stones? Are you willing to declare to Satan that God intends to be the only thing we depend on for satisfaction?
As I was preparing for this message, I was trying to avoid a traditional “3 point sermon”. It’s a bit too obvious, as we read the temptations of Jesus, that doing anything BUT a 3 point message could be unfaithful to the text. So stay tuned for “Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 2″…