A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Beware Temptation

 

As we saw in Matthew chapter three, baptism is an outward sign of an inner work of God in the disciple. Baptism is used to illustrate both the initial spiritual birth of a disciple as well as the subsequent empowering for service of the disciple. Disciples need to be baptized!

 

When the disciple is baptized it is a highpoint in their spiritual walk with the Lord. Baptism is a shout to the world from the disciple that they belong to God and are answering His call to service. It’s interesting then that on the heels of Jesus’ own baptism and the words from the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” that the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus is the model for every disciple and as such, we see the need for every disciple to be tried in the wilderness.

 

When Do These Events Take Place?

 

Matthew 4:1a – “Then . . .” [1]

It’s important to note that the events in chapter four of Matthew occur on the heels of Jesus baptism. Jesus had just been baptized, the Spirit descended upon Him empowering Him for His public ministry and the Father had just audibly said from heaven, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17).  This must have been the high point for Jesus at this point in His life. But it is on the heels of success that the devil often attacks and that is what we see in Matthew four.

 

Led By The Spirit

 

Matthew 4:1b – “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit . . . .” [2]

From this opening verse we also see the interaction between the Second and Third Persons of the Trinity. “Jesus was led up by the Spirit,” which shows us that Jesus was depending upon the Spirit to guide and empower Him in His ministry. This is the first major point to be gleaned by the disciple from these verses.

 

Jesus had just experienced His baptism revealing the need for the disciple to be birthed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus walked in the Spirit, so too must the disciple walk in the Spirit. Jesus taught His disciples that they needed to rely on the Spirit to live victorious lives in this world. Below are some of His statements to this effect:

 

  • John 14:15-17 - “If you love Me, keep My commandments.16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  [3]
  • John 14:26 - “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  [4]
  • John 15:26 - “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”  [5]
  • John 16:13 - “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”  [6]
  • Acts 1:8 - “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  [7]

The Enemy of the Spirit Within the Disciple – The Flesh

There is an unwanted houseguest in the home of the disciple. This freeloader given to laziness and self-indulgence as well as pre-occupation with self is an enemy who does not have the disciple’s best interests at heart. This unwanted guest wants the disciple to focus on them and them only. The enemy of the Spirit in the life of the disciple, this unwanted houseguest in the home of the disciple, is “carnality” or the “flesh.” What is the “carnality,” and the “flesh”? In his book So Great Salvation, Charles Ryrie writes the following definition of the “carnality” and the “flesh”:

What is carnality? According to the Greek dictionary, it means to have the nature and characteristics of the flesh (or more simply, it means "fleshly"). What, then , is the flesh? Sometimes it refers to the whole material part of man (1 Corinthians 15:39; Hebrews 5:7), and based on this meaning, carnal sometimes relates to material things like money (Romans 15:27) or to the opposite of our weapons of spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:4). But the word flesh also has a metaphorical sense when it refers to our disposition to sin and to oppose or omit God in our lives. The flesh is characterized by works that include lusts and passions (Galatians 5:19-24; I John 2:16); it can enslave (Romans 7:25); and in it is nothing good (Romans 7:18). Based on this meaning of the word flesh, to be carnal means to be characterized by things that belong to the unsaved life (Ephesians 2:3).[8] 

Another way of describing the “flesh” is to describe it as that part of a person which is self-centered and self-seeking.  It is the flesh in the believer that perverts even spiritual things by seeking to appear more spiritual than they really are. It is the flesh that seeks to put on a show and draw attention to self. It is the flesh that is proud and selfish in a person.

The word “flesh” is translated from the Greek term SARX (Strong’s #4561) which occurs 151 times in the New Testament, and literally means, “flesh, carnal, carnally minded, fleshly.” [9]  Regarding carnality and the flesh the apostle Paul was inspired to write:

  • Romans 8:5-18 – “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”  [10]

In speaking about carnality and the flesh the apostle Paul teaches about a war within the disciple. Notice too that he is contrasting “living” in either the flesh or the Spirit. Before a person is saved they are living for the flesh; they are at the mercy of their flesh. When a person is saved from their sin the Spirit comes to reside within them, but the saved person still has their sinful nature or “flesh”  (Romans 7). This “flesh” opposes the work in the disciple that the Spirit wants to do. The Spirit’s mission in the disciple is to bring their heart and life into conformity with Christ (Romans 8:29). The Spirit seeks to put Christ on the throne of the heart of the disciple. The flesh, on the other hand wants to rule the heart of the disciple.

In the letter to the Galatians the apostle Paul is inspired by God to describe the nature of life in the Spirit as opposed to life in the flesh:

  • Galatians 5:16-25 – “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  [11]

Paul makes an important distinction here; he refers to “the works of the flesh,” in contrast to “the fruit of the Spirit.” This is an important distinction to see because life in the flesh is basically self-effort based on self-direction to fulfill self-centered desires. Life in the Spirit on the other hand is aimed at crucifying the flesh, killing it and putting it out of commission. This is not done by a work or self-effort of the disciple, but it is a “fruit of the Spirit,” the Spirit works it in the disciple’s life as by faith the disciple relies on Jesus by faith. Earlier in the epistle of Galatians Paul refers to this when he says:

  • Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  [12]

To overcome the flesh the disciple by faith surrenders to the Spirit to empower him or her to turn away from fleshly desires and goals and instead live for Christ and Christ-like goals.

 These portions of Scripture from the apostle Paul reveal that inside each disciple is a war between the flesh or sinful nature and the Spirit. Whether or not the disciple will cater to the sinful nature (i.e. “flesh; carnal nature”) is what must be determined for the disciple to live a godly and purposeful life for God. The disciple grows in their faith and usefulness to God as they yield themselves to the Spirit and not their flesh. Again Paul wrote of this in the book of Romans when he said:

  • Romans 6:11-14,16,22 – “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. . . .16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? . . .22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”  [13]

Disciple, God wants you to surrender to Him so He can help you live a holy life! Present your self to God and He will give you victory.

As we will see, the devil plays off and strategizes against the disciple and God’s plans by seeking to inflame the fleshly nature of the disciple. The devil does this by way of temptations put before the disciple. If Satan can get the disciple to follow and feed their flesh nature, he can lead them around as easily as if he had put a ring in their nose. When the disciple gives in to the lusts of their flesh they will soon find themselves involved in sinful practices that they would never have thought possible for them to be involved in (see Romans 7).

It is through the flesh that Satan gains access into the disciple’s life. It is in the wilderness that the character of the disciple is tested and the opportunity is provided the disciple to live to either the flesh or the Spirit, to either God, themselves or the devil. The wilderness is a place of testing.

Into The Wilderness – The Place of Testing

 

Matthew 4:1c – “. . . into the wilderness . . .” [14]

The wilderness here is likely referring to the Judean wilderness made up of rolling mountains and hills of desert geography. The wilderness was a place of aloneness and testing. Sometimes a person can be in a crowd and yet still be in a wilderness. Such times occur when the disciple must stand alone for Christ in the midst of unbelievers, oppression and or persecution, as well as temptation. The temptation may come in the form of a desire to fit in with the crowd. Such a wilderness experience answers the question, What will you do when it’s just you, the Lord and the enemy? The wilderness is often used in Scripture as a place where the child of God learns to trust in God. The wilderness is a place of decision and testing. How are you fairing in your wilderness? Are you squirming to escape and run? Are you looking for a way out? Are you cowering, caving in and ashamed by your weak response or lack of any response? The wilderness experience helps the disciple assess where they are with the Lord. Every disciple must go through these wilderness experiences. The wilderness is the furnace of testing when the heat is turned up and a decision must be made to stand with God or turn tail and run. (See an example of this in Daniel 3.) Disciple, you will be led into the wilderness of testing.

 

 

To Be Tempted – What Is Temptation?

 

Matthew 4:1d – “. . .  to be tempted . . . .”  [15]

What is temptation? The word “tempted,” in Matthew 4:1d is translated from the Greek term PEIRADZO which is a form of the root word peirasmos  (Strong’s # 3986). PEIRADZO occurs 39 times in the New Testament and is used in the following ways, “tempt” – 29 times, “try/trial” -  4 times, “tempter” -  2 times, “prove” – once, “assay,” – once, “examine,” once, and “go about,” – once.  1[16] The idea is to, “to try whether a thing can be done; to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself.” [17]

 

The Good and Bad of Temptation

 

The Biblical use of the term, “Temptation,” does not carry with it an entirely bad connotation; it can be used in both a positive and negative way. In a good sense God allows tests or trials to enter our lives to reveal to us the state and condition of our faith. God allows adversity and trials to enter our lives as opportunities for our faith to be tested, proved and strengthened as the disciple puts their faith in God. In a bad sense Satan, maliciously tempts the disciple to see if there is a way to get the disciple to disobey God and enter into sin. God seeks to encourage, unite, build up and give life to the disciple through trials and testing. Satan seeks to discourage, divide, destroy and devour the disciple through temptation.

 

Why Does God Allow Trials in the Disciple’s Life?

 

God allows trials to enter our life in order that our faith and spiritual character may be strengthened. We see this in the following verses:

 

  • Luke 22:28-30 - “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.29 “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,30 “that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  [18]
  • James 1:2-5 – “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  [19]
  • 1 Peter 1:6-7 – “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”  [20]
  • 1 Peter 4:12-13 – “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”  [21]

God does not allow trials to enter the life of a disciple so that He can learn how authentic and genuine our faith is, He already knows that as He is able to search the heart of people (2 Samuel 16:7; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Acts 15:8-9). God allows trials into the life of the disciple so the disciple can assess their own faith and be a witness to the world around them. God wants the disciple to learn whether or not they are living in their flesh or in the Spirit, according to their sinful nature, or under the lordship and rule of Jesus as revealed by the Spirit. The heart is deceitful and the only way a disciple can come to honestly know their heart is through testing in the wilderness (see Jeremiah 17:9-10). Satan on the other hand tempts the disciple in an effort to destroy him or her. Satan desires the disciple to live in their flesh and be unusable to God.

Tempted By The Devil

 

Matthew 4:1e – “. . .  to be tempted by the devil.”  [22]

It’s important to see here that it is not God who is tempting Jesus, it is the devil. In the epistle of James it states:

 

  • James 1:13 – “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”  [23]

Satan is on a mission to destroy God and anything related to Him. He tried to destroy Jesus and he tried to destroy the disciples of Jesus. Jesus warned Peter that Satan was after him when he said:

  • Luke 22:31-32 – “And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.32 “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  [24]

Peter, who learned firsthand how painful giving into temptation could be (see Matthew 26), was inspired to write to other disciples of Satan’s temptations and tortures when he said:

  • 1 Peter 5:8-9 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  [25]

The strategy Satan uses to tempt the disciple involves infiltrating the disciple’s life by way of their carnal sinful nature. Paul alluded to this when he wrote:

  • 1 Thessalonians 3:5 – “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain.”  [26]
  • 1 Timothy 6:9 – “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”  [27]

James clarified the source of such temptation when he was inspired to write:

  • James 1:13-15 – “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”  [28]

The disciple is in the middle of on one hand God’s efforts to build up his or her faith, and on the other hand, the devil trying to break down and destroy the disciple’s faith.

 

In the Old Testament we see that even king David, who let down his guard, was influenced by the temptation of Satan as it states:

 

  • 1 Chronicles 21:1 – “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.” [29]

Satan gained access to David’s life by getting him to rely on his own resources rather than on God’s. by David numbering his troops, he was showing that he was planning on the basis of what he could see rather than on the One whom He did not see. Satan got David to act in pride and the result was a lot of pain and suffering and loss for David and his people (see 1 Chronicles 21).

Judas is another example of one who allowed Satan the tempter to enter his heart in this way. John in his Gospel wrote:

 

  • John 13:2 – “And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him,”  [30]

We all know what happened to Judas, his name went down in the infamous annals of history and he committed suicide. Satan apparently won a great victory through Judas. Fortunately for us, God had a better plan and is able to take an apparent defeat and turn it into a resounding victory.

 

Why Was Jesus Tempted?

Jesus had just experienced a blessed affirmation from His heavenly Father, “this is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Now Jesus is “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1).  Why would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into a place of tempting? There are two purposes involved in the temptation of Jesus.

 

First, To Deal With Adamic Sin

 

In 1 Corinthians 15:45 Jesus is referred to as “the last Adam.” Paul writes:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 – “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.”  [31]

As the first human created by God, all subsequent humans draw their life-giving breath from Adam. But Paul makes a greater contrast here in that while through Adam natural temporal life is given and passed on, in Christ eternal life is given. The mission of Christ is to not only reverse what the first Adam has done, but to reclaim what the first Adam has lost and go beyond what was provided through him. The difference between what comes through the first and last Adam is as different as the temporal is from the eternal. Jesus came to defeat death and bring life, to reverse and redeem the sin of Adam. We see this clearly in Romans 5 where it states:

 

  • Romans 5:12-21 – “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  [32]

By one man’s sin, death entered humanity. It’s important to note that what is being referred to here is the original sin or first sin of Adam that opened the floodgates of sin to infect all subsequent humanity (Romans 5:12). The devastating impact of Adam’s sin was seen primarily in that it brought death, pain, suffering, toil, hardship, separation form God and slavery under sin even before the law was given. The Law was given by God in part to make clear the cause of these sinful consequences. The Law was given to show man was utterly sinful by way of the evidence that no one could keep it in his or her own strength (Romans 5:13-14,20; 7:13-14; Galatians 3).   But God has provided through Christ the opportunity for a reversal of the effects of Adamic sin. And not only that, but the gift of salvation from sin through Christ is far greater than the fall of humankind under Adam’s sin because salvation is by God’s grace, a free gift (Romans 5:15-20). Through Christ God has provided the possibility for people to experience eternal life rather than eternal death. And the glory of the work of Christ is that God provides this eternal life and liberating effect as a free gift by His grace. The sinner simply has to turn from their sin and turn to God in Christ by Faith for forgiveness of their sin and the Adamic effect will be reversed. This does not mean that those who are saved by Christ now will not physically die, but that eternally they will not die but live in heaven with God.

 

From Paradise to Wilderness – From Wilderness to Paradise.

 

When we put the environments of Adam and the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, side-by-side we see clearly what it took to bring about the reversal of the sinful act of giving into temptation.  Adam was in a garden filled with fruit that he could eat freely from except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He was the perfect representative man. But he plunged humanity into sin, (Genesis 3). Jesus, the perfect representative Man, was in a desert without food fasting for forty days. He succeeded in saving the world from sin by giving His life as a perfect sacrifice.

 

We know that at the cross and in the resurrection, Jesus accomplished His task completely. He can be counted on. In Hebrews it states:

 

  • Hebrews 10:19-25 – “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  [33]

The victory of Jesus in the wilderness, on the cross and in the resurrection provides us with a certain hope and Person who can be related to and relied upon in the face of temptation.

 

Second, To Build An Empathetic Relationship With People

 

By experiencing and going through temptation, Jesus established a point of empathy with people. No longer would it be a valid criticism for people to say, “Yes, Jesus was tempted and did not sin, but He’s God! How can He relate to us?”  Jesus knows what it’s like to be tempted and tried and therefore we can have confidence that He empathizes with us during our own temptations and trials. This is what the writer of Hebrews was inspired to write in the following verses:

 

  • Hebrews 2:14-18 – “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.”  [34]
  • Hebrews 4:14-16 – “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  [35]

Jesus was tested in “all” ways like us. Jesus gained victory over the temptation He experienced. This experience and His loving empathy drives Jesus to constantly intercede on behalf of His disciples as in Hebrews it states:

 

  • Hebrews 7:25 – “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  [36]

Therefore, when the writer of Hebrews shares that Jesus intercedes on our behalf before the Father, we know that He is making an informed intercession that is right on target for us.

 

How Could Jesus Be Tempted?

 

The KJV Bible Commentary states the following in regards to Jesus’ temptation:

 

“That Jesus was tempted of the devil is clearly presented as a fact. The attack against Christ’s humanity was a genuine temptation that would have overcome any normal man. However, Jesus was no ordinary man. As the virgin-born God-man, His divine nature could not sin (cf. I Sam 15:29) and thus held His human nature in check. Some have objected that the impeccability (i.e., He was not able to sin) of Christ denies the reality of Satan’s temptation. Such an objection is meaningless when one remembers that Satan’s rebellion against God has already been defeated in Christ’s atonement, but his rebellion is nevertheless real, even though the outcome of God’s victory is certain. The same is true of the temptation of Christ. One may attack a battleship with a canoe. The outcome of the attack will be certain defeat for the canoe, but the attack is nonetheless legitimate.”  [37]

 

While Jesus was sinless in nature, the temptation was nonetheless real. This also reveals to us that to be tempted is not sin. It is not sinful to be tempted; temptation only provides the opportunity or point of decision where sin is possible.

 

How Did Jesus Resist Temptation Victoriously?

 

Jesus’ victory in the face of Satan’s temptations reveals two things that He relied upon to resist temptation and gain that victory.  

 

First, Jesus Prayed

 

Matthew 4:2 – “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.”  [38]

If Jesus fasted, it also implies that He prayed. This cannot be stressed enough. Because Jesus was a Man of prayer, He was able not only to weather the storm of temptations brought by the devil, but He was able to fulfill His ministry mission. Jesus is frequently referred to as praying. He prayed to start the day (Mark 1:35). He prayed to end the day (Matthew 14:23). He prayed over people, especially children (Matthew 19:13). He prayed thoroughly in times of trial and testing (Matthew 26:36-46). He taught His disciples to pray for their enemies (Matthew 5:44). He taught His disciples that prayer should be personal and conversational, and that it was a declaration of dependence upon God (Matthew 6:1-13). He taught His disciples to pray for God to send workers into the harvest of souls (Matthew 9:38).

 

The apostle Paul emphasized the importance of prayer and that the disciple should pray unceasingly. He was inspired to write:

 

  • Philippians 4:6-7 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  [39]
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17 – “pray without ceasing,”  [40]

Prayer is a declaration of dependence upon God. Whatever is done apart from prayer is done in the flesh. The disciple must be alive with prayer if they are ever to resist the temptation of the devil to indulge their flesh. This is the example set by Jesus and the one every disciple should follow.  Disciple, you need to pray for in doing so you turn your back on your flesh and declare your dependence upon God.

 

Second, Jesus Used God’s Word.

 

Jesus didn’t just quote Scripture when faced by Satan’s attacks; He was steadfastly committed to the contents of the Word of God. He stood by faith on the words, “Man shall not . . . You shall not . . . You shall . . . .” (4:4,7,10). The Bible clearly tells us that the Word of God needs to be put into action, applied to our lives. Jesus spoke parabolically in this regard when He said:

 

  • Matthew 7:21-27 - “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”  [41]

Later in the New Testament epistle of James we are again reminded of taking God’s word to heart and putting into practical application:

  • James 1:22-25 – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  [42]

Now putting the word into practice is not something we do in our own strength but it is something the Spirit empowers us to do. Just as Paul wrote to Timothy that the word of God is breathed by God, from His heart to the human authors and onto the pages of the Bible, in the same way it is the Spirit who takes that inspired (literally God-breathed) word and applies to the surrendered disciple. Paul wrote:

  • 2 Timothy 2:15 – “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  [43]
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [44]

Jesus’ knowledge of and use of the Scripture is the example He sets for every disciple.

Discerning Our Heart Motives With The Word

It is especially important for the disciple to know the word of God and be prayerfully into it on a regular basis. The Bible says the heart is deceitful. We cannot on our own know the true intent of our own hearts without God’s help. Jeremiah points this out when he writes:

  • Jeremiah 17:9-10 - “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”  [45]

How does God help the disciple “search the heart,” and “test the mind”? God searches the heart of the disciple and tests their mind with His word. This is true because it is the word of God applied to the life of the disciple, which enables the disciple to truly discern the intents of his or her heart. In other words, the word of God identifies the fleshly attitudes and actions of the disciple. We see this truth conveyed in Hebrews where it states:

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [46]

Therefore, the word of God helps the disciple come to a true awareness of their own motives and intents in order to help them turn away from the lusts of the flesh and turn to the way of the Spirit. Disciple, know and live the word of God in the power of His Spirit, and let God search your heart with it.

Third, Jesus Relied On The Faithfulness of the Father

 

The Father had told Jesus that He was pleased with Him (3:17). Jesus was on a mission and He remained faithful to the One Who had sent Him on that mission. Throughout the temptation of Jesus He remains faithful to the Father as well as to the word of the Father. Jesus stood firm in faith when tested by Satan.

 

Probably one of the most practical and important verses in the entire Bible as it pertains to the disciple and temptation is found in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians where it states:

 

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  [47]

This verse tells us that temptation is common to humankind and that in every situation of trial or temptation, God is faithful.” That is the key to overcoming temptation, not our faithfulness but God’s faithfulness. To whether the storm of temptation and trial the disciple needs to look to their faithful God. God will not allow a person to be tempted beyond what they are able and when the temptation or trial gets to the point where it threatens to break the disciple, He will “make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Jesus modeled this truth in the wilderness and we can rest assured that the promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is reliable and true. Disciple, resist temptation by relying on God’s faithfulness, not your own.

 

In What Areas of Life Can We Expect To Be Tempted?

 

As we examine the ways the devil came against Jesus to tempt Him we learn that there are three main areas or ways in which the devil tempts. This is critical for the disciple to know if they are to ward off and resist the temptations of the devil. To know and understand these areas of temptation is like intercepting the battle plans of an enemy. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

 

The First Temptation – Compromise The Spirit To Fulfill Your Flesh

 

Matthew 4:2-4 – “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”   [48]

As has been mentioned already, Jesus had just been baptized and the Spirit had descended upon Him as well as the Father had just affirmed Him. Having received this baptism of the Spirit, what would Jesus do with it? The Spirit had led Jesus out into the wilderness of testing and for forty days He had been fasting. Fasting is a way of bringing into subjection our physical appetites; it is a way to deny and deal with the flesh and focus on the Spirit instead. Jesus did not have a sinful nature to deny, but nonetheless He was making a statement in fasting that He was in complete control of His physical nature as a Man. That Jesus fasted for forty days bears witness to the strength of the carpenter’s Son, both physically and spiritually. But while Jesus was physically strong, His spiritual strength was even greater.

Having fasted for forty days, Jesus must have been hungry. When a person fasts at first they are hungry but after a few days their body adapts and hunger pains subside. The body goes on during the fast to live off stored fat. But when the stored fat is used, hunger pains which are really the bodies’ way of signaling starvation is ensuing begin. These last hunger pangs are intense and it is at the point of physical weakness that Satan comes to tempt Jesus. We have seen that Satan often comes to tempt on the heels of a victory, but it is also true that  Satan will often tempt a person in their weakest and most vulnerable condition. That is what he did with Jesus.

Pastor Chuck Smith explains the significance of Satan’s temptation of Jesus to turn stones into bread:

      “Use the divine powers that You have, use the divine authority that You have and command that these stones be made bread. Use Your spiritual powers in order to feed your physical need, or let the Spirit be in subjection to the flesh. Let the Spirit serve the flesh.

      Now all of our temptation has to do with the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit. Consistently, the Bible teaches us that the life of the Spirit is superior to and more important than the life of the flesh; that the flesh should be subservient to the Spirit, that the body need should not reign or rule over you. When they do, you have then the mind of the flesh, your mind is on fleshly things, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, what shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31) And Jesus said, “It’s after these things that the heathen are concerned. But you should be concerned about the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And when you are, these other things will be in their proper place. They will all be taken care of.” (Matthew 6:32-33) So the emphasis in the Bible is upon the spiritual side of your nature and that should be the predominant aspect of your being, the spiritual side of your nature.

      Now Satan is suggesting that the spiritual side of His nature, “You are the Son of God, then use the power, the spiritual powers as such, to take care of the need of your flesh. You’re hungry? Go ahead and let the Spirit be subservient to your flesh.” Now I have no doubt that Jesus could have turned the stone into bread. He turned water into wine. And if He could change the elements and turn water into wine, surely He could have turned the stone into bread. And thus the idea again is let the Spirit serve the flesh, rather than the flesh serve the Spirit.

And Jesus answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, (4:4)

Just the physical life is not enough, the fleshly life is not enough. We need that spiritual side of our nature developed and we shall live…

by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (4:4)

God directing and guiding my life, walking after the Spirit and the things of the Spirit. I will    put my trust in the word of God. And I will live after the Spirit.” (Emphasis added) [49]

Satan tempted Jesus to use His spiritual power or position to fulfill the desires of the flesh. How do we do that? Have you ever portrayed yourself as more spiritual than you know you really are? Have you ever bragged on or pointed out to others what a faithful church attendee you are or how regularly you read the Bible and pray? Have you ever come to church looking for a way to strut your stuff or bring the focus onto yourself? Have you ever come to church looking to fulfill your insatiable appetite for attention? Then you’ve fed the part of your flesh that is pride and self-centeredness. Have you ever used your status as a Christian to get more of something you wanted or benefit materially? Then you have fed the part of your flesh that is covetousness. Have you ever casually dismissed your sin by referring to the grace of God? Then you have indulged that part of your flesh, which is presumption. Have you ever gone to church more concerned about the way you look on the outside than the condition of your heart on the inside? Then you have fed the part of your flesh that is vanity. Have you ever come to church more concerned about the prospects you might meet, (e.g. for dating or business) than the Savior to seek? Then you have fed the part of your flesh, which is lust or greed. Whatever we do that is not for the glory of God and focused upon Him and motivated by our love for Him, is catering to our flesh.

 

Tempted To Compromise

 

Now what was wrong with Jesus turning stones into bread? Nothing, except that a Son who has just spent forty days fasting as a sign of His power over the flesh should rely on His Father to provide food for His Son. Satan deduced that Jesus would be starved (almost literally) after His forty day fast and so he tempted Jesus at His apparently weakest point. Jesus chose to depend upon the Father. Satan uses the same strategy on us. Single, looking for a spouse? Then Satan will parade a host of beautiful, hansom potential candidates before you and let them show an interest in you. Oh they aren’t Christian or don’t have a solid walk with the Lord, but hey, God can work that out later. Jobless, looking for a career? Satan will likely parade opportunity after opportunity before you that will either be illegal, distract you from the fellowship of God’s people, or require you cut the corners of God’s word. Looking for a house? Satan will open the door for you to buy one, it will be a real deal too, only it will rob time from your family, fellowship and your time with the Lord. Looking for a fellowship where you can worship the Lord? Satan will lead you straight into what appears to be the most loving, self-sacrificing, most committed and sincere, holy looking group of people you’ve ever seen and if it’s from him it will likely be a CULT and if you compromise God’s word to follow your feelings and follow these people, you’ll be on your way to eternal destruction. None of these desires are wrong in and of themselves, but Satan will use them to get a disciple to indulge their flesh and compromise their faith and distract them form their walk with the Lord.

 

The Bible is very clear on the disciple’s need to not compromise. The following verses attest to this:

 

  • Psalm 1:1 – “Blessed is the man 1 Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;”  [50]
  • Matthew 6:24 -  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  [51]
  • Matthew 12:30 - “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”  [52]
  • Romans 12:9 – “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”  [53]
  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 – “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.”17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”  [54]
  • Galatians 1:8-10 – “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”  [55]
  • 2 John 7-11 – “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh [ i.e. incarnated]. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him;11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”  [56]
  • Ephesians 5:11 – “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  [57]

Satan will get a person to compromise their faith and God’s word by appealing to their flesh at their weakest point. The weakest point for the disciple and the place where the devil will attack is that point where the disciple is most likely to compromise and rationalize their way out of the way of God’s will and word. Disciple, don’t compromise, it could prove fatal!

 

Satan will always try to get the disciple to focus on the things of the flesh.

“Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it's simple. They've been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can't get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him.” [58]

Just like the Zulus who so easily catch the ring-tailed monkey, the devil leads the disciple to focus on their own “needs” or what they perceive their “needs” to be. If the devil can get the disciple’s eyes on themselves, on their desires, he can usually entice the disciple to rationalize in a way that bends and warps their focus of God and His plan. The way to overcome such temptation is to know God’s word and apply it in the Spirit to your life. Disciple, beware the temptation to use the Spirit to fulfill your flesh, to make your spirit subject to your flesh. (See portions of Romans 8 and Galatians 5 quoted above.) The apostle Paul was inspired to write:

 

  • Galatians 5:16 – “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  [59]

Disciple, walk in the Spirit and turn your back on your flesh.

 

The Second Temptation – Misuse and Abuse God’s Word In Superficial Shows   

 

Matthew 4:5-7 – “Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:  ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’  and,  ‘In their hands they shall bear you up,  Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”  [60]

What is scary about this temptation is that it reveals to us that the devil uses (misuses/abuses) the word of God. (Satan quotes Psalm 91:11-12 and takes it out of context.) This is one reason why it is so important for the disciple to know God’s word and know God’s word in its context. The devil misuses and abuses the Scripture and by suing Scripture he seeks to bring credibility and authority to his schemes. Unfortunately many have been duped by such schemes as seen in cults and heretical doctrinal teachings. Disciple, beware the misuse and abuse of God’s word by the devil.

But besides the devil’s misuse and abuse of God’s word, he tempts Jesus to test God and His word by doing something spectacular. It’s as though Satan were saying, “You just said we must live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, well, show me, test God and throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple and see if God is true to His word.” But Jesus again resisted Satan’s temptation by correctly applying God’s word, which says, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” It is wrong for the disciple to put him or herself in danger just to test God’s faithfulness. God’s faithfulness and provision is not to be cheapened by superficially indulging in careless and carnal acts.

It’s interesting that if one simply goes one verse beyond in Psalm 91 quoted by Satan we see that the psalm actually promises the defeat of the devil:

  • Psalm 91:11-13 – “For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.”  [61]

Now there are some even today who take the Scripture and use it to carelessly test God. And example of this is a group that is dying out, literally.

Service or Spectacle?

Jesus the Supreme Disciple-Maker modeled a ministry that was servant oriented not spectacle oriented. Many see ministry as a spectacle waiting to happen. Churches are graded and judged according to the excitement they generate rather than the service of the Spirit applying the teaching of the word of God to the people of God. Some people seek to be entertained. One such spectacle-oriented person is found in the book of Acts.

  • Acts 8:14-24 – “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!21 “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.22 “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.23 “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”  [62]

Simon saw ministry as nothing more than a traveling sideshow. He thought what the Spirit was doing through the disciples was something that could be bought or manufactured. He simply saw ministry as a spectacle.

Jesus never presented ministry as a spectacle or show. In fact He did His best to not draw attention to Himself (Matthew 8:4; 16:20; Mark 8:30; 9:9; Luke 5:14; 8:56). God does not call people to ministry to be successful according to the world’s standards. The world views success in terms of numbers, bigness, loudness, the spectacle and raw power of something. Now God does work powerfully and does do the miraculous, but it is always to bring glory to Himself not the one used in ministry. In fact, God views success as faithfulness in service not numbers or bigness. If God viewed the success of ministry based on the number of people a person could draw or how big a church was then most of those people He used in the Bible would have been terrible failures. Most of the prophets of the Old Testament  were outright rejected by the people they were sent to minister to (e.g. Jeremiah) or ministered to relatively  small numbers of people (e.g. the Minor Prophets). God looks for people who are faithful in heart (2 Chronicles 16:9) and who will follow Him no matter what; He is not looking for those who will follow only if great worldly success is provided. Jesus modeled this Himself. Think of it, Jesus focused on an inner core of twelve disciples and spent about three years with them, then at the most crucial point, they all turned tail and ran. From a worldly perspective Jesus failed, but from God’s perspective Jesus became the Savior of the world by not turning back when all were against Him.

Too many go into ministry with a delusion of grandeur; they seek to preach before thousands and “serve” in front of huge churches. Their pursuit of “ministry” is nothing more than a lust for attention and exaltation of self in the flesh.  Sometimes God works in a way that is incredible and He raises up a church body that does number in the thousands. The churches God creates in this way are led by pastors called by God to lead with a servant’s heart. Where the pastor teaches God’s word in the Spirit, that church will grow (Acts 2:42,47). But there are large mega churches whose pastors do not have a servant’s heart, who rely on gimmicks and marketing techniques and basically are flesh houses; that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people God raises up by working a servant’s heart into them through bearing the cross, cultivating and bringing to maturity a servant’s heart in them. But God also calls some men to pastor churches where there are small populations of people. The point is that the size of the church is not as important as the size of the heart in the servant God calls. Disciple don’t seek to become “great” in ministry, that is the surest way to become the least in God’s view. Jesus said:

  • Matthew 20:26-28 - “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.27 “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  [63]

Disciple, serve God where you are until He tells you otherwise. Serve Him humbly and seeking no glory for yourself. Serve Him and let Him build His church (Matthew 16:18). Don’t pursue fleshly delusions of grandeur, accolades and spiritual stardom, (now that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one!). Seek to serve the Lord by serving others.  In so doing you will be serving the way the Supreme Disciple-Maker served and that is what a disciple is to do. Jesus said:

  • Matthew 10:24-25a - “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. . . .”  [64]

Unfortunately not everyone sees ministry as imitating his or her Master Jesus.

In the hills of Tennessee, around the year 1908, a group was founded that came to be popularly known as the “Snake Handlers.”  The founder of this group, George Went Hensley (1880-1955) is commonly considered the "[father] of contemporary serpent handling. The Religious Movements Homepage indicates the following concerning this group: 

Snake Handlers are more generally known as the Church of God with Signs Following. Under this umbrella term falls the loosely organized "Pentecostal churches, ministers and itinerant preachers popularly known as snake handlers." The practice itself developed out of the Pentecostal-Holiness movement which flourished in the first two decades of the twentieth century (Melton 1996, 636).

The practice is believed to have started with George Hensley in the hills of Tennessee (Melton 1996, 636). As church lore has it, snake handling started sometime in the later part of the first decade of the twentieth century while Hensley was preaching at the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee. During Hensley's sermon about Mark 16 some men dumped out a box full of rattlesnakes in front of him. Without missing a beat Hensley reached down and picked up the snakes, preaching the entire time. By 1914 the practice had spread throughout the Church of God, however, the actual act of snake handling was only practiced by a small portion of the members (Melton 1996, 636).

Hensley then settled to preaching in the Grasshopper Valley region of Tennessee a few miles away from Cleveland. He stayed here for a number of years. When "a member almost died from a snake bite [Hensley] moved to Pine Mountain, Kentucky." By the Late 1920s the support for snake handling vanished in the old Cleveland church and many of the Church of God branches. By 1928, snake handling became the activity of only a few independent churches nestled in the Appalachian Mountains where it stayed until its revival in the 1940s (Melton 1996, 636).” [65]

George Hensley died July 25th, 1955, of snakebite. Does that mean God was unfaithful? No, it does not. What it does mean is that it is wrong to put God to the test. Disciple, beware the misuse and abuse of God’s word, and don’t indulge in frivolous exhibitionism and shows in an effort to see if God is faithful. Disciple, don’t seek the spectacular, seek to serve in the Spirit. 

The Third Temptation – Avoid the Cross, Take the Shortcut, the Easy Way Out

Matthew 4:8-10 – “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”  [66]

In Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus he adds that Satan boasted and claimed that the kingdoms of this world were his to give (Luke 4:6). This temptation strikes at the mission and purpose of Jesus. Jesus came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Matthew 8:20; Luke 19:10). When Adam sinned he relinquished his authority over the world to Satan on the basis that the one whom you obey is your master (Genesis 1:28; Romans 6:16). Jesus came to regain that authority (see Revelation 5). The mission of Jesus was to make this world again the Kingdom of God. God’s plan to bring this about was for Jesus to go to the cross. Therefore, the devil tempted Jesus to forego the cross and gain control of the world by bowing to Satan. From this we learn that Stan tempts us to take the easy route, to cut corners and bypass the will and word of God. Disciple, beware the temptation to avoid the cross of Christ in your mission, don’t cut corners or bypass the word and will of God. Disciple, beware the attitude that says,’ the end justifies the means.’ The way God’s work is done, (according to His word) is just as important to God as that His work is done.

Pastor Chuck Smith makes the following comment on this portion of Scripture:

      “The cross was not a pleasant prospect to look forward to. The Bible tells us that “He endured the cross despising the shame.” (Hebrews 12:2) Coming to redeem the world to God, that again this portion of the universe that is out of sorts with the Creator, this portion of the universe that has rebelled against the authority of God might again know the blessings and the peace and the glory of being surrendered to God. He came to give His life to pay the price, to redeem the world back to God. We’re redeemed, “not with corruptible things as silver and gold, from the empty lies but with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:18,19) So He came to shed His blood, He came to give His life in order that He might redeem us back to God. And Satan is suggesting that you can do it apart from God’s will.

      There is an element in the church that sort of takes the posture that the end justifies the means. It really doesn’t matter quite how you do it, if it’s accomplished, that’s what’s important. And so they can justify many things that are not really right because of the end result. So we have bingo games to raise funds, to feed the poor. “Isn’t it wonderful, we’re feeding the poor?” And using bingo as the means. So that justifies bingo. Well, then I suppose that would justify poker too or anything else, because if we use the profits for some good cause, then, let’s do evil that good may come. But the scripture opposes that idea, Jesus opposed that idea.”  [67]

 

Disciple, without the cross, there can be no crown. Don’t give in to the temptation to cut corners and avoid the crucifixion of your flesh. Don’t get out of step with God’s timing and His preparatory work in you. Rather wait on the Lord. That doesn’t mean to sit back and wait on the Lord as though He were your servant or cosmic bellhop. It means to wait on Him as though you were His servant to do His will in His way and in His time. When you go into a restaurant the waiters and waitresses aren’t sitting in a corner just waiting for something to happen, (if they are that place won’t be open for long!) No, they are serving and following directions. God has a plan for you and in His time, it will come to pass. The disciple who tries to hurry up the plan of God in their lives is headed for big problems and playing right into the hands of the enemy. Disciple, don’t run from the cross,  wait on God in service and let Him crucify your flesh with its passions and desires.

 

The Necessity of the Cross For The Disciple

 

Three times Jesus prayed to the Father to search and see if there wasn’t another way to work salvation for humankind, and no alternative was found (Matthew 26: 36-46). When Jesus told the disciples about His cross He used the word, “must” saying:

 

  • Matthew 16:21 – “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”  [68] (Emphasis added.)

 

How important is the cross of Christ to the disciple? In modern times some in the church have watered down and even eliminated from the gospel the necessity of the cross. A.W. Tozer once stated:

 

“The old cross slew men; the new cross entertains them. The old cross condemned; the new cross amuses. The old cross destroyed confidence in the flesh; the new cross encourages it.”    [69]

 

Charles Haddon Spurgeon remarked concerning the cross:

 

            “There are no crown-wearers in heaven who were not cross- bearers here below.”  [70]

 

And Oswald Chambers wrote:

 

“All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell is terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.” [71]

 

The greatest temptation is to do away with the cross in life and especially in the life of the disciple. Disciple, just as the cross was a must for Jesus, the cross is a must for you! Jesus said:

 

  • Matthew 16:24 – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  [72]

What doe sit mean to, “take up his cross”? The cross of the disciple is well described in the following words of Oswald Chambers:

“What is my cross? The manifestation of the fact that I have given up my right to myself to Him for ever.” [73]

“The cross is the deliberate recognition of what my personal life is for, viz., to be given to Jesus Christ; I have to take up that cross daily and prove that I am no longer my own. Individual independence has gone, and all that is left is personal passionate devotion to Jesus Christ through identification with His Cross.” [74]

Picking up the cross is a faith act and statement that the disciple is dead to their flesh, to their self. Disciple, pick up your cross and follow Jesus!

 

“Away with you Satan!”

 

Matthew 4:10-11 – “Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”  [75]

When Jesus commands the devil to leave, the devil must leave. Jesus has power over the devil. He took the devil’s best shot and never faltered. The disciple in Christ, has power to resist the devil in times of temptation. This truth is based on such verses as:

  • Romans 16:20 – “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”  [76]
  • James 4:7 – “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  [77]
  • 1 John 4:4 – “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  [78]

Notice disciple, that in all these verses which depict our power against the devil, it is not our power, but the power of God in us that defeats the devil. Disciple, on your own you are no match for the devil and his devices. But in Christ, the devil must flee when we resist him. Disciple, step out boldly in the power of Jesus Christ, resist the devil and he will, he must, flee from you.

Conclusion

Decades ago America launched a Keep America Beautiful campaign. One memorable commercial for this cause had Iron Eyes Cody, a Native American actor portrayed as an Indian drifting alone in a canoe. As Iron Eyes Cody drifted in the water and saw how our waters were being polluted, a single tear rolled down his cheek, telling the whole story. This powerful commercial still shows up on TV from time to time.  

In 1988 in an interview for Guideposts magazine, Iron Eyes Cody repeated an old Indian legend that illustrates the danger inherent in temptation. Here is the story:

“Many years ago, Indian youths would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood.  One such youth hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There he fasted. But on the third day, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one tall rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. I will test myself against that mountain, he thought. He put on his buffalo-hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the peak. When he reached the top he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet, and looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. 

"I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food and I am starving. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley." 

"No," said the youth. "I am forewarned. I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me." 

"Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special. I will not harm you." 

The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful markings. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it gently on the grass, when suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and leapt, biting him on the leg. 

"But you promised..." cried the youth.

"You knew what I was when you picked me up." said the snake as it slithered away." [79] 

Disciple, beware temptation. Don’t fall for the trap of subordinating your spirit to your flesh. Don’t test God by putting yourself in compromising situations. And don’t think you can avoid the cross of Christ in your lives and cater to your flesh. Disciple, to be forewarned is to be forearmed, let the Spirit crucify your flesh, resist the devil, beware temptation!

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8] Charles Ryrie, So Great Salvation, Victor Books, 1989, pp. 59-60.

 

[9]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[17]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49] Chuck Smith, Word For Today, audiotape #8003 (P.O. Box 8000, Costa Mesa, CA 92628)

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/t/temptation.htm

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65] http://religiousmovements.lib.virginia.edu/nrms/Snakes.html

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67] Chuck Smith, Ibid. audiotape 8003

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69] http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/cross.htm

[70] http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/cross.htm

[71] http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/cross.htm

 

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73] Oswald Cahmbers, Oswald Chambers – The Best From All His Books,  (Thomas Nelson Pub. : Nashville, TN) 1987. p. 75. Quote from Chambers’s book the Psychology of Redemption.

[74] Oswald Cahmbers, Ibid. p. 76. Quoted from Cahmber’s book The Servant As His Lord, p. 79.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[78]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[79] Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, p. 5-7. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/t/temptation.htm