This week, we come to chapter 4 of Matthew’s Gospel and the temptation of Jesus by Satan.
That temptation happens immediately after Jesus baptism: that is no co-incidence, and it tells us something vital.
The real spiritual challenge from spiritual darkness in the life of a believer comes after baptism; it does not come after an act of conversion like praying the sinner’s prayer or going forward at a crusade. Neither of those practices figure in the New Testament record. They are not of God. Avoid them.
We see 3 points of attack from Satan [which means ‘Adversary’]. Satan is an enemy of God and of God’s children.
We also see how Jesus responds – the same way every time – and that he defeats the attacks totally.
Firstly the 3 points of attack
physical need – he incited Jesus to abuse his power and answer a personal need
physical security – inciting Jesus to a foolish act and test God’s faithfulness
physical temptation with wealth and position – tempting Jesus with power and position, provided he bows down and worships Satan as god
These are 3 primary areas of human weakness and we need to be aware of them to avoid spiritual pitfalls.
Our needs, our recklessness and our desires
In all of them, Satan is calling the shots ! He is suggesting the way to proceed; he is tempting Jesus to obey him, and thereby disobey God. Satan is trying to deflect Jesus from the great plan of salvation God had called him to.
And that is what Satan will do, if we listen to him.
So we must not listen !
He will try to deflect us from obeying God; he will try to distract us from doing the good works God has called us to do [Ephesians 2, 10]
God had a plan and purpose for Jesus; and God has a plan and purpose for each one of us, too. But Satan will tempt us to disobey.
Recognise it, and just refuse to respond. It’s as simple as that !
But we need to know this in advance; forewarned is forearmed ! We need to have both the mindset and the determination to resist and simply refuse to respond.
Once Satan had tempted Jesus and failed, he withdrew – defeated.
At each point Satan suggested Jesus do something Satan said.
To get Jesus to treat Satan as his Master.
If Jesus had accepted Satan’s claim to tell him what to do, he would have been disobedient to God. He would have put the power of God’s kingdom at the disposal of evil.
But Jesus was not taken in; he told Satan where to go.
Jesus was preoccupied with the Father and the Father’s purpose. This is the secret of his resistance. God alone mattered; God alone was to be obeyed.
And this is the secret for our success. We need the same God centred mindset.
Our physical needs; our desire for assurance that God is with us; our natural inclination for wealth and power – all must be seen from the perspective of our primary and supreme obligation to God our Creator, Saviour and Judge.
Jesus was ready and able to resist because the Word of God filled his heart and mind.
Believers must feed and reflect upon God’s truth in the Bible. They must come to a Biblical perspective of this fallen world and of their own lives.
They need to understand that Satan would tempt them
to put self first,
to save self, or
to exalt themselves over others
The believer is called to sacrifice the big “I” of this life, and live instead for God – after all, Jesus has ‘bought’ us with his precious blood. We are called to live a holy, God fearing life, mindful of God’s commendation, not this world’s approbation.
Now notice that every time Jesus refutes and resists Satan he does it with the words he speaks. [In fact each citation comes from the book of Deuteronomy].
Words carry ideas – they are merely the sounds which cause an association with a thought in our minds. So, our thought life is critical. To think as God would have us think and to cast out notions which defy God and bolster Self.
That is the battleground. Our minds. That is why there is so much evil in the world. People have opened their hearts and minds to Satan’s wicked thoughts, so they end up enslaved to doing evil.
The drugs, the broken relationships, the greed, the lies etc – all are symptoms of a selfish and self-willed world where Satan runs amok.
But Jesus counters all this with God’s thoughts – God’s words recorded for us in the Bible. He uses God’s words as a sword to parry the thrusts of Satan’s wicked schemes. Indeed, that is how the apostle describes the Word of God – as the Sword of the Spirit [Ephesians 6, 17].
Ephesians chapter 6 [verses 10 to 19] is a vital passage for believers to know and understand about the spiritual fight against evil. Notice that the apostle takes the figure of the invincible Roman soldier. This tells us that in Christ we too are invincible against spiritual darkness.
The believer is called to stand defiantly – not to give in: we are already in the place of victory. Our stance is defiance:
trusting the truth of God’s word
refusing selfish instincts and choosing to do what’s right
prepared at all times to speak of what Jesus has done to reconcile sinners to their Creator
simply trusting that God has everything in hand, however bad our situation looks
never doubting that we are saved, no matter what our failings and feelings
consciously reminding ourselves of God’s truth when we are tempted
and of course praying to God – looking to him to act, to support and protect ourselves and others