“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matt. 3:1-11).
Following the baptism of Jesus, the Bible says that He was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. There in the desert Jesus learned to depend upon God. By prayer and by fasting the Lord prepared Himself for His public ministry.
While many Christians understand the importance of prayer in the life of the believer, the idea of fasting is not emphasized as it has been in previous generations. Conceptionally, fasting as a religious duty is almost universal. Christian and non-Christian religions encourage the act of withholding food from self in order to concentrate on God.
Under the Old Testament economy, the Mosaic Law prescribed only one public occasion of strict fasting. Once a year on the Day of Atonement the people were to fast and worship. As the years passed, the Hebrew people instituted the habit of fasting for a variety of reasons.
People fasted whenever they were in hard and trying circumstances. When Elkanah, the husband of Hannah berated her because she wanted a child, Hannah did not answer, but she did go into the house of the Lord to pray and to fast according to 1 Samuel 1:7. When, year by year, Elkanah went to Shiloh to offer a sacrifice, Hannah went with him to the house of the Lord, because her rival, Peninnah provoked her; “therefore, Hannah wept, and did not eat.”
Some Hebrews would fast out of loyalty to another. During the days of Saul, it was obvious to all, that the king had gone insane with jealousy over David. At the palace court, Saul threw a javelin at David and tried to kill him. David had to flee for his life. In so doing he had to leave his friend, Jonathan. When Jonathan knew how his father treated David, the Bible says that he “arose from the table in fierce anger, and did eat no meat.” (1 Sam. 20:34)
When Divine discipline was about to be administered, people would fast. When David became king of Israel, he did something terrible. David looked upon the wife of another man, and then found a way to kill her husband and take Bathsheba for himself. But the thing which David did displeased the Lord, and the wrath of God was poured out upon David. Word was sent that the child that Bathsheba was to bear would not live.
“David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.” (2 Sam. 12:16)
In the New Testament, fasting was practiced by the Apostles. In Matthew 9:15 Jesus had predicted that
“When the Bridegroom shall be taken away…then shall they [His disciples] fast.”
The apostle Paul speaks of being in fasting often (2 Cor. 11:27). The agony of Paul’s heart was to seek the salvation of souls, and minister to the church. There were times when that was more important than eating.
Many Christians have found value in fasting over the centuries. In recent years, Richard Foster has called the Christian community to reconsider the value of fasting, in his book, The Celebration of Discipline.
By fasting, we as Christians tell God, and show God, there is more to life than physical pleasure. There is our immortal soul to be concerned about. By fasting, a measure of self-discipline is exercised. By fasting, time is freed to concentrate on other religious duties and delights. Perhaps someone would like to engage in this holy and spiritual exercise.
Many years ago, I spoke to a father with a young daughter. Greg Barker shared with me he fasted one day a week in order to pray for the daughter to come to faith.
The Church needs to ask God to send revival. We want God to pour out His Spirit upon us, without measure, and with great power.
But if we never fast, if we never pray, if we never seek to be alone with God the Father like Jesus did, we will never know the spiritual power that comes from defeating the world, the flesh, and the devil.
It is not enough for a church to be financially stable. It is not enough for a church to have an active youth, adult, and music program. It is not enough for a church to be well organized.
Satan knows how to take all the religious activity in the church and turn it into disaster. Apart from Divine grace, greed can replace giving. Activity can replace being still, and knowing God. Money can become the focus of desire, instead of the Desire of the Ages.
Jesus calls His disciples from the worship of the world’s empty golden stores. The Lord would have us destroy our personal idols. Hear the Savior as He says, “Love Me more.”
By loving Christ more than anything else, the saint will not allow Satan to gain a foothold in the sanctuary. Satan will not be allowed to quench the Holy Spirit. The love of Christ will be free to flow, and there will be the fruit of the Holy Spirit, such as joy, and peace, and longsuffering.
The spiritual battles that rage within our hearts come because there are times of temptation. Some new Christians are surprised they are still tempted to do evil. They thought life would be without any inward struggle. They thought there would be no more tendency to sin. Some are shocked that the sins of the saints are grievous. The Bible teaches us there is no sin in temptation. Jesus was tempted, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
To entice Jesus to do something wrong, only one fallen angel would be strong enough, or wise enough, to tempt Him, and that was Lucifer himself.
The temptation of Christ began after Jesus had been in the desert forty days and forty nights without food.
After that prolonged period “He was hungry.”
Quickly the Devil moved to suggest a way to satisfy His hunger.
By food, the First Adam sinned, perhaps by food, the Last Adam would also sin.
By casting doubt on the integrity of God, the First Adam was made to fall. Satan would try the same tactic on Jesus.
“If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matt. 4:3).
If God could of stones raise up children unto Abraham, surely the Son of God could make a little bread to eat.
After all, what is more normal, and more natural, than finding food to nourish the body?
The answer is, “Nothing.”
But in context, there was sin in the Satanic suggestion.
For Jesus, at this time, to make provision for Himself there would be sin, for the Lord would be taking Himself out of the providential care of God the Father.
That, Jesus would not do.
In response to Satan, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 saying,
“It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
With these words, Jesus tells Satan in effect,
“You are suggesting that for a man to survive and appease hunger, it is necessary for him to eat bread.
That is not true.
I declare that it is not bread, but the sustaining power of God by which man lives.”
It is instructive that Satan did not challenge what Jesus taught, for there was truth in the way Christ used Scripture.
And that leads to another observation.
It is commonly taught that quoting Scripture in the moment of temptation will make the temptation go away. In some situations, a simple word from the Bible may be sufficient, but it has been my observation, and personal experience, that citing Scripture alone does not always stop the power of temptation from subduing in the soul.When the Word of God is memorized, it must then be used in faith, with a clear understanding of the truth behind the words.
“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Some people, like Pilate, never find the truth, and are never set free from the shame and guilt of sin.
Observe from the text that temptation takes place in the heart. The battle for the soul is waged in the mind, and it is won, or lost, in the mind. Before Adam physically ate of the forbidden fruit, his heart was already in a state of rebellion. Adam sinned because his heart left God.
Jesus did not sin because His heart was towards God. Jesus won the victory over sin in His soul, which guided His outward actions. The Bible tells us to guard the heart, for out of it are the issues [i.e., the going] forth of life (Prov. 4:23).
Unfortunately, victory over one temptation does not discourage Satan.
Evil is militant, and will keep fighting every act of goodness, and every expression of righteousness, until the day of final judgment. When the Devil found Jesus could not be tempted by the lust of the flesh, he did not go away.
Satan tempted Jesus with the pride of life.
Taking Jesus to the holy city Jerusalem, the Devil placed the Lord on a pinnacle of the temple. While the exact location is not given, it may have been the roof edge of Herod’s royal portico, overhanging the Kidron valley, and looking down some 450 feet.
Josephus called it a “dizzying height.”
“Since you are the Son of God,” said the Tempter, “throw yourself down.”
The implication was clear. By casting Himself over the edge, Jesus would be able to prove His confidence in the Father’s protection.
Besides, taunted Satan,
because of the prophetic promise, if Jesus really is the Son of God no harm could possibly come to Him, for holy angels would swoop down to stop His fall, and gently lift Him up.
Once again, Satan quoted Scripture, in order to misapply them (Psalms 91:11,12). Once again, the Saviour quoted Scripture, in order to correctly apply them. That is still the challenge today.
However, it is not always easy to understand, or apply the Scriptures correctly, because there are so many different interpretations.
“Whose interpretation is correct?”
While that is not an easy question to answer, certain general principles can be embrace.
First, God has spoken to the world through prophets, and poets, and finally through His Son. The Bible is the written record of what God has to say to man.
Second, there is a body of truth, once and for all, delivered unto the saints.
“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
Third, no matter what outward form a person worships in, God looks at the heart. God still speaks to the heart that is beating after Him. Therefore, ultimate truth can be known.
By prayer, by meditation, and by study, the truth which binds all people strongly to Christ will be revealed, and Scripture will harmonize.
Though Satan misapplies Scripture, though self is prone to misunderstand Scripture, the Bible is still the Word of God.
Jesus used it to avoid sin, and so can we. Simply enough Jesus said,
“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”
This quotation comes from Deuteronomy 6:16.
In the historical context of this verse, Israel was rebelling against Moses at a place called Meribah. The people wanted Moses to produce water, and accused him of being cruel. Many wanted to kill Moses. The people were emotional and unreasonable. They were tempting the Lord God by threatening to destroy His theocratic leadership in Moses. With this historical event in His mind, Jesus decided to resist the temptation of Satan.
The Lord knew that if He acted in an unreasonable and emotional manner, He would be tempting God, and that, He would not do.
By way of personal application, there is such a thing as having false confidence in God, which really tempts Him. Daily life offers some illustrations.
For example, a person will pray for health, and then violate the rules of health. A person will ask God to save his soul in a short prayer of faith, only to neglect the means of grace, such as the study of Scripture, church attendance, taking communion, and living for the glory of God. All of this is tempting God.
A church member was once admonished because at a circus he had eagerly entered a burlesque side show. The church member defended himself by saying,
“I cannot deny that I went there, but while I was there, I was constantly praying ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity’” (Psa. 119:37).
He tempted God.
A young woman once asked me if she should marry a non-believer. The Bible is quite plain on this matter, and my counsel was definitely not. “You should not marry such a man.” He had already beaten up one woman, a former girlfriend, and had to go to court over that. No Christian woman should be unequally yoked with a non-believer, if possible. The woman decided to marry the young man, and pray for his salvation. She tempted God. Christians must be careful not to tempt God.
When the Devil realized that Jesus was not going to tempt the Father, he took the Lord into a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.
These kingdoms were promised to Jesus by Satan upon one condition. Jesus must bow down and worship him. By offering the kingdoms of this world, Satan was suggesting to Jesus that there could be a crown, without the Cross of Calvary.
Many Bible teachers believe the Devil’s ability to deliver on his promise was real. I question that, because, ultimately, Satan is not the owner and ruler of the nations.
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalms 24:1).
However, there is no doubt that Satan can, and does, assert a tremendous influence on nations, and on individuals, who yield themselves to him.
Jesus did not yield because of His absolute holiness.
There was nothing in Jesus that found sin attractive. In this, the Last Adam was different from the First Adam, and his wife Eve, who found forbidden fruit attractive.
Sin was abhorrent to Jesus.
If I were to tell one of our mothers to take a long sharp knife and plunge it into the eye of their child, they would not do that. They could not do that.
The very idea is shocking.
So it was with Jesus during His time of testing for the Father’s approval.
The very idea of becoming self-sufficient,
tempting God, or worshipping the Evil One was abhorrent to Jesus. He would not, He could not engage in such behavior.
Commanding the serpent as a Sovereign to His subject, Jesus said to His arch enemy,
“Get thee hence Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13-16).
Satan had no choice. He had to leave the presence of Jesus, and he did. In his place holy angels came and ministered unto the Lord.
Angels play a prominent place in the life of Christ.
It was a fallen angel, Lucifer, who tempted Jesus.
It was a fallen angel, Lucifer, who spoke about the existence of other angels in Matthew 4:6.
It was a group of holy angels who came to minister to Jesus.
John Gill, a Puritan, says the angels came in physical, human form, as we sometimes see them in the Old Testament. That is certainly possible, but what is more interesting is that angels ministered to Jesus.
The word for minister is “diakoneo,” and is related to the word “deacon,” which means to serve.
It is possible the angels ministered to the physical needs of Jesus.
Perhaps they brought Him something to eat, soup, chowder, oatmeal, or manna from heaven.
Then the angels might have ministered to his spiritual and emotional needs. We all need to talk to someone, sometimes, for a word of comfort, or encouragement.
As the angels ministered to Christ, so they ministered to His disciples as well. It is possible that someone here has entertained an angel, unaware.
By way of personal application, let it be known that, like Christ, we too shall be tempted. And, like Christ, if we are prepared by prayer and fasting, by Scripture and by truth, we shall be able to be holy and victorious after our time of temptation.
“Learning to lean, learning to lean,
I’m learning to lean on Jesus.
Finding more power than I’ve ever seen.
I’m learning to lean on Jesus.”