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Saturday, November 23, 2019

11-23-2019         The Temptations of Jesus and What they Mean For                                    Today
                                     Squaring Off, Mixing it up and Victory

On Nov. 24, 2018 the post was “Who is fighting Whom?” and on December 22, 2018 it was “The Flower, the Soldier and the Church”.  These two entries moved into our spiritual warfare with the enemy.  They introduced a three-pronged fight we must fight and be involved with in order to find victory over Satan and his dark forces.  Move over Luke Skywalker.  In Star Wars, the “dark forces” were what motivated Darth Vader and the “dark side”.  Those “forces of dark’ are representatives of our enemy which we face in our Christian walk, the powers of darkness, Satan and his agents.  After all, we do fight against the principalities, powers and rulers of darkness of this world and against spiritual wickedness in high places, (Eph. 6:12) right?     

Here, we’re digging a bit deeper for a better understanding of this three-pronged battle.  The previous entries suggested that our first fight is in ‘natural’ man”, the area we are most familiar with and our weakest point.  The second stage of battle is for our mind, our thought processes, our soul, the things that motivate us.  But because we have the guidance and support of the Holy Ghost, we have something stronger within us with which to fight back.  The Third is for our heart, our true relationship with the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  When we are abiding in the Lord (the Word, living & written), we have all the power of heaven fighting with us.  Not that they weren’t with us before (through our salvation), but now, as we draw closer to God, we have a deeper understanding of what those resources are and how to tap into them (at least we should). 

Should Satan gain victory over the natural man, the battle is lost.  We become like the seed by the wayside (in the parable of the sower), which were immediately eaten up by the birds (Matt. 13: 1-8).
So as we go deeper, let’s take a look at how Jesus dealt with this three pronged attack – body, soul and spirit.

Matthew 4:1-11
1          Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2          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 Jesus answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "

As the passage says, Jesus had been fasting for forty days, He had to be very hungry.  The natural man needs food and water to sustain existence.  We eventually die without them.  Scientific American has documented cases of people surviving ‘starvation’ diets of between 21-40 days.  Also Scientific American cites that, in comfortable conditions, a person could survive 21 days without water.  When conditions are not ideal, it could be hours instead of days (to put things in perspective between a controlled environment vs not so inviting conditions).

Now, does this mean that Jesus wasn’t tempted at all during those forty days?  I can’t say, the bible doesn’t tell us, but these three temptations are important because they address the three main battlefields in which our enemy approaches us. 

So Jesus, in the wilderness, was at His weakest, physical point when the enemy approached Him. And with what did he approach Him?  His natural hunger.  Turn these stones into something He could eat.  Sustenance for the natural man.  Satan tries to entice Jesus to do that which He could easily do.  He knows that the Son of God can do anything, even turn stones into bread. 

But this also tested Jesus’ trust in the Father to sustain Him and just how deeply did He trust the Father to provide for Him.  He had already trusted Father for forty days.  Why stop now?  Jesus knew that there are things more important than ‘just’ natural food.  After all, didn’t God send the ravens, with food, for Elijah when he was hiding out from Jezebel (1Kings 17:1-6)?    If we can’t trust God to provide us with ‘natural’ things, how can we trust Him for the Spiritual?  Jesus told the masses “If I’ve told you earthly things and you haven’t believed, how can you believe heavenly things?” (John 3:12).  Father allows situations to fall upon us so we can see that He is with us.  We learn to trust God for the little things in this life so we can know to trust Him for bigger things and then eternal life.  Think about it.  We will have to trust Jesus in the rapture.  We’ll be caught up in the air with Him (1 Thess. 4:17).  Who will be keeping us from falling back down to earth?  Remember Peter on the water (Matt. 14:25-32).  As long as he had his eyes on Jesus, Peter also walked on water.

So, in this, Jesus is telling Satan that He trusts only the Father for things He needs.  Satan knows the Word.  He was a witness to or a part of it practically from the beginning.  He knows what God has said, His Word.  Jesus knows the Word, too.  He is the living Word!  And we need to know it then, so we can trust God for what He has said in His Word. 

Satan attacked with a half-truth, Jesus fired back with the whole truth.

5          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.' "

On the pinnacle, the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus is challenged again.  Satan knows that God protects His own (Job 1:8-10).  As with Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen. 3:1-6), Satan quotes a partial biblical truth.  God will send His angels so You don’t hurt yourself, but Jesus knowing the full scriptures fires back with “You shall not tempt the Lord, your God.”  Yes, God is over Satan, God created Satan.  If we jump off the Empire State building, we’re going to go “SPLAT!” when we hit the streets below.  Don’t do something harmful or stupid just to prove God is with you.  That’s tempting the Lord.  However, should the Lord tell you to do something, be sure it’s Him, then be obedient.  But take note that God will not tell us to jump off a mountain without a parachute or step in front of a moving bus.  He doesn’t tempt us either (James 1:13). Remember Paul.  A deadly snake was hiding in those sticks he was collecting.  He was bit by that snake and those watching waited to see how quickly he would keel over dead.  Read the passage (Acts 28:1-6), did he?  Paul didn’t know that the snake was there.

Also consider that a country boy, from outside Pittsburgh, Pa., Dave Wilkerson, went to witness to the gangs of New York City in the strength of Jesus Christ (The Cross and the Switchblade).  As Dave lived in God’s love, Father protected the minister in the midst of a dangerous environment.  The result?  The “warlord” of that gang (Nicky Cruz), came to Christ and together they started Teen Challenge.  God does look after His own, but we ought not to put Him to the test.  Dave went to New York because God told him to go, not because he thought it would be a neat challenge.  God says to test Him to see if He will keep His promises (Mal. 3:10), not tempt Him with foolishness.

In Revelation chapter one, Alpha and Omega states in part “… the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches …” and in Genesis chapter one God says “… let there be lights in the firmament …”.  Lights here is the Hebrew word maowr (3974), luminous body, bright, light, etc.  Revelation chapter twelve says that with his tail, the dragon drew the third part of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth …  Three passages which seem to correlate angels with stars.  Stars were created on the fourth day (Gen. 1:14-15).  Is there a connection between stars and angels?

Nonetheless, Satan is an angel (though fallen) therefore a created being.  And we, also are created beings (Gen 1:27).  So Jesus is telling a created being that we should not tempt the Lord God – that is asking Him to do something not logical just to prove Himself.  God endured Israel even though they tempted God in the desert with food (Exod. 16:1-18) and water (Exod. 17:1-7).  And yet, we should not tempt the Lord.  God will provide what we need.

Our spiritual man must become our Spiritual man for us to press forward in our walk with the Lord (did you note the ‘s’) .  Just where is our trust in the Lord?  For what do we really trust and believe God?  Are we obedient to His Word?

8          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.' "

As our trust grows in the Lord, we discover Father desires our companionship.  Just as He came down into the Garden of Eden to be with Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:8).  Just as He talked with Abraham (Gen. 18:1-33).  Just as He visited with Moses in the tabernacle (Exod. 20:19-22).  He desires to walk with us.  At the celebration of the Passover, the apostle John lay his head upon the chest of Jesus (John 13:23-25).  Jesus wants a relationship this close with each and every one of us who love Him.  Jesus desires us to come close and commune with Him.

So, when Satan took Jesus to the high mountain and showed Him all the lands and Kingdoms of the earth and said “… bow down and worship me and all this will be yours.”  First of all, Jesus’ heart is always right with the Father because He and the Father are one (John 1:1-4).  Secondly, all things were created by Him (Jesus) and for Him (Col. 1:16).  So how could Satan give Jesus that which was already His, for with the Father, He created everything (John 1:1-3). 

Initially Adam and Eve had dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:27-30) but when Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, because of their disobedience (do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Gen 2:17), evil fell upon the earth en masse.  Satan was cast out of heaven (not necessarily in this order), with 1/3 of the angels, so as to give us a fit (Rev. 12:1-10). Please, don’t split hairs over the order of events here.

So when Jesus told Satan that we should worship the Lord our God and serve only Him, He was asserting that His heart is with the Father forever.  Not only was He resisting the temptation of power, He knew He already had it!  We should do the same.

Satan attacks us in the natural man.  This is the realm we most readily understand and it is our weakest point.  He does his best to keep us out of God’s plan for eternal fellowship with Father.  Once we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, Satan has to change his tactics and deal with our spiritual man, our mind, our intellect, our soul.  We are learning how to stand in the strength of our Savior through reading His Word and prayer.  Our enemy doesn’t forget our body but now both our body and soul are being attacked.  He is still trying to draw us away, or at least, discourage us.  We discover that we stand against not just natural things but we begin to realize that we also fight spiritual forces in high places because they are what motivate people.

But as we continue yielding ourselves to the Father, living in His will, being a true reflection of His love, Satan has to step it up a bit more.  Okay, a lot more.  Now, if he is to succeed, he has to tear our hearts away from the Lord.  He now turns up the heat.  Don’t be surprised when subtle temptations come which seem almost impossible to resist.  He pulls out all the stops to get us to turn away from our Father.  Satan knows that a full frontal attack (“here I am, dummy.  What’re ya gonna do about it!”) would just send us running into the loving arms of God.  He has to be more subtle so we don’t recognize what he’s doing.  False prophets would seduce the elect, if it were possible (Mark 13:19-22).  We keep our hearts right with our Father.  We already know what we have and are solid on (in) the Rock (Psalm 62:1-8), Jesus!  We know our victory is sin Jesus.  Yet, we still continue to renew our minds so our heart continues to follow our Lord (Romans 12:1-2) and draw closer into His love.  We continue to commune with Him, becoming very familiar with His voice.

Complete victory comes when we abide by taking on the yoke of Jesus (Matt. 11:29), for there we have rest, strengthening ourselves by knowing His Word and resting in the peace from God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost.  We strengthen our spirits by communicating with Him – regularly.  Not once a year or once a month, not even just once a week but daily.  Daniel prayed three times a day (Dan. 6:10).  Paul says “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).  This doesn’t mean we spend 24/7 on our knees, for then, we’d be no good to those yet in the world.  It does mean to have a continual attitude of prayer.  As things happen, give God thanks.  We find ourselves in a situation, we ask God for direction at that time, not later.  However, ‘resting’ here doesn’t mean sitting back and taking it easy.  It does mean trusting in the Lord knowing that He will get us through whatever Satan throws our way.

In case you missed the point, as we draw closer in our relationship with the Lord.  We will be putting on the armor of God, through knowing what God’s Word says and our prayers and our understanding (Eph. 6:10-18).

We deal with three battle fronts: the natural man, the spiritual man and the heart of man.  Jesus shows us how He deals with these three fronts.  Knowing the Word (written and living), Praying without ceasing and putting God’s Word into action in our own lives brings us to victory.


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