Matthew 4

Matthew 4: IF

Obedience and sin sometimes hinge on the small word – “IF”.  Consider these verses:  “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, IF we ask anything according to His will, He hears us: And IF we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” ( I John 5:14,15)  “ That IF you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” ( Romans 10:9) These are only two examples, but yet the word  IF stands like a hinge that in one case answered prayer rests upon it and in the latter verse-one’s  eternal salvation rests on the other ‘IF’.  In today’s lesson, the enemy , our adversary the devil, the tempter starts his temptation with “ IF you are the Son of God.”

First let’s define  the word tempt. In the Bible, we find it has two meanings:.  Tempt is defined as : “ to incite or entice to evil, to seduce. ‘ There is in each of us – an old nature, called the flesh, which causes us to yield to temptation. Jesus did not possess this sinful nature due to his unique virgin birth. Therefore Jesus could not be dragged away by his own evil desire that comes from one’s sinful nature, the flesh, for Jesus did not possess a sinful nature.  This is why Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the tempter . For  He was to be tempted in every way that we are tempted yet without sin; (Hebrews 4:15) thus , the strategy of the tempter had to be a much greater temptation.   James tells us: ‘ when tempted, no one should say God is tempting me. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” ( James 1)

Tempting  in the Bible also means testing.  A test or trial is a situation or circumstances where God gives us an opportunity to practice what we have learned and been taught and thereby prove your faith and convictions to yourself.  It is a learning experience.   A trial can cause one to be tempted to sin, but the trial or test is not  the cause of the temptation to sin, that comes, as James tells us, from our old sinful nature.

When Jesus taught us this prayer  ‘ lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’ He was saying when we are tested and/or tempted – do not let our old nature drag us away and be enticed to sin. Focus on the way out, which God has promised to provide in order to deliver us from evil.

Testing is done to prove something is true.  We are promised God will not test us above that which we are able to bear, but will make a way for us to escape.  ( I Cor. 10:13)

The first thing we should do when we recognize we are being tempted  to sin is to look for the way of escape. A mind that has been transformed or is being transformed through meditation on the Word of God will be able to take captive these thoughts and bring them into obedience to Christ. ( 2 Cor. 10)

Christ was tempted that he might overcome the tempter.  WE will notice how He dealt with the temptation and learn from his example. We will also note when it is over- Luke tells us in Luke 4, ‘ the devil left him for a season.’ He will be back – just as he will never stop tempting us.

Most  of us do not have to deal with the devil directly because our old nature is our enemy that lusts against the spirit within us. Like the old saying goes, ‘ we have met the enemy and it is ourselves.’ Our battle is mainly  internal aided by the world system which has conformed us and lies under the power of the evil one.

Satan’s very nature is to tempt. Notice he is called by that name here in Matthew 4.  We are told he is seeking  whom he may devour, destroy.  We will observe his three-prong attack that he has used to great success from the Garden of Eden until this very day.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Observe how this occurred in the first sin:

Lust of the flesh- Eve saw that the tree was good for food.

Lust of the eyes- Eve saw it was a delight to the eyes.

Pride of life- She thought she could become a god herself.

Eve wanted to gratify her flesh more than obey and please God. She was enticed and led away which resulted in taking and eating the fruit she knew  God told her not to  eat.  It resulted in spiritual death immediately and eventually- physical death, because sin gives birth to death. She willingly rejected God in order to please herself.  She and Adam plunged themselves into sin and we can see the sinful nature at work immediately  as having sinned, they now became unrepentant.  Notice they did not confess their sin, they tried to hide their sin from God, which is what unrepentant sinners do. Adam blamed it on the woman, God gave him. ( So he not only blamed Eve directly, he blamed God indirectly.)  Eve blamed it on the serpent who deceived her.  The unrepentant sinner hides their sin by claiming there is no God. Or that the Word of God is only a book and is not absolute truth.  They suppress  the truth with their wickedness. They re-define sin, by calling dark – light and light- dark.

“IF we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in  us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.: ( I john 1) Notice  the word – IF- again present like a hinge.

We are held responsible for the knowledge we have been given.  Adam and Eve were told not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil or they would surely die.  And so we see what a sinful nature does- it will suppress the truth in wickedness.  The unrepentant sinner does not want to retain the knowledge of God and when they do not retain the knowledge of God in their mind and neither glorify Him nor thank Him – their minds become void of God and are described as – ‘ depraved minds doing what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. (This depravity is further described as: envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful, inventing ways to do evil; disobedient to parents, senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.)

Watch what happens to King David.  For the Lord Jesus is not only the last Adam, He is  a descendant of David.  David shows the progression of yielding to temptation:

  1. David disobeyed God when he was supposed to be leading his army, he remained in Jerusalem. When you do not do what God has told you to do- you will put yourself where you should not be- which is outside the will of God.
  2. He saw Bathsheba bathing as he was unable to sleep and was walking around on his roof when he saw Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. He saw she was beautiful  and her beauty appealed to the lust of his flesh and the lust of his eyes.  Notice he did  not turn his eyes away from her. He did not look for a way to escape, he looked for a way to have her.
  3. He sent for her. He slept with her. She became pregnant. And David’s failure led to giving into sin that ended in adultery, deceit and finally murder of her husband, Uriah.

*So let us learn where temptation comes from- James 1: 14 tells us we are drawn away of our own lust.

*Understand the intent of the tempter and temptation is to please yourself instead of obeying God.

*Realize the seeking of self-gratification of the flesh  characterizes the unsaved , the unrepentant and keeps  us from living the life God intended for us to live.

*Accept testing  is common to believers. Do not consider it strange when you fall into fiery trials.

*Realize when you endure temptation and do not sin, you will receive a crown of life, plus each time you resist you are strengthened , and also each time you sin and give in you are weakened.. ( James 1; 12)

* Know that God knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. (2 Peter 2:9) ( I Cor. 10:13)

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.;( I John 5:4)

Now let us observe our example- the Lord Jesus and learn from Him what to do when temptation comes.  For He was tempted in every way that we are – yet without sin. Temptation is not a sin.

Man’s first sin came from eating what God had told him not to eat. So we see our appetites, which are God given, can be distorted when we use them for purposes other than God-given reasons for which these  appetites were created.  Sin is really unhealthy appetites.  We are told to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

The devil always attacks the Word of God.  Notice his first statement:  “ If you are the Son of God…”  What had God said when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist?  The voice of God the Father from heaven said:  ‘ this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”

Notice the first thing  the devil  would have you question is your salvation- is God really your father- are you really His child?  Then if God is your Father why are you in these dire circumstance? Jesus was in the desert, alone and hungry.   If God is good and kind and you are His son- why doesn’t He fix  your problem right now?   The devil wants us to distrust God the Father’s love and care.  The devil would have us fix our eyes on the problem we face, rather than trust God and wait on Him to provide the solution to our problem.

Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy in all of his answers.  When the devil says to the Lord Jesus,  ‘’ if you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”    Jesus replies from Deut. 8:3 –“ It is written- man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.” It was God who led the nation of Israel into the wilderness in their escape and exodus from Egypt. It was God who caused them to hunger. And it was God who fed them with manna, bread from heaven. Moses told them God had done this to teach them man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.   It is God who has led Jesus into the desert and God has caused him to hunger and it is God who will provide. Jehovah Jireh. Life is found in God and sustained by a relationship with Him in His Word. Our well being  depends upon trusting our Father.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding , in all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.’ ( Proverbs 3)  The first temptation is physical- lust of the flesh.  We are to satisfy our appetites the way God created them to be satisfied.

Next the devil takes Jesus up to Jerusalem and sets him on the pinnacle ( highest point)  of the temple and says  ‘ If you be the  Son of God cast yourself down for it is written He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear the up, lest you dash they foot against a stone.´ Let us observe some things here- pinnacles or high points or places are dangerous places of temptation. When you reach a pinnacle of success in your career, when you have climbed high on the ladder of the world’s success and are admired for your accomplishments- it can be a place where pride in your accomplishments can  cause you to  fall.  The devil will raise you up that he may cast you down, God will  casts us down, humble us that we might be lifted up.

I would have you also take note the devil said, cast or throw yourself down, for the devil could not throw him down, he can only try to persuade, he cannot compel. He cannot make you as a child of God do anything.

He says if you are the Son of God and throw yourself off this temple high point then God will send His angels to come and save you.  In other  words you could really impress  the people with a miracle like this and have an immediate following.   We do have the promise of God’s protection as His children.   However, the devil left out an important and qualifying part of this promise.     The verse states:  the angels will keep thee ‘ in all thy ways.’ If we are a child of God, we want to walk in his ways. We are to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh. The devil is tempting  Jesus  to test  the Lord by  encouraging him to presume upon God’s divine care.  Are we not tempting and testing the Lord’s divine care when we continue to sin?  “Where sin abounded, grace abounded more.  What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  God Forbid!” ( Romans 5&6)    Do you realize when you sin- you are testing the goodness of God’ s divine care?  Do you realize you are going your own way- if you cast yourself down by stepping outside of God’s will.  God has already confirmed Jesus is the Son of God. He said it. Jesus would be doubting the word of God if he sought further confirmation. What more can He say than He has already said. His word says if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  You do not need further confirmation for  IT IS WRITTEN.

When you are tempted to sin- do you have the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God to divide asunder the thoughts and intentions of your heart. Does ‘ it is written’ spring to your mind in order to combat the temptations of your old nature, the world and the devil.  We are to be overcomers- and we overcome the world with our faith. Sins of the flesh we are told to flee from those. And for the enemy, the devil, we are told to ‘ submit yourself to God , resist the devil and he will flee.’

The last temptation is the most powerful for the devil shows Jesus the kingdoms ofhe world and the glory of them and states he, the devil, will give them to Jesus, if Jesus will fall down and worship him. For this is what the devil desires more than anything- to be worshipped. To be worshipped by others is the epitome of  selfish pride.  So we see the three prong attack- lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.

The devil wants Jesus to acknowledge him as God.  Let me adopt you as my son and I will give you all the kingdoms with all their glory.   The devil has wanted Jesus to question  his relation to the God- if he was the Son of God, why was he out there in the desert  in hunger.  If God was His Father- why doesn’t God perform some mighty miracle so you can have what you want.  Then the devil says own me as your god- I will give you the nations.

But Jesus knew who he was.  Do you know who you are?  He knew He was the Son of God. He knew only God is worthy of worship. “ Away from me, Satan. For it is written:  worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.!”

The devil left him ( as Luke tells us for a season) and the angels came and ministered to Jesus.

Did you happen to notice the devil was tempting the Lord Jesus to take a shortcut to being king and bypass the cross? The Lord Jesus came first to be our savior. He will come the 2nd time to reign as king.  I personally do not believe the devil saw the cross and the sacrifice at all- being the selfish, prideful entity that he had become- he could not understand this type of selfless love- that a king would die for his subjects.

The devil wants you to distrust God’s goodness, kindness, love and mercy. He wants us to curse God and blame Him for our problems and situations.  He first tempts us like he did  Eve by insinuating God does not have our best interests at heart. He infers God is withholding pleasure from Eve and Adam by His commandment not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now the Lord ‘s earthly ministry begins.  We are told in Matthew he leaves Nazareth and went and lived in Capernaum in Galilee.  Matthew explains this is also a fulfillment of prophecy of Isaiah. In Luke 4, we read Luke’s account of what happened in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, where he is rejected when he reveals who he is in the local synagogue.   We are told from that time on Jesus began to preach- “ Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

The calling of his first disciples takes place here in Galilee.  Let us look at this story in which Jesus calls his first four disciples: Peter, Andrew, James and John.  Two sets of brothers who are in  the fishing business.  We know from our reading that John and Andrew’s first introduction to Jesus as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist took place the day after Jesus’ baptism. ( John 1) They in turn introduced him to others.

So with this background, let us look at the calling of the disciples to follow Him in Luke 5.  Remember they had previously met Jesus and spent some time with him before his departure for 40 days of fasting and then the temptation by the tempter.

The fishermen have been fishing all night and were washing and stowing their nets as they were probably ready to go home.  Jesus asked if he can use Peter’s boat as a pulpit to better teach the group of people who were following  Jesus. Already the stories of Jesus’ teaching, preaching and healing were spreading in the area.

They agreed to let Jesus use their boat  and after Jesus had finished preaching- he told Peter to launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.  Peter  answered him, saying we have fished all night and caught nothing.  Peter was tired. He had not had a good night. Now he had just finished putting everything away- yet something about the Lord’s request made him say- “ never the less, I will let down the net.

The result was a record catch, so large, his net begin to break and he called John and James to come help and both boats were filled so that they begin to sink.

Simon Peter , we are told , fell to his knees and said – ‘ depart from me, Lord, for I am sinful man.’ But the Lord Jesus does not want to depart from us because we are sinners- he wants to come into our lives because we are sinner.

Jesus tells them:  Don’ be afraid . Follow me and I will make you fishermen of men.

Do you realize Peter did not invite Jesus into his life; Jesus invited Peter, Andrew, James and John into His life.   He is the same today. He is inviting you to follow Him.

Followship leads to fellowship.

It is written: If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.: ( Romans 10:9)

“ Behold- Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. IF  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” ( Revelation 3:20)

Did you see the hinge on that door?  IF anyone…